Guest Post: Tee Morris – Your Great Book Tour: It’s Gonna Cost You

DEL-coverUnleaded: Fuel for Writers is pleased to host Tee Morris as our Guest Blogger for Monday, March 24th, 2014.  Dawn’s Early Light: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel will be released tomorrow!  Tee was kind enough to give us some great insight from his own painful lessons. Book tours always sound so glamorous and who doesn’t love attending conventions? Fun, camaraderie, and hey, this is my job!  Right? Tee has some pretty sober commentary on what it is really like, and some tips on other, less pricey, means of connecting. Stay tuned and check out the giveaways at the end. And because we couldn’t resist, we had to give you a taste of the book before his guest post.

Working for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, one sees innumerable technological wonders. But even veteran agents Braun and Books are unprepared for what the electrifying future holds…

After being ignominiously shipped out of England following their participation in the Janus affair, Braun and Books are ready to prove their worth as agents. But what starts as a simple mission in the States—intended to keep them out of trouble—suddenly turns into a scandalous and convoluted case that has connections reaching as far as Her Majesty the Queen.

Even with the help of two American agents from the Office of the Supernatural and the Metaphysical, Braun and Books have their work cut out for them as their chief suspect in a rash of nautical and aerial disasters is none other than Thomas Edison. Between the fantastic electric machines of Edison, the eccentricities of MoPO consultant Nikola Tesla, and the mysterious machinations of a new threat known only as the Maestro, they may find themselves in far worse danger than they ever have been in before…

Your Great Book Tour: It’s Gonna Cost You

We’re only in the third month of 2014 and I’m struggling to get back into a routine. This year is a not only a year of change, but of new books, new possibilities, and leaps of faith. Everyone around me is telling me to cut myself a break but the reality is, just like staying in shape, I have to keep at this.

Just in this month alone, my wife of infinite awesome and I release Dawn’s Early Light: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel. Me. The Kiwi. Steampunk. The covers Ace created for the print and the audio are nothing short of beautiful. Then there is our appearance on James River Writers’ The Writing Show where we talk about being hybrid authors and how we get more estimated mileage out of our writing careers than some others. (See what I did there?) Then two days after that, Pip and I host a Master Class of Social Media for Writers.

All this is happening the week of Dawn’s Early Light’s release.

And did I mention that Pip and I launched a new business venture this month?

I need a nap.

2014 is a big step for me as a writer because I am dedicated to make this lifestyle a full-time one so I’m trying to take everything I have learned since 2002 when Morevi first rolled off the presses. One of the hardest lessons I learned over this decade-and-change of writing professionally is just how easy it is to find yourself in the red. Deep in the red. I’m not speaking of the red ink found in an editor’s pen, mind you, but the financial red of your bank account when it tells you in so many words that you—the professional author—are flat broke.

Between 2002 and 2004, I accrued over $30,000 of debt, and it took me just over five years to get myself out of that hole. An overwhelming majority of the debt was what I now look back on as a crazy gamble: book tours. I was, in those two years, averaging a convention appearance a month. This does not count the occasional bookstore and coffee shop signing. Some months, I stayed at home. Others, I had two cons back-to-back with one-night speaking events at libraries and colleges.

I am often reminded of just how tough it is to “give the people what they want” as tweets ask us when we would bring Eliza and Wellington to their neck of the woods. These tweets coming from the west (Washington), from the south (the Carolinas), and from points south AND west (Texas). We even have interest from across the Atlantic with WorldCon: London and EuroCon: Ireland.

But here’s the truth of it: Can we afford these trips? Right now, LonCon and Shamrokon are both uncertain.

With the hard financial lessons I’ve garnered over the years, I want to give new-and-upcoming authors and authors-to-be a realistic look at what taking Science Fiction and Fantasy on the road could cost you. The bills may vary based on who buys you lunch, how many visits you make to the bar (which for me is often), and how many rounds you feel like picking up at said bar. The costs for a book tour can quickly add up if you’re not paying attention.

The convention I’m using as the boilerplate is Philcon, Philadelphia’s premier Science Fiction and Fantasy convention, within driving distance of my home. Here is the breakdown of how much a weekend at Philcon costs:

    ▪       Gas: $38.00

    ▪       Tolls: $18.00

    ▪       Hotel: $273.70

    ▪       Food: $283.54

    ▪       Petty Cash: $60.00

    ▪       Grand Total: $673.24

Considering that Pip was with me, we ate in the hotel (with limited trips to the bar), and the hotel itself was reasonable. I’m sure we could have shaved off a few dollars here and there, but $600-700 for a con weekend within driving distance sounds about right. Factor in larger events (Balticon and Dragon*Con, for example) and you can easily tack on another $400-600 on that tab. Add in airfare ($225-500 per person) and now we’re doubling (or tripling) the amount.

Yes, I know—it’s a tax deduction, but that thinking contributed to serious financial trouble. While a book promotion is a deduction, I’m not getting all of it back. Only a piece of it.

I still believe that face time is extremely important to the author, especially those new to the market. However, it is more important to pay the bills, have a safety net in the bank, and make certain the roof you’re keeping over your head can be fixed at a moment’s notice.

Oh yeah, and writing. Writing is very important to the writer, last time I checked. And these appearances all have one thing in common: You’re not writing when you’re at a book signing.

With pop culture’s depiction of authors (see Murder She Wrote, any author character in a Stephen King adaptation), there is a common perception that this sort of marketing is the only option for promotion of your works. Since the advent of social media, authors have a variety of cost-effective ways and means to tour, all from the comforts of home.

Blogging. A blog tour, either organized by a third party or yourself, is when a series of blogs are networked and bloggers take turns providing content for one another’s sites. The topics can range from a casual topic that tickles the fancy to specific topics pertaining to a writer’s career. Blog tours can cover areas across your hometown, across the country, or even around the world, and in the end you find yourself with a healthy collection of evergreen content that can be used for your own blog.

Podcasting. Similar to a blog tour, a podcast tour can be arranged across different podcasts before and after a writer’s release. Your topics can range from a casual to specific with some discussion steering in or around your book. Podcasts can also be easily syndicated on your own blog and shared in your feed, introducing a new audience to your host podcasts after they have introduced yours to them.

Another promotional avenue that can be pursued through both blogging and podcasting is producing short stories set in your works’ universe. The content can be either created by yourself or other authors you invite into your world. Free short stories in either digital or audio formats are a fantastic way to introduce new readers to your worlds.

Social Media. Whether it is Facebook ads from your Page or running quality content from your Twitter, Instagram, a Google+ accounts, social media provides authors with a variety of channels not only with the ability to reach different audiences but to cast a wide net across the country and around the world. Promotions on these channels should not launch too early but can run throughout the month surrounding a major event or book release, ramping up the budget for dynamic social media ad space the closer a release or special event draws near. The content you push will not only be news pertinent to your own works but also other relevant links to your expertise. Aim for roughly three to five posts a week per platform, with that number doubling once we are two weeks out of the release date.

When it comes to promotion, whether it is a personal appearance or a podcast, authors must be economical. I look back on my schedule of 2002-2004 and understand why people described it as “aggressive” because a con a month was a gusty, rigorous, and risky move for a new author. I also shake my head because I could have — and should have — managed my finances with more scrutiny so I would have realized sooner rather than later the dangerous gamble I was taking…and losing. It was an education for me, a school of hard knocks that I would prefer not to attend again. Today, I pinch pennies, weigh the benefits, and make sound decisions. I have to use terms like ROI and USP. I have to stop being the artist and become a businessman. That is what this is, after all. The business of being a writer.

That doesn’t mean Pip and I won’t be at a con near you. You never know. A convention chair may be a huge fan of podcasting, or have a slight crush on Eliza Braun; and the numbers for Dawn’s Early Light might be enough for a committee to say “How about Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris? Do you think they are available?” And while we might not be able to come out to your part of the country (or the world), you could always brave the airports and come out to an event where we will be in attendance. Something I have noticed about the events we attend is an abundance of good times. So keep checking with us on my blog or Pip’s; and if fortune (or fandom) favors the steampunks, we might very well find ourselves announcing an update in our travel plans.

See you in the future? Anything’s possible.

Author Bio:Pip_Tee_byJRB

Tee Morris has been writing adventures in far-off lands and far-off worlds since elementary school. Inspired by numerous Choose Your Own Adventure titles and Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, he wrote not-so-short short stories of his own, unaware that working on a typewriter when sick-from-school and, later, on a computer (which was a lot quieter…that meant more time to write at night…) would pave a way for his writings.

Tee has now returned to writing fiction with The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series, written with his wife, Pip Ballantine. Their first title in the series, Phoenix Rising, won the 2011 Airship Award for Best in Steampunk Literature, while both Phoenix Rising and The Janus Affair were finalists in Goodreads Best in Science Fiction of 2011 and 2012. In 2013 Tee and Pip released Ministry Protocol, an original anthology of short stories set in the Ministry universe. Now in 2014, following a Parsec win for their companion podcast, Tales from the Archives, Tee and Pip celebrate the arrival of their third book, Dawn’s Early Light. When Tee is not creating something on his Macintosh, he enjoys a good run, a good swim, and putting together new playlists to write by. His other hobbies include cigars and scotch, which he regards the same way as anime and graphic novels: “I don’t know everything about them, but I know what I like.” (And he likes Avo and Arturo Fuente for his smoke, Highland Park for his scotch!) He enjoys life in Virginia alongside Pip, his daughter, and three cats.

Dawn’s Early Light will be available at:




AND if you’ve stuck with us this long there is a GIVEAWAY:

These giveaways are open to both U.S. and Canadian readers. At the end of the tour, there will be three winners chosen from this one Rafflecopter.


Three paperback set (signed) of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences
Signed Abney Park Poster
Signed Abney Park CD Ancient World
Signed coverflats of Phoenix Rising and the Janus Affair


Three paperback set (signed) of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences
The Extraordinary Contraptions CD
Signed cover flat of Phoenix Rising


Three paperback set (signed) of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences


Just link to the code:


Photo by J.R. Blackwell

Video Saturday: Tips for Reading Fiction from Mary Robinette Kowal

At Balticon this year I had my first reading.  Yay!  At Balticon this year I had my first reading.  Eeeep! <insert other sounds of fear>  I’ve bought books based on people’s reading.  I know how they can excite readers, and motivate potential readers.  It is an opportunity to put yourself and your work forward.  Which basically in my head translated to:  “Don’t muck this up.”

In the end, I did all right.  Not perfect, but good enough that afterwards I did not collapse, run for cover, or swear I’d never read again.  In fact, a couple of people liked my reading so much, they asked where to find the story I’d read.  <insert appropriate squee noises here>

However, for today’s Video Saturday I found something that would have definitely helped.  Hugo-award winning novelist and professional puppeteer, Mary Robinette Kowal, has a couple of fantastic and simple YouTube videos where she provides tips for reading fiction out loud.  And as she says in the video, she used to do competitive reading. (I never even knew it was a sport!)  :)

This is a two-part video but because there is SO MUCH COOLNESS, I didn’t want to put them both out this week. Of course, for you smarties out there, here’s a link:

Submitting your Writing – Paying Markets Only?

I was recently in a discussion with a colleague about where to submit my short stories. I’ve had a few sales but am still very much the “shiny new writer.” Her suggestion was to publish wherever, get my name out there, and my work seen. Then I become more of a known quantity and at least for some collections and editors, have a greater chance for that  “extra second” in the reviewing process or potentially, an invitation to submit somewhere.

Less than a week later, I ended up in a similar discussion with a colleague from my writing group. Her response was – Absolutely not! Send your work to paying markets.  It doesn’t matter if your story is a perfect fit for this anthology’s theme or what they’re looking for; you should be looking for paying markets only.  If one doesn’t take it, keep sending it out.  Better to take time and receive rejections until it finally sells rather than “throw it away” on a non-paying market.

Now I’m somewhere in the middle of this argument.  Some of you may have read my post about using a Submission Matrix to determine where I send my writing to (although that mechanism doesn’t work particularly well with the rising number of anthologies – paid, unpaid, and “prestige” currently out there).  It’s a combination of looking at pay scales and publication reputation (based on awards such as Hugo or Nebula winners) to prioritize where I submit to.  Although I will say I am occassionally tempted by some themed anthologies, even if they are no-pay because the subject or issue interests me.  That’s where it becomes difficult for me to determine whether or not to follow through on submitting to that market.

So, when it doubt, I sought the advice of the internet and Harlan Ellison answered my question.  Albeit rather vehemently.  :)  He says, writers should be paid and agreeing to work for nothing is amateurish and destructive for writers as a whole.  It isn’t just about money, but about respect for the work, and recognition that writing IS work.  I have to admit, I found his argument relatively persuasive.

What do you think?  Will you send you blood, sweat, and written work to non-paying markets?  Why?  Does this really benefit the “new” writer?  I’m curious to hear from other people.

Post-Writing Slump

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I’m in a slump.  Last week, I was on a major roll, writing every day, sometimes twice a day. When not writing, I was thinking about writing, researching history or backgrounds, or tweaking characters in head.  I wrote, and then edited, and pushed and finished a short story in record time.  AND it’s one I’m rather proud of.  However, once completed, I JUST COULDN’T WRITE ANY MORE.  I fiddled with pages, I tinkered with edits.  I threatened, cajoled, bribed, ranted, cried, pep-talked and everything in between.  Still no luck.  I used all my old tricks to get into writing – deadlines, timed exercises, partnered-writing, 5 minute flash.  Still nothing.

Now, when writing for “fun” this wouldnt’ seem an issue, but if one is planning on writing “seriously” (and I use both those terms with caution) then it’s a safe assumption that, just like you can’t wait for the mood to strike or the muse to visit, you can’t wait for the slump to pass.  And….still no luck.  I find myself working late, cleaning my house, cooking (and trust me, that is VERY rare), blogging, exercising; basically any and every thing I could do OTHER than write.   So with that desperately sad confession, let me throw open the doors and ask:  Suggestions anyone?

P.S.  “Pants. Chair.” Hasn’t really worked so far.  My fiendish self managed to wrangle free and is now running pants-less through the house. Scrub THAT image from your brain if you can.  :)

And for your further entertainment:

 WritersBlock by Cyanide and Happiness -

Copyright of this image belongs to Cyanide and Happines –

5 and a Half Easy Ways to Annoy a Slush Reader

As some of you may or may not know, I am currently a slush reader for the Trust and Treachery Anthology that is going to be published later this year. Now, when I first began this journey it was as a way to get me back into writing, as well as giving me some experience working on the publishing side of things…But now it has become a whole new animal.

I have spent a lot of time reading, and have gotten very little umph to write out of it…but I have gotten a lot of gigglefits and screaming done.

Ok, ok, so this isn’t how to annoy a slush reader as much as it is a cautionary tale. The whole, “there but for the grace of God go I” and all that. Oh wait, I’ve gone there! Take a few minutes and review this little list I’ve made.  Trust me, after seeing these mistakes in just the few short months I’ve worked on this anthology I can promise you I’ll try never to make them again! (For the sake of my fellow slush readers if nothing else!)

5 1/2. If you don’t know what a word means, don’t use it.
You can’t “wonder through a town”…well, I guess you can, but I doubt that is the picture you are trying to conjure.

5. Basic Grammar and Spelling
I’m a terrible speller, and even worse at grammar…but EVERYONE has a friend that is better at that sort of nuts and bolts stuff than you. So, please, for the love of God give your story to that person before you submit it and we can all avoid you eating “potato’s”.

4. That cliché is like an old, worn shoe.
Comfy, sure, but a bit tattered around the edges. If you are going to go to a job interview, you might want to break out the new shoes, ya know? (Same goes for morals, avoid them “like the plague”! )

3. Format is there for a reason!
It is not easy to read strange fonts, or single spaced documents. It is sort of jarring to open a story with no title page or header. It is difficult to discuss story points when there are no page numbers. It may look boring, but trust me, we selfless slush readers will bless you if you can just follow proper format.

2. A rejection is final.
Take your rejection like an adult. Please do not write the editors to tell them that the slush reader that read your story was obviously mistaken in her evaluation of your ham-fisted attempt at literature. If you must write why not ask for a quick critique, or one piece of advice for your story.

1. Story Interruptus
Yeah, we can tell when you’ve gotten tired of writing the story. Build me up, build me up, and bang…leave me hanging. BAH! NO! If you’ve got a story, it needs an ending…give it that ending, not something slapdash or just tagged on at the last minute. Respect your story and the places you are submitting it to enough to think about your ending and actually WRITE it.

WWW: The Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Nanoers

I promised two weeks ago that I’d be more scathing about Nanowrimo this week to commemorate the final day of the event.  Well, I’m following through on that by looking at some of the bad habits that I see come out of the event.

1. Stopping  While the attitude diminished as the event aged, I remember a very vocal contingent on the Nanowrimo forums my first year arguing that words 49,999 and 50,000 should be “the” and “end”.  That was, after all, the goal, right?  50,000 words?  That’s a novel?  In the commercial world…no.  While word counts for various categories of fiction are fluid, 50,000 typically falls short of the novel category.  Novella, novelette, novelina, novelito, whatever they’re calling not-quite-novel-length works right now, 50,000 words falls into one of those categories.  Most modern novels aren’t any shorter than 80,000.  So you’ve still got some writing to do.

2. Not stopping  It can be hard to know when you’ve gotten to the end while writing that first novel.  It snuck up on me my first year of Nanowrimo.  Even as I was working towards a specific conclusion, I didn’t immediately recognize it when I got there.  Know your climax, don’t overdo your denouement, and don’t feel like you need to keep pushing well past the logical end point just because you’re a little “light” on words.  That’s more a sign that something needs to be bulked up inside, not that the end needs to be dragged out.

3. Stopping  In the most recent episode of The Shared Desk podcast (that’s Episode 7 if you’re reading this after a week or so), Tee Morris and Philippa Ballantine talked about Nanowrimo, and the participants who stop writing at the end of November and don’t sit down at any fiction again until the next November.  While it’s fine to be a hobbyist, I think one of the real purposes of Nanowrimo is to get people into writing fiction, and writing it all the time.  You’re allowed to write in months other than November, so keep at it!

4. Not stopping  Dial back the enthusiasm a little.  Yes, you’ve written, you’ve created, and there’s every reason in the world to be proud of yourself.  But don’t go too overboard.  The absolute worst habit of Nanowrimo participants is the December 1 query letter.  It gives the event a bad name.  So if you’re looking up agents, putting together query letters, and about to head out to the post office with your printed manuscript, for the sake of all that is good and decent, stop!  Also, stop looking at Smashwords or Amazon Kindle publishing, your work deserves more than being thrown against the wall in the roughest shape possible.

5. Stopping  Great, you listened to my first piece of advice and your novel is over 50,000 words.  It’s 80k, 100k, 120k, and only then did you write “the end.”  Fantastic.  You are nowhere near done with the process!  If anything, finishing the rough draft of the novel is only the beginning.  Chuck Wendig calls a Nano novel the “zero draft” for a reason.  Now it’s time to go back and read what you’ve written.  Make sure all the plotlines mesh at the end of the book.  Make sure characters don’t disappear down rabbit holes never to reappear.  Make sure that the spelling, grammar, and formatting are all correct.  Make sure there’s a subplot.  Now is time for editing!  And editing sucks, trust me on this one.  However, it’s an essential step along the way.  Being a writer isn’t easy, and anyone who says otherwise is lying.

6. Not stopping  For god’s sake, you’ve been staring at this manuscript for a month now.  Maybe longer.  Maybe much longer.  You have no sense of scale with it anymore, you’re far too invested in things.  You lack impartiality.  Were your novel a court case, you’d be expected to recuse yourself from editing, but you’re a writer, you don’t get that option.  So instead, step back for awhile.  Gain some fresh perspective on what you’ve written.  And I’m not talking about a day.  I’m talking a week.  A month.  Get it all out of your head, out of your system, so that you can look at it with fresh eyes and mind.

7. Stopping  You’ve stepped away from the novel, that’s great.  But part of stepping away is stepping back again.  You’ve got your perspective, it’s time to put the nose to the grindstone and get back to work.  Because no one else is going to do it for you.  Give yourself a deadline when you walk away.  If you’re finishing Nano, the first of the year is a great time to step back.  The December holidays are fantastic to wiping the mind back to a blank slate.

There you have it, my guide on the seven things not to do as you’re coming out of Nanowrimo and looking to further yourself as a writer.  It really is simple, just remember to not stop and not not stop and you’re golden.

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