Category Archives: Self Publishing

“The Mulch Pile” is FREE for All Hallows Read

I just wanted to drop a quick line here that I’m temporarily making The Mulch Pile available for FREE on Smashwords in honor of Neil Gaiman’s All Hallow’s Read celebration.

If you’ve been on the fence about this thing, then now is your chance you download it risk free. All I ask is that you spread the word if you like it. Write a review, tweet the link, tell a friend.

And, if you can, do help me spread the word about this giveaway too. I’d like to see as many people as possible get their hands on The Mulch Pile in the next three days, and you can help make that happen.

Happy Halloween. And happy reading.

The Mulch Pile


You’re not going to believe this story. Maybe that’s for the best. To tell you the truth, I don’t know if I really believe it myself anymore. Maybe it’s just a story I tell myself so that I won’t have to remember the Truth. But Terrence is dead; that much you can believe.

He should have been the one to write this, Terence I mean. He was always real good with this kind of thing. But now he’s gone, and it’s just me left to tell the tale. You probably won’t believe it, but for my sake, for Terrence’s sake, remember.

The Mulch Pile lives! If you’ve been following this blog for very long, you know that this is a project I’ve been working on for a while.

You could say it has its roots all the way back in my childhood when my dad dug into our garden mulch pile and told me to put my hand inside.  I lowered my palm into that cavity and felt waves of heat coming off the rotting vegetables and grass clippings inside. It totally creeped me out.

Years later, in 2009 to be exact, while I was casting about for a concept for my National Novel Writing Month novel, the idea of a monster mulch pile sprang into my head, and I knew that was the story I was going to write.

I had to write it. Because no one else was going to.

But along the way it became so much more. I’m not much a fan of pantsing these days, but in the November of 2009 sitting in Walmart’s parking lot with my laptop, pounding away on this story when I should have been eating lunch, pantsing took me to a place I never dreamed of finding.

And instead of writing a simple story about a monster mulch pile, I uncovered layers of meaning about brotherhood, identity, and the dark side of love.

Consequently, this story is really two stories. One is the story you will read. The other is the story between the lines.

Confused? Think of it like this painting:

On the one hand you can see a normal bowl of vegetables. But hidden within those vegetables is a pattern of something far stranger.

Similarly The Mulch Pile has two sides. One side is about a monster mulch pile. The other side…well let’s not spoil that shall we?

The Mulch Pile is available for all your favourite electronic reading devices. Kindle, Nook, whatever. I’ve got you covered.

The going rate from all those websites is $2.99.  But if you’ve got an ereader that can process .epub files, then I’ve got an extra special offer. The ebook is available directly from me for $1.99. Just click   and save!

I’m really excited about this story, guys. It’s been a long time in the birthing, but I’m thrilled to be finally releasing it into the wild.

And, as always, if you enjoy reading it half as much as I enjoyed writing it, my work will have been worth it all.

FREE STUFF! (for which you can also pay, should you be so inclined)

Hey kids! It’s that time again! That’s right! Time for me to flog yet another literary product of my diseased mind.

Wow, that didn’t sound so good. Maybe let’s start over.

Who doesn’t love them some good ‘n crunchy flash fiction? I still remember the first day I stumbled onto the art form as presented by a little webzine called Flash Fiction Online. My first forays into the flash fiction arena were actually submissions to this magazine. I didn’t get them published. But they did get me rolling with a new way to tell stories.

Over the ensuing years I’ve cranked out quite a number of these things, and I flatter myself that I’ve gotten better at it with practice. But what to do with all those little less-than-a-thousand-words stories I’ve accumulated over the years?

How about this?

It’s ANTHOLOGY TIME!

Huh, that sounded way more epic in my head.

Anyway, the stories included in this anthology are stories you can already read on my website, edited and polished up from their original versions, and bundled together for your convenience.

“But Albert,” you say. “Aren’t you really just asking us to pay for stuff we can already get for free?”

Nope. Well, okay I am asking you to pay for it.

If you want to.

If you don’t want to, I’m making a PDF version of the same thing you can download from Amazon for 99 cents available for FREE right here, right now, for all you lovely visitors to my blog.

If after you read these stories you think to yourself, “Hey this Albert Berg has provided me with at least 99 cents worth of entertainment, and I am more than happy to show my support of this wonderful, physically attractive, and vastly under-appreciated author by purchasing his book from Amazon,” then hey, I wouldn’t say no to that.

Not sure if this compilation is for you? Here’s a short list of the stories included with a brief summary:

The Finger: in which a man vomits up a human finger and cannot remember how it got there.

Salt of the Earth: in which a man tells his daughter about the world before the Green.

Play Date: in which a woman living in a house filled with empty doll’s heads turns out to be something more than she appears.

The Life and Times of Casey Jones: in which an unsual resident of a prison cell witnesses the end of a human tragedy.

Morgellon’s Man: in which a man afflicted with a strange disease takes matters into his own hands.

The Ghosts of Houses: in which a man is haunted by a dead building.

Grey Area: in which a laundromat becomes a sinister battleground of the soul.

Living Dead: in which the zombie apocalypse cannot come soon enough.

All that Remains: in which the last human tries to find meaning in a chaotic universe.

How the Other Half Dies: in which you are killed by zombies.

The Stone Saucer: in which an alien artifact carries the memories of a dead world.

If these sound like your cup of tea, then head over to Amazon and get this puppy for your Kindle, or better still, stay right here and download it for free.

Remember, all you have to lose is your sanity.

The Beach Scene

Today I’m going to tell you the story of a story. I guess the first thing you should probably know is that I’m kind of weird. I have what some people would called “an active imagination” and what other people would call “severe mental problems.”

The other thing you should know is that I work at Wal-Mart. For a long time, Wal-Mart used to sell cheap knock-off paintings for around thirty buck a pop. Most of these paintings were terrible, but other than that they were mostly okay other than that. But there was one that gave me the creeps every time I walked past it. It wormed its way into my soul and sent chill bumps up and down my spine.

The painting looked like this:

No, I’m not kidding. This isn’t the exact painting of course, but it’s close enough to give you an idea of what terrified me. Just two wooden beach chairs sitting on an empty stretch of sand, facing the sunset.

But there was something….wrong with the painting, something in the perspective maybe, or the way the wash of pastels piled up together, or….something.

And since I’m a writer I started to think, “Hey maybe there’s a story in this.”

I got out my notebook and wrote down the words, “The Beach Scene” and a brief thought about a man driven mad by a seemingly innocuous painting.

But the story needed something more, something deeper. It wasn’t good enough that the painting be haunted, I had read too many stories in that vein already. But I thought back to my childhood and a story I had read called “Von Goom’s Gambit” in which a man discovers a series of chess moves that, when observed by his opponents , drives them utterly insane.

And from these humble pieces I crafted a story that I call, “The Beach Scene.” Like the painting that inspired it, the title is hardly evocative of terror, but if you look closer you’ll find that there is something more there, something utterly unnerving. It is a tale of madness and murder that will suck you into itself and change the way you think about insanity.

If that sounds like your cup of tea then I invite your to check it out in the Amazon Kindle store for the piddling price of 99 cents.

And while your there, don’t forget to check out my other short story Derelict, which has just passed four thousand downloads, and is still available for free.

As always, I hope that you will enjoy both of these stories as much as I enjoyed writing them.

The Musical Fruit

I’ve never been good at tooting my own horn. And don’t get me wrong, I try. My parents even had me taking lessons for a while. Maybe its the fact that my lips get tired after a while, or maybe emptying my spit valve is just too disgusting for me to think about. I don’t know what it is, but after years of trying I’ve decided that becoming a professional trumpet player just wasn’t in the cards.

So I decided, “Hey, I’ll become a writer. No tooting of horns required there.” Only I was wrong. The horn of need follows me, it HAUNTS me. It lives in my dreams, and I am forever falling into the darkness of its terrifyingly smooth and circular mouth.

That’s right. Because as a writer, I have to do a little something called, (gulp), self-promotion.

I have to get out there and tell people, “You know that money you were planning on spending a deep-tissue massage for your gerbil? Well maybe you should take some of that money and spend it on my book instead.”

And it terrifies me.

Why? Well for one thing there’s that tiny nagging fear at the back of my mind whispering that I’m really not that good. It doesn’t matter that I’ve had a number people who are not my mother read my story and generally conclude that it is of acceptable and even admirable quality. I still can’t help thinking of myself as a hack. A wannabe.

And that’s a terrible place to be. Because what self-promotion is saying is, “There are people out there who would love to read what I’ve written, and it’s my job to make sure they know about it.”

Wow. Just writing that sentence was hard. In fact, you know what? Writing this whole blog post has been difficult for me. I’ve been dithering away the morning by doing chores and finishing a book I’ve been reading all because it’s become increasingly apparent to me that I’m not good at this self-promotion thing.

That has to change.

It’s not that I need to become some egotistical windbag, constantly spamming my Twitter feed with how great my work is, but there’s no point in putting the work into writing the book if no one ever reads it. Otherwise I might as well stuff it in a trunk somewhere.

Because the truth is, if I’m going to have the balls to sell my work at all that means I have to believe that you want my story more than you want your dollar. That you will, in fact, find my writing to be worth more than many of the other things your dollar might have bought you.

Still, it isn’t easy. This isn’t an instruction guide. It’s not me telling you that I’ve solved the problem and here’s how you can too. But maybe just recognizing that I’ve got some issues is a good place to start.

If you’ve got some advice to share I’d love to hear it.

In the mean time, this might be the proper place to announce that I’m giving one of my short stories a nice official roll-out announcement on this blog tomorrow. I’ll be wincing at my keyboard as I try to say nice things about my own writing. So stay tuned for that.

The Long Run

You know what I like? Money.

Really I do. I think it’s likely that some of you do too. But it’s hard to come out and say it sometimes isn’t it? Because we want people to believe that our motives are pure, untarnished by such a vulgar thing as money.

So we beat around the bush. We say things like, “Money isn’t everything in life,” and “I would rather be happy than rich,” and while there isn’t anything wrong with these statements I think in some small way they’re really our way of saying, “I’m not rich, and so I’m going to justify my relative poverty through moral superiority.”

But let me tell you, I get kinda sick of shopping the discount bread rack at the grocery store, or doing the math in my head to see if I can afford to fill my gas tank all the way up. I’m not telling you this because I want you to feel sorry for me. I have a house, two cars, two televisions (that I’m currently trying to convince my wife we should really get rid of) and I eat well enough that I’ve started back into exercising to shed those extra pounds. I’m not hurting.

But I wouldn’t say no to more.

Which is why, when someone commented on this blog yesterday, asking how many self-published authors made a profit, it got me to thinking and thinking hard. Because while I can honestly say I write because I love it, and would continue to do it whether I got paid or not, you had better believe that one day, I’d like to make some money with this writing thing.

Here’s what I think about the prospects of making money as a self-published author: it can be done, but it won’t be fast (or easy).

I’ve been reading Bob Mayer’s blog on and off recently, and one of the things he loves to hate on is the fact that Amazon’s sales tracker lets self-published authors check their numbers in real time. In his eyes, this is symptomatic of a get-rich-quick, show-me-the-money-now kind of mentality that plagues the majority of the self-published authors out there in the world.

And while I mentioned yesterday, that I myself check my sales numbers far too often for Mr. Mayer’s taste, I agree with the general assertion he’s making about the industry.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Self-publishing is not a get-rich-quick scheme. I’ve been following several authors who have released self published books recently, hard working people who I admire as writers and who seem to be doing everything right.

But the numbers just aren’t there. The general pattern is: sales start pretty well at first, but as the author reaches the outer limits of his internet audience, those sales start to drop off pretty quickly. Because let’s be real, the odds of some stranger finding your work at random amidst the piles and piles of other self-published books out there and buying it are way lower than we’d like to think about.

Bummer right? Well, yes and no. Like I said, this isn’t a short term game. These lackluster numbers are coming from authors still working to establish a presence in this crazy world of digital publishing.  And that takes time. Amanda Hocking, the personified holy grail of self-publishing, wrote seventeen books before she started self-publishing them. That’s a lot of hours spent in front of a screen leading up to what seemed like an “overnight success.”

So here’s my advice to you authors hoping to someday may a profit. Don’t think about next week or next month, or even next year. Think about where you’ll be a decade from now. Are you willing to stick with it for that long? Are you willing to keep writing, and keep putting your work out there even when it seems like it’s going nowhere?

Because that’s what it’s going to take. I’m not saying you’ll get rich like Amanda Hocking, but if you stick with it for the long haul and give it your all, I believe it is possible to make this writing thing profitable. That’s my plan anyway, and I’m sticking with it.

In the Land of the Free

Something weird happened this weekend. And I’m not talking about my being attacked by an alien Elvis impersonator in a Gorilla suit. I’ll tell you kids that story some other time.

What happened was this: I was checking the sales numbers for my books in the Kindle store. (I know Bob Mayer says that doing this too often means you’re taking your eyes off the long road, but it’s all so shiny and new right now it’s hard to keep myself from checking at least once a day. And that’s okay because I’m pretty sure I’ll grow out of it, just like I grew out of compulsively checking my blog stats every fifteen minutes.) Anyway, the last time I checked I had sold exactly five of my new scifi/horror short story “Derelict.” But when I checked my numbers on Saturday night that number had shot up to twelve hundred.

I froke out.

I chicken danced right across the ceiling I was so excited. Unfortunately my feet got caught in the fan blades, and I thumped back down to reality. “Wait a moment,” I said to myself. “Did not a wise man once tell me that if something seems to good to be true it probably is? And further was not this wise man my father, who’s noble office I am preparing to celebrate on the morrow? Perhaps this warrants further investigation.”

And what do you know, good old dad was right. Because when I checked my Amazon page I saw that my ebook, which had been listed at the bargain-basement price of ninety-nine cents, had been marked down into the sub-basement of freebies.

At first I was angry. Because hey, this was my story and they were just giving it away? Without my permission?

And then I remembered another wise thing my dad once said: “Always read the fine print.” So I did. And lo and behold, I found out that Amazon has every right to take your story and mark it down to whatever price they feel like.

Gradually my anger faded and was replaced with a heaping dose of pragmatism. I learned two things that night, things that my fellow authors would do well to keep in mind especially if they plan to ever go the indie/guerilla/self/gorilla-publishing route.

1. Amazon is large and in charge.

Seriously people, the Kindle is it right now. I’m sure some of you out there love your Nooks, and for what it’s worth I don’t own either, but from my side of the equation I can tell you that I’m selling way more ebooks through Amazon than anywhere else.

Which means that Amazon can basically afford to do whatever they want to do and you’ve just got to sit there and take it. Sure you can go out and whine and moan about how big they are and how its not fair, but none of that really matters. You’re in the game, and these are the rules. Maybe they aren’t “fair” but that doesn’t give you the excuse to stop playing to win.

2. Free stuff is the best publicity ever.

I want to reiterate something I said at the beginning of the post. Before, my story was in the hands of a total of five people. At this point it’s in the hands of nearly two-thousand.

Now sure, some of those people only downloaded the story because it was free. Maybe they won’t ever even get around to reading it. But now I have two five-star reviews on that story, where before I had none. And the odds are good that if people like my writing, some of them will check out my other ebooks. And having my story move so many copies so fast has done wonders for it’s ranking.

So yeah, maybe I’m just being a Pollyanna here but I see some huge potential upsides to all of this in the long run. And it is a long run. So I’m gonna pace myself, and keep doing my best. Because, honest success doesn’t come overnight.

P.S. You really should go and check out Derelict if you haven’t done so already. You’ve got no excuses now, and I really think you’ll like it. If you do like it, maybe you would be inclined to write a review?

Of Battling Bloggers and the Zen of “Duh”

I don’t usually like to respond directly to other blogs, but I thought today merited some exception to that rule. See, on Wednesday Kristen Lamb tried once again to whack us in the noggin with the idea that as writers trying to grow an  online audience, blogging about writing is not a good idea.

This is not new. Kristen has been talking about this at least since I started reading after her at the beginning of the year.

Then Austin Wulf, another blogger I like and respect, answered back with a post arguing against Kristen Lamb’s main points. I recommended you read both blogs for yourself if for no other reason than the fact that they represent two very well argued and opposing viewpoints.

But here’s the deal: I’ve been thinking a lot about this blogging thing lately. More importantly I’ve been thinking about audience numbers and how to expand them. Of course I’ve always wanted more readers, but for a long time it was something almost academic, simply a way to fuel my pride about my blogging ability.

But about a month ago something changed. I released an ebook called A Prairie Home Apocalypse or: What the Dog Saw. Many of you who are loyal readers of this blog bought the book, and I thank you. But about two weeks after releasing the book my numbers basically hit a brick wall. I’d sell one every couple of days, but the numbers just weren’t there. I’d tapped out my audience, and now I was swinging in the wind. And I don’t know about you, but the prospect of making money really makes me perk up and pay attention.

So I started thinking about what I could do about it, and what I came up with was this: maybe I shouldn’t be blogging exclusively about writing.

Because I believe it does limit my readership to a certain extent. Looking back over posts of the past, some of the most popular by SEO numbers have absolutely nothing to do with writing. And now that I’m further along in my blogging career SEO is a big part of bringing in traffic.

Now there are clearly writers that can pull off writing about writing and garner an audience by the boatload, but as far as I can tell all of those writers are named Chuck Wendig. I am not named Chuck Wendig, nor do I have even an iota of the man’s skill in crafting pithy punchy posts.

Which is why you may have noticed in the past few weeks, that I haven’t been writing as much about writing. Instead I’ve been dabbling in other topics that interest me to see what kind of reaction I can get from the audience at large. This is not to say that I’ll never blog about writing again, but after all this time, I’m finally starting to think maybe Kristen was right all along. And even though it did take me a while to realize it, I’m not ashamed.

Sometimes you have to understand something for yourself. You hear it over and over, and one day it finally clicks and you’ll say, “You know that thing everyone tried to tell me I should do for all those years. Maybe I should give that a shot.”

And the people who tried to tell you for all those years are smacking their heads with their palms and saying, “Yes, what a brilliant idea. Maybe you should try that.”

And that’s okay. Because sometimes you just have to learn it on your own.

Addendum: don’t worry. The economics post was a bomb, so you won’t have to worry about seeing Money Mondays anytime soon.

Addendum 2: I have a new/old short story out for the Kindle. It’s a terrifying little tale that mixes science fiction and horror into a delightfully spine-tingling concoction that I call Derelict. Maybe you should check it out.

On Self-Publishing

Last week I put my book A Prairie Home Apocalypse or: What the Dog Saw out for Kindle on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Since it has been an entire week since my book’s debut and since a number of people who are not my mom bought the book, this means that basically I’m an expert now.

Okay, so maybe that’s stretching things a bit, but you’d be surprised how your perspective on things can change in a week. With that in mind, I’m going to give you the top (whatever number I get to before I run out of material) things I have learned from and about being self-published.

1. People Are Awesome

You think you’ve gotten a sense of this through blogging and tweeting and such, but trust me when I say that nothing you’ve experiences will match the outpouring of support from people who desperately want to help you sell your book. They may not actually buy it, but they’ll jump off a cliff for the chance to retweet your announcements.

This is part of what I love about the writing community. Everyone wants to see everyone succeed. There’s no jealously, no sense of snobbery. If one of our friends puts out a book that we like even a little bit we’re gonna promote the crap out of that thing baby.

So even though I’ve said this before, I’m saying it again. Thank you. To all of you.

2. Being Self-Published is Hard Work

I should clarify here. The actual state of being self published does not require any effort on your part at all. You’re surely welcome to toss your book out into the cold dark digital world and hope that it maybe can get somewhere on it’s own merits. But if you want to have anything like a realistic chance of success you’ve got to promote that puppy.

Over the past seven days I’ve been on a number of different social media platforms, some of which you’ve probably never heard of getting the word out to all my online acquaintances and asking them to help me spread the word. I did my first blog interview. And then there’s all the questions to answer: the “is it out for the Nook yet?” people, and the “I don’t have a Kindle will you send me a PDF?” people. (And for the record, yes I totally will, just shoot me your email, and we’ll make that happen.)

I hope this doesn’t sound like whining, because it’s really been a blast, but all this promotion does take extra time out of your day.

3. Interviews are Awesome

I did my first interview ever with Cynthia Stewart, which should be going up on her website sometime later today, and let me tell you something, that was fun. Maybe it’s just my oversize ego talking here, but I really got into answering her questions and talking about the things that have shaped me as a writer. I really hope I get to do more of these in the future.

4. Self-Publishing is Not a Get Rich Quick Scheme

When I was growing up one of the things my dad told me over and over was this: “There are no honest get rich quick schemes.” And self-publishing has proved to be no exception to that maxim.

In spite of the fact that I’ve had some modest sales, the bottom line is that it isn’t easy to get people to click that “Buy This Book” button. I know this because I’ve been on the other end of that transaction with my wallet in hand thinking, “Do I really want to spend my three dollars on this?” And a lot of times even though I may like the premise and the author’s writing style the answer is still no.

Overall, taking into account the money I spent on the cover, I’m still in the red with this thing. I hope to change that in the coming week or so, but the bottom line is that I’m not gonna be quitting my job tommorow or the day after that.

So yeah, that’s the rundown. Sorry to end on a down note there, but I hope that something I’ve said has been useful to those of you who hope to tread this path someday soon.

Also, if you haven’t bought my book yet, you totally should.

Peace out ya’ll.