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And Now I’ll Tell You What I Really Think

I don’t know if it works or not, but buying an ad on Facebook is only the beginning. $25 for two thousand exposures? I’m ready to spend $100. For starters. I’ve thrown so much money at my books–for art materials and software, and on books for research–that I’m forced to regard them as an expensive hobby, replacing my former expensive hobby, which was doll collecting.

I’m paying attention to what makes me stop and examine a FB posting. It’s generally a set-up that piques my interest: “The Great American Road Trip Fifty Years Ago” – “Hope and Crosby were best buds on-screen. Off-screen, it was a different story.” I didn’t follow up on either teaser, but I was tempted to. I think the link should take you to a halfway spot where style and attitude are on display, not straight to Amazon.

I have my illustration to (hopefully) snag views. Perry has his niche. He meet-and-greets at fishing events and local flea markets. And it seems to work for him. Now, fishing-related stories are not going to have a wide appeal. You might write them off as ‘not my thing.’ I did, until I read a few of them. His book ‘Katz Creek and Other Stories’ is wonderful. This book will go on my shelf of favorites, to be read again.

Katz Creek is a mini vacation from our cares and woes. Refreshing! Relaxing! It may not be an actual memoir (he says not) but it is a knowledgable glimpse into an era gone by, of carefree summers and lazy hours. Lovely stuff, really lovely. Perry writes beautifully, and his snapshots of the fly-fishing subculture are mesmerizing.

A review on the Classic Fly Rod Forum says: “The prose has that antique feel that you find in Hemingway’s early short stories. These are stories for fishermen who like to remember the days of Heddon Fly Rods, unfished brooks, dense northern environs, and a simpler time and place.”

Perry has his thing and I have mine. Those of you who write Sci-Fi/Fantasy, you folks have it over us. You write in a hugely popular genre. But you also have a ton of competition. Maybe you don’t have it over us after all.

I have trouble with Sci-Fi. Most of the time the mechanics are the focus, rather than the personalities. It’s characterization that charms me, and keep me reading. I dropped Hugh Howey’s Wool less than halfway through. I’m trying to talk myself into finishing it. A third or so in, the magic hasn’t kicked in for me yet. Like it has for multi-thousands of readers, who have made Howey a legend of web-based success, widespread adoration and fat bank account the result.

He and Amanda Hocking both hit the big time with (seemingly) little marketing effort and, maybe, with modest expectations. I’ve read that Hocking hoped for no more than to raise the dough to attend a Star Wars convention in Chicago. That worked out for her grand, didn’t it?

DocTom recently mentioned Michael Hagan, and Bookkus Publishing.

Michael’s book Demiurge started well, the opening chapters were gripping. Demiurge is a tale of an evil entity serially reincarnated down through history, causing chaos, and Demi’s cult, lending a helping hand. A promising construct to many, I’m sure.

I plowed through it, but that sort of thing is really not for me. The paperback is listed on Amazon at just under forty dollars. That might be part of the reason for it not selling. The Kindle version goes for $9.50. That’s a lot of money for a complete unknown. That sum would have been set by the publisher. I’m afraid William had delusions of grandeur.

Ah! “WINNER OF THE PRESTIGIOUS BOOKKUS AWARD.” Well! That makes all the difference in the world! Can it be that a marketing genius hoped the “Prestigious Bookkus Award” might be confused by some with the (genuinely prestigious) Booker Prize? Just a thought.

Bookkus, now defunct, solicited manuscripts to be considered for publishing, William, the owner, paying the tab. William had a good idea – to assemble a reader/writer community to vote on submissions to be published, that would afterward talk the books up to friends and family. He attracted a good number of active participants willing to read and vote on entries (many of whom hoped to get their piece in the horse race). Before Bookkus folded, it had published, I believe, five books. Demiurge was one of them.

Those reader-judges were astonishingly enthusiastic about well-written work–they were all well-written in terms of prose style–that often contained shortcut characterization. I doubt that the word-of-mouth ever kicked in. Beyond that, luck plays a huge role in any success. We all, I believe, are very aware of that.

Except for William. He seemed to think it was going to be easy. We spoke several times via email. He told me his plan was to get the thing going, then to “sit back and wait for the money to roll in.” That may have been a joke. But I wouldn’t count on it.

All we can do is keep on keeping on. To give up after one try, as Michael (apparently) has done, I don’t get that. (If I’m wrong about Mike, feel free to set me straight.)

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15 thoughts on “And Now I’ll Tell You What I Really Think

  1. Interesting post, Mimi. I guess Inkshares has been more successful as a crowd-driven publisher. The don’t rely on votes, but on authors obtaining a certain number of pre-orders based on a few chapters of their work. Pre-orders are usually the result of the author’s soul-crushing marketing or “I’ll pre-order yours if you’ll pre-order mine” deals between authors. Sci-fi is probably the most prevalent genre there, and Nerdist has sponsored several contests to elevate a few of the books to at least cult status.

    I’m a sci-fi fan. Not hard sci-fi that leans heavily on machinery and futuristic warfare instead of characters, but the fun stuff with novel ideas and complex, interesting characters. And time travel. I don’t believe I will ever tire of trying to untangle those tangles.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Mimi, you say, “I have trouble with Sci-Fi. Most of the time the mechanics are the focus, rather than the personalities. It’s characterization that charms me . . .”
    Mimi, you should take a look at my sci fi stories. Lots of characterization, not so much mechanics. (Just enough to make it sci fi.)

    Here’s a sample, just after my heroine, Selena, had rescued an alien from a crashed spaceship:

    I lay there in the dark talking to her. I asked her questions. Where are you from? Why did you come here? What happened? What was your life like? How old are you? I got no response, of course. Wasn’t sure she was still alive.
    I told her my entire life story. I confessed many things that I’d never revealed to anyone else. Including myself.
    How I was strong and self-assured on the outside, but inside? Not so much. How I’d come to the road less traveled, but had stayed on the freeway.
    How I had dumped the only guy I’d ever truly loved because of my stupid music career, and all my tours. How I often studied myself in the mirror, standing sideways, wondering if I should bother trying to keep myself slim and in shape, or whether I should let it all go and enjoy my cheeseburgers. How I knew I could never go for Clay, even though I knew he had a big crush on me, and he’d be a damn good catch for an aging chick like me.
    How I’d never even tried to publish the songs that were the most important to me because I didn’t think they were marketable, and instead churned out all these maudlin ballads. Which of course made me a shitload of money, and allowed me to buy my dream property here on the coast, psychically as far as possible from La La Land. But which left me with this empty hole here near the core of my being.
    I began to hum this one melody I’d written years before, and had never performed in public. It was my internal anthem—the music for my secret self.
    My alien companion, lying in the dark covered by a horse blanket, in a tiny, squeaky voice, hummed along with me.

    From “Aliens Crashed in My Back Yard”

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Perry Palin says:

    Mimi,

    I was surprised and flattered by your image and words about my first little book. Thank you.

    Katz Creek was published by a small traditional publisher that deals in books about fishing. Their earlier titles were non-fiction for the most part, History Of The Fish Hook, This Is Where I Caught The Big One, How to Make Your Own Lures At Home, that sort of thing. They were branching out by carrying Katz Creek as their first fiction.

    It’s another story of how I found the publishing house and convinced the publisher to take my book. My stories range well beyond fishing, but this is what the publisher deals in, so we culled the rest for Katz Creek and for my second book as well.

    Regarding characterization, I can hardly think of something more interesting to write about than people, so I write about people. The people in these stories happen to go fishing.

    My target market was middle aged and older men who fished for trout, would read books, and had the money in their pockets to buy mine. The publisher told me before the release that I shouldn’t expect to make a lot of money on this book, but I would make some friends. I did better than break even on both, so I’m happy with that.

    This publisher has an interesting royalty schedule which is better than most I’ve heard of. They produced the book, and I made $4-$8 on each copy, depending on how it was sold. The book is out of print, but I still have a small number on hand for the friend who wants to buy one because he lent his out and didn’t get it back, or because his dog ate it.

    I tried a few things to market the book, but as I’ve written before, my best sales were in person at reading and signing events. Could have sold more maybe, if I could figure out a marketing plan.

    I have another book with the same publisher, also out of print, and a lot more stories and an unpublished novel. What to do, what to do?

    Liked by 3 people

    • mimispeike says:

      Katz Creek is lovely. I mean it when I say it’s going on my favorites shelf, to be reread and reread. I’d like to see a story that is not about fishing, see what you do with that.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Perry,
      For years I read every monthly issue of Sports Afield. The last segment in that magazine was a column written by …? I forget. Do you happen to recall? I remember that I liked his style.

      Like

      • Perry Palin says:

        It’s been decades since I’ve seen that magazine. I know my dad was a subscriber. Could it have been Gene Hill or Nick Lyons? They both wrote for Sports Afield at times. I especially like some of Lyon’s stories.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I just Googled columnists for Sports Afield. I think the answer to the question may be Jack O’Connor or P.J. O’Rourke. But I am amazed at the writers that magazine has published. They include Zane Grey, Ernest Hemingway, Erle Stanley Gardner, and Gypsy Rose Lee. Fishing casts a wide net.

          Like

  4. I can’t say except for my own experience. If FaceBook charges $25 for two thousand exposures, that may be all they charge, regardless of how many clicks your ad generates. (Clicks are not necessarily sales.)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hello All,
    Well, I mentioned the $25 for 2000 posts as a bit of a warning. Mike got 0 sales for his (I assume) 2000 posts. It’s just like the free book giveaway routine. If I remember correctly, a quote was once posted here from a person who jumped on every free book as soon as it was posted (there are a few sites which list all giveaways) – they had so many free books on their kindle that if they did nothing but read for the rest of their life they still probably couldn’t get through all of them. My point is simply that beware of marketing ploys that don’t really pay off.
    As far as Mike Hagan’s Demiurge book is concerned, I don’t know where you got your pricing, Mimi, but it was reissued by Mike a number of months ago and the price is $9.50 for the paperback and $2.99 for the kindle version. (The $40 might have been for a used copy of the original Bookkus version. There are a lot of book sellers fishing out there with outrageous used prices. A year or so ago a used copy of my book Agony of the Gods was listed on Amazon for $699! Mike’s book was $350! If anyone actually bought them at that price, I’ve got a couple of copies to sell.) I’d also note that Mike is a bit of a rascal, so his listing the book as the “WINNER OF THE PRESTIGIOUS BOOKUS AWARD” does not come as a surprise.
    I do agree with you, Mimi, that William greatly underestimated the amount of work necessary to get a successful publishing business going. He really liked my book and discussed a book tour with me. He tried to arrange it and then reality kicked in. When he contacted reviewers for magazines, etc. he was told that if a book didn’t have at least 100 positive reviews online already they couldn’t be bothered (the free give away on Goodreads only netted about 30). We even tried to get scheduled for a local authors day at a Barnes and Nobles. I thought we had been when William notified me that we had somehow missed the deadline (I think the real reason was that they wanted every author to show up with a number of copies of the book to sell, and he was running out of funds at that point).
    There was one other problem with Bookkus. The idea of the readers picking which books should be published is a good one, but since the readers really have no skin in the game (they are not shareholders) it is easy to say “Publish this,” because if it does not sell it costs them nothing. The publisher takes the loss.

    Liked by 3 people

    • RE
      “A year or so ago a used copy of my book Agony of the Gods was listed on Amazon for $699! Mike’s book was $350!”

      Outrageously priced products “sold” by 3rd parties on the ‘Net are usually money-laundering schemes. I just have to also own the 3rd party company that is selling the product. Books are popular because the unit cost is low (assuming a book actually changes hands.) But basically, it’s just a way for me to pay myself money and have a receipt showing a “legitimate” transaction.”

      Liked by 1 person

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