Archive for April, 2014

I’m in a bit of a funk lately when it comes to producing prose people might actually want to read. So in an attempt to get back to my roots (i.e., write something original) I’m scouring YouTube in search of inspiring, one-of-a-kind stuff that gets the creative juices flowing. Because scouring YouTube for blog material is so original. Anyhoo, here goes:

This is My Top Five List of original, inspirational songs. Keep in mind that this isn’t a Top Five List of Best or Most Popular or Most Lucrative Songs. It’s a short list of what I consider Real Music. It’s not necessarily the most theoretically sound, but it’s real and it’s from the heart. And I’m hoping some real and from-the-heart tunes will break the iceberg of writer’s block I’m currently chilling in. So here’s to keeping it real:

Number Five: The Vaselines. They look like your neighbors, yet they rock. “Son of a Gun/Molly’s Lips”

Number Four: Jessica Rae Mayfield and Seth Avett. Yeah, I wasn’t expecting this either: “Is This Love?” But it’s so real.

Number Three: Eminem. Yeah, I’m not a huge rap/hip-hop fan beyond “Doggystyle” and “The Chronic,” but I’ll listen to some DMX and Tupac. Here’s Eminem’s magnum opus: “Lose Yourself”. And how good was Brittany Murphy in 8 Mile?

Number Two: Ian Curtis and his merry band of geeks changed things in the early ’80s: “She’s Lost Control”.

Number One: Doesn’t get more real than Kurt and friends on MTV Unplugged back in the Dark Ages: “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” His Elvis impersonation in the middle of the song sealed the Number One position. So did 4:00-4:57.

Honorable Mentions: The Melvins for “Honey Bucket,” Stevie Ray Vaughan for “Life by the Drop,” and Hum for “Stars.” Actually, here’s Hum. They’re that good: “Stars” live on Howard Stern.

Hopefully, this’ll help me punch my way out of the box I’m in.

Hello, everyone. My name is B.P. Broome, and I’m a checkoholic. It’s been three days since I last checked my ebook sales.

“Hi, B.P.!”

Thanks, fellow addicts. I have to admit, these past 72 hours have been rough. Thankfully, now, the bugs I thought were crawling under my skin are gone. Every once in a while I think I see one of them out of the corner of my eye, scurrying along the baseboard or huddling in a corner. But it turns out they’re just as imaginary as my book sales over the past week. They simply don’t exist. I’m still a little shaky and having trouble sleeping, but as long as that baby from Trainspotting doesn’t make an appearance (or Heather Graham from Drugstore Cowboy—yeesh!), I think I’ll be okay. I think.

Maybe I’m being a little emotive. Maybe. But checking one’s sales on Amazon can start out as a sort of a lark, then end up as habit-forming as Walter White’s blue sky. I thought I had it under control. I thought I could check three, four, even five times a day and not let my work suffer. But it catches up to you after a while, that horse. One morning you’re on cloud nine, swaggering off into the Real World with two fresh sales and a fat dime-bag of validation tucked into your pack of Marlboros. By the end of the week, though, you’re shivering on a street corner with your cell’s battery light blinking, tears in your eyes, begging for just one more fix that never comes.

Okay, that last paragraph was emotive. I admit it. But I’ve whined in the past about how poor sales can affect your mood. As lame and emo as that post was, it did, by karmic accident, result (in my mind, anyway) in my first sale in Australia. Therefore, I’m resurrecting my Seinfeld‘s “The Contract” rip-off from a couple months back and not checking my sales for the rest of April. “Oooh!” you say. “Big freaking deal! There’s only like four days left in the month! Weak!” To that, good sir, I say, “Point well-taken.” But beyond April, I plan on employing the same philosophy in an ongoing attempt to shed myself of this habit. I’ll check my sales only twice a month, in the middle and at the end. And that’s only so I can provide an accurate AAR every thirty days or so. I swear, officer!

Honestly, though, I know I’ll fall back in with the bad crowd during the months I release a book. Thankfully, my procrastination addiction is much more serious than my checkoholism. So there shouldn’t be a problem.

 

Every writer has, at one point or another, dealt with writer’s block. Some have even dealt with writer’s bloc, defined by me, here, now, as writer’s block brought on by the disagreement among a group of co-authors on how to proceed with their work in progress. Sometimes, collaboration sucks. Exhibit A? Group projects in high school. And, horrifically, in college. To make a potentially long rant short, let’s just say I typically ended up doing 75% of the work to get an A or B and protect my GPA. Wait…Where was I?

Oh yeah, the unwitting familiar* of writer’s block (scary there is such a thing, isn’t it?), writer’s clog. As the moniker suggests, writer’s clog is caused by the introduction of so many compelling novel/novella/short-story/love-note ideas into one writer’s brain at one time that it results in a logjam that couldn’t be cleared by a million beavers typing a million requests for beaver reinforcements to a million beaver unions. In simpler terms, it’s paralyzing. In my particular case, it makes me stare at my computer monitor and drool for two hours on end. Then I go to work and drool some more. So there’s lots of drooling involved.

In all seriousness though, folks, writer’s clog and writer’s block form a kind of  WWE tag-team nightmare that clotheslines me and drops me to the mat, rendering me wordless most of the time. Lately, anyway. The stuff on my plate (in some particular order) includes the sequel to Signal Fire, minor reworks to a couple of mainstream contemporary novels I wrote a few years ago, a horror short that demands to be written ASAP, a thriller, a mashup of Moneyball, Major League, and Any Given Sunday, a techno-apoca-thriller, something that makes Leaving Las Vegas look like The Notebook, and, most recently, a beautiful mess that may end up as a novella that ripped off What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Other than that, I got nothin’.

Historically, I’ve stolen Stephen King’s advice and written shorter works in between novels. Since I have three novels in progress right now (not my usual approach to this thing)…you can see my conundrum. So here’s my solution: Finish Something. Theoretically, that’ll get me back into my groove and everything will be all puppies and rainbows again. That aforementioned horror short shows no signs of leaving me alone, so I’m going to start it, then finish it. I’m hoping it gets me back on track.

*-On a completely unrelated note, speaking purely as a fan of music, Unwitting Familiars would be an awesome name for a band. Go for it. No charge.

 

 

A WORLD GONE GRAY COMPLETED DESIGN200x300pxLIKE LIFE ITSELF COMPLETED DESIGN200x300px

T.S. Eliot held that April is the cruelest month. After waking up Tuesday morning (Tax Day and three weeks into Spring) and finding an inch of snow covering the green grass and the budding trees, I’m starting to agree with him. I know “reading clouds” with any accuracy is impossible; it’s just an attempt by the human mind to assign a known shape to the unknown that is Mother Nature. It gives us the false impression that we’re actually in control of something, anything. But still, one of the clouds I saw pass by that morning looked suspiciously like a hand with an extended middle finger. Thanks, Ms. Nature. Message received.

I mentioned in a recent post that I was using some of my ill-earned vacation time to conduct a social media experiment. At Smashwords, I generated a 25% off coupon for my debut novel, A World Gone Gray, then proceeded post-haste to Twitter to shout of savings from the digital mountaintop. My seven days of sporadic advertising (I kept the tweets limited to one per hour-ish, and only when an appropriate topic [and hashtag] was trending; I despise spam just as much as the next guy or gal) yielded a grand total of zero sales. I’d hoped for a couple more. On the plus side, ten readers downloaded the free sample, and I picked up about two dozen new Twitter followers, many of whom are actual human people. So it wasn’t a complete waste of everybody’s time.

On a somewhat-but-not-quite-related side note, my short story collection, Like Life Itself, is starting to creep its way up the best-seller list on Amazon. Over the past week I’ve noticed that the terminal red down-arrow that normally accompanies the tome on its southward slide has been replaced by a green up-arrow and a really, really small number. But it seems Kermit the Frog was right after all; it truly isn’t easy being green. Apparently, the bottomless pit that is the Amazon Author Ranking has a bottom. It’s around 1.2 million or so. Also, apparently, ebooks can bounce. I can now take comfort in the fact that Like Life Itself is the Baby Jessica of self-published books, waiting patiently for someone to rescue it from the bottom of the well.

On a more encouraging note, I just came up with an excellent idea for a novella—T.S. Eliot and Kermit D. Frog walk into the DMV. Practically writes itself, doesn’t it?

 

 

 

 

I mentioned in one of my first posts that I’ve been reading and writing fiction for as long as I can remember. Like most early readers (aka dorks), I did well enough in school across the board, but my highest marks came in English. I even won a cheap faux-silk ribbon and five bucks in a district-wide writing contest when I was eleven or so. “Worthless baubles and cold hard cash just for slappin’ some ink onto some paper?” I thought. “Count me in!” Mix in a steady helping of praise and encouragement from my high school teachers, and by the time I graduated I was ready to take the literary world by storm. Or was I?

As much as the idea of earning a paycheck with my words appealed to me, I didn’t think I had it in me to actually do it. Sure, I could competently string words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, et cetera, but what was I going to write about? How much cafeteria food sucks? The agony and the ecstasy of missing the school bus? By then (the early ’90s), Kris Kross had already strip-mined that territory. I knew there wasn’t any official “legal age” attached to writing (Shelley wrote Frankenstein at age 20ish; that turned out okay), but I felt I needed to tuck some life experience under my belt if I was ever going to have anything worth writing.

My late teens and early 20s are a blur of mind-numbing menial labor and post-adolescent stupidity, so let’s skip ahead to my late 20s, shall we? I’m sitting in the back of a Humvee parked in one of the more sand-blown and explosion-prone regions of the world, surrounded by millions of dollars’ worth of Vietnam-era communications equipment. I’ve got some time to kill before the daily “Mortar Rounds in the Morning” light-and-sound show begins at dawn, so I crack open one of the books included in the care package my mom sent. Several pages in, I had that, “Hey, I can do this” feeling that I hadn’t felt in about a decade. As if waking from a ten-year hibernation, my annoying inner editor began mentally flip-flopping the author’s words, deleting his dialogue tags, and adding pronouns for clarity. And just like that, the writing bug was back.

One of the side effects of a writing bug bite (in my case, anyway) is gnawing self-doubt coupled with a nagging feeling that you’re wasting your time because, damn it, writing is a form of art and everyone knows “artist” isn’t a viable career choice. I thought I’d fought off those ailments in my teens, but it turns out they stay with you forever, lying in remission like a slightly-less-icky strain of Hepatitis C. Factor in my lifelong battle with procrastination, and the odds of me actually sitting down in a chair and writing a complete short story (let alone fifteen or so) or a novel (let alone four) seemed astronomical. Twenty years ago, with the bird shit still drying on my high school graduation gown (true story), I wouldn’t have had the discipline and patience necessary to see it through to the end. I would’ve given up and sulked off to watch an X-Files marathon on my VCR.

Everybody’s different, of course. There are writers in their teens and twenties who create tremendous works, works I could only dream of equaling in old age. Personally, though, I had to wait until I was old enough to run for president before issuing myself a valid writer’s license.

 

 

You’re probably thinking this post is about some highly-anticipated romantic comedy starring Shia LaBeouf as brooding thespian Ezekiel Amazon and Jennifer Lawrence as quirky-but-loveable Adrianna Smashwords, reluctant heiress to her estranged father’s ebook fortune. Sorry, but you’re wrong. That film is called Transformers 4: Out of Ideas. This post is actually about how nice it would be to have an ebook distribution site that combines the best aspects of Amazon and Smashwords. I apologize for any confusion.

Like most self-publishing writers, I found myself obsessively refreshing KDP’s Reports page a few nights ago when the site was undergoing maintenance. To pass the time while I waited to see with my own eyes the two sales indicated by my uptick in the rankings (yeah, I need professional help. I know), I decided to check out some of the foreign incarnations of Amazon. I’ve whined in the past (second paragraph, here) about the fact that the “Look Inside” feature only seems to be available in the US, the UK, and (recently) Germany. That problem still exists, but I noticed that most of the foreign sites are now importing the “most useful” reviews from Amazon.com and including them on the product page. I don’t know how much reviews written in English are going to help sales in places like France and Brazil, but they’ll certainly come in handy in Canada and Australia. Now, if I can only get them to add that nice review of Signal Fire from the UK site to its US Amazon page. But I’m sure that technology’s still years off.

Anyhoo, the whole thing got me thinking about the pros and cons in the case of Amazon v. Smashwords. Granted, Amazon’s universe-swallowing size makes the two a bit difficult to compare, but (for me, anyway) ’tis the little things that make the biggest differences between the two retailers. One thing I dislike about Amazon is that you’re stuck with the rigid set of promotional/price manipulation tools they give you, some of which require exclusivity. You’re free to manually change your books’ prices whenever you want, of course, but that’s, well, boring. Enter Smashwords and their brilliantly simple coupon system—you pick which book(s) you want to put on sale and for how long, receive your coupon code, then you’re off to gallivant through Internetland, leaving savings and happiness in your wake. Smashwords 1, Amazon 0.

Smashwords also tracks pageviews and free sample downloads for each of your books (fancy graphs included!), which makes it a bit easier to gauge how much visibility your work is receiving. A writer more intrepid and less math-challenged than myself could even crunch the numbers and come up with all kinds of highfalutin logarithms and algorithms and such to maximize his or her sales, if they were so inclined. Amazon, meanwhile, provides hard sales numbers, a vague ranking that seems more like an inside joke intended to screw with writers, and not much else. Smashwords 2, Amazon, 0.

As I mentioned earlier, Amazon is big. Freaking huge, even. Almost everyone on the planet has heard of them, and someday soon they will be delivering hardcover novels, v-neck sweaters, and embarrassing personal products directly to your front door within thirty minutes via drone. You can’t walk ten feet without tripping over an empty box with their odd smiley-face logo on it. This, in the business world, is what’s known as having a “competitive advantage.” Smashwords? Not so much. They’ve grown admirably over the past few years, but if I were strictly a reader and not a writer, I don’t know if I’d ever have heard of them. Don’t get me wrong—they’re moving quickly in the right direction and I love all their distribution channels. But in this (and, realistically) most cases, size matters. Amazon 240,000,000 (their net income last quarter), Smashwords 2.

In conclusion, to create the perfect ebook distribution site, Amazon simply has to initiate a user-friendly system that allows writers to provide coupons directly to readers, be more forthright about pageviews/sample views, and make the “Look Inside” feature available in all countries. Or Smashwords can increase their year-over-year sales growth by approximately eleventy-billion percent. Whichever’s easier.

 

On the Big List of Things I Abhor Doing, self-promotion falls somewhere between scrubbing the shower and waiting in line at the DMV. Unfortunately, aversion to self-promotion is probably the second-worst quality a self-publishing author can have, right after procrastination. Lucky me, I’ve been cursed with both of the aforementioned attributes. In an attempt to slay these twin demons of mine, I’m going to make a concerted effort this week to increase the visibility of my work. I just hope I don’t come off sounding like some two-bit carnival barker.

Well, here goes:

Ladies and gentlemen! Boys and girls! Step right up and feast your eyes upon the greatest, most amazing, most splendiferous collection of words ever amassed in ebook format! A World Gone Gray has something for everyone! Action! Adventure! Suspense! Romance! All of it’s included in one handy dandy package! “But Mr. Broome,” I can hear you say, “isn’t your novel’s asking price of $3.99 American a bit steep considering this stagnant global economy of ours?” Glad you asked, fella! Glad you asked! For one week and one week only, you can save yourself 25% (that’s a whole buck!) off A World Gone Gray at Smashwords simply by entering the coupon code QA99V. It’s just! That! Easy!

Way back in November of 2013, the first sale of my first book went to one of my Neighbors to the North. I was flattered, of course, and when I discovered that initial sale put me in the Top 100 of Amazon.ca’s Post-Apocalyptic category (#42, but who’s counting), I was ecstatic. Clearly, I was destined to become the Great White North’s equivalent of Stephen King and J.K. Rowling’s love child, right? Cha-ching! Let the Loonies roll on in!

As of yet, that hasn’t quite happened. I’ve recorded a grand total of one additional sale in Canada since then. Although both sales are much appreciated, I’d like to take this opportunity to make an impassioned plea to the wonderful denizens of America’s BFF to give my books a chance, in much the same way I’ve appealed to the fine residents of Germany and Australia in the recent past. Please allow me to present my case:

Exhibit A: I’ve never technically been to Canada, but I have seen it. And no, I’m not talking about the occasional Ottawa Senators game that pops up on my local feed of NBC Sports every once in a while. And no, I’m not talking about the VHS copy of Strange Brew that’s hidden in some box in some far recess of some far corner of my closet. I’ve actually stood (well, sat idling in a rented Chevy Cobalt, anyway) near the banks of Lake Champlain and gazed northward from Vermont into your beautiful nation. But I didn’t have a passport so I had to turn back. Still, though. I felt (and I think you did, too) a connection.

Exhibit B: My love life has been, without fail, a failure. But early in my high school career, I happened to move into a home located across the street from the sweetest, most beautiful young lady I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. I was a shy, awkward kid in a new town (still am, in spirit), but she was kind enough to show me around my new school. We walked together to the bus stop every morning that year (my sophomore season, her senior), and she helped me bridge the cultural gap between California and Pennsylvania. We lost touch after she graduated, but I’ll never forget her. Her nationality? Canadian, of course.

Exhibit C: The name of this here blog. Literally about 14 people on the entire planet would ever get the reference tied to “Writes And Submission.” The query process part of it is pretty obvious, but when we peel back the layers of the onion, we find that it happens to rhyme with the title of a compilation album released by avant-weird titans of the 1980s Skinny Puppy entitled “Bites and Remission.” I happened to be struggling with a blog title and listening to old music when I came up with the name. Hopefully cEvin Key and Nivek Ogre don’t sue me for my thievery. Their nationality? Canadian, of course.

On a side note, I’d like to mention the fact that I never at any time used the word “Eh?” in this post.

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

 

 

 

 

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According to yore and to lore (in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway), March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. For your humble blog guy, sales-wise, March came in like a lamb and went out like another lamb of equal or lesser value. To put it more succinctly—meh.

Somehow, someway, A World Gone Gray sold around thirty copies during its first thirty days of existence way back in November-December of 2013 before the predictable tail-off began. I was hoping for similar numbers for Signal Fire when I published it on March 4th, but the ebook-reading community responded with a collective yawn. I can count the number of Signal Fire sales thus far on two hands. And if I’m involved in some catastrophic industrial accident tomorrow that costs me both of my thumbs, I’ll still be able count the number of Signal Fire sales thus far on two horribly-mutilated hands. As far as AWGG and Like Life Itself are concerned…yeah, they still technically exist.

Rather than drive myself nuttier by over-analyzing Signal Fire‘s disappointing debut (Was it timing of release? Pretentious “By the Author of…” tagline by an unknown author? Poorly-chosen genre categories/search keywords? Plain ol’ crappy writing?), I’m going take a deep breath, crack open a beer, and remind myself yet again that sales don’t necessarily equal success. (Feel free to stop laughing at any time. I’ll wait).  Although I didn’t get rich last month, I did make progress.

For one thing, I received my first four (four!) reviews. They were a bit mixed (more details here), but to summarize, I got one five-star, two four-star, and one two-star review for various books over various platforms. For my fellow baseball-dork statheads, that’s an overall average of 3.75; a perfectly-acceptable ERA in this day and age. I’ll take that any day of the week. I also attracted about 25 Twitter followers. Way back in February, I set a goal of six posts per month on this here Web log. I swatted eight posts over the fence in February, then circled the bases a Ruthian eleven times in March. Although you can’t see it, I’m giving myself an incredibly painful high-five with my horribly-mutilated hands right now.

All in all, I’m happy with where I am on the self-publishing front. I’ve earned back the cost of my covers (my only monetary expense to date) with enough left over to fuel the POS car that takes me to my real job every day. And if all goes at least reasonably according to plan, I’ll have another three novels out by the end of the year. Can’t complain.