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R.O.I., Anyone?

It’s a business fact that if you have a product that is known to sell, you can find salespeople willing to sell it on commission. A new book by an unknown author has no such track record. Book marketers are not willing to work on commission when they have no reason to believe that their efforts will result in enough sales to be worth their time. That is why they want to be paid up front. Regardless of results.

Traditional publishers know this. They sell books first and then pay the author royalties based on book sales. Any advances given by the publisher are paid back by the author from royalties earned by the author. Publishers keep their eye on their R.O.I. -return on investment.

The Internet sparkles with schemes -er, sorry- ways for an author to sell their books. None of them, to my knowledge, work on commission. None of them work at all. Am I wrong? Has any author paid for book marketing and received a return on their investment? I’d love to know, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.

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Yuletide 2020

Various Northern Europeans, Germanic peoples, Neopagans, LaVeyan Satanists, and American Shoppers have long celebrated the last week of the year in honor of the Wild Hunt, the god Odin or his modern variant, and, the pagan Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht.

The latter included sacrifices, a fitting practice for 2020. We’ve sacrificed family gatherings, nights out at our favorite restaurant -which itself may have been sacrificed- attending churches and synagogues, the cinema and major sports events, and shopping malls. And travel. Many have sacrificed their job or their business; some, their homes. Not to mention the darker sacrifices of 1,700,000 lives this year. If the new vaccines do not control the new virus variant now in the United Kingdom, then we will have sacrificed our sense of scientific control over the natural world. And that puts us right where our ancestors were this time of the year.

Our ancestors celebrated life in a world they only hoped was rational. This year, regardless of our individual beliefs, we will do the same. My lady will spend a couple of days cooking a Christmas feast that we two will sit down together and enjoy. That is celebration enough, in 2020.

What are your plans for the Holidays?

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What does your desktop graphic say about you?

The first thing I see when beginning to write is my computer screen. It’s “The Lone Wanderer,” exploring a world that makes no sense. That’s writing, isn’t it, an endeavor to make sense out of the world? As anthropologist Edmund Carpenter said, “That’s what people do: make sense.”

The fine line between creativity and fantasy is my writers world. Adding fiction to life compels us to see things differently and that too, is what people do. To escape, to reexamine, to better understand our world, are the reasons why writers have readers.

The iconic “Lone Wanderer” is a constant throughout history, a part of all times and cultures because the struggle to better understand our world is always with us. I like the obvious symbology, that a writer is a loner. And also the deeper hope that writing serves a human need.

What is on your desktop? Does it help you to write?

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Holiday Season 2020

A lot to not be thankful for, unless I count the two root canals that my dentist cancelled because I told him of my lady’s sore throat, which turned out to be strep not Covid but still got us 14 days of fretful quarantine. And then, the two root canals.

Don’t get me wrong. I am thankful. Family members and friends who caught the Covid have recovered. And I’m delighted Americans won’t always have to choose their president from among the crooked, the angry or the senile because someday the country will be ran by people who were home schooled by unemployed, day-drinking parents and we could enjoy the same wide-ranging variety of temperament in our rulers as did Rome. I am also grateful that we are about to become vaccinated with an experimental genetically engineered vaccine that has been rushed to market. But mostly, I am thankful for video games in these desperate times.

So, I spend my time writing, working with the staff of Sci-Fi Lampoon magazine, editing anthologies, BETA reading my daughter’s fantasy romance novels, and playing Fallout ’76. Thankfully, life has not changed much.

Oh, and taking every opportunity to plug my latest story, Seduction by Trial, and an anthology I helped edit:

https://www.amazon.com/Celebration-Storytelling-GD-Deckard/dp/1951716167

What about you? How are you spending this Holiday Season??

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Ignorance is a Sci-Fi Goldmine

Story fodder can be something unknown to the quantum physicist, astronomer, psychologist, or oneirologist (dream studier) – whatever you find fascinating.

This is exactly the approach taken by the authors of The Encyclopaedia of Ignorance. The book is an old collection of short essays, some of which have proven prophetic. What, the authors asked leading scientists, don’t you know in your field that you find the most intriguing? It just makes sense to start your fiction with the other man’s ignorance. Such is the space inviting imagination.

Fantasy writers might benefit from knowing that intelligence is now measured by how many conflicting bits of information one can hold in working memory. That bit of knowledge makes it easy to show-not-tell a character’s intelligence and why they relate to others the way they do.

With new discoveries coming like rain, it’s difficult for an author to know what it is that the reader does not know. Research, even a quick Google on minor points, can prevent tripping the reader out of the story with an obviously false fact. And, of course, y’gotta feel for any author who set their story in 2020 before knowing about the Covid.

Ignorance is a sci-fi goldmine, but only if the author ain’t ignorant.

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Getting on Brand

By Bill “McSciFi” McCormick

Full transparency here. I do not work for or with any video sharing websites. But I do use them. A lot.

If you have a promo video that’s embedded on pages you don’t control (i.e., media, promotions, your publisher, etc.), or hope to at some point in your career, make sure you use a link from Vimeo and not YouTube. YouTube requires you to upload a new video, and generate a new link, with every iteration. With Vimeo, you just replace the video and send your affiliates a friendly email letting them know. This is also a much easier method for updating your web site.

When you use Vimeo you’re not counting on everyone to update links and do work on your behalf. Which, nine times out of ten, won’t happen and defeats the purpose of the update. I keep a small list, just under fifty names, in a segregated file on MailChimp and use that when I make updates. It’s a nice way to stay in touch, not bomb them with spam, and make sure my rare contacts with them are important (at least to me).

This is my fourth update to this video in a little over two years. Each time I send an email related to it I remind them the content has changed, but not the link, so they need do nothing. Then I say nice things about them.

It’s a great way to stay in touch, remind them I’m alive, and show I’m a professional who is in control of his brand. Bonus, without fail, I get, at least, two media requests (interviews or appearances) every time I do it.

Now, all that being said, if you don’t have a promotional video you’re missing an important tool in your tool-belt. Whether a brief selection of reviews, like I use, or a personal video saying hi, or just a musical tribute to current titles like S. Shane Thomas has, videos stimulate multiple sense simultaneously, and give you complete control of your brand.

After all, it’s your images, music, creations, and overall vibe. It’s the perfect way to put your best foot forward in a convivial manner.

On a related tangent, too many authors have no idea how to do bare bones branding. For example, I’m Bill McSciFi on my website, Facebook, Amazon/author, Twitter, Good Reads, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and Vimeo. I see too many authors using wildly different names across social media. Bob the Author on one, Writer Bob on another, and Bob The Electric Penguin Polisher on yet a third. None leads to the other naturally. None give readers a base to work from, or a convenient way to search for Bob’s creations.

If you want to be John Doe Writer, go for it. Just be John Doe Writer everywhere. Then you and your fans only have to remember one name. Speaking as someone who worked in the music industry for decades, and for multiple advertising agencies along the way, I can share one universal truth; The harder you make it for people to find you the less likely they are to try.

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The Rabbit Hole 4?

“Remember how I found you there
Alone in your electric chair
I told you dirty jokes until you smiled
You were lonely for a man
I said take me as I am
‘Cause you might enjoy some madness for a while”

– Billy Joel

It occurred to me that times and people change. In dictionaries of the late 1800s, “alienation” was defined as a mental affliction. Today, it is normal. What if any madness that does not prevent reproduction is actually a mental set and behavioral pattern that evolved because it enabled humans to survive? Maybe, when conditions require madness, we humans rise to the occasion.

Imagine, if you will, an anthology of stories about different madnesses wherein the insanity enabeled people to survive. Obvious plots include extreme sacrifice – deliberately dying to save others or murder of innocents to save other innocents, for example. But the premise is that insane behavior can be shown to benefit survival of our species. A deadly airborne virus that dies in the tar-laden lungs of heavy smokers comes to mind. Or, invasion of an alien race that eats only the brains of non-alcohoics.

Of course, it could be simply stories about those who succeed where others fail because they try what none of us sane folk would think of. I’m sensing a fun anthology here. And, a social service. We’ll be saying that crazy people can be necessary. “I know he’s crazy. But, who else would try it?”

Anybody interested? Tom Wolosz has offered to put together Volume Four of The Rabbit Hole. He asked for theme suggestions and this is one. What do you think of a new volume?

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Hubris, Writers, and Great Writing

I awoke early, thinking of hubris and of writers. And then, of that quality of writing which generation after generation calls great writing. It was too early to think. So, I looked this stuff up. Hubris, of course, is a personal quality of exaggerated pride or self-confidence.

Great writing, though, is difficult to Google. Typing the letters “great writing defi” into the search bar caused Google to suggests that I change my inquiry to “good writing definition.” Continuing on to “great writing defin,” I received the prompt, “great technical writing definition.” Meaning, Google knew my question but had no answer. I persisted with “great writing definition” and was rewarded with page after page of results for the definitions, qualities, characteristics, and essentials of -you guessed it- “good writing.” WTF?
Google assured me there are “about 820,000,000 results” for my inquiry, no combination of which even pretended to answer my question. So much for Google University. Time to seek the answer elsewhere.

Here is good. Writers ought to be able to define great writing.

But first, to hubris. We see it every day on TV and social media, people with little or narrow understanding telling all of the world what to think, feel, say and, for us writers, what and how to write. And that’s just the sincere people, the ones who know their lives would be better if we all just worked harder to make their lives better. Hubris, an exaggerated sense of self-importance.

The opposite of Hubris is Sophrosyne (σωφροσύνη). Meaning, “an ideal of excellence of character and soundness of mind.” I didn’t even try to Google that concept.

Writers, of course, deal with the world as it is by writing fiction. Whether our writing is great, or even good, is determined by what readers think of it. Writing may be the only profession where greatness is determined by people who know only what they want from make believe worlds.

Which brings us back to great writing: How, do you think, can we write such that generations of readers will want to pass on what we have written?

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Monday Smiles

My poster (a Gloria Swanson poster reworked and added to) for a Marcelline Mulot Retrospective held in 1998, at which I was the Special Guest. Last night I had an inspired idea. I have portrayed myself (the narrator) through this series as an unstable crank who thinks she was able to talk to a mouse. (Not too far from true) Two chapters along I am going to double down on that, offer as evidence of me an unhinged old bat that I have been writing a ten-thousand word version of Cinderella in verse for forty years, and give the link to it on Medium.

My favorite. This always makes me smile.
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I Find the Covid To Be…

Finish that statement as you like. Me, I find the Covid to be rife with story fodder. It provides common references for readers that benefit any genre.

Horror, obviously. The Covid is acidic and round, with spikes that bind to your cell’s outer membrane. As it sits against the cell, more spikes come out, like grappling hooks and soon, its acid burns a hole through the membrane and the virus slips inside. At this point, your body’s defenses cannot find and kill the virus. Your cell is now doomed.
The membrane of the virus dissolves, the genes of the virus spill into the cell, penetrate to the cell nucleus, insert themselves into the cell’s genome, and begin producing copies of the virus. Meanwhile, those spikes have been disintegrating the cell’s outer membrane.
The time it takes for a virus to burst a cell varies, but about 10 hours is not uncommon. Then, a swarm of 100,000 to one million new viruses explode your cell.
That’s real horror.

Or the Thriller genres. No one alive has ever experienced this strong a pandemic, so conspiracy theories abound. Don’t ignore that market of paranoid readers who fear and hate other readers.

And of course, that most popular of genres, Romance: “She could never forget the man she loved because she carried his Covid.”

But, maybe I’m feeling cynical? Six months of quarantine will do that. How about you? How is the Covid affecting your writing life?

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