Oct 26, 2010

Every Snowball Starts with a Flake. And I guess that's me.

I was reading a really interesting article this morning which discussed the inertial blindness affecting the various publishing industries - specifically music and literature, but I believe this can be seen in many more industries as well. It's basically the realization that people tend to trust word-of-mouth more than blanket napalm advertizing and that more industries need to learn how to shift their marketing model from the one they currently employ and adopt one that more closely follows software development.

In software, anyone can invent anything. They can "mass produce" it (in other words, distribute electronically) and build up a target audience and use that to gain credit with the larger distributors or developers.

But with music and book publishing companies, they will only invest in the sure things - - creators who they know - KNOW - they can make a buck off. And these creators are usually desperate enough to sign away their rights to getting that brass ring contract. Most musicians, for example, don't start making any money off their albums until they're 2 or 3 albums in, and usually only after they're able to re-negotiate their contract to something more favorable.

I saw a recent statistic that addressed the number of iTunes downloads you would need each month in order to sustain it as a career. Literally, it was in the hundreds and thousands. But as an independent producer, it goes up dramatically. It's not unusual for first-time musicians to make literally pennies off each unit sold through a major publishing company, most all of which gets absorbed back into the production and marketing costs and their advance. The number of bands who declare bankruptcy after selling millions of albums isn't even unusual anymore - if anything, it's become the average experience. How sad is that? Meanwhile, RIAA is blaming illegal downloads as the cause of their financial ruin. Nice.

So this is where I come in. I've now written two novels, and am preparing to start my third - but as I don't follow the old school structure of marketing (as I don't have $150,000 to simply toss around), I turn to you for help.

My two novels - "The Morrow Stone" and "Reaper's Flight" are presently framed up on two sites: Amazon.com and Goodreads.com. They're actually sold on the first site (paperback and Kindle versions), while Goodreads is set up as a reader/author site - - - think Facebook but with an absolute focus on reading. Now, I know times are tough - - so if the 11 bucks (for the paperback; the kindle versions are around 6 dollars) is too much an investment, it's not a worry.

What I'd really like are reviews, feedback; that sort of thing. In fact, if you're interested in doing a review, but haven't read the book but would like to and don't have the extra cash to purchase a copy, let me know, and we can work something out - perhaps a pdf review copy, that sort of thing could be exchanged. Amazon is a great place to put those reviews, as well - - all good feedback helps get my books higher up and more visible.

Additionally, on Goodreads, there are opportunities for leaving reviews or simply adding the books to your "To Read" list. There are also genre lists that feature books of a like vibe, and voting for these is not only free, but it's easy and can make a supreme difference in other people's decisions to invest in the books. For example, The Morrow Stone is currently on these lists, and simply voting for it can give it a new level of visibility and recognition, either one of which can help it to be picked up by other readers.

Also, there's a book by a fellow independent author friend of mine, HL Reasby. Her Egyptian-themed contemporary fantasy novel "Akhet" can be likewise found in both places - feel free to give her book some props, too. She's in the middle of edits on her next book, and I'm sure she wouldn't mind a bit of positive attention for her first one. Edits suck; she could use a little applause right about now, I'd wager.

Lastly, if you're an author or musician or artist, etc, and would like some additional internet praise, please let me know - - I will happily share the good word with my peeps and take one more giant leap for independent content creators.

So there's my plea and my offer. Thank you for - if nothing else - reading this; thank you twice for anything you can do to help get the word out. And thank you thrice for being involved at all, whichever way the process unfolds.

Be well, peeps.

Oct 25, 2010

Last Minute Checks

With Morrow Stone and Reaper's Flight completed and online, one last hurdle in my Trilogy plan remains: book 3. Throughout all the writing over the past two years, things like "marketing" and "promotion" and "submissions" have been essentially set by the wayside as I focused on the elements of writing which most appeal to me: namely, writing. Now, though, I have to consider that in a few months as production on book 3 comes to a head, I'll need to dust off that businessman hat and get ready to actually try and pitch myself. But it's only just occurred to me that this not only isn't such a bad thing, but that I'm actually rather looking forward to certain aspects of it.

Went and had coffee yesterday with another local writer, and we just sort of gabbed on about the state of the biz and specifically about the Steampunk genre, which appears to be having a few growing pains as it struggles for self-definition. I'll be honest about something while I'm on the topic - I don't really see myself as a "Steampunk Author", as it were. Yes, the current trilogy does employ various elements common to Steampunk as a setting - pseudo-Victorianism, steam-engine-based technology, pipes, gears, pocketwatches, and even a clever little pair of goggles.

I personally love the flair and sensibility of the setting inherent to the sub-genre, but I don't plan on writing all my books in this genre. My next series - the next one I plan to write, so it remains to be seen what I actually end up writing next - is looking to be more of a contemporary supernatural horror genre, taking place in Portland, Oregon. Not really a steampunk environment, that.

The books I have on track beyond that include genres like deep science fiction, an anthology of children's stories, and so forth. Although I already have plans to continue the books in the current world-setting, as well, so I'm nowhere near done with the steampunk yet, nor do I believe that Steampunk is done with me. There's an elegance and anachronology to it which has always appealed to me, and though I fear for its present overindulgence in pop culture, it looks to be around for a long while to come. So, basically, no worries.

I've been thinking about my affection for Steampunkery a good deal in anticipation of starting up this third book in the present series - how much embellishment of pipes and steam do I permit to have root in the book - is it requisite for story or setting; or does it strive to become its own character in the book, elbowing out narrative in an effort to steal the show?

I struggle with a lot of "Steampunk" books in much the same way as I struggle with books on new age philosophy or vampires. I love both as themes, but all too often the themes themselves take over the narrative. Too many vampire books feel like photocopies of photocopies - - with each author claiming to really "get" how a vampire might feel; when its clear that they're really just writing about how they think they might feel as a vampire. Are they correct? Are they accurate? Who knows, but then that's part of what lures me into a book - my belief that the writer a) knows what they're talking about, and b) isn't hitting me over the head with their brilliant observations.

Clearly, hitting one over the head with "brilliance" is best left for blogs.


Yes, that was sarcasm. And yes, I was indicting myself.

Anyway, sorry, before I went off on a preachy tangent, let me just cap that whole idea off with the realization that what "is" anything is a perception and a personal observation. Do I write "true Steampunk"? No, probably not. My books have a careful (and deliberate) balance of retro-tech and faith-based magic to at best classify my books as "Steampunk Sci-Fi" or "Steampunk Fantasy". But really, at their core, they are books about finding out what you're best at, and trying to do that as well as you can; and the acceptance that everyone finds their own path through their lives, and no one path is perfect for anyone but you.

So, armed with that recollection, I put the finishing touches on my synopsis/outline and prepare to start writing at the end of this week. My goal this year for NaNoWriMo is going to be 2k words/day, every day. Hell or high water.

I'll be posting daily updates on Facebook and Twitter - not because I expect you to care, but because it's harder to let myself slack if I'm trying to keep up a habit in public.

And to all my other NaNo friends, feel free to NaNo-buddy me.

Have a great month, peeps! Let's write novels!

Oct 11, 2010

Reaper's Flight giveaway done!

Thanks to the literally hundreds of people who jumped in on a chance to win a copy of my latest book, "Reaper's Flight". Sorry I couldn't give away copies to everyone who wanted one, but to the three who won (Scotland, Glouchestershire and Mississippi), your books are in the mail and should be there in the next couple weeks.

I hope to hear back on your thoughts regarding the book; I've enjoyed writing it and have been more than happy to share it out there.

Amazon's listing it below 9 dollars paperback (6.50 kindle) for a limited time, and in spite of the fact that even saying that makes me feel like I'm selling a Sham-Wow!, feel free to hop on that price while it lasts. Because, you know, it won't. Meanwhile, the giveaway for The Morrow Stone is still active for another week.

Meanwhile, I'll jump back into Book 2.5, which is like an itch I really have to get to scratching.

Oh, and Mully says to say hi. Or, in his native tongue, "meow."

So... um.... Meow.

Oct 4, 2010

Going the Distance?

I'm taking a moment - right now, as we speak - to breathe in the satisfaction and high of completing a project and not yet thinking it was a pile of steaming fine. Buoyed by this mild intoxication, I've already sketched out an outline for the next book, which as it turns out will be a prequel to the current trilogy. Sometimes, it would seem, you must go back before you can go forward - a concept which certainly seems true in this case. The current outline, however, conservatively estimates things out at a 17 or 18-chapter structure, give or take. The assumption that this remains constant puts this next project as a 70 or 80 thousand word mini-novel.

Though, yes, that's "mini-novel" when it comes to the scifi/fantasy genres. It's almost a satisfactory quantity for an average novel. The plan is to have this available by springtime. The pacing of my books so far still seems very relaxed, though. Morrow Stone was 92,000 words, and I spent a year from start to finish; Reaper's Flight was 126,000 and took around 9 months. Just crunching those numbers, however, book 2 was a vast improvement over book 1. Book 1 would have averaged about 250 words/day, while book 2 would have been double that. It remains to be seen if I can improve on that kind of turnaround.

Granted, I have had days where I've clocked in 8000 words; I've had 15,000+ word weekends. But I've also had 20,000 word weeks that ended in a complete "writer's block". Thanks to my participation in NaNoWriMo the past two years, I no longer fear that sort of thing, though. I know that with the right controlled environment I can knock out words on a daily basis, even if I end up tossing them out later. But it's not crap; I somehow manage stories I still enjoy even after the morning blush has faded. It reminds me of that old rhetorical question of whether or not a particular process were a sprint or a marathon. In this particular one - of being an author - I'm going to go with a marathon.

For example - - the current trilogy is turning into a trilogy plus a prequel, followed by an anthology (or two) and at least one more book just focusing on Favo. Then I have another series in development following a modern supernatural horror concept, as well as another sci fi series which is already sketched out. And there's also the anthology of children's stories. And a smattering of different graphic novel pitches. And... god, there's so much. It's a mighty big whale, and it seems like the "one bite at a time" metaphor is just paling in comparison to this leviathan I see before me.

Will I ever get to write a Spider-man story? And now that JK Rowling is admitting that she'd like to write more Harry Potter, that HP: The College Years is right out. Okay, that last one was only mildly serious.

Sometimes, with all the ideas stretched out across my imagination, it seems faintly overwhelming. Will I live long enough to write all the stories I have in my head? I suppose I better. At some point, too, I'll need to become financially stable enough with the writing to dedicate more time to it and only to it. Working full time as a crisis manager certainly eats up a lot of free time and mental energy.

I should probably talk to other writers, and see how quickly they can churn out projects. Folks I know who write comics - they have monthly deadlines, but the 22 pages of story and dialogue are probably about equal to the chapters I'd need to type for mine, but they incorporate the edits, etc into that time. That process seems both insane and yet... so very ideal.

Okay, I can't tell if trying to crunch these numbers is an effort to schedule myself more efficiently or to distract me from writing. I suppose I should stop letting myself be distracted and get back into it.

Right. Sorted.