So, I’ve Got These Older Works and I Have a Sort of Idea…

Like most writers, I have written a lot of shit.  I mean that both figuratively and also quite literally.  I have written, at last count, more than 100 short stories and 7 novels.  Of these, there is a fair proportion that is actual shit.  Probably at least 20 short stories and at least 3 of the novels.

So, what does one do with the shit pile that’s left behind?  The stuff that hasn’t been published and the stuff that should never be published?  I think it’s a valid questions for an author, any author.  I’ve been doing this writing thing now, man and boy, for about 25 years.  I’ve had some limited success that seems, finally, as if might be growing into middling success.  And I have this pile of previously written stuff to deal with.

Do I close the drawer on it and hope that it won’t see the light of day until someone has to compile my vast literary estate following my demise?  Or do I mine it for things that might be useful?

Indeed, I have done the latter, from stealing lines or chunks from some of them to add to what turned out to be better short stories or novels.  I’ve taken some of my older shorts and completely rewritten then, with successful results (see “Show Me” in Dark Visions Vol. 1, for example).  I’ve also completely rewritten two of my earlier novels and turned them into what I believe are pretty damn good books…namely The Bell Witch (previously titled, ugh, Her Unremembering Way, and Kill/Off, (previously titled, ugh, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice).

The reason for this right now is that I’ve got two novels that I’m quite proud of that never went anywhere, for whatever reason.  I’ve secured the rights to these two books, and I’d like to do something with them.  They’re fantasy books, a created-world series cast in a sort of Arabic setting.  Their titles are The Cloud Gatherer and Heir to the Sand.

They’re about 20 years old, and I rewrote them about four years ago on a lark.  And they’ve sat ever since.  A good internet friend of mine by the name of Lenny (follow him on Twitter at @mindcryme) recently found these two books online at Amazon, read them and loved them.  And it got me thinking of something that I’d been toying with for a while.

Publishing is changing, my friends, whether we like it or not.  Self publishing and small presses have taken much of the lead from traditional publishers in bringing new stuff to the market.  Now, some of it…OK a lot of it…is dreck.  But some of it is fresh and new and appealing and wouldn’t have ever been seen under the old publishing model.  And we’re beginning to witness authors take the reins of their own work and bring it to market themselves, sometimes with astounding success. Think Hugh Howey.

I’ve been thinking of dipping my toes into the self publishing market as an experiment.  I’m still unsure, but doing some kind of Kickstarter or Indiegogo project might make sense for me, with some of my work.  I’m thinking that these two books might be an interesting experiment to play with.

A Kickstarter/Indiegogo project to bring these two books to market would involve raising enough money to hire an editor, secure covers, get a designer to layout the books, secure ISBN numbers and then have some money leftover to market them.  Since they’re outright fantasy, I don’t know how much crossover there’d be with my horror audience, so marketing would be important.

I love these two books, and people seem to love them, too.  I have ideas for at least two more in the series, and would be interested in writing them if there’s an audience.

Anyone want to chime in on this idea?  Whaddaya think?  Is it worth a little exploration?  Anyone have any experience with these types of projects?


About John F.D. Taff

John F.D. Taff is a writer, published author, raconteur and wrangler of angry stoats. He has more than 80 short stories and 7 novels published. He lives in the great, unspoiled vastness of the Midwest. He has a tremendous wife named Debbie, three pugs, Sadie, Tovah and Muriel, and three great kids--Harry, Sam and Molly. View all posts by John F.D. Taff

11 responses to “So, I’ve Got These Older Works and I Have a Sort of Idea…

  • kimperial1492

    I know nothing, except that I’m a huge fan and would totally like to see you self-publish–DO IT! I’ll tweet and post the hell out of any campaign too!DO IT!!! I’m behind you!!!

  • John F.D. Taff

    Thanks, Kimmie! I hope that over the last couple of years, I’ve been able to build an audience of readers who enjoy my work. That’s what makes me think that this “experiment” might be worthwhile.

    You might be happy to know that we’re putting the finishing touches on a collection of novellas entitled The End in All Beginnings, which will feature “What Becomes God,” one of my longer stories that you were kind enough to read before anyone else!

  • fatimasaysell

    Go for it! If you don’t try, you’ll never know and the questions will never be answered, which will bug you for the rest of your life. I’ll read them. It sounds like a very interesting idea. Good luck!

  • MarathonMark

    There is something refreshing about having a self-pub book. Want to price it at $6.66? you can. Want to put a picture of your pug on the cover? Go right ahead. Want to update the ending monthly? you can do that too. If you self-pub you can then call yourself a ‘hybrid’ author, which makes you even more cooler. You can also price them to sell and insert a blurb and link of all your other works in the front.
    And then there’s the audiobook world….

  • MarathonMark

    Forget to mention. 70% royalties for everything priced 2.99 or over. 35% for those that are less.

  • John F.D. Taff

    Yeah, all of that is absurdly appealing, especially in light of the pretty pathetic amount of money I’m making on a collection that’s selling pretty well. I’m wondering how much of that money I’d have been able to retain if I’d self-published it. But if I go this route, even for just a few pieces of work, it’s got to be done right, with editors and nice covers and layout and etc. So, thanks, Mark! We’ll see…

  • Lenny

    Hi John,

    As you’ve already mentioned, I think this is a great idea both from a reader and writer perspective. Hopefully there will be some extra goodies for those that helped through kickstarter, and extra goodies for you too, since you’d get more of the royalties.

    I have been wondering what your inspiration was for The Cloud Gatherer, specifically the Arabic setting? Did that take a lot of research?

    Just about done with Heir to the Sand. Love it!

    • John F.D. Taff

      Yeah I think I can figure out some cool extras for supporters…like you. Glad you’re enjoying Heir. Yeah I did a lot of research on the Caliphate era and real names for people. Other than that it’s all created.

  • Erik Johnson

    Ah dude, I really am not sure about what you ought to do here.

    I am the MASTER of cannibalizing cool ideas/lines/scenes, etc. from old crappy stories. I do that all the time, almost everything I work on, I scan my files called “Bad Writing” or “Unfinished” and often I go, “Hey, this story is about a big city and didn’t I get all about the city in this story from 1999? Maybe it is worth a look.”

    But you have actually completed, full novels and stuff floating out there. You could publish them under a pseudonym, or you could publish them as John F.D. Taff, but give them a special series name like, “The First Cuts”, etc—like, openly, these are books from my early period which some of you may yet like. I dunno that’s an ideer.

    I don’t have a lot of advice on self-publishing, etc. And kickstarters are really interesting—when they started out, I said to myself, as someone working in philanthropy, that will never work—people don’t want to give $35 bucks to help a homeless kid learn to read, but they’ll chip in to help somebody publish a lavish book dedicated to Neo-Feminist 17th Century Lovecraftian Fiction? And then it turns out—YES, people will do that!!!!

    I think that I shall look into kickstarters some day…

    Finished part 1 of 5 of novella; now working on 2, which is trickier (which makes sense, too eh?).

    I have been sick; now I think I am getting better but I have fucking insomnia, it appears.

    We got a gerbil named Dimple. Black and white, cute.

    Goddamn it WNET better call me like tomorrow. I’m not out of the running but I’m sick of job searching . . .


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