Author Interview Mel Hearse

Ladies and gentlemen, today I give you what may be the last in my series of author interviews for FROM THE INDIE SIDE. Let me say, before we get to the introduction, that this has been a lot of fun for me. An eye opening experience, but alas all good things must come to an end. Currently, I don’t have any more scheduled interviews. If you’re reading this and thinking “Hey, what about my story?” don’t fret. I would very much like to speak with you. Drop me a line and we’ll make it happen.

Now, on to the introduction. Today we’ll be talking with author, journalist and Mom Melanie Hearse. Check out her website, she has a journalistic bibliography a mile and  a half long. Interestingly, however, her contribution to FROM THE INDIE SIDE, THE GREATER GOOD, was a first step into the world of fiction. It’s an interesting mashup of Mother’s Day and Tales from the Dark Side and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it too.

Mel, who lives and works in Australia, has a novel on the way and has since produced several short stories. I had the opportunity to sit down with her and ask a few questions. I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did.

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A Degree in DIY?

I found an article today the Guardian, the University of Central Lancashire is now offering an MA in Self Publishing. Which raises the question, if there is enough material to teach what is essentially a Do-It-Yourself sort of endeavor, and grant a degree which certifies that the bearer posses the skills necessary to be successful within the field, when are they going to start handing out honorary degrees to those of us who have figured all this out on our own?

I have to say, for the most part, I’m pretty glad that this program is happening. Maybe we’ll see some well researched techniques coming out of other education outlets such as Coursera. Now that would be cool.

After Action Report: Cover Words & Formatting

I had never previously considered all the extra parts that you must necessarily write, edit, and have at hand when you publish a book. And in hind sight this is something any Indie should be ready to deal with, and have a plan to manage.

Blurbs

These are short, one or two sentence, “reviews” that get appended to the story cover and to book descriptions. At release date you could have powered a zero-point singularity generator with the amount I had. It was not something I was considering, and while I knew they existed, it was in the way a Toyota owner knows that there are American made cars out there.

After ConFusion I am interested in gaining a couple of these. My timeline is open, so there is no rush. The idea is to have them in my pocket and ready to use by the time I’ve got a book or two to package together. Sooner is, of course better, so if you’d like to blurbThe Big Red Buckle” let me know and I’ll get it out on Amazon right away.

Cover Description

This is a short description of the story meant to sell the work. It has to catch the eye while not giving away the story. While at ConFusion I was able to get a little feedback on what appears on the kindle book description and the back cover of the paperback.

For Marco Aguilar, just being at the race’s starting line represents the culmination of two years of careful preparation and training. He feels a momentary pang of guilt knowing that his wife Emma has carried their family while his focus has been elsewhere. But he also knows that winning the Grand Martian Traverse is a shared decision, not just his goal.

Petrus Mandel is a novice endurance sport athlete hoping to soar alongside Aguilar to greatness. He suspects Aguilar may have a solution to traversing the gaping expanse between the distant shield volcanoes and must face his fears and follow his curiosity.

Together, these two Martian-born endurance athletes run and soar in the solar system’s greatest race.

Humanity has survived environmental and atmospheric calamity and begun to move out into the stars. Sport still plays a vital role in our day-to-day affairs. The Big Red Buckle recounts an episode of a single-stage endurance race held between two shield volcanoes on a Mars that is slowly being terraformed. Participants must run and soar over 1,500 kilometers while the solar system watches.

I need to cut this down, it is far too long for its mission and I agree it gives up too much of the story, killing the reader’s anticipation. I’ve reconsidered this bit of sales information and plan on replacing it as soon as my first Amazon Kindle Count Down Deal is completed.

Humanity has survived environmental and atmospheric calamity and begun to move out into the stars. Sport still plays a vital role in our day-to-day affairs. The Big Red Buckle recounts an episode of a single-stage endurance race held between two shield volcanoes on a Mars that is slowly being terraformed. Participants must run and soar over 1,500 kilometers while the solar system watches.

For Marco Aguilar, just being at the starting line represents the culmination of two years of careful preparation and training. He aims to win the Grand Martian Traverse, and take home The Big Red Buckle for himself and for native Martians.

Notice that it is essentially the same thing, only less of the same. There is a little bit of setting given, important to the story, and the focus is on the main protagonist, Marco Aguilar.

Paperback Formatting

I have come to realize that I probably need some help with this. For the most part I was able to take care of most of the formatting issues before CreateSpace got the manuscript, but I also know I missed a couple of things (or maybe they were introduced when I uploaded).

I will reiterate my feature plea to 180g. I would pay extra if they would integrate with CreateSpace and convert manuscripts to print format in selected trim size. And I suspect there would be a lot of other Indies that would do the same if we had a one-stop option for conversion. Want a selling point that no one has yet immitated? There you go. If I worked there and noticed this kind of request it would be a top priority for next release. Got that? Top priority!

Conclusion

So, I suspect that these all fall into the “unforeseen nuisance” category, but they are all also important polish that should be there. I know that now, and I’ll move to correct them as soon as possible. There are a number of people I should thank for helping me sort these things out, but in particular J.C. Daniels/Shiloh Walker deserves special mention.

Oh I am Happy with This Bit

Low Muscle Glycogen. Yep, I just completed a chapter which focuses on the endurance demon that ends all races. And wow, is it good. Even if I do say so myself. And I do.

Write what you know? Have you ever bonked before? Why yes I have. And after reading this bit I’m guessing that even if you have never been in the situation where your body literally gives up — while your mind screams “lift that leg, yes, one more time. Now that one, you can do it” — you will feel that pain. That sweet, sweet pain which narrows your focus and will inevitably prove to anyone who matters, to yourself, to your only competition, that you are the only God of this damned temple.

Writer’s Tool Box: OMG Vellum

OMG

OMG

Have you been wrestling with formatting crap in your ebook publication tonight? Guess what, in about 30 minutes I turned my manuscript from a struggle to a dream. Previously, the table of contents was not working. KDP split several front papers including the copyright page and the single line dedication. Word for Mac would not embed fonts so any time there was a font size change the whole thing went wonky. And adding an “About the Author” page was ridiculous.

I can’t recall where I heard about this Mac resident application by 180g, but it had been something I’ve been wanting to try for a little while now. Holy cow! I am so glad that I did.

Feature request guys, integration with CreateSpace please! Yeah, I imagine that this might lead to a few additional hoops to jump through, but oh how I crave that ease for the print version of anything else I write. Seriously, this is well worth the money.

If you’ve already bought the ebook on Amazon wait about 12 hours and the new and improved version should download to your favorite reading device. If not, go take a look at the preview tomorrow morning. What a difference, and so easy. This application is being added to the regular workflow for any publication in the future.

Trying Something New

I’ve been playing around with several methods for outlining stories and plot runs. Everything from using post-it notes or notecards to taping together legal paper and drawing from left to right the direction of the story. For the most part, all of these are workable solutions. Each of the techniques I’ve tried has been helpful in reminding me where I’m headed as I tease words from my brain during the writing process.

The chief issue I’ve had so far with these various approaches is that none of them are very portable. It is extremely difficult to trot off to the rec center and start writing knowing that your plot outline is back at home pinned to the wall on a white board. I’ve had to re-write several plot outlines because the paper has been torn or “augmented” by my three-year-old when I look away.

In the time before I was a writer, I did some work managing projects. I’ve used many tools to get those jobs done, and tonight I took that tool knowledge and tried to adapt it to the task of providing a mobile, cloud-based plot outline that I can take with me on my laptop or iPad when I travel. I’m actually pretty pleased with the results. I’ve created a mind map (not 100%, but close) of the Novella “Up Slope” that I’ve been working on using MindNode Pro.

That is some snazzy stuff right there. The best part is that I can work on it from wherever. It lives in the cloud, which means that if I need to consult it while I’m tapping away, it’s only another tap on the touchpad. It is going to give me much more control, not just the illusion of the control and direction I hope for every time I break out a pile of sticky notes.

The downside is that there’s nothing really tactile about it. I can’t scribble in the margins and Tess won’t leave me spelling corrections and suggestions if I accidentally leave it out on the table.

Promotions to Book Sales

Boosted

Boosted

When I finished the paperback version, wading through hours of copy-editing, I took some friendly advice. Basically, it amounted to the following, “Plug your book, foo!” Nearly a full month after releasing the ebook version I had friends who had not heard my good news.

I researched my options and quickly came to realize that the best  was probably going to be Facebook. So I plugged the book on my blog, it posted to twitter, and thence to my author page on Facebook. This post, like all blog posts, is also forwarded to my GoodReads author page as well as my Amazon Author page (although the amount of page space granted blog posts is pretty slim) and LinkedIn (when their data connection isn’t borked).

Everything except the Facebook promotion was free of charge. But, and here is the important part, it’s really difficult to get any meaningful information about clicks to the Amazon book page from these media outlets. Facebook on the other hand offers this option (although very rudimentary).

Metrics

Total Reach and Paid Reach

I boosted my “Plugging” post twice through Facebook. What I really want to learn is how to turn my very limited budget of promotional dollars into book sales. The five to six-thousand views are likely a distraction. If you did not click through your scroll finger flew past my post in seconds. So toss those numbers out as meaningless.

“Photo clicks” and “page likes” also are meaningless. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m glad you liked my post about my book, but since I want you to buy my book (for the equivalent of a small cup of coffee) these likes just tickle my ego. A very small tickle.

Now what I want to know is how many of you looked at my book. Seventy of you clicked through. Unless something is wrong with Amazon’s reporting, seventy of you clicked through and then went back to browsing inspiring, viral videos of pandas rolling through pudding and snarky pictures that 97% of people won’t ever repost (supposedly because they’re not brave enough). So at roughly $0.97 a click, Facebook advertising does not seem to be what this Indie author needs to get the job done. Had absolutely all of you bought the ebook version of “The Big Red Buckle” I would have broke even, meaning my book sales would have covered the cost of the promotion.

Okay, so at least we know what not to do to make a living as an Indie.


In other news, I have additional experiments planned for the near future. I have ordered twenty copies of the paperback to take along with me to Detroit. Legendary ConFusion will mostly be a place for me to listen and soak up the finer points of how to make ends meet in this business. But I’m hoping to give away the print version of the book as well in the hope that it will get read and passed along as “worth reading.”

Also I’ve printed off fifty cards with QR codes embedded. They should look pretty snazzy when they show up and the best part is that they are a low cost, recyclable way to get the book out there.

Finally, I’m planning on re-pricing the book with a KDP “Countdown Deal” starting on the 17th. For some period of time I’m going to drop the cost by about two thirds. Coupled with the giveaways, and the cards maybe I can generate some sales this way.

This sales game is a little disheartening, at least right now and from this side. In some ways I can see the advantage of going the traditional route, seeking out a publisher, nailing a contract, and getting that advance. Even if it’s a tiny fraction of what you could make with any particular work your publisher’s focus is on distribution and sales so your’s does not need to be.

That said, I’m holding up well. I know that this is the right path for me, at least right now. I’ve been hard at work continuing to write “Up Slope” and “Jojk” (a second short, companion to “Joulupukki“) although my daily word count is down, the result of moving and other monkey wrench activity in our daily lives, I will continue to write, write, and write some more.