On Writing,  publishing

The Magic Bakery: Chapter Four

Chapter Four…

I started off chapter three with a question and an answer: “How do you slice a magic pie? The answer is simply as many ways as you want.”

But first you have to have a magic pie to slice.

You have to have copyright to license. And that is the rub, the place where so many writers flat run into a massive wall. It takes time and a lot of practice and knocking down personal demons to produce new stories and novels regularly.

Anyone can do it for a short time. A year. Maybe two. But then with just a few cases in their Magic Bakery half full and the rest of the bakery still empty, the writer fades away.

The magic pies don’t spoil as I talked about earlier, but they sure gather dust.  No one comes through the door and no one keeps up the bakery.

When the writer stops caring about their own business, the business dies. It is called quitting and it is the only way to fail in this modern world of publishing.

Now I understand how hard this is. Clearly understand. And this problem of looking at empty shelves almost got me as well.

So a personal story…

As Kris and I moved from traditional publishing to indie publishing, I got the statement from young writers over and over how easy I had it because I already had work.

Well, I knew how to tell stories, sure. And I had sold millions of books and had made my living in publishing since 1988. Sure.

But the indie world made me into a flat beginner. So when some young writer with three or four or five novels said that I had this huge advantage over them, I just nodded and said nothing.

The only real advantage I had was that I was a better storyteller.

You see, the dirty truth was I had no books. Well, I actually had two, one was my first published novel I had the rights back to and one was a thriller I had written and then tossed in a drawer. And I had a ton of short stories.

For almost all of my career, I was a media writer and a ghost writer. I wrote over one hundred novels under pen names or media books and I didn’t own a one of them. I had baked the magic pie in someone else’s bakery.

So I had nothing but the short stories and I didn’t feel I wanted to bring the thriller or the first novel out right off the bat.

I felt I needed to fill my magic bakery.

It felt impossible, I must admit.

I would stand in that Magic Bakery and stare at all the empty shelves and wonder how in the world at my age I would ever fill them. In other words, I had to start my writing career completely over in my 60s.

So with two novel pies sitting in the back room and my bakery almost completely empty except for some shelves of short story pies to one side, I started to work in 2011. All of the shelves were cleaned and polished and just waiting for me to fill them.

Waiting for me to get baking.

I did some more short stories to get started and then lost most of a year to a personal friend’s death and estate.

By the time I got back to writing, it was almost 2013. And again I did more short stories to try to get going.

Then in the summer of 2013 I decided I really needed to get baking. I was tired of staring at all the empty shelves.

So I started up Smith’s Monthly, which needed a novel, four short stories, and a serial every month. And I had to write it all. Every word of a monthly seventy thousand word magazine.

I wrote like crazy that summer to get a few novel pies on the shelf and the first issue came out in October 2013. I am a little behind at the moment here in 2017 as I write this, but I expect to be caught up by October 2017 with the 4th full year without missing a month. And then I plan to start into the fifth year.

Imagine in October a wall of my Magic Bakery will be full of forty-eight magic pies with the sign over the wall Smith’s Monthly pies.

After four years I now have pies of different sorts filling my bakery.

These nonfiction books taken from blog posts.

The short stories have all been published standalone and a slice of each novel was taken and licensed to WMG to publish standalone.

And I combined slices of the short stories to be in collections and so on. Not counting short stories, last year alone I did twenty six major books. The year before over thirty. This year will again be over thirty.

I went from having a mostly empty bakery to a decent inventory in my Magic Bakery in four years.

Over a hundred major products and hundreds of short stories.

And the customers are coming, even though I have done very little, if any advertising.

Seems people like the taste of a Cold Poker Gang pie or a Seeders Universe pie or a Poker Boy pie.

This Takes Time

There are a number of hot, young (in numbers of books) gurus out there at this moment preaching how to sell more books by this or that advertising device. Some of the advice is pretty good. And WMG is following some of it in moderation.

But almost without fail, these “experts” have an almost empty Magic Bakery. They have gotten very, very good at driving customers into their empty store, but have forgotten the reason to have the store in the first place.

Think folks. You might, through some advertising hype or another, go into a store you have never visited. We all do. Standard business stuff. But if you walked into the store with only a few things on the shelves, would you make it a point of going back?


In our north Pop Culture Collectables store, we have over twenty thousand books and a hundred-thousand comics, toys, cars, games, and collectables of all sorts. It fills four large rooms and when someone comes in they are always surprised at how much we have and they always take time to explore all four rooms.

And they often buy something they didn’t even know they wanted.

If they came through the door and we had two collectable cars, an old toy, five used paperbacks, and six used comics in the four rooms, think anyone would bother to stay? Or come back?


It has taken us over a year now to get the store as full as it is. And we had all the inventory in the warehouse. It took a year to get it all out and priced.

Things take time.

As writers, we must create our own inventory. And that flat takes time.

But it will never happen if you don’t start.

And it will never happen if you quit.

How to Even Start?

First… As I suggest in a number of classes, do an inventory of your magic bakery.

Everything. Every article that might be combined into a book, every short story, every novel.

Everything that you own copyright on and have created. Even stuff still in the back room you are too afraid to bring out and put on a shelf.

Second… See if there is any way to create new products with that inventory? You know, take a small slice from five short stories and combine it into a collection. Things like that.

Or get your work up on Bundlerabbit so people can ask for the bundling slice of your pies. And so on and so on.

Third… Figure out your hours. How much time do you spend writing each week creating new product? What is stopping you from getting some of the work in the back room out to the shelves?

In other words, find your demons. Check Heinlein’s Five Rules and be honest at which rule you are falling down on.

Fourth… Make a five year and ten year plan. Expect it to take time to fill your shelves of your magic bakery.

Make your focus early on not on getting customers through the door to be disappointed, but on making your Magic Bakery a place where people will want to return over and over when they do find it.

When you start thinking of your writing as a business and a retail store, it really is amazing how clear some basics about writing become.

I knew this four plus years ago when I started filling my shelves. And I do not plan on slowing down because my bakery really is magic. I have as much room as I need to expand when my inventory starts filling the shelves.

And I plan on doing a lot of expanding over the next ten years.




  • Harvey

    GREAT post, Dean! Out of the park! Drew to an inside straight! Hole in one! And any other sports analogy you might want to toss in.

    Shared far and wide.

  • ChaChanna Simpson

    “As writers, we must create our own inventory. And that flat takes time.” This is so true and I feel like you felt before you started your bakery. My shelves are bare, and it’s frustrating to think of how long it’s going to take to get them filled. Your journey is encouraging and it’s stellar to read how far you’ve come with filling your shelves.

    I do like the idea of thinking of it as a bakery and I am just creating inventory. It gives me a whole new way to think of it. And you’re right. Those who are selling the process of marketing your book are always just focused on selling that one, single book and nothing else. I don’t want to do that. I want my bakery to be overflowing. So, enough typing and back to baking.

  • Chuck Heintzelman


    As an illustration, BundleRabbit takes a very tiny slice: Worldwide Non-Exclusive Ebook Bundling Rights in the English Language.

    I just shake my head at this because a few years ago this right never existed. Well, you might say it always existed but nobody ever cut this piece of the pie.


    • dwsmith

      Exactly, Chuck. Thank you for that illustration. Not sure at this point, other than time, why writers aren’t cutting that slice and getting it on BundleRabbit. A great return for such a small slice. Thanks!

      • Kate Pavelle

        Thank you for reminding me that I definitely wanted to put a book or two on BundleRabbit. The reason I haven’t since I got back from the Anthology Workshop? Chasing deadlines, baking frantically. There is always so much to do! Plus a website redesign. Audios. Print. It never ends, and unless I build BundleRabbit into my SOP publishing process (like I did with audios), it simply won’t happen.
        Another line item for my to-do list! 🙂

  • Vera Soroka

    I did make a list of my inventory and I have been slowly chewing my way through it. I’ve published some things and have even sold a few copies but my main focus is to get these past projects out. As you say it takes time and patience. I’m still learning to do stuff. I’m trying to do print right now as well as ebook. That is taking it’s own time. Sometimes I am my own worst enemy and I get in the way. But hopefully if I keep plugging away at it I will have this out and then I can finally come up with a workable schedule that will see more projects out.

  • Mike Lawrence

    He’s sitting there behind his fat stacks. There’s even a small heap of orange chips there. Who brings orange chips to a nickel table? I mean, c’mon. The flop is staggered half-ass on the table. It’s *that* dealer – always runs a sloppy half-ass board that I have to read twice. But it’s still a rainbow draw to a rag gutshot. Now this guy, the one with the orange chips, he never bets into a gutshot draw. I mean, he’s not a rock, but he’s not stupid either. He won’t even lean into a broadway. But here it is, to me on this half-ass crooked gutshot rag board. And all I have is a little stack of nickels. But that little three is looking real good because it gives me a wired set. He can put me all-in without even taking a deep breath. But I have to call. Even though I know he’s not leading out on that stupid rag draw. Two pair. Split. That’s all he’s got. But he thinks he can bust my little stack because he has orange chips. And he’s smiling. I hate that. Doesn’t even hide it. His tell is simple and written on his face like a freaking billboard: “You can’t afford to call, dumbass.” That’s all he has to say. Everybody knows that’s what he’s thinking. But that’s how it is when you get short like this against Orange Chips Guy. You’re all-in or you just pick up.

    But, before I push, I have to ask him: “Did you really write 26 books in one year?”

    • dwsmith

      LOL, nope, not that year. I have done that in the past, but the 26 books were 11 Smith’s Monthly issues with a novel and four or five short stories and a serial of something in every issue. I also wrote and published thirteen novels (11 of which were in Smith’s Monthly) and I did two nonfiction books. I did no collections and that does not count the 83 short stories I published last year.

      So 26 major books. Yes. And a ton of short fiction.

      This year, if all goes according to plan, the number will be closer to 45 major books. You can watch me write a short story per day right at the moment and starting next month at least two novels per month. I do it all out in public you know. (grin) In fact, the novel I wrote in January called Ace High: A Cold Poker Gang novel that is available in electronic right now and will be available in paper shortly. I wrote that in five days by the way. (grin)

  • J. D. Brink

    “Building inventory takes time.”
    I need to stamp this on my head. In reverse, so that when I’m banging my head thinking I’m not far enough along, I can see it printed back to me along the cracks in the drywall.
    Actually, I’m slowly coming to grips with this, after repeated reinforcement on your blog here. And instead of feeling like I need success *right now*, I’m planning for the future. Stocking the shelves. Sure, anyone’s welcome to come in now, please do, but I won’t start flipping a sign by the highway or hiring a dancing clown to get the word out until I have more pies out. And that’s okay, as it should be.

  • Dale T. Phillips

    Preach it! We recently had a speaker, an Indie writer who insisted we MUST get reviews above all else. I told her I followed the DWS/KKR model- instead of chasing reviews, focusing on writing and publishing more. She said that was wrong, that “books don’t sell themselves.” Her talk on getting reviews ranged from “ask your friends and family” to paying anywhere from $200-1000 for paid shots at reviews (while I had to keep from laughing out loud). She also had a publicist, planned sales campaigns, paid money for reviews and blog tours, and who knows what else.
    So I checked out her Bakery. Four years ago, her first pie came out, and in her talk, she admitted it was “slow.” Two years ago, her second pie came out, with a cover and title at complete odds with the content! Despite four years of toil, spending hundreds, if not thousands on publicity, massive giveaways, and more, she still had fewer than 100 reviews for each of those pies.
    So I look with satisfaction at my bakery shelves, with lots of quality products, in a wide variety, at different price points, and I just smile. She may have sold and given away more of her two pedestrian pies, but my shop entices people to come back again and again, as the offerings keep growing.
    So thank you and Kris once again for the advice and support you offer.

    • dwsmith

      More than welcome, Dale. Thanks for the great example. And it really is scary how the promote, promote, promote folks seldom have much to promote. But it is easier than learning how to tell better stories and writing to them. Really upside down, but what do I know. (grin)