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Just the FAQs

For Bill Smith, author of the Outlaw Galaxy series.

What is Outlaw Galaxy?
Why do you self-publish?
What's next for Outlaw Galaxy?
Where can I buy Outlaw Galaxy books?
What are your favorite Star Wars books?
Can I send you my ideas for new Star Wars or Outlaw Galaxy books?
Where can get my own Star Wars stories published?
Will you read or critique my stories? Will you publish my books?
Where do you get your story ideas?
What does it take to be a successful writer?
What are your greatest creative inspirations?
Why is your website so...simple in its design?
By being DRM-free, are you worried about "piracy"?

What is Outlaw Galaxy?

Outlaw Galaxy is swashbuckling space fantasy action-adventure in the grand tradition.

It is a universe of larger-than-life heroes, starship battles, and thrilling adventure on distant worlds. Spanning billions of settled systems, Outlaw Galaxy features a multitude of strange alien species, amazing technology, and wondrous magic. The galaxy is a dangerous place, fragmented into countless interplanetary nation-states and simmering with rivalries and conflict.

It is a universe where adventure awaits in every starport and city and where the next jump into hyperspace might bring you face-to-face with forgotten wonders of the ancient past...or pirates determined to seize your ship and dump you out the airlock.

Sure, these stories aren't everyone's cup of tea. Some people prefer rigorously scientific "hard SF" or the angst-ridden New Wave sensibilities of the 1960s. Shelves are now overflowing with steampunk, post-apocalyptic, dystopian, and zombie stories. Some people want science fiction to be all grown-up and mature and sophisticated. They want sci-fi to be "real literature" as they see it. And that is all well and good.

Science fiction, fantasy and horror -- collectively "speculative fiction" -- are wonderfully broad genres where there is room for everyone and every type of story. If you don't like my stuff, I'd love to talk to you about Ray Bradbury and Neil Gaiman, Robert Heinlein and Vernor Vinge, or Stephen King, Ursula K. LeGuin, Saladin Ahmed, Terry Brooks, or whoever else tickles your fancy. I love those authors and their stories, too. Speculative fiction is an amazing field with room for all kinds of storytelling.

But Outlaw Galaxy is all about fun. It is traditional star-spanning space fantasy, bursting with blasters and space pirates, aliens and epic battles.

This is the stuff you loved as a kid and, c'mon, admit it, you still love these types of stories. After all, you did rush out to see Revenge of the Sith on opening weekend, didn't you?

Of course, just because Outlaw Galaxy stories have their roots in pulpy, star-spanning action-adventure, don't write them off as shallow. I strive to write stories that are fun, yes, but I'd also like to believe that there is substance behind the glossy spectacle of strange planets and exotic technology. Even though these stories have their roots in a genre that is unapologetically fun, I aim to write stories with some worthwhile ideas behind them.

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Why did you self-publish?

Note: This answer was originally written nearly a decade ago, well before the current boom in self-publishing started. Despite the success of thousands of self-published authors, many people are still unaware of the reasons why an author might want to publish themselves instead of going through a traditional publisher. I have updated some facts and figures, but the reasoning remains just as valid as it was when I started publishing on my own in 1998.

I know you're just being polite. You're really thinking, "If your books were any good, wouldn't you be published by a real publisher?"

It's a fair question.

The short answer:

"Read my stories and judge for yourself."

The long answer:

Today's publishing industry is a great place for many authors. But I'd rather do it myself and be in control of my own destiny. With traditional publishers, lots of very good books end up getting returned, go out of print, and basically disappear before they have a chance to be discovered by readers.

If I go with a "big, famous publisher," my books must sell 50,000 or 100,000 copies or I'm really not worth their time. While some of the Star Wars books I have written have sold those kinds of numbers, realistically, very few books hit those sales levels. And honestly, many readers don't pay any attention to who publishes a book, any more than they pay any attention to the studio or production company behind a movie or television show. These distinctions matter a great deal inside the industry...but to readers, they matter not a bit.

For all but the most successful authors, self-publishing -- and making upwards of 70% on each sale through companies like Smashwords, Amazon, Nook (by Barnes and Noble), and Kobo -- is a much better business decision than going through a traditional print publisher and making just 7% on print books and 15% on ebooks.

By doing it myself, I don't need to sell 100,000 copies of every book. I can get along just fine by selling a couple of thousand copies of each tale. And if my book isn't "discovered" in the first two or three months of release, it's no big deal. If readers don't discover it for years, the ebook will still be available to any reader anywhere in the world who wants to buy a copy.

More importantly, by publishing myself, I can write exactly the stories I want to write. I don't need to get editors and marketing departments to "allow" me to publish. I don't need to pray that the big bookstore chains pick up my book or worry that they will buy it only to return it back to the publisher after a couple of weeks. I can just write my stories and send them out into the world to find their audience.

I enjoy self-publishing because it gives me freedom.

I am free to sell to readers around the world, instantly, at a fraction of what paper books cost. Now, I can sell my entire library instead of just the one or two titles that a bookstore would normally carry. It is an amazing change that has immensely benefitted readers and authors.

I'm not alone -- look at efforts by Mike Stackpole, Cory Doctorow, Scott Sigler, Barry Eisler, David Gaughran, Joe Konrath, Hugh Howey, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Dean Wesley Smith, and so many other authors. Baen Books embraced online distribution and proved that it works. Now other publishers like Tor, Angry Robot, Solaris and many others are waking up to the possibilities of online sales and DRM-free ebooks.

I truly believe online distribution and embracing the "do it yourself" indie ethic are the future of publishing. As I update this article (September 2013), ebooks are 30% of mainstream publisher book sales -- up from less than 1% only a few years ago. And that's only reported sales figures from major publishers. All of those independent authors who sell through Amazon and other sites are going unreported in total industry sales figures because Amazon and the other vendors don't give out exact sales numbers.

I really believe that ebooks are going to continue to explode. No, I don't think paper books will go away -- there will always be a demand for paper books. Lots of people still prefer print. And whether the books are sold in a Barnes & Noble or an indepedent bookstore or online at Amazon and Ebay, people will always buy printed books.

However, as ebook readers keep on getting cheaper and more readers have phones and tablets that provide good reading experiences, ebooks are going to blossom. I believe that sales of printed books will remain relatively stable over the next few years. However, with cheap readers and easy access to content, ebooks will end up being an industry probably ten times the size of physical books. (Just as blogs, websites and social networking produce much more content than traditional newspapers and magazines.)

People love to read. If books are affordable and readily available, people will buy. Ebooks are poised to meet readers' needs in ways that the infrastructure of the printed book industry never could do.

Finally, self-publishing is better for me for the most important reason: It is a lot of work, yes, but it is also a lot more fun to do it this way.

Famous Self-Publishers. I'm not alone in publishing my own works. Here's a short list of other do-it-yourselfers. Perhaps you've heard of a few of them:

"Some people" -- meaning many major publishing companies and authors who feel threatened by this movement -- argue that self-publishing is the refuge of untalented hacks.

I look at the above list and smile. After all, I'm in good company.

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What's Next?

Look to see a steady stream of Outlaw Galaxy stories and books. I'm just getting started. The galaxy is a big place.

Sign up for the FREE Newsletter. Just email me: bill@billsmithbooks.com and type "Subscribe." That way, you can find out about the latest Outlaw Galaxy stories and other news from this humble author.

Where can I buy Outlaw Galaxy books?

Outlaw Galaxy books are available through this website and all major ebook retailers, including Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Apple. For more ordering information.

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What are your favorite Star Wars books?

Where to begin? My first loves are the original Star Wars novelization (ghost written by Alan Dean Foster) and Brian Daley's amazing Han Solo novels. From the Bantam era, I greatly enjoyed Mike Stackpole's phenomenal X-wing novels, Timothy Zahn's Thrawn series -- well, honestly, anything by Stackpole and Zahn -- and A.C. Crispin's young Han Solo saga.

With the new Del Rey line, James Luceno and Matthew Stover have written novels that I believe truly captured the spirit of Star Wars. Matthew Stover's novelization of Revenge of the Sith was wonderful and my hat is off to Terry Brooks for his excellent adaptation of The Phantom Menace as he very artfully dealt with what I considered the flaws of the film. I've generally enjoyed the Clone Wars-era books because it's an area where there's plenty of new terrain to explore. I have really enjoyed the stories by John Jackson Miller, Drew Karpyshyn, Paul S. Kemp, and Sean Williams and Shane Dix.

I honestly haven't had time to keep up with all of the novels, so just because I haven't mentioned someone, it doesn't mean that I don't like their work. The above are just the novels and writers that I have read and enjoyed. The New Jedi Order and Yuuzhan Vong storyline lost my attention a long time ago. These stories might be great -- I don't know, I haven't read them -- but what I have read just doesn't feel like Star Wars to me.

Dark Horse Comics is publishing some pretty good comics these days, particularly Star Wars: Legacy, which has done some incredible things with the universe. I have a deep fondness for the best of the old Marvel Star Wars comics -- the Shira Brie storyline, the Tarkin, the Tagge saga, the Wheel, Vance the bounty hunter, the quest to rescue Han Solo and other Marvel storylines will always rank among my favorite Star Wars stories. I even have a fondness for Jaxxon, the seven-foot-tall green Rabbitoid.

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Can I send you my ideas for new Star Wars or Outlaw Galaxy books?

No. Sorry, but I cannot read or accept original story ideas from readers. There are icky legal issues involved.

More importantly, it's your idea -- you should be the one to bring it to life! You should be the person to put your creative vision on the printed page.

Writing is not easy, but it's well worth the effort. Quit talking about how "someday" you'll write a story or novel. Sit down and get started. Right now!

You'll be glad you did.

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Where can I get my own Star Wars stories published?

Del Rey Books is the official publisher of all Star Wars novels. Competition for those publishing slots is very keen and Del Rey works only with established, previously published authors. You have to prove yourself by selling original science fiction stories and novels to publishers before getting a crack at Star Wars.

Another avenue is the world of fan fiction. Many Star Wars-oriented websites publish original stories written by fans -- TheForce.net, Wattpad.com and FanFiction.net have outstanding fan fiction communities. While they don't offer payment, these sites offer authors an outstanding opportunity to share their work with other fans and many of the stories are truly professional quality. Not only that, some authors build loyal readerships that follow them when they later professionally publish their own creations.

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Will you read or critique my stories? Will you publish my books?

No. I cannot read or critique your stories for legal and professional reasons, nor do I plan to publish other authors' books.

There are some good ways to get feedback on your own stories. You could join a local writers' group but be wary...honestly, some readers' groups are poisonous and do more harm than good. Look around to find a group that suits you.

There are plenty of online writers' forums, especially if you write science fiction, fantasy or horror stories. You may want to submit your stories to fan fiction websites, magazines and publishers. There are a multitude of online publishing opportunities today -- if your stories are good, you will eventually find the site and market that fits your work. When submitting stories, be sure to read and follow all publishers' guidelines.

You can publish your own books at sites like Smashwords, Wattpad and Amazon's Kindle Direct publishing program. You can use CreateSpace to publish physical books at a minimal cost.

Finally, you may want to set up your own personal website or blog to publish your stories. Domain names and website hosting are very affordable these days. I highly recommend NameCheap.com for registering domain names and they also offer very affordable web hosting. There are many quality but low-cost providers like HostGator.com and my personal hosting provider, Verio.com. Verio is not the cheapest company but their pricing is very affordable and their service has always been oustanding in the fifteen years I have been with them. I have heard good things about HostMonster.com, FatCow.com, DreamHost.com, 1and1.com and BlueHost.com. Many services like Blogger.com offer free hosting.

Some authors like John Scalzi, Charlie Stross and Cory Doctorow have done a masterful job of using their online presence to build a large audience and turn that into tremendous publishing success. It also helps that they write great books that people want to read!

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Where do you get your story ideas?

Just about everywhere.

Whether the setting is a distant planet, Europe in the Middle Ages, or your "boring" hometown "where nothing ever happens," stories are still fundamentally about people and how they deal with the challenges in their lives. The same themes run throughout the history of storytelling, even if the scenery and costumes are vastly different.

What separates a great story from a forgettable one is how the story is told. The author's job is to make the reader care about the characters.

My best advice: Write what you are called to write. Don't write for the market or blindly follow "what's hot" right now. Trends come and go.

Write what you love. I'm drawn to tales of starship battles, high adventure and fantastic settings, so that's what I write.

If you write the stories you love, you'll have the perseverance to finish what you start. Not only that, writing what you love will help you find your own voice and enable you to build an audience of readers who "get" what you are doing.

If you want to learn about the craft of writing, here are some helpful books on the subject:

There are also many helpful books on how to write for specific genres like science fiction and fantasy.

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What does it take to be a successful writer?

First, it depends on what you mean by "successful." Some people want to publish a couple of stories or write some stories for their friends to enjoy. Some set out to publish a single book. Others want to make a career of writing and publishing stories. Some are determined to sell to a major print publisher and others choose self-publishing. All of the essential ingredients remain the same, no matter what your level of ambition.

First, many people have the unrealistic dream of writing a single book, having it become a huge hit and then retiring to an ocean-side luxury home. It normally doesn't happen that way. You would have better odds playing the lottery.

Most traditionally published books net the author an advance -- maybe five to ten-thousands dollars -- and normally the sales aren't high enough for the author to earn anything more. Self-published books have no guaranteed sales royalties, so some authors make almost nothing on their books. This is not a business where you will get rich quickly or easily.

Most authors, like me, have a full-time job to pay the bills and provide health insurance, and then they write on the side on nights and weekends. Novels and short stories just don't pay that much unless you get very lucky.

Sure, there are some authors who achieve enormous success. Most of them have done it after spending years or decades mastering their craft. But most other authors, just as talented and dedicated as the superstars, write and publish in relative obscurity for their entire careers.

Beware the "Gold Rush Mentality"

Right now, we are in the middle of an "Indie Publishing Gold Rush," not unlike the Blogging and Tech Gold Rushes of the late 1990s, or when everyone started posting their own videos or music, expecting to hit it big and become a star. And after a couple of years, after people realized that any worthile creative endeavor is actual work, hard work, most people moved on to something else.

I expect in a few years, the "get rich quick" authors will move on to something else and ebooks will be considered to have "gone bust"...while the really talented and dedicated authors who stick to it and produce consistently great stories will be quietly making a pretty good living.

My advice: Write because you love it. Write because you want to. Write because you have to. Quit looking to other people to give you permission to write. Quit waiting for someone else to tell you that your stuff is great. Just write.

Write because this is what you love to do most and you are committed to it, in good times and bad, on nights and weekends while working a day job to pay the bills. Keep on writing even when everybody hates your newest story -- or worse yet, ignores it -- because you know you have other great stores inside you bursting to come out.

That's what it takes to be a successful writer.

Now, a few details and suggestions:

Persistence. If you're going to write, you have to believe in yourself. In my experience, persistence and determination are just as important as ability. Persistence and commitment is what gets you to go to the keyboard when you don't "feel like" writing. Most of all, if you believe in yourself and keep at it, you will keep on trying even when it seems hopeless.

Every writing project involves "hitting the wall." (For me, this normally happens about halfway to three-quarters of the way through the first draft.) You start to think "I'm tired of this. I want to quit."

If you're serious about being a writer, you'll keep writing. You'll put your head down and keep on going -- one word, one sentence, one paragraph, one page at a time.

You can't do this all at once. Writing takes time -- lots of it -- and there are no shortcuts.

But, even when things are hard, you'll keep writing because sentences become paragraphs, then paragraphs become pages, and pages become chapters. And even though your internal editor is often screaming "This is crap!" while you are writing, after you're done, you'll look back at what you've created and, more often than not, you'll realize, "Hey, this isn't half-bad. Not perfect, it needs work...but I can fix this."

That's what writing is all about.

Your favorite authors are famous because they were talented, sure...but also because they were stubborn and dedicated. Many accrued a mountain of rejection slips before they made their first sales. They believed in themselves even when others didn't.

Stephen King almost quit writing halfway through his first draft of Carrie. He threw the manuscript in the trash -- and he only finished it because his wife, Tabitha, found it in the garbage, read it and told him that it was a great story and it would be a huge mistake to quit. He went back to the typewriter and finished the book on nights and weekends while teaching school and just barely paying the bills. He sold the hardcover rights to a publisher for a tiny sum. It was frustrating to say the least.

Then, about a year later, the publisher sold the paperback rights for about $375,000...meaning that King knew he would never have to work at anything other than writing for the rest of his life. This business can be like that...there are times when it is so discouraging and tempting to quit...and that might be just before you have that breakout hit that makes your career.

Writing is not a "special gift" that only a chosen few have. Most people are born with some degree of writing ability. Successful authors have actively worked to improve their skills and craft, just as professional athletes are always working to improve their game skills.

Good Writing Habits. Write as often as possible. There is no way around putting in the "seat time."

"Waiting for inspiration to strike" will only waste an awful lot of precious writing time. So will surfing the web, reading books on writing, and many other forms of procrastination.

Dedicated writers sit down and get the job done even when writing is the last thing they want to be doing. (Even if I'm not all that thrilled when I first sit down to write, once I get going and the words start flowing, honestly, there is nothing else I'd rather be doing. Writing is hard work, challenging and difficult and time-consuming...but it is also the most rewarding work I have ever done.)

Learn from Others. Read other authors with a critical eye to see how they do things. Learn from them. Analyze their work to see how you can improve your own skills -- study how they handle scene transitions, plot, characterization, dialogue, and all of the other elements of good storytelling.

Silence The Inner Critic. Silence that "internal critic" who tries to stop you from being successful. That's the voice that says your writing is terrible, that you'll never be successful, that writing is a waste of time...whatever your preferred flavor of self-doubt happens to be.

I've often had the experience of my inner critic try to convince me that what I was working on at the moment was terrible...yet when I went back and read the story days or weeks later, I realized, "Hey, this isn't half bad." Believe in yourself.

First drafts are supposed to suck.

Don't "get it right," just "get it down" on the page. You never get it right the first time. Instead, just write the words that come into your head.

As you're writing your first draft, remind yourself, "There's nothing in here that can't be fixed in editing."

Let the words flow, even if it feels like your writing is terrible. Your inner critic will be screaming, "This story sucks!"

That's normal.

That's why they're first drafts. So relax; have some fun. Give yourself permission to write a bad, terrible, awful, hideous first draft. Just get the words out on the page.

The important thing is to not give up. Keep going. Finish it.

You Can Always Fix It in Editing. You never get it right the first time. No, you scribble out that awful first draft, filled with mistakes and errors and wrong turns...and then the real work begins.

In my fifteen years of doing this, I have found that it's a lot easier to revise a bad first draft than it is to struggle with trying to put together a perfect first draft.

Scratch that. It's impossible to get it right the first time.

Think of the first draft as a skeleton. To add all of the other details that make a story work -- all things that will be added in later drafts -- you need a skeleton to hang them on.

But with a first draft, no matter how bad, when you sit down to start editing, it starts to click. Yes, you still see all of the terrible things that need to be fixed -- but now you have something to work with.

Oh, yeah, sure, the spelling's terrible and the dialogue's awful and I need to go back and completely rewrite that battle scene and oh, I forgot to put in this subplot, so I need to write a bunch of other scenes...but buried in all of those flaws, you get a glimpse of your story's potential.

Eventually, you'll learn to love editing and revising: it's a chance to make a story great. You'll look forward to rolling up your sleeves and rewriting, making changes, adding details, deleting the fluff...in transforming your idea into a real story.

Honestly, editing is one of my favorite parts of writing. I have seen some stories that started off pretty lackluster really transform into stories that I was really proud of after a few editing passes. Editing and revising, for me, is a lot of work, but it is a lot of fun, too.

Most people are unaware of this process because they only see the finished product. Let me assure you: Every outstanding book involves a trail of flawed drafts, false starts, and revisions.

(Except for Anne Rice. She says she gets it perfect the very first time through. I don't believe her for a second.)

Enjoy the freedom of the creative writing process. Give yourself permission to be really, really bad at it...but have fun doing it. Then, go back and fix your stories.

If you struggle with this -- and many of us do -- I'd strongly encourage you to read a book called The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. It's a truly marvelous book for anyone who wants to create.

Use the shortcuts that work for you. Many new authors obsess about "how it's supposed to be done," as if there's some magic formula or process that guarantees your story's success.

Writing is an intensely individual process; everyone does it differently. The "right" technique is the one that works for you.

Some authors do incredibly detailed outlines ("plotters"); others don't even scribble a page of notes before they start writing ("pantsers," as in "plotting by the seat of their pants").

Some authors write only at a keyboard, while others write drafts by hand and then type them in. I do both, depending upon my mood. I find writing by hand liberating...but it's also frustratingly slow. Writing at the keyboard can be exhilerating when it works...but more often than not, I find the flow of ink across paper is what's needed to get the words tumbling out of me. One of my favorite tools is my Alphasmart, a portable word processor that runs for days on a set of batteries and allows me to write anywhere without lugging around a bulky laptop.

Some authors fixate on getting the first draft perfect while others, like me, just shrug and let the first draft be an unwieldy beast, figuring that it can be fixed in editing.

Do what works for you.

A couple of shortcuts I use:

Parenthetical references: When I hit a stumbling block, I just put in a parenthetical reference along the lines of:

(((FIX THIS--In this scene, the hero should do this.)))

And then I skip on ahead to finish the section, knowing that I've told myself what's supposed to go there eventually.

See? Wasn't that a lot easier than wasting hours stewing over something that you can just go back and fix later? Now, go ahead and finish the other sections. That problem spot will be perculating in your subconscious while you move on to something else. When you least expect it, the solution will come to you in a "Eureka!" moment. Once you've figured it out, you can go back to that troublesome section to finish it off.

The Xs: When I write a first draft, rather than stopping every few lines to agonize over a new character or place name, I just put in X1, X2, etc. and keep a master list of "The Xs." (For example, x1 might be the main character, x2 might be his homeworld, x3 might be the name of his pet drannet, and so forth.)

At some point -- normally after the first draft is done -- I go back and come up with names for "The Xs" and then just do a "search and replace" in my word processor.

Often, actually having a name for a character or place will inspire a lot more detail, which I can just add in later drafts -- but by using x1, x2, etc., my first draft writing can plow ahead at full speed instead of constantly hitting speed bumps to stop and name everything along the way.

Now get writing! Writing is a lot of hard work and at times it can be terribly, terribly frustrating, but someone is going to write the next Harry Potter or Star Wars...it could be you!

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What are your greatest creative inspirations?

A clear night sky full of stars.

I live in a small town and almost every night for the past fifteen years, at around three or four A.M., my oldest poodle needed to out. (She passed away in September 2013...I miss her terribly.) Those middle of the night walks were some of my favorite moments of each day. My younger dog still needs to go out on quite a few nights.

And each night, I look up and see all of those stars in the sky. For every star that I can see, there are thousands, millions -- billions -- more in our galaxy. And there are billions of galaxies out there, each with their own billions of stars. And each one of those stars might have planets just like our little speck of blue-green.

Wow!

That's what inspires me.

(It's also something that infuses my personal faith. I find both organized religions' rigid dogma and science's "materialism without spiritually" to be deeply unsatisfying and incomplete. But looking up at the night sky? Yeah, that's a spiritual experience if ever there was one.)

Of course, I also find inspiration for Outlaw Galaxy in daydreams of blasters and aliens, robots and starships, space battles and bounty hunters, and...well, you get the idea.

Sure, I may be an adult on the outside, but deep down inside, I'm still that little kid that fell in love with Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica in elementary school.

My Mom got me hooked on Star Trek early in life (about 3-4 years old) and then I discovered Land of the Lost. A few years later, Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica captured my heart. I spent many, many afternoons in school drawing Vipers and X-wings and coming up with new adventures for Han Solo and his trusty sidekick, Luke Skywalker.

I eventually discovered the works that were the ancestors of my favorites: things like Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Forbidden Planet and John Carter's adventures on Barsoom. I plunged into the wonderful books of Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and E.E. "Doc" Smith.

In eighth grade, I stumbled across role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, Star Frontiers, Star Ace and Traveller, and soon started writing adventures for my friends. I fell in love with the Marvel Star Wars comics written by Archie Goodwin and David Micheline, and soon after that I started collecting Spider-Man, X-Men, Batman and all the rest -- you know, back in the days when kids could still afford comics and comic book companies put more effort into making great comics than licensing action figures.

These works gave me hours of entertainment and led to a professional writing career. These things still inspire me. Every day I wake up and I am excited about what I'm going to work on.

Today, my favorites don't stray far from my original interests. I still love science fiction and fantasy in its many forms, whether it's Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter or Babylon 5 (the best television show ever), Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Smallville and Farscape. I love spending afternoons at Barnes and Noble (and before that, my local Borders) catching up on the latest comics or browsing for cool sci-fi, fantasy and horror novels. After nearly forty years, I still love this stuff.

Outlaw Galaxy carries on a century-old tradition of fantastic space adventure. My goal is to write fast-paced adventure stories that span an entire galaxy and evoke the "Sense of Wonder" that, to me, is the essence of science fiction.

I hope you enjoy reading the Outlaw Galaxy books as much as I enjoy writing them!

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Why is your website so...simple in its design?

There are a lot of beautiful author websites with ornate designs, beautiful interactive elements, and all kinds of bells and whistles. They are great...when they work.

But one thing I have noticed is that many of these ornate websites don't work properly, especially on older browsers.

Some websites look great on a 17-inch monitor but you can't read them on a small phone screen. And a lot of these ornate, gorgeous sites are bandwidth hogs, so if you are on a slow connection (and lots of people still are), they are unusable.

I wanted a website that would be accessible to anyone and usable on any device, whether you are running the latest and greatest web browser on Windows 8 (ouch, my sympathies), using a tablet or cell phone, running my favorite operating system (Puppy Linux), or running an ancient Win-90-something box with a decade old browser on a dial-up phone line.

I went with a design that was simple to maintain, too. While it is not the most ornate or fancy website around, it is small and fast, and it works. I am telling stories, words on a page...and this site puts my Outlaw Galaxy stories front and center.

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By being DRM-free, are you worried about "piracy"?

I've taken a pretty strong stand against DRM (Digital Rights Management). Publishers and stores use DRM to try to stop "piracy," as the industry calls unauthorized copying and sharing. I think that DRM is not only a waste of time, but it really harms customers.

As a customer, I don't buy books with DRM. I want to just download and read my book. So I treat my readers the way I want to be treated.

It is my belief that DRM only punishes honest readers. A person who buys my book should, in my opinion, have the right to download that book and read it on any device they own. If they want to convert it to other formats using a piece of software like Calibre, they should be able to do that. If they want to make backup copies of their books in case their hard drive dies or put a copy on their laptop or Kindle when they go away on vacation, they should be able to do that. I don't have a problem with any of that.

As an author, I have a vested interest in making it easy for customers to buy, read and enjoy my books. If they like one Outlaw Galaxy book, they're a lot more likely to buy all of my other books.

DRM tries to block all of those honest, legitimate uses. You can't make backup copies, move to different devices, or reformat without their permission. Some companies have actually removed or blocked content and cut off people from their accounts even after they have paid for content. If your device breaks, you have to beg the publisher to let you download another copy of the book you have already "bought." Lots of people have bought content with DRM and then lost it forever when the company shut down or stopped supporting that format.

DRM treats honest readers like criminals. It doesn't slow down or stop "pirates" -- every DRM system ever devised has been broken.

It seems to me like a complete waste of time...in addition to being abusive to customers.

As for "piracy," there are always going to be some people who copy and take stuff "because they can." Many pirates don't even bother to read the books they take -- they only want to hoard a collection just for the sake of having it.

File-sharing is going to happen. I can't stop it. And there's no benefit in getting upset and indignant about it.

What I can do, however, is appeal to readers' sense of fairness.

I really believe that most readers are honest, fair and decent people. I know that they understand the importance of supporting and paying the authors they like, especially once they learn that most authors earn only a tiny income from their books and have to work a full-time job to feed their families. Readers know that authors need to be paid so they have time to write more stories for readers to enjoy.

I also understand the importance of word-of-mouth. If you like my books or if you know people who would enjoy my Outlaw Galaxy stories, please tell them. Please spread the word.

I discovered most of my favorite authors through libraries or by borrowing copies of books from friends -- so I offer substantial samples of Outlaw Galaxy books on my books page and at all of the ebook vendors (like Smashwords, Amazon, Kobo and Barnes & Noble Nook) where my books are sold.

I ask that you be fair. If you read my stories and like them, please pay for them, either by buying your own copy or by throwing something into the Tip Jar (explained below).

But I understand that times are really tough for a lot of people. Even the 99 cents I ask for a short story collection or $2.99 for a novel may be a real burden for some people. For people who are really struggling, if they get a free copy and my books entertain them -- if my books give them a sense of hope and wonder and help them soar among the stars -- hey, that's actually pretty cool.

When those readers do someday have the money to purchase my books, I hope they will go out and buy some Outlaw Galaxy books and spread the word to their friends.

The Tip Jar. If you did get free copies of my books from someone else or if you just want to show some financial support, you can make a contribution to the Tip Jar.

Your donation goes directly to this author (instead of some big, faceless corporation) and your generous support enables me to keep on writing new Outlaw Galaxy stories for you to enjoy. Thank you!

To contribute to the Tip Jar, just go to www.PayPal.com or Amazon Payments and "Send Money" to: bill@billsmithbooks.com.

When you contribute, feel free to send me a personal note, too...tell me which story you read and what you thought about it. I love to hear from readers.

The amount you contribute is up to you. It is all appreciated -- dimes and quarters, a dollar or two or even more -- whatever you send, thank you! Just as a guide, I sell my stories based on word count: 25 cents or so for a solo short story, $1 for 15,000-word collections and $3 for 45,000+ word novels and collections.

You can also contribute or contact me by snail mail:

Bill Smith Books
PO Box 124
Malone, NY 12953

Thank you for your support!

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Copyright Notice: BillSmithBooks, Outlaw Galaxy, Outlaw Galaxy Tales and Imagination Forge are trademarks of Bill Smith. Copyright 1998-2013 by Bill Smith. Please respect my copyright. Please don't copy, post on torrents or otherwise duplicate my stories without my express permission. Copyright infringement makes me sad.