On Writing,  publishing

The Magic Bakery: A Chapter in the Center

(Note: I forgot a major topic. The doors to the Magic Bakery. So this chapter will fit into the middle of the book somewhere.)

Chapter (in the center)…

Doors to the Bakery

Any business must have a way to get into the business.

For example, at our North collectable store here in town you can enter through an interior staircase and climb, or climb an exterior staircase. Both methods take some work for customers and we also have a special entrance in the back that comes in without stairs.

Three entrances. We have the store full of enough cool stuff, we hope it is worth the customer’s climb.

So how do readers, publishers, and others get into your bakery to buy your magic pies?

The fun of Magic Bakeries, there are many actual doors.

Far more doors, actually, than you have products in the bakery.

Yeah, a Magic Bakery is a strange place, but it is magical after all.

An example: Say you have written one short story only and published it.

The Magic Pie that is that short story is sitting on the shelf all by itself. Your bakery is empty and no customers are really going to stop by, even if they happen to find your one story somewhere.

So at that moment in time, your bakery only has a few dozen doors and nothing to hold customers when they arrive.

Why that many doors? Because you have been smart and put the story out wide, meaning Amazon, B&N, Kobo, D2D and so on through all the places D2D and Smashwords distribute to. (I’ll talk about paper below.)

So for the sake of simple, say that your one story is for sale at a dozen places.

One story times a dozen places is a dozen ways someone can find your story and thus enter your Magic Bakery.

Every Story is a Door into Your Work

This concept flies in the face of the old myths about writing slow, only doing a book a year or two. Sorry if you are still using one of those myths as an excuse to not sit and write much. You need to figure out how to change that.

Productivity is king in this modern world and the reason is simple. Every story or novel or collection you put out is a doorway to your Magic Bakery and all your other work.

So say I have 300 different products out there in one form or another. (I have more.) Each product is sold wide. So I have about 3,600 doors into my bakery that readers can come through at any moment. Or movie folks or gaming offers or overseas publishers.

Those doors are all over the world, folks.

This is the basic concept of discoverability in this Magic Bakery metaphor.

The more work you have out for sale, the more readers can discover all of your work.

Other Doors?

There are hundreds and hundreds of ways to get readers through one of your doors. Again, your magic bakery must have product, be clean, and well lit, meaning people can see what flavor of Magic Pie they want to try.

An example of one great way is to sell a short story to a magazine or anthology. The door is your story in that book or magazine, which will be different when you publish the story out wide later on.

For example, you sell a story to Asimov’s and it is printed in their magazine. They get to about a hundred thousand readers through their varied means. That door is now open into your bakery because readers there can enjoy your story and follow your name through the door into your other work.

Bundles are another great door that opens and closes. For example, as I write this, I have novels in two great bundles. Now both novels are out there wide in electronic and paper. But for three weeks, each novel in each bundle will have a new door that readers can follow to my Magic Bakery and all my other work.

There are many, many other ways. From Bookbub to Facebook promotions to Amazon ads to giving a story away on your blog every week and so on. So, so many ways and more being created every day.

But the basic premise is that any time you can set up a way for readers to find one of your stories, it creates a door into your bakery and all your other work.

Create Doors By Creating More Product

One of the most common questions I get is about collections. The question is always in a form like this: “If I have five of my short stories in a collection, should I also publish them stand-alone?”

My answer is always yes, of course. A collection is one door times all the places you have it for sale. For sake of the math, say 1 x 12 equals 12 doors.

If you put up the stories as stand-alone stories as well, you have created 60 more doors. So with stories in a collection and stand alone, you would have at least 72 doors into your bakery.

That many more chances that a reader can discover your Magic Bakery and come in and sample more.

Take those thirty stories I wrote in April of 2017. I created 30 Magic Pies. Let’s count the doors into my Magic Bakery I got from that month of having fun writing short fiction.

Each story will be published stand-alone.  30 x 12 = 360 doors.

Each will be put into a Smith’s Monthly volume. About 8 volumes. 8 x 12 = 96 doors.

Each will be put in a five story collection at some point. 6 collections. 6 x 12 = 72 doors.

So from writing 30 stories in thirty days and getting them out wide and in various forms, I created about 528 new entrance doors into my Magic Bakery. And who knows what the future of those 30 stories holds for even more doors.

That’s why productivity is king in this new world. The more Magic Pies, the more doors into your bakery.

Now For Some Real Magic

The Magic Pie (your story) never leaves your bakery. Yet at the same time, that story exists out in all those places for readers to sample and find the door back to where that Magic Pie lives and all your other work lives.

Through the magic of copyright, your Magic Pie can be on the shelf in your store, completely in your control, while also being available for someone to license and read in electronic form all over the world.

So that is pretty nifty magic all by itself. It is the basis for the modern Magic Bakery.

But there is more. The magic of paper copies.

A paper copy of your book gets printed and sold. One reader found the door to your work. All great.

But that paper copy, not the place it was sold, but the paper copy itself, remains a door to your store as well.

How is that?

Say the book read and then was donated to a library and sold there. So now that paper copy opened the door to your bakery for another reader.

This can’t happen with electronic licenses. One sale, one customer. But not paper.

Say the book ends up in a used bookstore, the most magical place of all for opening doors to writer’s Magic Bakeries. And someone finds it, takes it home, likes it and opens a door into your bakery.

Then trades the book back in or gives it to a library or to a friend.

So you have your work for sale on Amazon and a few other places in paper. Each place is a door to your bakery times the number of books you have in print.

But watch the number of sales each month in print, because each sale is a potential new door into your work for a reader or numbers of new readers at some point.

This concept has always been around, just never talked much about in the old traditional days. Writers back then only had one door and that was to sell the story to a publisher. And Magic Bakeries are pretty much non-existent when you sell all-rights to traditional publishers.

But now paper copies can be a massive tool in bringing in loyal customers to your Magic Bakery because every paper book sold becomes a possible number of future doors.

The New World of Discoverability (I mean doors)

The thinking is simple: The more product you have in your Magic Bakery, the more possible doors there are out there for someone to find your work.

But you can see why I have always shouted about the silliness of being exclusive anywhere. It limits your doors into your bakery. It really is that simple.

And the more doors you have, the more people can find your Magic Bakery with all your work sitting gleaming on the shelves.

And the more product in your place, the more doors and the more readers will shop around when they do find you.

So above I said I have about 3,600 doors plus into my bakery. That number was based on just electronic license.

But hundreds of my books are in print and selling and each time one books sells, I know for a fact that one copy that sold might be a future door to a brand new customer.

And that’s why sometimes my Magic Bakery gets real crowded with customers. And for any shop owner, that is a fun thing to see.


  • Vera Soroka

    Another door would be audio no? It seems to be a growing market that writers should consider. I would like to try doing my own. If Neil Gaiman can do it, I figure I can to, LOL. I think it would be fun. I have a software that I’m going to try out.
    I can see now how many doors we can create with our work. For me Art would be another one. The doors can be as creative as you can get.

  • J.M. Ney-Grimm


    I’ve been distributing through Smashwords sinc 2011, but only recently set up an account with Draft2Digital. I’ve been exploring their universal links, and was impressed to discover that they support links to as many as 38 digital storefronts.

    As I poked around in those storefronts, I discovered many more places that my books were on sale, previously utterly unknown to me. That was fun.

    Here’s a link to the list of storefronts supported by the universal links at Books2Read (a sister site to Draft2Digital), if people are interested.


    • dwsmith

      Yeah, my number of 12 was being very conservative, but didn’t want to have to try to explain to people where all those were. (grin)

  • Shawna Canon

    This has been a very helpful series. Thanks for writing it.

    I’m confused by this math, though:

    “Each will be put into a Smith’s Monthly volume. About 8 volumes. 8 x 12 = 96 doors.

    Each will be put in a five story collection at some point. 6 collections. 6 x 12 = 72 doors.”

    You’re presumably only putting each story in one volume/collection. So wouldn’t it only be 8 and 6 more doors? Or 12 and 12 if you count each time the story appears as opposed to each new print/digital product? How do you get a multiplication? You’re not putting each story in 8 volumes or 6 collections.

    Also, have you talked about (or could you) the idea of paper copies for short stories? Even if one does all the cover and interior formatting oneself, there’s still the issue that each paper edition would need an ISBN, and for those of us who haven’t bought a block of 1,000 yet because it’s so expensive, that’s a serious consideration. Are there really enough people out there willing to buy a paper copy of a 23-page story for that to remotely make sense financially?

    I was talking to a friend yesterday, telling her I’d published some stories, and she asked where they were. I told her they were on Amazon, and before I could tell her the other places they could be found (I went wide, though only in digital so far), she asked, “So can publishers find it, or does Amazon own it now?” I kind of had a hard time not reacting with horror to that question. It does make me wonder, though, how other people even start on explaining things like copyright and publishing and distribution to someone who’s not involved in that industry–or even any similar ones–whatsoever.

    • dwsmith

      Shawna, the collections and Smith’s Monthly are sold wide, so they are in 12 places (the number I was using for ease). So the thirty short stories would fill 8 issues of Smith’s Monthly and 6 collections. So each would open 12 doors, thus the math.

      And yes, I use the free ISBN for paper copies at CreateSpace. As for sales, sure they sell a few copies now and then. But the real key is an advertising standard called comparative pricing. I have a $4.99 paper and a $2.99 electronic. The $2.99 looks better with the paper linked to it, so by having a paper edition, it not only looks more respectable, but the $2.99 price looks cheap.

      As far as explaining such things as Amazon, just tell them Amazon is nothing more than a bookstore. Just because your book is in a bookstore doesn’t mean that the bookstore owns your story. They usually just nod at that and go on. (grin)

      • Shawna Canon

        Ah, I see. Thanks for explaining. (Numbers are not my strong suit, so sometimes the math has to be explained to me as if to a small child.)

        So my understanding is that the free ISBN lists Createspace as the publisher (instead of your own publishing name). I gather, then, that you don’t consider this something to be concerned with? I’ve read so many opinions on that topic, I guess there’s no solid “right” answer.

        The bookstore thing makes sense. I’ll have to remember that for next time.

  • Linda Maye Adams

    Here’s a story about every story being a door into your work.

    In early January, I had about 26 books on Amazon.

    In February, I broke my foot. I was on medical telework for my day job, and it was an energy suck while I healed. I simply didn’t have the energy to do much else. So I did only a little writing and didn’t release any more of my back stock.

    My Amazon sales flatlined for those three months.

    It was evident to me that each time I put up a new book, it popped me back into the visibility range. I can’t see how someone could only put up one book and expect it to maintain high sales over an extended period.

  • Dawn Blair

    I was once a prolific writer. I’ve been writing for as long as I could remember. One summer, I had a friend who literally expected me to do 7-10 pages a day for her daily reading pleasure, and she didn’t care that I had ranch work, swim team practice, and several hours of hanging out with her every day as well. The last page number I remember typing out (yes, this was written on an old Smith Corona typewriter) was 273, though I know that was certainly not the last page. After that, it was just a blur.

    Then somewhere along the way, I started feeling that since publishers kept rejecting me, my writing wasn’t good enough. I started to learn to edit.I found a critique group. I slowed down. Now, I did learn many skills and I learned a lot from my critique group, but I should have never slowed down. I bought the myth.

    Then, thanks to some generosity from Dean, I saw the myth and decided to break free. Here’s what helped me to get free from the myth that a good book is written slowly:

    Do accountants only have 1 tax client? No! They do hundreds of individual tax returns and probably half that number again in business returns. Is every tax return filed correct? No! That’s why they have to do amended tax returns on occasion. The client forgets to bring in a piece of information, or something just got missed. Are these amended returns the end of the world? No. Big picture: in 10 years or so, most of those returns won’t even matter. They are just compliance work.

    Do doctors have just 1 patient? No! Even specialists have more than 1. What if a doctor took a year to diagnose your condition while you suffered in agony from your symptoms? Yes, they do get the diagnoses wrong every know and again. They are doctors practicing medicine and they practice it lots.

    Construction crews work in rotation so the company can be building more than one house at a time.

    Does a grocery story have just one shopper? No! They have their doors open for everyone. Heck, even membership places like Costco and Sam’s Club doesn’t just have one member.What do all these things have in common? Volume.

    To have volume, you must write. Lots.

    In the stores I mentioned above, they generally don’t have just 1 product, like 1 choice of spaghetti noodles. No, they have 2-5 choices because all shoppers won’t like the same brand. Costco (for example) has the Kirkland brand, but they also have other brands as well. Now the point here is not about brands, but about variety and volume.

    Accountants don’t just do tax returns; they might also handle bookkeeping, payroll, and a whole host of other services.

    Family doctors might handle everything from delivering babies, to casting broken bones, to prescribing antibiotics for strep throat, and more.

    Writers can (though there is certainly no rule that they should or else) write in other genres. But, most professionals don’t move into being specialists (writing in only 1 genre for example) with out first being generalists (writing in lots of genres to see what they like and what their audience responds to).

    So, quit trying to be an Art-tist (snobby nose in the air) and go be a professional (fingers on the keyboard).

    Realizing other careers need volume and variety helps to get one over the myth of writing one book every year or two pretty fast. Taking several years to write 1 book is no badge of courage — badge of persisting through a season of your life maybe, but it’s not going to win you readers. (I know, personal experience talking here and now I’m playing catch up). Having the next book ready is what wins readers.

    Thank you, Dean, for helping me to realize all this. And for making me do some really scary math.

    • dwsmith

      Thanks for the great post, Dawn. And yeah, math is scary to anyone who believes in myths. Thanks!

  • Annemarie Nikolaus

    There’s another set of doors worth to mention: translations.
    With new services that don’t require upfront payments, they’ve become affordable. babelcue for example works on a royalty-split model. Thus the translator even has an interest, too, that they sell