Archive for February, 2014

A thoroughly forgettable February will come to an end mere minutes from now. Thank God. For reasons I’ll get into more detail about in my next post (which is nipping at the heels of this one)…let’s just say I’m looking forward to March. However, one person in a far-off land (and six others residing on my home continent) made this month worth trudging through.

Way back in December, I acknowledged and celebrated my initial sales in the UK right on this here blog. Then about halfway through that celebratory post, I made an impassioned plea (complete with talking points) to the wonderful residents of Australia to please give my books a chance, even though they couldn’t view the free sample via their local Amazon site. Well, it seems that one soul in the Land Down Under has finally taken me up on that offer and purchased a copy of A World Gone Gray. Whoever you are, thanks!

Actually, the only way to properly thank Australia for taking a chance on my first novel is to set the climax of my soon-to-be released (March 4th—have I mentioned that?) second novel, Signal Fire, in the Australian Outback. It’ll take some editing, and I might even have to push the release date to a month or two from now, but I think I’ll be able to shoehorn some convoluted Aussie-centric nonsense into…

Wait a minute. It just so happens that a goodly portion of the final third of Signal Fire already takes place in Australia, so no convoluted shoehorning will be necessary. Three of the main characters fly from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles to Honolulu to Brisbane to Darwin, then pile into a Range Rover and head south to a location which will remain undisclosed until March 4th. Also, is Australia actually depicted (in my mind, anyway) on the cover of Signal Fire? Maybe.

I’m not saying it’s fate, Australia. But yeah, it’s fate.

Two things happened today that made me wax nostalgic for southern California, the temperate chunk of real estate that priced me out of its warm embrace a few years back: the Dodgers played (and lost) their first spring training game of the season, and my local (Indianapolis) news station of choice led off its broadcast with a weather story for approximately the eight-billionth day in a row.

I was both a news and a weather geek (along with many other forms of geek) growing up in SoCal. Unfortunately, the weather part of my geekdom was starved 99% of the time. To paraphrase Fritz Coleman (+1 to anyone who knows who I’m typing about), “Today’s regional forecast calls for partly cloudy skies—one north of Santa Barbara, and one just outside Phoenix.” Hey-O! But seriously, folks. The weather in the Midwest and Northeast has been ridiculous this winter. If it wants to stop sucking anytime soon, I’m totally onboard with that. Which brings me to Signal Fire‘s release next Tuesday.

This winter, I’ve learned that my internet connection hates snow and ice and wind. I do too, so we have that in common. The last time a major storm passed through, I lost internet for about half a week. That’s unfortunate, but I’m guessing the 30,000 or so souls who lost electricity over the same time period want to punch me in the face right about now. Understandable.

What I’m very clumsily trying to say is that a storm is headed here this weekend, and there’s a decent (let’s call it 50-50) chance I won’t be able to upload Signal Fire in time for its scheduled March 4 release. In the grand scheme of things, this means approximately nothing. Hell, I haven’t even told my family or friends I’m publishing it yet. But on the off-chance someone out there is expecting my book to be available on Tuesday and it isn’t, I’ll feel like a first-class heel.

Being the resourceful (and obsessive, and neurotic) person I am, I’ve come up with a couple of back-up plans should Mother Nature give the Midwest a taste of the back of her hand yet again. If the forecast still looks particularly dire (i.e., lots-o-ice) by March 1st, I’ll go ahead and upload that night, then wait for the rescue crews find my frozen body two weeks later. If it looks like a pure snow event, I’ll tough it out and hope my internet connection (or the one at the nearest FedEx Office, anyway) is intact on the 4th and press the upload button.

For some reason, I was really looking forward to a Tuesday release. When I was younger, my favorite bands would release their albums (remember those?) on Tuesdays, and I thought it would be cool to do the same with Signal Fire. Hopefully, the weather will permit me to continue along this nostalgic path I’ve been finding myself on this week.

SIGNAL FIRE COMPLETED DESIGN400x600

Ta da!

Here’s the cover for my soon-to-be released second novel, Signal Fire. Like A World Gone Gray, it’s an apocalyptic story presented in alternating chapters. The scope is more global, however, as the action bounces from Washington, D.C. to Frankfurt, Germany, to the Australian Outback and points beyond. Meanwhile, my characters use television and the Internet (while they last, anyway) to monitor the goings-on in the rest of the world as the fecal matter proceeds to hit the oscillating cooling device.

As with my first novel and my short story compilation, I purchased Signal Fire‘s cover as a pre-made design from UK-based The Cover Collection. I needed a minor alteration this time (an enhancement of the pink flame in the center of the cover), and Debbie was able to add it for just a few extra bucks. Even before I committed to buying the cover, I asked if she could make the change and how much it would cost me. Instead of a curt no or yes and a price estimate, I got an email with six (!) different designs. On top of that, she pulled the cover from her website so nobody else could claim it. Let me reiterate that neither a cent nor a pence had changed hands at this point. Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), I’m thrilled with all of my covers and I highly recommend The Cover Collection to anyone seeking professional-grade covers and customer service at an incredibly reasonable price.

I spent a few hours this afternoon obsessively poking at Signal Fire, doing the things that neurotic writers do like transposing words that have nothing to do with plot or pacing or character development, and changing the name of a fictional band from The Astral Albacore to The Ephemeral Fish. Next up, my kryptonite. Formatting.

In my last post, I announced that the release date is March 4th. I might mention that one or fifty more times over the next couple of weeks.

I mentioned in a previous post that I had a habit of obsessively checking my sales figures when I first published my books at Amazon. But using the same weaning method I used to quit smoking a few years back, I managed to cut my sales checks down from constantly to three or four times a day. This month, I’ve discovered the be-all, end-all cure for the insidious ailment of ObsessiveCheckItis (OCI). Horrible sales numbers.

I recently had the pleasure of checking the rank (an appropriate word if ever there was one) of A World Gone Gray on Amazon and found it’s dipped below the 500,000 mark, which is the lowest the book’s been since I published it back in November. Like Life Itself: Ten Short Stories (also published in November) is doing even worse, and will probably hit seven figures by the end of February. I did my research before diving into self-publishing, so part of me was braced for the inevitability that a historical graph of my sales figures would resemble the right side of a bell curve after 90 days or so. But still. Yeesh.

Rather than take a nap along the busiest portion of the railroad switching station abutting my backyard, I’ve decided to launch a two-pronged plan aimed at: a) keeping my sanity intact and b) increasing sales. The first prong involves me not checking my sales figures for the rest of the month. Really, it’s for the best. It won’t be easy, but I’m going to approach this first prong as if it’s an incredibly boring, G-rated version of “The Contract” episode of Seinfeld. As such, I’m obligated to follow the honor system. And I solemnly promise to do so. If I cheat, I’ll tell.

Prong Two has actually been several years in the making. During my endless research into the whole self- (and trade-) publishing thing, I heard it mentioned again and again that the best advertising an author can do is to release a new book. Makes sense, right? So I think I’ll go ahead and do that! I completed the first draft of Signal Fire (working title: Beacons) several years ago, just before the writer’s block documented in my last post struck.  It’s going to undergo some obsessive last-minute typo-hunting over the next two weekends, and then it’s going to be released on Amazon and Smashwords on March 4th. It even has a cover and everything! But I’ll save the details for my next post.

Okay, I admit it doesn’t have the same ring to it as the Gene Autry classic does, but a pretty big thing happened to me this week. I started writing again.

You probably think it’s odd for a guy with a blog that’s mainly about self-publishing to not be an active writer. You’re right. For a countless number of reasons, I sidelined my literary pursuits over two years ago. Life circumstances (including a job transfer and a switch to an off-shift) and plain ol’ fed-up-ness with the write-submit-wait…wait…wait routine conspired to silence my muse. I managed to cobble together a short story (“Itch,” which actually turned out pretty good and ended up leading off my short story collection) and about fifty pages of a novel (currently trunked and waiting for someone to translate it into first person), but other than that, I’ve limited my writing to the occasional email to Mom and this here blog. Until Tuesday.

I’ve had five or six solid novel ideas bouncing around my brain over the past couple of years, and this past Tuesday I finally got up ridiculously early, put some coffee on, whined and complained to myself while said coffee brewed, then eventually sat in my chair and placed my fingers on my computer’s keyboard. An hour and a half later I had…177 decidedly mediocre words, “Chapter 1” included. This was a distressing development to me, as I spent most of 2007-2010 averaging about 1,500 words during my two allotted hours (3:30-5:30am, M-F) before work. Clearly, I have some rust to knock off before I’m that prolific again. On the bright side, I’ve written four days in a row now. The results are meager word-count-wise and most of those words will go bye-bye during the editing process anyway. But hey, I’d like to think I’m on my way back to steadily churning out fiction of questionable merit.

Arrrg, Matey!

Posted: February 5, 2014 in Self-publishing
Tags: , , , ,

Since Mother Nature insists upon turning my neck of the woods into a glacier (thereby rendering my occupation as a driver “nonessential” as far as my employer’s risk assessment department is concerned), I thought I’d use this found time to delight myself and maybe a couple of readers with a rare and wonderful mid-week blog post. So here goes.

One of the interesting features of Smashwords is the “SEO” link on the Dashboard, which allows you to search your titles through various online engines with easy, one-click goodness. I’ve Googled myself before, but never with quite the satisfaction I’ve achieved using Smashwords. My status as a Luddite is well-documented, so most of my previous self-searching resulted in page after page of information on British Petroleum stations in Broome, Australia. Not particularly useful, as I’m located over 10,000 miles away from the nearest BP, Broome. That said, I’m sure they all offer wonderful customer service and squeaky-clean restrooms. But I digress, as per usual.

Like most aspiring writers, I’ve developed an interest in intellectual property law. Okay, I’m kidding. No one in the history of the world has ever developed an interest in intellectual property law. But I’m aware it exists, in much the same way I’m aware piracy exists. So I did an SEO search this weekend on my short story collection and found a website (which my antivirus software strongly suggested I avoid) selling that ten-tale result of six years of blood, sweat, tears, and intermittent writer’s block for $26.50. That’s approximately 27 times my humble Amazon/Smashwords asking price. The link’s now gone through no action of my own, but maybe someone at Amazon saw it and made it go bye-bye. Just because the FAA has a problem with Mr. Bezos’ proposed drone delivery system doesn’t mean they wouldn’t green-light a gentle reminder to those scurvy pirates to not dip into a tax-paying corporation’s booty.

When I first saw my work being pirated, I wasn’t sure if I should be offended or flattered. Hell, the idea of someone “borrowing” my work for their own profit never really crossed my mind. Many, many, many agents and publishers have let me know (with varying degrees of nicety) that my stuff didn’t exactly float their boat. So the thought of someone thinking they could profit off my labor is pretty alien to me. Thankfully, this here internet thing is omnipotent now, so I’m guessing anyone who was (A) tech-savvy enough to bump into my book on the pirate site and (B) take an interest in it was probably (C) bright enough to search elsewhere for that title and save him- or herself $25.51, American.

Now that it’s actually happened to me, I find myself agreeing (mostly) with Neil Gaiman’s take on piracy. (Ironically, I may have just went all Blackbeard on Goodreads). In my case, and probably in the case of most self-published authors, any potential profits lost through piracy are probably regained many-fold through unintended (and free) publicity. I imagine most folks in the ebook market are with it enough to search for the lowest price offered for a title that catches their eye, regardless of where they initially find that title. I see “unauthorized” sites as a sort of digital storefront that showcases an author’s works, much like a brick-and-mortar bookstore can serve as a physical storefront for a hybrid author’s ebooks.

To (finally) get to the point, it’s 2014, and it’s an exciting time to be a writer. Even for a Luddite like me.

A WORLD GONE GRAY COMPLETED DESIGN200x300pxLIKE LIFE ITSELF COMPLETED DESIGN200x300px

It’s February 1st, which means it’s both Groundhog Day Eve and Super Bowl Eve. It’s also time to take a look back at Life in Self-Publishingland, January Edition.

It was a pretty slow month sales-wise (aren’t they all?), but I did manage to reach double figures with A World Gone Gray and sell a handful of my short story collection. As always, many thanks to those who bought my books!

Social media-wise, I sucked. I’d hoped to update this here web log once or twice a week and obviously failed. It would be easy to blame weather-related internet outages and the winter blahs (similar to but not quite the same as SO-BAD), so I’ll go ahead and do that. But seriously, folks, I need to work on social media and promotion in general. I’m aiming for six blog posts in February, and I’m going to work on getting more involved on Twitter. Easier said than done on the Twitter front, as my internet options consist of a desktop computer and a smartphone with a 3G connection (sometimes) and an onscreen keypad that Derek Zoolander thinks is way too small. Twitter seems to be best utilized on a mobile device; the most entertaining conversations/streams of thought I see are from people who are traveling, sight-seeing, etc., and sharing their pictures and videos.

Distribution-wise, I finally got around to uploading my books to Smashwords last weekend. It takes a week or two for new titles to show up on the various websites, so my books are only available at Smashwords itself and Barnes & Noble as of this writing. By the way, how awesome is B&N’s “Nook for Web” ebook reader? If Amazon wanted to steal develop a reader exactly like it and then apply it to all of their sites both foreign and domestic, I wouldn’t complain.

Obligatory Super Bowl Prediction: As a early ’90s Buffalo Bills 49ers fan, it pains me to say…Seattle 23, Denver 16. The Seahawks’ defense will be too much for Manning in the cold.