book promotion, Flash Fiction, humor, inspiration, Magic and Science, publishing, Satire, Stories, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

Anthology Submissions

submissionsSubmissions are invited for a short story anthology to be published by the Writers’ Co-op. No theme is set but stories should broadly fit into the genre ‘weird’ – to be interpreted as you wish.

Maximum word count is 5000 (we’re not strict on that). No minimum word count. Deadline: 31st March.

Entries to be sent to curtis.bausse(at)outlook.com with the subject heading ‘weird story submission’. All entries will be acknowledged and decision of acceptance or not will be notified as soon as possible after the deadline.

More details at:
https://writercoop.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/call-for-submissions/

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Bookkus Publishing 2012 – 2018 RIP

Well, my publisher just called it a day, announcing a couple of weeks ago that Bookkus was closing.  I thought I’d write about it because I know some of you would just like to know (Mimi was very active on the site for quite some time), and also because I think there are some lessons to be learned.

Bookkus was trying to be a publisher for the internet age.  I think the feeling was that one of the major changes in consumerism brought on by the internet was the massive growth in importance of reviews posted by individual reader/consumers.  So the basic selling point was that all books published by Bookkus would be chosen by the reading community.  This was a unique idea.  Members could sign-up to be reviewers and read any book posted to the site.  They would then post their review (plus a star rating), and if a book passed a certain threshold it would move on to final consideration.  That would consist of all the reviewers joining a discussion as to whether the book (like it or not) was worthy of publication.  The management team would take part, but as equal members. As the logo stated: “Community Powered, Community Approved.”

Sounds like a great idea.  Well, so was communism, I guess.

The first and major problem was human nature.  Some (but not all) of the most active members were the writers who had books posted on the site (that obviously includes me).  That generally lasted as long as the writer’s book was getting strong reviews and showed potential for getting published.  If a book got few and/or poor reviews, the author stopped showing up.  Not much of a surprise there.  (Actually some of those whose books were published barely ever made an appearance.)

Unfortunately, the biggest problem was with the general reading population.  I tend to think of the internet as a huge amusement park which just emphasizes our cultural ADD symptoms.  When Bookkus first started, only the first three of so chapters of any wanna-be book were posted, with the caveat that if the reviews were good then the entire book would be posted.  That lasted about 6 months, if I remember correctly.  Internet users want instant responses, and there were books that languished with 2 or 3 good reviews for months.  Unable to read the rest of the book, people moved on.  The solution offered was to change the rules and post the entire book from the get-go.  That worked a little bit better because it did result in five or six books (including mine) getting published, although none reached the initially listed requirement of 20 reviews (mine only had 10).  Even then, the assembled reviewers were only a subset of all who had reviewed the book.  Some may have become gun shy about discussing whether a book should be published, but, again, I think most had just moved on, having gotten tired of waiting (I read that book 6 months ago, I don’t remember that much about it!), while others just lost interest in the site. So the decisions came down to a small group of hardcore members.

[As an aside I should say that I could understand the angst felt by some people.  One book I read was an old style fantasy, not Tolkienesque, more Count of Monte Cristo style.  I enjoyed the book which was very well written, but wondered how marketable it was in this day and age. It actually ended up being approved for publication but never saw the light of day.]

I think the disinterest really showed up when the publisher arranged for a couple of Google Hangouts with me and Mike Hagan (both our books had been published).  Despite advertising it on the site, and I assume e-mailing members about it, the total turnout consisted of myself, Mike Hagan, Mimi, and William, the publisher.  The most notable aspect of these events occurred during the first, when my Hercules videocam’s audio failed and I spent the entire session responding by writing on a pad and holding it up to a camera.

The biggest problem was the marketing, or apparent lack thereof.  William, the publisher, had started a companion Web site called Bookaholic which was an on-line magazine for book lovers.  I think Bookkus and Bookaholic were envisioned as a kind of one-two punch.  As far as I can tell, Bookaholic (now also departed) never took off.  Other than that there were the free book giveaways on Amazon and Goodreads.  The deal on Goodreads was a free e-book in return for an honest review.  I got some intial very good reviews (and a couple of poor ones), but never very many.  On top of that some have still trickled in over the past two years.  The free giveaway on Amazon got me into the top 100, but never produced any sales.

I think William had a few contacts, but professional reviewers wouldn’t touch a book that had less than 100 on-line reviews.  I know he hit all the free giveaway sites, but that didn’t help.  Book signings were discussed but all fell through as did a reading event in Toronto.  All this occurred early in 2015, and I admit there was a lot of excitement and expectations, but nothing went as expected.

Anyway, long story short, by late 2015 I think the writing was on the wall and Bookkus and Bookaholic went static.  Members made comments and still reviewed books, but nothing happened and nothing new was posted.  Personally, I suspect that zero cash flow had ground things to a halt for Bookkus (I don’t think he had that much to start off with).  It held on for about two years (hoping for a miracle?), and then at the beginning of this year went out of business.

I don’t blame William, maybe as the saying goes, “His reach exceeded his grasp.”  On the plus side it did allow me to get my book published, and maybe offers a cautionary tale about start-ups.

-DocTom

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publishing, Stories, Writers Co-op

Call for Submissions

The Writers’ Co-op invites submissions of short stories (and poems) for an anthology to be released later this year. No theme is set, but stories should broadly fall into the category of ‘weird’ (see below).

There is a maximum word count of 5000. But this is more a guideline than a strict limit – quality is the main criterion, not length. So a great story will be accepted, whether it’s 6000 words or 200 (flash fiction is welcome). But we’re looking for short stories, not novellas or extracts from novels – the story should be complete in itself. Though the anthology will be comprised mostly of stories, there will also be room for some poems or pieces of an experimental nature.

The deadline is 31st March 2018. Submissions should be sent in an attached file to curtis.bausse(at)outlook.com with the subject ‘Co-op submission’. They may have been previously published on personal websites (or elsewhere) but authors must have full rights to them when submitting. Authors will retain said rights after the story or poem is published in the Writers’ Co-op anthology.

All proceeds will go to the Against Malaria Foundation. Why? Because the (hopefully not meagre but probably far from spectacular) royalties can make a big difference: $3 buys a long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito net which protects two people for up to three years.

That’s for the practicalities (if you have further questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch via the contact page). But what is meant by ‘weird’?

The question is addressed in the previous post, but since I’m here I get the chance to add my two cents’ worth (or grain of salt as they say in French). Like many categories, it’s fuzzy, because it stands in distinction to ‘normal’, and there’s no common acceptance of what is normal. Not all writers will approach it the same way, and so much the better – we hope for plenty of variety. At the core of weirdness, though, is the upsetting of expectations: normality, in the sense of what we’re accustomed to, doesn’t follow the course that led to us form those expectations. Where it goes – somewhere disturbing or hilarious – is entirely the writer’s choice. Or why not hilariously disturbing? Indeed, one advantage of ‘weird’ is that it allows for humour as much as for horror, so go for it!

How weird does it have to be? Anything from full on, over-the-top freaky to subtly odd and unsettling. So no worries if weird isn’t your usual style – a few deft touches can suffice. Those little moments of strangeness that don’t fit into what we know of the world or the people around us, those hints of a deeper mystery that defies explanation. Give us writing that shifts our perceptions, leads us to experience, bubbling up through the regularity and routine, the fundamental weirdness of life. To quote the Count of Lautréamont, author of the Chant de Maldoror, if your piece is ‘beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella,’ there’s every chance that we’ll love it.

We look forward to reading you.

Agne-s-Varda-beau-comme-la-rencontre-fortuite-1

Agnès Varda: La rencontre fortuite
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Weirdness

weirdOur first anthology will be stories deemed by the writer as weird. What is weird? You have your own ideas and, please, share some in the comments.

The dictionary says that weird means beyond what is normal or natural. In Western Mythology, weird was related to the three Fates. The very word itself comes from the Indo-European root, wert, “to turn.” From it, we get modern words like divert, subvert, universe and version. We also get verse and prose. Yes, writing and weird are related.

My favorite weirdness is when the universe hiccups. You know, you’re busy doing something and suddenly you can’t find an item that you just used? You look in all the obvious places. But you have to keep looking until the universe hiccups again. And then there it is! You know what I mean. It’s weird.

Now that you’re thinking weird thoughts, share some in the comments and get ready for Curtis Bausse’s Monday post. That will be your invitation to submit your own weird story for the Writers Co-op 2018 Anthology.

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publishing, Stories, Writers Co-op

Anthology Q&A

The Writers’ Co-op has decided to put together an anthology of short stories. To start off, here’s a short list of practical aspects to consider. All comments and suggestions welcome.

How many submissions do we need?

It depends (a) if there’s a maximum word count and (b) how long the anthology itself should be. I’d suggest a maximum word count of 5000, with a small tolerance if it goes above. For a book of 60,000 words, that’s 12 stories. But the book could be longer and the stories shorter, so 12 is a minimum and it could stretch to around 30.

How do we find them?

Invite submissions. It’s not a competition, so won’t be listed on a competition page like the one on Almond Press, which attracts a lot of views. The Book a Break got 75 the first year, 123 the second. Slightly less than a third made it into the anthology. How many submissions will we get by publicising on social media? No idea, but it would be nice to get 40-50. We can also send direct invitations to writers we know and appreciate.

Is there a theme?

The question is still open but there appears to be a majority saying no. And a theme adds virtually nothing to the marketing possibilities. A genre, on the other hand, makes it easier – readers type it as a search word on Amazon. Carl has suggested ‘weird’, which I like. It’s broad enough to allow for a lot of variety, from humour to horror by way of talking cats. Could even be stylistic.

Who will take care of selecting submissions, editing and formatting?

I’m quite happy to do that as it’s what I’ve been doing for the Book a Break, but ideally with someone I can call on for help when needed. Any volunteers?

What’s the calendar?

The Book a Break anthology will be released in September or October. I’d rather it didn’t clash with that, so either before or after, June/July, say, or November/December. But for the moment I’d rather not commit – let’s post submission invitations wherever we can with a deadline, I suggest, of 31st March. Some people might already have pieces ready but for anyone starting from scratch, that seems reasonable. We’ll see what happens.

How do we market it?

We will be creative, tenacious and cooperative! A committee of three or four people would be useful to come up with and implement ideas.

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About Writers, Amazon, book promotion, book reviews, book sales, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

Speak Now Or ….

Peer reviewWHAT
After discussion, the group has decided to add Peer Reviews. Peer Reviews are book reviews written by the author’s peers: other authors, editors, publishers and professional members of the writing community at large.

HOW
Writers Co-op would allow authors to post reviews and link to the book’s sale page. We’d just set up the page(s) and grant the authors’ permission to post there.
Atthys Gage has agreed to monitor the reviews.

WHEN
Next week, at the earliest, I could set up a prototype page to see how it goes.

WILL IT WORK
“Who knows?” said the first person over Niagara Falls in a barrel. One thing of which we can be certain is a learning curve. The hardest part will probably be the startup. I’ll start with what I can do based on my best understanding of the peer review discussions, in accordance with the limitations of our website and of course my deficient abilities. 🙂 It should be all down-the-falls sailing from there.

WAIT… WHY!?
If you haven’t read the discussions, many authors are complaining about Amazon banning reviews from anyone their algorithms decide knows the author. Offering authors a work-around could be our opportunity to provide a real service that incidentally increases Writers Co-op membership.

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About Writers, Amazon, book promotion, book sales, publishing, Stories, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

DECISION TIME

'One more time Huck, I'm gonna have to question your decision to bring the beaver.'

‘One more time Huck, I’m gonna have to question your decision to bring the beaver.’

ATTN: All Writers Co-op members (and potential members. 🙂 )

Two proposals have recently been discussed that deserve follow up.

Peer Review
The first is to add Peer Review page(s) of book reviews written by authors. Amazon tends to prevent or delete peer reviews. Writers Co-op could allow authors to post such reviews and link to the book’s sale page.
The argument for includes that it’d be a useful and easy service to offer, we’d just set up the page(s) and grant the authors’ permission to post there. The argument against includes the need to have a real person to manage and monitor those pages. Any volunteers?

Anthology
A Writers Co-op Anthology for 2018 has been mentioned and the feedback was positive. So, what do you think? Should we proceed towards publishing one? Who’s in? What themes would you want for the anthology? Do we even need a theme? We can publish a Writers Co-op Anthology if we cooperate in all aspects and contribute stories.

So speak up now!

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About Writers, Amazon, book promotion, book sales, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

Beating a Dead Horse

The previous post by Atthys Gage, detailing his experience using giveaways to promote book sales, makes it clear that giving away books is not the way to make money. Yet, authors continue to flail that dead horse.

Obviously, the “Top 100 Free in Kindle Store list” promotes Kindle and makes money for Amazon. That may be the ONLY reason Amazon offers it.
Where did we get this idea that free books promote book sales? (The only reason free Browser and free Search works for Google is that they make money off advertisements.)

Rooted deep in the author psyche is the need to be read. Most authors spend considerable portions of their life creating their books and feel rewarded when the book is read. Books are freely given to anyone who purports to fill that need. What’s wrong with this picture? What manufacturer do you know who gives away their products in the hope that they will be used? How many people have you met who are proud to work for free?

We can’t blame today’s publishers for stroking our egos by “choosing” our book to sell. Or blame retailers for accepting the books we freely give them to sell. That’s how they make money.

But we can demand that any publisher with his finger in our pie do the marketing. Otherwise, what the hell have they done to earn their profit? And, we can demand that retailers do more to prevent pirates from selling our books on the retailer’s website.

Writers need a Bill Of Writes.

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book promotion, book sales

Another Report from the Front

Having seen my book sales stall spectacularly over the last year or so (big news, I know), I decided to hoard my pennies and buy some ad time to promote some free giveaway days on Amazon.com. (I know, I know. The irony of having to pay to give your books away is not lost on me, but I don’t want to get into that.) Simply making your books free on Amazon will get you bupkis in terms of downloads, ‘cuz who’s going to notice? So you pay for attention. The hope? That among those who download the book for free will be a fair number that will actually read it, maybe review it, maybe like it well enough to buy your other books and give them to all of his friends, including the indie movie director looking for fresh product for her next feature film production.

You get the idea. To be honest, I have done this before and reported on it here.  The results never actually pay for themselves (nor did they this time) but a giveaway does generate a few sales after the fact, and some royalties from folks who read the books on KU.

I did things a little different this time. Mostly, I made both of my older titles (Spark and Flight of the Wren) free at the same time, and ran a variety of promotions, both free and paid. I did not promote the giveaway on Facebook or Twitter, and I do not think I missed much by not doing so. I’ve never gotten a noticeable bounce from posting in either location, even when I used Facebook’s paid ads.

So where did I promote? Robin Reads, Awesome Gang, Free and Discounted Books, ebooklister, Digital Book Today, Ask David, Bookangel, Frugal Freebies… Basically, a bunch of websites and emailing services that exist precisely for that purpose (Including the rather ominously named Ignite Your Book).

Basically, it goes like this:  You make your book free for up to five days (as a member of KU, you can do that every three months). Your promoters list your book as being free in their promotional material (some are email lists, which can be pretty effective. Some are simply listings on their websites, which tend to be worthless.) Readers notice, and go to Amazon (hopefully with a simply click) and download your book for free. This downloading causes your book to climb up the Amazon lists, specifically the Top 100 Free in Kindle Store list. Only that list isn’t nearly specific enough. Your book will begin showing up on the sub-lists, like Top 100 Free Historical Fiction list, or Top 100 Free Genre Fiction list. But even that isn’t specific enough. You may get to those lists eventually, but the lists that really help you get noticed break it down even farther than that, because these lists have 100 titles (right?) which are spread out over five pages, and who’s got time to search five whole pages? No. You want to get on page one, preferably near the top.

Fortunately, the sub-category lists are made to make this possible, and your book will end up on several of them, depending on what categories and keywords you chose when you were publishing your book on Kindle Direct Publishing.

Here’s how it worked for me. On KDP, I listed Spark as Fiction>Science Fiction>Alien Contact. Since you can put it in two categories I also listed it as Juvenile Fiction>Science Fiction. These aren’t optimal, but you only get so many options to choose from. Under Keywords, I chose: female protagonist, high school, parallel universe, gnosticism, paranormal, extraterrestrial, girl’s basketball. I know, this is a pretty funny list, but I was trying to cover the bases. I wanted both some popular lists (on which my book would be obscure) and some obscure lists (on which my book would be popular, or at least prominent). During the giveaway, Spark made a good showing on the Juvenile Fiction>Science Fiction>Aliens list. Also the Juvenile Fiction>Science Fiction>First Contact list. It also got some play on the Paranormal, Occult, Supernatural list. It got to #1 on all of these lists and #4 for the Top 100 Free Science Fiction list. Even on the BIG list (Top 100 Free in Kindle Stores list) it made a tiny splash, topping out at #74.

Genre Fiction>Society>Marriage

Obviously, appearing on numerous lists in higher positions perpetuates more downloads, causing your book to climb even higher, and so on and so forth. This is what drives downloads once the initial push from promotion peters out (and it does quickly). Flight of the Wren didn’t do as well as Spark, only reaching #99 on the BIG list, but it did spend considerable time on page one of Teen & Young Adult>Coming of Age list, and the Genre Fiction lists, getting as high as #20 for Genre Fiction, putting it in company with a considerable amount of rather generic looking chick lit and a lot of gay smut. (For a long time, Renny’s face floated among the chiseled male torsos of fire fighters, navy seals, and rodeo ropers.) Spark, on the other hand, spent most of her time bobbing around among such titles as Earthkid Hero, Mickey the Martian, Starship Conquest, and Deck the Malls with Purple Peacocks.

Then, after your giveaway times out, it all ends. Abruptly. My download totals were as follows: Day One — 1822 downloads. Day Two — 2203 downloads. Day Three — 798 downloads. Day four had 26 downloads, but those were just residuals, because I had ended the promotion by then. In the three weeks since the promotion, I have sold nine books. (Don’t be jealous, kids.) Also, and more importantly, I have had 5798 page reads through KU. Probably, these have already peaked, but they could continue for a while. I’ve had a couple of near zero days, but only four days ago I had a 575 page day, so you never know. For the record, KU considers my books to have 426 and 411 pages respectively, so 5798 pages is equal to almost 14 complete readings, and royalties are roughly equal to that many sales.

So, worth it? I dunno. Certainly I lost money, but I knew I would. But for every reader I know about, there might be dozens more. Nearly 5000 people downloaded my books, and some of them will read them, eventually, maybe. Some isn’t many, probably, but it has to be something. A mere two percent would be one hundred readers.

We’ll see. It takes time. I’ve gotten a few reviews already. That takes time too.

But that seems like the subject for another day.

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