Dispatches From The Future (B-List)

PopSci recently debuted a collection of very short shorts from “Ten of the brightest minds in science fiction.” It’s a very worthy read if you’ve got a couple of minutes to kill. Lots of humor packed into very few words. Plus, I love the idea. In part, because I love short stories. In part, because I love flash fiction. Also, writing something is a whole lot more fun than vacuuming or revisions, and that’s what I’ll be doing otherwise. So I’m turning it into a writing exercise right here on FeetForBrains.


 

Avacado

I was super excited to head home to my gallery apartment today because in this week’s grocery shipment I fully expected to find a lovely box of HAAS avocados waiting for me along side all the usual. When I was a kid I recall heading off to the super market with my mother and walking away with loads of these little buggers. They were so tasty. She’d cut them in half, pull out the pit, and hand me a spoon. But it’s been an age since there was such a thing as markets, and avocados have become about as rare as ice in the arctic.

Unfortunately, I let my anticipation of this delectable treat and the nostalgia for old-timey unprocessed food stuffs come before any sort of reasonable, contemporary assessment of the status quo. This despite the fact that I’m constantly surrounded by swarms of pilotless delivery drones. They dodge through crowds of people at the train station. They zip past my head when I take the skywalk from one end of the arcology to the other. They’re every where and always moving at a tremendous speed, performing amazing aerobatic feats that would turn a mere mortal into jello.

So it should have been no great surprise that the box I received on the door mat before my apartment was little more than the final resting place for the once delicate fruits of one Persea americana tree. The cardboard coffin contained only a greenish-brown slush resembling guacamole that had gone off. It’s truly amazing what 10 gravity turns will do an avocado.

I Give You ON THE LEFT FOOT

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you ON THE LEFT FOOT. A short story as wild and wonderful and full of weeds as I could manage in about 7,000 words. Write what you know? Write what you don’t know? Well I did both. Take a look. Enjoy. It’s cheep.  It’s Saturday. You’ll likely want more. I’m writing.

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Backcountry ranger Jack Isen has had a bad year. Once school gets out he is anticipating some time alone, working the back country of the Flat Tops Wilderness. Something strange happens and he finds much more isolation than he was planning for.

Good News! From the Indie Side is #2

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Yes, you saw it here first (or not). I was checking rankings on a couple of books and just happened to notice that FROM THE INDIE SIDE is currently ranking second in Science Fiction & Fantasy > Anthologies & Short Stories. That’s great news for a lot of very cool Indie authors out there.

In other news, I’m going to be interviewing as many of the contributors to FROM THE INDIE SIDE as  I can. Michael Bunker is first on deck, expect his answers to appear magically on the Internets this Friday.

Quiet in the Wilderness: Signal Boost THE BIG RED BUCKLE

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Buy The Big Red Buckle

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.

The more I read about it the more I understand that an author can expect a slump in sales some time around the middle of January. That is when the Holiday bills start showing up. When people have less money because they have new gym memberships to pay down. The list of reasons why this happens are extensive, but it happens.

But, here we are, just over a month after The Big Red Buckle released the book has flatlined on all the Amazon lists. What is an author to do? You got it, signal boost.

Here are the details

Welcome to my Twitter signal boost. I want you to tweet about The Big Red Buckle.

To be eligible for the contest your tweet must include these two things.

  • the hashtag: #dancingonlift
  • a link to this blog post

Your tweet can contain anything else you would like. Crazy paragliding photos or trail running images are a bonus, so be entertaining. Boost my signal as well as your own.

The contest will run all day long January 31st, 2014 (MST) – that’s midnight to midnight.

February 1st I will pick three random winners (you’ll need to follow me on twitter @feetforbrains, to get your prize).

The first winner will receive a signed, printed version of The Big Red Buckle and Joulupukki as well as two limited edition cards of the cover work.

The remaining two will receive signed copies of the first run of the book.

I’ll pay shipping unless you’re outside the US, in which case, shipping is on you.

You can tweet as many times as you’d like, but only the first one will count.

And that is how it is done. The idea is to get the book in front of new eyeballs, and break the January slump. Marco needs new sponsorship money to afford a fancy new photobioreactor suit. I’d like to see Marco climb back up the “Paid In Kindle Store” and meet a few new readers.

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.

Kindle Count Down Deal

For a limited time only $0.99

For a limited time only $0.99

That’s right, for a limited time, “The Big Red Buckle” will be available via Amazon for the low, low price of  only $0.99. Now is your time to own the first in the series. Top quality cover work by Jeffrey Witty. Excellent words arranged artfully in interesting patterns by Matthew Thyer. You too can be part of the phenomenon. Hang out with the cool kids. Buy “The Big Red Buckle“.

Writer’s Tool Box: OMG Vellum

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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.

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.

All I Want is 1%

Just finished reading this article about from David Byrne in the Guardian. And I can see the point being made here. The gyrations a musician must go through just to make a buck are ridiculous. Anyone who does the work, develops something worth listening then has to get lucky enough to land a distribution contract with a company that will invariably take home a significant chunk of their creative pie.

This problem is not just a musician problem.  It seems to be affecting everyone who happens to be involved in a creative process.  You do the work and someone with a printing machine and a business degree takes home the lions share of your profit.  But embedded in this article is a very good business idea.  Byrne references the idea that the online game is about domination.  And he is correct.

There aren’t two Facebooks or Amazons. Domination and monopoly is the name of the game in the web marketplace.

The amounts these services pay per stream is minuscule – their idea being that if enough people use the service those tiny grains of sand will pile up. Domination and ubiquity are therefore to be encouraged. We should readjust our values because in the web-based world we are told that monopoly is good for us.

But its not the online streaming services that are taking the lion’s share of the available streaming revenue, is it?  They get their cut sure, but the record label that the artist sign on to are the people making the dough.

Here is the good news, Amazon has already pioneered the work necessary to make major inroads in this market.  Kindle Direct Publishing is a great way to publish if you are an aspiring author.  You retain the rights to your work and only lose exclusivity if you opt into their expanded distribution marketplace through KDP select.  Amazon already has the physical printing facilities and online distribution network to bring music direct to customers through CreateSpace or something similar.  After their purchase of Audible Amazon become one of the world’s largest digital audio outlets.

I can see Amazon creating two things, a streaming service a la Spotify (or buying one outright for that matter) and then an independent publication network similar to or part of KDP for musicians.  If structured correctly, then the music industry, such as it is, would necessarily need to start offering its artists a better deal because those artists would have the option to avoid waiting to be discovered while still retaining the rights to their music.

Amazon, this is a great idea.  All I want is 1% of sales and you can have it.