How I Learned

By Shamus Posted Friday Dec 9, 2011

Filed under: Notices 75 comments

As I have belabored, I have a book coming out. Authoring a novel is a terrifying endeavor. Months of work goes into a single pass / fail proposition. Even if you do make money, you don’t begin doing so until after all of the work is done.

We decided that we wanted to practice the process of releasing a book before we did so. I wanted an easy, low-risk thing to publish, so that we could see how it all worked before releasing the Real Thing. So, I turned my autoblography into a book. I’m very glad we did this. There is a ton of work between typing “The End” on your novel and the point where people can buy it. Editing is a lot of work (I’ve been blessed by having a couple of very patient and talented volunteer editors) but doing the layout and cover are also huge tasks. Heck, just getting the work listed for sale on the Amazon store took almost a day. It would have been daunting and stressful to try and figure all of this out using my novel, which is about twice as long and represents about ten times the investment in time.

The upshot is, my autoblography is now a book titled “How I Learned”.

I don’t expect this to sell particularly well. Biographies don’t generally sell well unless you’re already world famous. Moreover, anyone interested in reading this particular biography has already done so, and can do so again, for free. But that’s not the point. The goal was to bring a book to market, and we’ve accomplished that.

The book differs from the blog series in a few small ways. It contains a bit of cut material. (Nothing major, not more than one or two more entries.) It’s more rigorously proofread. The pictures are in black & white. It costs money.

If you’re one of the threes of people who have expressed an interest in having this book, here is where you can get it:

Preferred link for the e-book:
How I Learned on Smashwords. (e-book only. All readers – Kindle, Epub, HTML, RTF, PDF, Plain Text.)

Preferred link for the print version:
How I Learned on Create Space. (6″ x 9″ Trade Paperback.)

If those links aren’t convenient for you, there’s always my Amazon author page. (I link this last because Amazon takes a bigger cut. However, Amazon is global, and the other versions might not be available for some people.)

I don’t have an ETA on when the Witch Watch will be out. I was hoping to have it before Christmas. Then I was hoping to have it before the end of the year. We’ll see.


From The Archives:

75 thoughts on “How I Learned

  1. noahpocalypse says:

    I’m considering buying that book as a Christmas present for my mother. I know, an autobiography of someone she’s never heard of is not a good present, but she has 5 kids and is unbelievably active in the school system. I think she might enjoy the more political aspects of it.

  2. TightByte says:

    Exciting times, Shamus. Congratulations on your first “real” published work, even if I agree with you (if I have understood your opinion right) that the distinction is somewhat blurred these days. It’s not as though you haven’t already regaled the masses with your prose. But there’s probably still something special about having a printed (and I don’t mean just something the bubblejet spat out) copy of your work, something with actual size and shape and … smell, maybe. :-P

    Best of luck with all your future projects!

  3. Al says:

    I need to get myself a copy now, before you become a world famous author and the price doubles!


  4. TehShrike says:

    If I wait for your second book, will I be able to buy them in as a 2-fer from the Create Space site?

    1. Shamus says:

      I don’t know. I’ll do it if the option is available.

      1. TehShrike says:

        At the very least, will your second book be available on that same site? So I could just buy both at once and maybe save on shipping?

        1. It should be on the same sites unless we decide to drop Lulu.

          1. Steve C says:

            An author I know had a problem with Lulu. He is still using them but is unhappy and would prefer to switch to someone else.

  5. MichaelG says:

    Congrats. I hope your life sells well.

    You might want to put together a blog entry about all the steps in the process, just for other aspiring authors out there.

    1. RTBones says:

      Actually, +1 to this idea. I think it would be a fascinating read. Writing is almost the easy part.

    2. Susie Day says:

      oh yes, this would be fun & enlightening to read :-)

      1. noahpocalypse says:

        Not to mention ironic. Writing about how to write & publish a book?

        I’m sorry. I used to be funny, but then- well, you know.

        1. Scott (Duneyrr) says:

          Let me guess: someone stole your sweetroll?

          1. noahpocalypse says:

            No. Almost, but I chose to spit on the sweetroll and give it to him. Then I punched up him and his goons until they left me alone, and I stealthily placed party hats on their heads without them realizing it. I even snapped the elastic under their chin, and they didn’t notice anything! I am so subtle.

            1. Cuthalion says:

              I really want this to be a Morrowind reference.

              …I remark four days later.

    3. Kdansky says:

      I’ll recommend Charless Stross’ Blog for that. He covers the whole process in intrinsic detail.

      1. MichaelG says:

        I’ve read his older writeup. It’s enough to make you give up before you start.

        As I remember though, he scorns the idea of self-published e-books. Shamus could talk about that process.

  6. Raygereio says:

    Shamus. At the risk of adding to your post-first-book-release-stress:
    I don’t own a creditcard (irony moment: I discontinued the one I had this morning as I hadn’t used the damned thing in 2 years) and unless I missed my spot-check, I don’t see any non-credit card payment option available for non-US-based backaccounts on the links you profided.

    Are you open to the possibillity of something convoluted along the lines of me sending the money for Witch Watch + shipping fees to your bankaccount, after which you ship the book acros the atlantic?
    No idea if that will be anything resembling convenient or even feasible.

    1. Tuck says:

      Might be easier for you (and Shamus) to organise it with someone in your country who has a credit card.

      Are you in the UK? If so, drop me an email ([email protected]) when Witch Watch is released and we can arrange sommat.

      1. Raygereio says:

        Thanks for the offer, but I’m in the Netherlands.
        It’s not standard for people to have creditcards over here. No one in my circle of friends and acquaintances has one.

        Oh well, maybe I’ll get another creditcard in a couple of years when I’ll switch bankaccounts. In the meanwhile:
        *shakes fist*
        Damn you American stores and your American-centric payment options!

        1. Tuck says:

          Interesting! Never would have guessed that about the Netherlands. :)

          Are debit cards (e.g. those issued with many current bank accounts that are used at ATMs/cashpoints, in shops, etc) also similarly uncommon? Amazon accepts those too, not sure about CreateSpace.

          1. Raygereio says:

            Debitcards are the norm over here. If you have a Dutch bankaccount, you’ll have a debitcard. However, while I can use my particular debitcard in pretty much all US physical stores, Amazon says “Nope, we don’t want you filthy non-US kind”. A bit silly really. Take Steam, they offer a bazilion methods to pay without a creditcard. I guess Amazon doesn’t really care about expanding their market.

            My problem seems to be solved though, as I’ve been made aware of several sites that will allow people that aren’t in the cool creditcard club, to pay at sites that accept creditcards. For the curious that are in the same situation as me, is one of them.
            In other words: Yay, I will be able to give Shamus my money for Witch Watch (as an aside that is not a booktitle that rolls of the tongue comfortably).

            Edit: I forgot to put in my emailadress for my avatar. However, I feel like the one issued to me fits for this post.

            1. Dovius says:

              That sounds really interesting, could you drop a message here on how it works out with neteller?
              I’ve got the same problem (Dutch too, thus no creditcard, but I do have a debit card), but I’d still love to pick up the book.

              1. Raygereio says:

                1. Create an account.
                2. Verify your account and upgrade it to an extended account.
                3. Get a virtual mastercard.
                4. Buy the book.
                5. Profit for Shamus.

                The below link (Dutch language) has some more details on how neteller works.

            2. Newbie says:

              We Brits have a wonderful time paying via debit cards with Amazon.

              Also: Which book do you want?
              Witch Watch.
              You want a watch?
              No I want Witch Watch!

              Heh words beginning with W.

      2. Jarenth says:

        As a future alternative, if something like country-wide shipping is ever organised into a thing: I’m a Dutch person with a credit card and a massive surplus of naive trust. I’m the perfect person to scam, really.

  7. Gale says:

    Bought the ebook version. I lost track of the autoblography around halfway through, so this is pretty convenient for me. Going to enjoy reading the rest of it. Good job, Shamus.

  8. burningdragoon says:

    I (probably) won’t be purchasing this, but I’ll be sure to throw money at your novel.

    I’m having trouble picturing how ‘threes of people’ would work. Hundreds of people, I guess technically means more than 100 people (uhduh), but implies at least 200 people so there are actually multiple hundreds. So threes of people would be like 6+ people? And what’s the next group, tens? Is threes of people 6-19 people? Or maybe it increase by a factor of 3, so it’s 6-17 people and 18-53 (3^2*2 to (3^3*2)-1) people would be nines of people?

    Why no, I’m not bored at work.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Threes (or maybe fours) are actually the largest number that the human eye can consistently recognize immediately. Our brains are certainly wired in non-decimal units, so I’d say threes are just as valid as hundreds or tens. I’d be happier if we all used dozenal.

      On the other hand, nines are close enough to tens to make the switch convenient. I’d say it goes threes, tens, hundreds, etc.

      1. Nic says:

        You’re actually exactly right. Since 3 is roughly the square root of 10, it’s quite commonly used for back-of-the-envelope calculations in math and science if you want to be slightly more acurate than powers of 10 (3, 10, 30, 100, 300…).

        I think humans can recognize up to five or six without counting. I remember reading about this experiment they did where a crow had to recognize a tally-mark symbol and then match it by making a small pile of stones. They could get about as high as six.

        I have no idea what point I’m trying to get at. I guess what I mean is, writing a book is kind of like making a small pile of stones?

    2. Blake says:

      It’s just talking base 3 clearly, so counting you’d have:
      10, <- your first three of people
      20, <- two threes of people
      100, <- three threes which would likely need a new name.

      So in other bases, he basically means anywhere from 3 to 8 people.

  9. Susie Day says:

    As a publisher, i say: don’t rush a book! :-)

    More books have been ruined by the author insisting that it be ‘finished by Christmas’ … In the world of book publishing, if you want a book to sell for Christmas, you’d better have it ready to go by the time fall hits so that you can start marketing it, otherwise, people have already bought their Christmas gifts by the time they hear about your book.

    If you need any tips for the formatting, it’s what I do for extra cash (I’ve done about a dozen books in the last two years) .. I might buy your biography just so I can take a look at what you’ve done ;-) (also, it was a great read, and I wouldn’t mind having a hard copy)

  10. Alan says:

    I am torn. I would really like a paper copy, but being in the UK, it will probably be a bit costly to ship.

    Does either option put more $$$ in your version of a dragon hoard? That would swing the balance.

  11. Mephane says:

    Ah finally. Now I just have to wait for my kindle to arrive on Monday (early Christmas for me lol) and your autobiography will be the very first book I will buying for it. :D

  12. Tizzy says:

    I was surprised to find out that the autobiography is 306 pages. Wow! It felt so light, reading one digestible post at a time, that I never realized how much I’d really read about Shamus’s life! If the book is twice as long, it must have been quite an endeavor!

    1. Kana says:

      I know, right? It felt like a nice little chapter every little bit, but looking back it must have been huge. While I could just go back and read it all for free, I’d rather buy the book. One, support for one of my prime sources of entertainment, two for being a bibliomaniac. More books are always welcome to my collection! ^^

  13. Factoid says:

    Are you planning on shopping your other book around to publishers or are you solely planning to self-publish?

    My recommendation is that if you think you can sell it to a book publisher, give that a try first. Most of them won’t want to touch it after you’ve self-published because of rights and ownership issues.

    Not trying to talk you out of self-publishing. It’s a viable way to make a career as an author and you obviously have huge benefits in terms of creative control.

  14. Josh H says:

    5 dollars for the E-book? Darn it, don’t you realize how tempting that sounds, despite having already read it?

  15. evileeyore says:

    Woot! Now I can add it to the other books from internet celebs I’ve bought and will likely never get around to reading… like Mogworld… and… um…

  16. Klay F. says:

    So the name of your other book is “Witch Watch” huh? It probably me, but I don’t remember you ever mentioning its title before.

    1. Klay F. says:

      Forgot to mention I will definitely be getting the autobloger-thingy. I have simply had too much entertainment from the site over the years for my conscience to let me get away with doing any less.

  17. Tuck says:

    For those wondering, shipping to the UK is about USD 6-7.00 from both CreateSpace and Amazon.

  18. pffh says:

    Although I won’t be buying your autobloggraphy I will be buying several copies of witch watch to distribute amongst my friends and if it’s half as good as what you write here on the blog it will be worth every *insert relevant currency* spent.

  19. River says:

    As soon as i finish paying off the negative balance on my bank account i intend to buy the paperback version, i dont know why but when i read a book i prefer to have the actual book there so i can turn the pages and such

  20. Jonathan says:

    The Createspace version is on my Christmas list, as sent to my in-laws, who have an 11 year old boy (my BIL) who does not fit in at school or learn normally. My wife is hoping that her mom will ask to borrow it.

  21. rabs says:

    Bought it from smashwords, and the epub looks nice. A good point for ebook version is to have color pictures.
    Works well for me (in France), I’m ready for your novel :)

  22. Irridium says:

    So, I hate to be a bother, but I ran across this little ad.

    Just thought I’d bring it to attention.

    Suppose I should say something about the book…

    Um… do you ever plan to take all you’re DM of the rings comics and comments and publish them into a book? That’d be rad. Probably won’t happen, but one can dream…

    1. X2Eliah says:

      That would probably get a lawsuit from whomever made the LoTR movies, though. Lawyers working for comapnies with cash are like that :|

    2. Shamus says:

      Bastards. I blocked them once already, but they changed domains. (Probably as a result of their lawsuit with the Evony guys. Ugh.)

      Blocked again. Should stop showing up in the next few hours.

      1. SolkaTruesilver says:

        So… Evony is actually suing the Roman Orgies?

        Talk about Evil vs. Evil

        1. Raygereio says:

          What? What’s Evony’s position in this?
          “How dare you use practically naked girls – that are in no way, shape or form related to the thing that’s being advertised – in your ads?! That’s our thing.”

          1. SolkaTruesilver says:

            Hey. You can patent anything you want in your mad country. Maybe Evony patented “Scantly clad drawn women publicity for browser-based game”?

  23. Ian says:

    Just a note on your Kindle pricing.

    It comes out at £3.68 which as compared to dead tree editions is not bad at all. Remember on the Amazon store though you are competing with a lot of lower priced books from other independent authors.

    Of course if you aim is to target your fans and catch others incidentally you might well manage that.

  24. Dovius says:

    Damn, once again my lack of a credit card comes around to bite me in the ass.
    Will there eventually be a way to buy it in a way that can be paid for by PayPal or another service of the same kind?
    (The same question about the novel, by the way)

    1. ZzzzSleep says:

      It looks like Western Union sells prepaid credit cards, so you could buy one of those, and then use it to purchase Shamus’ book…

    2. Wes1180 says:

      I managed to pay with paypal on smashwords

  25. Jokerman says:

    Ever thought about releasing Free Radical? Might have to tweak it for it not to draw lawsuits though. Ill admit, i havent read it – so i dont know if that could be done. I do plan to read it soon now though.

    1. It is in print on as well as a free ebook.

  26. Vlad says:

    Got it from and put it on my Android phone. I used to read it religiously when you wrote it, but bought it to support you and your family. I know it’s not much, but I hope I can have my two cents in whether your writing career takes off or not.

  27. Doctor Satan says:

    Witch Watch… an intriguing name. Care to give the thought process behind using that name?

    1. Shamus says:

      “Witch Watch” is the informal name of the agency in charge of investigating crimes of witchcraft and sorcery. The name has a bit of a double meaning, but to say more would be a spoiler.

      1. Newbie says:

        My God… That is the best description you could have ever come up with for your book, as I love stuff with stupid things like that (Points at Good Omens).

      2. Leonardo Herrera says:


        When I was learning LaTeX, I took your book (Free Radical) and transformed it. I created an awesome PDF file, if I may say so it myself. I even created a (private, of course) project in LuLu and sent the link to you but never got an answer.

        Anyways, maybe you can add it to your list of books available to buy in physical form?

  28. SolkaTruesilver says:

    Shamus, I’ll wait for the movie to come out. Is that all right? :-P

  29. rofltehcat says:

    Hey Shamus I just got this add on your site:

    Thought you might want to know and block that one, too :)

    1. SolkaTruesilver says:

      Must… buy… boobie-animes…

  30. Jeremiah says:

    Don’t know how packed your inbox stays (fairly, I imagine), but in case you missed an e-mail I sent, I recently read this article and thought you might find it interesting:

  31. SteveDJ says:

    Funny thing – you could’ve added a whole ‘nuther chapter just on this publishing experience. But then, you wouldn’t have a book finished to be putting through the publishing process. So you finish without that chapter – but then you write a brief blog entry so fascinating (even if short), such that having a full chapter in the book would just be an awesome final chapter… holding the book back…

    I better stop – my head is spinning now… :)

  32. Alex Richert says:

    Hey man, I actually appreciate you making these available in print. There are always blog posts I wish could be published. I always reference your AutoBlography to my brother, because he had the exact same experiences, although during the 90’s, so there’s that whole Self-Esteem Movement thing added on that made it even more insufferable. I grabbed 1 for me and 1 for him for Christmas, through CreateSpace.

    Your stories are compelling and your writing, evocative. Don’t feel weird about doing stuff like this. We appreciate the blog format, but we have no problem giving you money for alternative access. It’s your prerogative as a content creator, and especially as one with meaningful, abundant content.

  33. 2tm says:

    I’m glad you made your autoblogography a book! I was thinking that I’d love to have an e-reader copy of it when I was reading through it, glad to give you the $1.99 for it too.

    I have to say that I think you did a really good job of representing your mindset and thought structure for the ages you were in your writing. It felt very natural to read the youth entries from the point of view of a 8 year old, teen from a 17 year old and so on.

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