The First Million Words

Lions and Tigers and Publishing

It’s almost been two weeks since I published my first novel, Home to Roost. It’s been quite a learning experience. For one thing, even when you’re publishing online, the actual process of publishing can be fairly involved. I don’t know what else I was expecting.

For indie publishing, a lot of people who are publishing on Amazon will use CreateSpace to do a paperback run of their book. It’s really easy to find reviews of CreateSpace’s services. I chose not to use CreateSpace, and instead used Amazon’s KDP Paperback program (it’s still in beta). Since CreateSpace is owned by Amazon anyways, I figured that the services wouldn’t be all that different.

Having never really used CreateSpace, I’m probably not qualified to do a very detailed review. However, I can say this: I’m perfectly happy with KDP Paperback. If you have a handle on formatting, are willing to look up a few terms, and have a couple of hours to fiddle and tinker, then you can get a fine paperback copy of your book printed.

As for royalties, I’ve seen quite a few people confused about how those would work for KDP paperback. I think I can break this part down:

You get 60%, minus production cost.

So, if your book costs $10, and costs $4.50 to print, then you’ll get $1.50 in royalties for every copy sold.
10 x 0.6 = 6 ; 6 – 4.5 = 1.5

It’s pretty simple.

For Home to Roost, I just set my prices so that I’d get roughly the same amount from royalties, whether a reader decided to purchase the paperback or the ebook edition.

Now, I had assumed that there would be much higher numbers of sales for ebooks compared to paperbacks–after all, $3 is quite a bit cheaper than $11.50. But I was wrong. They’re actually pretty even. I think that unless people own an e-reader, ebooks are just too uncomfortable for many people to read.

Anyways, I’ll do some more focused posts on what I’ve learned later. Be awesome til then.


Current Word Count: 354, 345

My Current Word Count

Well, I’ve published a few short stories now. They’re not free on Amazon, but hopefully Amazon will price match soon and make them free. They are free on Smashwords, where one of them as received a 4/5 star review. It’s something!

But, like I said, they’re short stories–none more than 5,000 words. So, since my current word count is much higher than that, where has everything else come from? I’ll break it down really quick, for anyone who cares, though only in approximations.

  1. I’ve written lots of little things before, having been writing since the second grade or so (although, I didn’t attempt my first novel until the third grade, naturally). I’ve counted all of that, taken together, as about 15,000.
  2. My first, more serious attempt at writing something of length occurred while in college. It was something of a horror/drama, about a weak man being dragged by his escaped convict and abusive ex-wife to her remote and isolated childhood home, so that they could face her buried demons together before she kills him and herself–or, tries to, at least. I wrote about 15,000 words into that (Project name: Closure), before giving it up when school got heavier and whatnot. It obviously didn’t go too far, but it was rather encouraging. I managed to write quite a bit in not too long, and while the writing wasn’t very good, it still happened, and was, in a way, empowering.
  3. The summer of 2013 saw another abandoned novel project. It was a ‘new’ take on the Peter Pan story, but it got convoluted and out of control rather quickly, and was abandoned after around 70,000 words. I had the story mapped out to the end, but some of the things would have been quite forced, and it was already longer than my target word count of about 60,000 words. The project name for that one was The Last Pan. And, while it too was abandoned, it felt like a really big step forwards.
  4. The third try’s the charm, right? I started writing Home to Roost in April of 2016, and finished the rough draft…sometime later. September? August? I don’t recall. But it came in at 110,000 words, had a beginning, middle, and end, and received positive feedback from early readers. I’ll be publishing it next month.
  5. Angela of the Stars was my next writing project. The rough draft is finished, sitting in my hard drive and waiting for some revising. The setting for the story was rather ambitious, compared with Home to Roost, but hopefully I’ll be able to wrestle everything nicely into place for the final draft and a release this summer. That story came in at 120,000 words.
  6. The last bit of writing that I chose to include in the count was my short stories. Like I said, they’re short, so taken altogether I counted them as about 10,000 words. I mostly do them as a writing exercise, or as something to do when I need a break from the bigger projects, but I publish some, and think they’re pretty fun.

And that’s where my current word count comes from. There’s been big improvement already–enough so that I wouldn’t feel too bad asking somebody to fork over $3 to read my novel. However, there’s still a ways to go.

And, since I’ve talked so much about word counts, let me give you a few examples of word counts from well-known stories:

  • Goosebumps stories: 20,000-25,000 words
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: 77,000 words
  • War and Peace: 587,000 words
  • King James Translation of the Holy Bible: 783,000 words
  • Artamène/Cyrus the Great, which holds the distinction of being the longest novel ever written: 2,100,000 words


Current Word Count: 343,105

342,176 Words (and counting….)

That’s how many words I’ve written so far. 342,176.

There’s a saying that you might hear tossed around every now and again that goes like this:

“Write a million words–the very best that you can write–then crumple them up and throw them in the garbage. Now, with those first million behind you, you are ready to begin to write.”

It’s said different ways and attributed to different people (David Eddings, Jerry Pournelle, Ray Bradbury or John D. McDonald), but the idea stays the same.

I don’t know if it’s true or not. I could imagine some people being talented long before they hit a million words. Others, I’m sure, reach that milestone and still struggle to make their prose enjoyable.

Well, my wife and I have decided to try an experiment and chase a dream.

I’ve always wanted to be an author.

Actually, allow me to rephrase that: I’ve always wanted to be a successful author. I’ve wanted to be other things as well, but always in addition to being a successful author. It’s a wish that I believe many people have–to share their ideas and have others pay money to read them, money that could have been spent on donuts or movie tickets or a plethora of other goods.

We’ve chosen to go after that goal and see how far we can make it. If, once we’ve hit a million words (or gone a bit past it), it seems like we’ve run our course, then we’ll know that we gave it an honest effort, and we’ll be satisfied knowing that we dared.

So, if you care to, you can join us in our undertaking. I’ll be writing here every so often, sharing some of the things I’ve learned about writing, some of the other things going on in my life, and whatever else might seem post-worthy on my way to my first million words.


Current Count: 342,503