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ralph robert moore


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ralph robert moore

Copyright © 2009 by Ralph Robert Moore.

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remove the eyes
june 1, 2009

I've decided to publish a collection of my short stories.

It's an option I've been tempted by for a while.

Before the Internet, writers had no control over the publishing of their work. If editors didn't accept your story, that story only existed in a manila folder in your files. Stories want to be read, just like food wants to be eaten. If you prepare a Spaghetti Carbonara but no one eats it, is that Carbonara truly a meal, or just a stove activity? If you write a story but no one reads it, is that manuscript truly a story, or just a keyboard activity?

The Internet changed all that.

I remember, back in the mid-nineties, when I first started looking around the Net and came across author sites. Some of these writers had posted their own stories online. Anyone could read them. No editor or publisher needed. It occurred to me, I can do that.

I bought a book on HTML code.

It's hard to convey how empowering that was. I could get my work out to readers directly.

So I posted some of my stories online.

It's the same thing with short story collections.

I've been approached by a number of editors over the years asking if they could publish a collection of my stories. In each case, the project ultimately fell through, for one frustrating reason or another.

But that process did start me thinking.

Much like the Internet freed writers to post their own work online, several vendors on the Internet now allow writers to publish their own work as printed books.

Again, this is truly empowering.

I get to decide what stories to include. What order they'll be in. Their final text. I have complete control.

I looked around at the different self-publishing services, and decided on Lulu.

In many ways, this was an easy decision.

Lulu is the largest Print on Demand (POD) publisher on the Internet.

(In traditional publishing, the publisher orders a print run of, let's say, 500 copies. That's a huge up-front cost. If those copies don't sell, the publisher loses money. With POD, the printer (Lulu in this case) doesn't do a print run. The print-ready file for the collection is stored digitally. Each time a customer orders a book, one copy of that book is printed and shipped. No overhead costs.)

Lulu charges nothing for making your book available. They provide you with the tools to format your book, both text and cover. You're in charge of putting the book together. Once the book is the way you want it, Lulu takes a commission of 20% over the printing cost on each copy sold, and you get the remaining 80%. Pretty nice.

I decided to publish my collection in the standard U.S. trade paperback format (nine inches by six inches). I downloaded a Lulu MS Word file that was pre-set to the page dimensions I'd need (margins and page length), then copied my short stories to that file.

It was a lot of fun editing the collection.

I got to choose the font I wanted (I went with Garamond, which I've always liked. To me, it's the most easily-readable font.) Got to choose the font size (I chose Garamond 11. I like a font size that, again, is easily readable, but just ever so subtly smaller than a regular font size. That very slightly reduced font size makes the reading experience, I feel, more intimate.)

I was able to determine how I wanted each page to appear. For example, I decided against putting the story's title, and my name, at the top of each page. I like it, reading a collection, when there's no distracting verbiage at the top of each page. It allows you to get more deeply immersed in each story, as if you're lost in the woods.

There were practical editing chores as well, to conform my manuscripts to conventional book format. I had to go through each story and use the Word function Search and Replace to change the spacing after each period from two spaces to one space (in traditional manuscript submissions, you include two spaces after each period. In print-ready texts, you only use one space, because two spaces will produce a "snake" pattern down the page.) I had to make sure each ellipsis was exactly three dots, and had to change each double-hyphen to an em dash.

I also meticulously went through each story, line by line, word by word, to produce the definitive version of that story.

Again, a lot of fun.

So what stories did I include?

I wanted a mix of stories that had already been published, as well as stories that had never before appeared in print.

Above all, I wanted stories that flowed together, thematically. And I wanted each story to be a strong story. I didn't want any filler.

I had over seventy published and unpublished stories of mine from which to choose.

Here are the nine stories I selected:

AFTER HERE. 2,300 words. Never before published. Tom is eating his lunch in a crowded pubic square in Portland, Maine when a pretty young woman comes up to him and asks if he'd like to play a game.

THE WOMAN IN THE WALLS. 7,000 words. Originally published in the anthology, Darkness Rising 2005. A girl Jack meets in a San Francisco bar invites him to come home with her, but warns him there's an incredibly obese woman who lives in the walls of her apartment.

THE MACHINE OF A RELIGIOUS MAN. 8,000 words. Originally published in Midnight Street. Anthologized in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, edited by Ellen Datlow. Nominated as Best Short Story of the Year in the 2006 British Fantasy Society Awards. Bonay races in a car through the desert highways of New Mexico, trying to help his friend Gordon, who's crying in the back seat.

STRANGERS WEAR MASKS OF YOUR FACE. 15,400 words. Originally published in Theaker's Quarterly. Philip pretends to still be asleep in the middle of the night in his northern Wisconsin apartment, as strangers with knives gather around his bed.

MY FIRST KISS. 10,000 words. Never before published. A boy and girl who like to break into other people's houses for fun find themselves faced-down by an old woman with a shot gun when they break into a castle that's been transported stone-by-stone to Connecticut.

STEAKS IN THE CITY. 7,000 words. Never before published. Warren sucks up huge amounts of booze and drugs, then goes driving into Dallas to find his lost love.

THIS MOMENT OF BRILLIANCE. 9,500 words. Originally published in Lullaby Hearse. Ed, a wet work specialist, goes a little bit crazy in the Maine to Florida corridor while he's searching for a man with a secret.

LIKE AN ANIMAL IN A HOLE. 10,600 words. Never before published. David and Nell visit the Seattle town home of Nell's dead brother, trying to figure out how he died.

ROCKETSHIP APARTMENT. 7,700 words. Originally published in Midnight Street. Kevin meets Carla at a Los Angeles laundromat, and gets drawn into her plan to travel to the next galaxy.

So, five stories published before, four stories making their first appearance.

I'm really excited by this project. It allows me to get my fiction out there, in printed form, with me as my own editor/publisher.

Lulu lets you set your own price for your book. I ultimately decided on $18.00 for the trade paperback; $6.25 for the ebook download.

Given that the collection is over 70,000 words, over 200 pages, I think it's a fair price.

There are different ways you can order the collection.

You can go directly to my storefront on Lulu, here, and order the book. Ordering directly through Lulu helps me the most, because I get the highest royalty that way.

In about two months, you should be able to buy the book through different online bookstores, including Amazon U.S., Amazon Canada, Amazon U.K., Barnes and Noble, etc.

Also in about two months, you should be able to go into any "bricks and mortar" bookstore, whether it's a chain or independent seller, and order the book from the Ingram catalog.

I'm really curious to see how this experiment turns out. I'd love to publish additional short story collections, plus some of my novels.

The Internet is turning into a farmer's market. The middleman (publishing house/supermarket) is no longer needed. You buy your produce directly from the person growing those tomatos and jalapenos, dirt under their fingernails.

If you enjoy my writings, please help support this project by going hereto order a copy of my collection.

Lulu accepts all major credit cards, plus PayPal, and ships to most countries.

Updated information on the availability of Remove the Eyes at different venues (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.) can be found by going to Buy My Books.