30 June 2011

Live Rat

Triple phew!  Lab Rat One is now live on Smashwords, and in the approval queue at Amazon.

It's been a long haul - I swear I could spend my entire life editing any one of my novels, reading and re-reading and each time finding things to change.  It definitely improves the story each time, but sooner or later I feel like I'm on a hamster wheel, trundling along and never reaching the end.

For anyone who has been following along, curious about what happens next, for you I have an early bird coupon, good for the first week of release at Smashwords: just enter ZE64N in when purchasing to grab a discount price of $0.99.  [Expires 7 July.]


Next up will be catching my breath, then Voice of the Lost.

27 June 2011

Home Straight

Finishing up Lab Rat One, which I'm theoretically releasing on Thursday.  That will make five books published, with two more to come this year.  I've put tentative plans in place for next year's covers - for Hunting, Bones of the Fair, and The Sleeping Life (though it remains to be seen whether I'll get through them, since The Sleeping Life was only halfway through first draft when I started my revising spree).

My advertising for Stray was a moderate success with a nice spurt of thirty-odd sales in a few hours shooting me up briefly into the sub-rankings (once you get in the top 5000 or so, you start appearing in various sub-genre lists). 


If you see anyone on those sub-genre lists (unless it's an extremely obscure sub-genre), that person has sold dozens of copies in the last few hours (going up to hundreds of copies a day for lower numbers).  Whether I've achieved the result I was aiming for in the broad sense (starting to appear on the "Customers who bought this book also bought" recommendations) remains to be seen, but I think my spurt was a little too short this time around.

With the promotion advertisement past, I'll be reverting prices mid-July, with Stray and Lab Rat going to $2.99 (my "first six months" price) and Medair, Champion, and Stained Glass Monsters will be $4.99 (my standard price).  Price and your chances of selling as a self-publisher are really impossible to predict - some people won't pay more than $0.99 or $2.99 for a self-published author.  But many do - and some don't even look at books priced that low, on the "you get what you pay for" philosophy.  I'll stick with my current system, with the occasional month-long special for promotional purposes, which should capture both markets.  Or not.  Thinking about covers is much more fun.  :)

23 June 2011

Mapping

I've updated the trade paperback version of Champion to include the map (there's just a link in the ebook version).  I usually draw a rough map while I'm writing, so that my characters don't head out east to go to the Western Marches, but I hesitated to fool with images when taking my first shaky steps into publishing - so of course my first reviews commented on the lack of a map.  I'll be adding the maps to Medair and SGM over the next month or so.  [A map just wouldn't work with the Touchstone series, though I wish I was artist enough to fill it with little sketches of the things Cass sees.]

I also took the opportunity to add six paragraphs of 'underlining' to Champ to emphasise a particular interpretation of the text.  No change to the plot, but those paragraphs function much like the little arrow on the map of Darest, pointing north.

A self-publisher's ability to update is a double-edged sword.  Great for fixing typos, but an eternal temptation, since I've never met a piece of my own writing that I didn't want to fiddle with every time I read it.  I decided on a system of noting the version date on the copyright page, if it's ever updated with more than typo corrections, but on the whole I will try to restrain myself.

18 June 2011

Not-Writing

I spent a lot of time not-writing this week.

My best writing time is on the train to and from work (50 minutes each way).  If I'm tired, writing doesn't happen (sometimes snoring almost happens, which is embarrassing on a train).  And, if it's rainy as it has been this week, I tend not to want to take my laptop with me on the 20 minute walk to the station.  So I've been reading and not-writing instead.

I'm almost always not-writing.  It's a valuable process, where I compose my books in thought instead of pixels, trying out ideas, settling what needs to be done.  It can be a trifle frustrating, because while not-writing I often come up with the perfect way to say something, and yet never can remember how it went when I get back in front of a keyboard.  [Sometimes I will jot in a notepad, if it's something I really don't want to forget.]

This week while not-writing, I:

- Truncated a cave-scene in Voice of the Lost.
- Turned over, yet again, the chapter which needs to be added where Medair meets people she hopes she'll never meet again.
- Amused myself with slight variations of a sex scene recently written.  [Or the pre-sex scene.  I'm one of those writers who always cuts away just as you get to the really juicy bit.  Except in the space naga smut book, because the technicalities of that sex scene was half the point.]
- Turned over things I really should do in Caszandra, to make sure Cass doesn't come across as a mere observer in all the big dramatic moments.
- Considered what I would do to Hunting (which is the first in a series of four books I wrote before Medair) and when I would get time to do it.  Refused to let myself go re-read it.
- Refused to let myself go re-read Wellspring.
- Thought of a conversation which should go in The Sleeping Life.

So, a productive week of not-writing!

I did do a little work on Voice of the Lost as well.  But just a little.  I'm in one of those modes where I re-read the first chapter over and over again obsessively changing one or two words each time.  Not productive at all.

12 June 2011

Super 8

Spoiler-ish ramble below.

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So Super 8 is ET if the military got to him first.  And ET was bigger.

Production and pace-wise this was a great movie.  There was rarely a moment of lag, and the train crash is truly spectacular.

The characters are all clearly drawn, though most of them hardly have any time to show themselves, and it's hard to avoid thinking "self-insert" given they're all would-be movie-makers.  There's three arcs for the main character (father-son, buddy, and boy-girl) which are workable, though time restraints mean we don't really get as much power as we could from any of them.

As per usual, the military are evil and idiotic, which is tedious and predictable.  They're also apparently omnipresent, since they manage to turn up at a train derailment in the middle of nowhere before the locals.

It felt oddly more like the 60s than the 80s, even with a Walkman making an appearance (one which apparently makes you completely deaf to even Really Loud noises).

The story really is ET - an alien has crashed to Earth and just wants to go home.  The military want him and his tech, and this time they keep him for twenty years while playing with bits of his spaceship.  Some kids get involved, though it wouldn't be true to say they help him escape so much as survive him escaping.

This ET, though, kidnaps quite a few people and hangs them up by their feet, which screams 'larder' to me, and seems to go against the "he just wants to leave" theme.

Once again I was distracted from the story by Role of Girl.  Yet again, Role of Girl was to be kidnapped and rescued.  This by no means surprised me, but it was another tedious point - and followed on from two trailers (Green Lantern and Captain America) where the only female to appear in each trailer was Love Interest whose role appears to be to Be Supportive and Believe In Her Man.

I miss Buffy.

11 June 2011

Promo Month

I've lined up a small amount of advertising in a couple of weeks, and for a month all four of my current ebooks will be $0.99 to go along with the promotion.

Self-publishing has a Catch-22 situation in regards to discoverability.  It isn't all just word of mouth - particularly where Amazon is concerned you need a sustained burst of sales in order to have your book start appearing in the "also purchased" and "recommended for you" lists.  So you need to sell a lot to sell a lot.  Just dropping the price to $0.99 won't necessarily get you anywhere at all - there's a ton of books for $0.99 or for free on Amazon and search results are ordered according to number of ratings and reviews meaning, again, that the more you've been read the more you'll be read.

There's any number of things a self-publisher can do to promote their books:
  • Chase reviews from book bloggers.  Something of a challenge - a book blog with any significant audience will be getting free books from publishers, and will often have a "no self-publishers" policy.  Whatever their policies, almost all blogs with an audience will be drowning in books sent to them for review.  However, a review from an established blog which is willing to negatively review books as well as gush about the ones they like can have a tangible impact on sales.  And a review from a small blog is still a review!
  • Run giveaways.  I run giveaways at Goodreads - I have two up at the moment (for Stray and Stained Glass Monsters - you need to join Goodreads to enter).  I initially thought this would be a good way to get reviews but it's not entirely effective - winners aren't obliged to review, and so far I've had a less than 50% review response.  It is, however, quite a useful way to advertise for only the price of a few books, and I get the occasional sale from those too impatient to wait for the giveaway to finish.
  • Paid advertising.  Not necessarily effective, though with the right venue, cover, content and price point there's a chance of one of those valuable sales bursts.
  • Networking.  Blog tours, reciprocal promotion with other authors, building an audience on a non-related blog (known as having a platform), friending everyone in sight.  These are time-hungry pursuits and results vary wildly.  Writers who have a platform, a tangible connection to others, will have a nice springboard for sales.  Writers who insert their book into every post they make (or any post they make) will gain themselves a nice backlash.  Mileage varies.
  • Word of mouth.  Someone loves your book.  They tell friends.  On it goes.  Requires someone to love your book first. :)
And none of these compare to popping up in the first search results for your genre on Amazon, which is the reason for the temporary low prices, combined with a paid ad (for "Stray").  It might work, it might flop, but it's my current concession to the business side of self-publishing.  On the whole I'm not a particularly successful self-publisher - the writing is far more fun than the promotion aspects.  Because I chose to have painted covers ('cause I love 'em!) it will take me a while to break even in costs.  On the up side, there's no hurry whatsoever.  I put the books out there, make my occasional stabs at promotion, and go back to concentrating on writing the books.

Curiously, the Aurealis shortlisting was not effective promotion.  It got my book mentioned on a lot of sites, but led to I'd say no more than a dozen sales.  Still, the judges' report was great for the ego:
"The magic is variously humorous and breathtaking, and Höst has a fresh voice and an unusual heroine—a diplomat rather than a mage. You can read Silence of Medair for its strong, conflicted heroine, its playful subversion of fantasy tropes, or its deep, detailed analysis of the nature of racism. If not, just read it for the beautifully crafted prose."
Currently I'm working on "Voice of the Lost" while waiting for my proof of "Lab Rat One" to arrive.  [Well, currently I'm reading a lot of Rex Stout and playing computer games, but theoretically I'm working on "Voice".  :D ]

06 June 2011

Doctor Who: "A Good Man Goes to War"

Some fantastic characters we've not met before, and will probably never meet again (even the ones who weren't killed off).  A few cool lines.  A touch of overacting/unnecessary smirking, but otherwise really hitting some sweet spots among the support characters.

 
But.

 
- We had the whole guilt trip for being a dangerous person to know, plus the Doctor on the verge of letting anger take him into evil plot in Waters of Mars.  Far too soon to do it again.

- The final revelation is not only obvious to the viewer at that point, but involves the Doctor being completely blind and incapable of thinking things through.

- For pity's sake, stop with all this "did the Doctor somehow have sex with Amy" double-faking.  Every second episode...  [At least we didn't have an OMG, they killed Rory moment this time round.]

Doctor Who gains some of its strength from constantly reinventing itself, but hand-waving and hyper-drama just doesn't seem to suit my tastes.

05 June 2011

#$@#$!%

Having hit the end of this read-through of Lab Rat One, I'm tackling the most abhorrent aspect of this trilogy, which begins with the dreadful words "In the previous volume".

It shouldn't be hard.  Just a few short paragraphs giving a reader who for some reason is starting at volume two some vague idea of what the hell is going on.  But I HATES it.  It burnssss.

Synopsis of Peculiar Blandness, let me find excuses to avoid writing you...