About Writers, book promotion, inspiration, reading, Research, Uncategorized

Building the Legend

One SheetG.D. Deckard, the fun loving maniac, asked me to write a post about Legends Parallel. That’s a comic book I write, in case you didn’t know. And I will. But first, since this is a blog, I’d like to start with a story.

On June 13th I was at a meeting for the stakeholders in Chicago’s upcoming Juneteenth event. Juneteenth, a/k/a June 19th, is the anniversary of when slaves in Texas finally found out they were free. Two years after the Emancipation Proclamation became law. It’s a big deal in urban areas. The mayor will be there along with other luminaries. And me. I’ll be there promoting my web design business and selling copies of Legends Parallel. Which led to the following fun moment in my life.

Joan Hollingsworth, a force of nature and head of the committee, announced I would be there selling “adult comics.” She made that pronouncement because this comic series is rated “M for Mature.” It gets that rating due to language, sexual activity, violence, use of college level science, and some seriously adult themes. It hits racism and class warfare pretty hard and the LGBTQ community is represented throughout. Combined, it’s not for kids. But, it’s also not porn. After a brief explanation of the ratings we all had a good laugh and went back to work.

The elevator pitches for Legends Parallel vary based on the audience I’m facing. If it’s a general audience I go with “A man, his mom, and her lover, have to save the world. No one said this shit would be easy.” If I’m around college kids, or in a library, I run with “Just in case you thought quantum physics wasn’t violent, or sexy, enough, we fixed that.”

We use them both online.

Back in 2016 Brian Daniel, owner of Hadithi Sambamaba the company that publishes Legends Parallel,  reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in taking a series of unrelated characters and writing them all into a single story. And, boy howdy, were they unrelated. There were, also, about forty of them. Far too many for anything coherent. After a lot of back and forth we settled on a few characters and a basic story.

I began writing. I wrote words, used punctuation, checked my grammar, declared them all worthy, and sent my efforts to Dorphise Jean, author of Spirit’s Destiny and editor for Hadithi Sambamba. She sent them back, shredded and bloody. You see, I’d written a decent script for a movie, or TV show, but not for a comic. The skills are almost diametrically opposed to each other.

She took pity on the idiot she’d been handed and sent me several examples of properly formatted scripts.

A sample example of my errors. You can write “Bob walks to the window” in a movie script. But that makes no sense in a comic. There are too many ways the artist can interpret the instructions, which leads to confusion. So, instead, you need something like this; “Bob, mid motion, walking towards the open window, P.O.V. from behind Bob, the visible light in the window reveals that it’s dusk outside, there are curtains gently blowing.” This is after you have already set the scene by describing the room, in detail, what Bob is wearing, in detail, and so on.

I learned a lot.

I recommend any writer take a shot at writing a comic book script. Even if it never sees the light of day, they will learn a lot about how to set, and relate, a scene.

Back to Legends Parallel.

After the scripts I wrote passed muster for Dorphise Brian began assembling a team. Sherry Vanilla Hardy, owner of V.Yi.P. modeling agency, arranged for some of her models to be used as the basis for the characters. That was important since the artist, Leslie Tejlor, lives in Hungary and wasn’t well versed in drawing black people.  There aren’t many, as in almost zero, there for him to use for reference. Alexander Malyshev, the artist who is famous for his work on the Russian movie series “Guardians,” did the covers.

By late May the first issue was off to the printer.

I built a basic website and we started sending out copies, digitally and on paper stock, for review.

And we waited. And prayed. And drank. Sometimes contemporaneously.

And reviews started coming in. Good ones. From podcasts, well known blogs, and other creators.

As time went on we upgraded our website, released issue #2, signed a national distribution, and IP development, deal with Nerdanatix, and began finding fans. Lots of them.

Legends Parallel isn’t an easy story to wrap your head around initially. It tells the story of Tom Hill, billionaire inventor who inherited a super suit, and multi-national company, from his dad. His dad’s dead at the beginning of the book but his memory lingers on. One of the things his company has discovered is that the multiverse, first posited by Hugh Everett III in the 1950’s, is real and there are five earths which support human life. This discovery is the underlying premise for the whole series. Each earth has its own stories, its own legends, and they are eventually doomed to collide. Tom and, the only person he truly trusts outside his family, Arumar Singh, try and keep everything controlled.

If that worked I wouldn’t have a story, so you know that much now.

Tom’s mom, Sage Hill, wore the suit and used it to fight crime but, now, she’s in her 50’s and getting too old for that kind of lifestyle. Alicia Yang, Sage’s assistant and lover, knows all the family secrets and is a force to be reckoned with all on her own.

Lastly there’s Stacy Lord, a powerful metahuman (a new breed of human that has been appearing more often lately) who Tom keeps calling Sassy, which becomes an ongoing joke in the series. There are a couple more people on the “good guys’ side” but these give you a basic idea.

On the other side are Oshun, a beautiful assassin and thief who is a mistress of toxins. Her henchman Bes, a metahuman dwarf with a twisted sense of humor. Jack of Spades, a charismatic killer who has a windsock for a moral compass. And Ms. Vin. An ancient metahuman who’s back story plays out over the series.  All she wants to do is rule everything and kill anyone who opposes her. Oh, and she controls a device, called the Gorgon’s Gate, which allows her to visit any of the five earths at will.

You kind of have to pay attention as you read or you’ll get hopelessly lost. Yet another reason it earned an “M” rating.

Issue #3 is in the capable hands of Leslie and we’ll be doing a Kickstarter for issue #4 just so we can get fans some of the cool stuff we’ve been hoarding.

If you want to know more just head over to our website and have fun. There’s neat stuff you can buy, links to the comics, and tidbits about everyone involved. Consider it your one stop shopping mall for all things related to Legends Parallel.

This has been an amazing amount of work but it has led to me working on numerous other titles, and meeting some incredibly talented creators from all over the world. On my Twitter page I say that I have an odd past and an unknown future. All true and I wouldn’t trade it for any of the worlds I’ve discovered.

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About Writers, book promotion, book sales, Research, self-publishing, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

Kindle Unlimited

That is, is it worth it to the Author?
Kindle Unlimited (KU) is a subscription service. With Kindle Unlimited, customers can read as many books as they like and keep them as long as they want for a monthly subscription fee.

Author Jon Cronshaw recently asked the question, “Is there anything (beyond the usual wide versus KU debate) that makes wide or KU better?

Author Brian Meeks responded, “That’s a really good question. I’m not sure I can speak to your genre, but I do have some thoughts.

Over the last six months, I’ve noticed something. The conversions I track across all 5 genres in which I write, have changed. It used to be about 50% sales and 50% KU downloads. That’s not the case anymore. The shift has been toward KU.

My data shows 40% sales and 60% KU downloads. This tells me that more people are joining KU and enjoying it like we all do with Netflix. It also makes me think the shift will continue.

There’s one other point that often doesn’t get mentioned. It’s that the MOST voracious readers, naturally, gravitate toward KU.

I hope these thoughts will help you a bit. Good luck.”

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About Writers, book promotion, book sales, publishing, self-publishing, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

It’s Your Industry

Click these links to learn more…

The World’s 54 Largest Publishers, 2017:
https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/international/international-book-news/article/74505-the-world-s-50-largest-publishers-2017.html

Leading online print book genres in the United States in 2017, by revenue
https://www.statista.com/statistics/322187/book-genres-revenue/

2018 Book Industry Predictions:
http://blog.smashwords.com/2017/12/2018-book-industry-predictions.html

Amazon Author Rank:
https://www.amazon.com/author-rank

Amazon’s relationship to you, as a writer:
https://newrepublic.com/article/142616/amazon-steps-battle-book-industry

AND, consider a new hobby for when you are successful:
http://www.businessinsider.com/billionaire-hobbies-of-richest-people-in-the-world-2016-8#11-footballsoccer–131-10

(P.S. My hobbies are computer gaming and training cats to fly.)

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book promotion, book sales, self-publishing

The power of a newsletter. I hope.

person-writing-letter-with-metal-quill

How can we gain readers? Blogging is approximate, Facebook is fickle and tweets are lost like bubbles that burst as soon as they’re formed. Only one answer, then: a newsletter. Well, that’s what I’ve heard, time and again, from self-publishing marketing gurus, foremost among them Mark Dawson and Nick Stephenson. Build your mailing list!  As Dawson puts it, my mailing list is a crucial – THE crucial – part of my business. It’s my most valuable asset. Because then you have email addresses so you’re sending out regular content to a (more or less) captive audience. So that’s what I’m doing. Last week, GD did me the honour of posting one of my letters, so the least I can do now is explain the mechanics behind it.

First you’ll need an email marketing service. I’m currently using Mailchimp, which has good functionality and is free up to 2000 subscribers. After that, it’s $30 a month, rising to $50 when you hit 3000. Not exactly cheap. As I’m getting close to 2000, I’ve started looking at alternatives. Among the best known is Mailerlite, which is free up to 1000, only rising to $35 a month when you reach 10,000 (by which time, if all goes to plan, you should be generating more than enough revenue to cover the cost). Here’s a more detailed comparison of the two. But they’re not the only ones: here’s a list of several more.

But readers don’t sign up to lists for no reason. In return for giving you their email address, they want something of value to them, such as a free book or a video course. Make your first book free, and if subscribers like it enough, they’ll buy the second, especially if it’s part of a series. Or so the reasoning goes. But with so many free books out there, for that to happen, you’re going to need a lot of subscribers.

Next you want somewhere readers will find you. A landing page on a blog is all very well, but unless you have a huge amount of traffic, the sign-up rate is so low it could take years to build your list to any decent size. Then there’s the call to action placed at the front and back of your permafree book on Amazon, including a reader magnet (e.g. Sign up to my newsletter to join my readers’ group to get another free book / short story / novella and be informed of new releases). Here again, the sign-up rate is tiny. The solution? Shared promotions and giveaways. Since I signed up to Mailchimp almost a year ago, I’ve participated in half a dozen. Results have varied, ranging from barely 20 subscribers to the current one (40 mystery novels), with over 700. Readers sign up to giveaways on one of the two main sites, Instafreebie or Bookfunnel. This video (20 min) explains how both of them work.

Finally, but of course not least, you need content. This is the hardest part – an insipid or uninformative newsletter will lose subscribers fast. But if it’s helpful, fun to read, or offers something of value (more giveaways, a free story), they’ll stay. All of them? That would be nice, wouldn’t it? But with each letter you send out, you can expect a hefty batch of unsubscribes. How many depends on the number of subscribers you have, so it’s best to talk percentages: in my experience, anything from 2% to 8%. Which is fine – lots of people sign up just for the freebies, so they’re unlikely to become your fans in any case.

Those are the ingredients then. What about the stats? How good a strategy is it? And what’s the best measure in any case? The most rewarding (financially) is the number of sales of a second book after readers have downloaded the first. If I include the sales of book two (Perfume Island) at the time of its launch, my conversion rate is 2.3%. Excluding the launch, it’s less than 1%. There are other measures, like the open rate of the newsletter (35% – 40% for mine) or the number of reviews on Amazon (Mark Dawson puts forward a figure of 1 per every 1000 downloads), but the bottom line, of course, is sales.

Am I downhearted? No. Nor even surprised, now that I know what the nature of the game is. For me, it’s way too early to draw conclusions. I’ve only got two books out, and there’s a lot I’ve still got to learn. My expectation is that until I reach at least 5000 subscribers, release a couple more books (and probably start spending on advertising), there won’t be any significant result. But so far this is the only strategy I’ve come across. It’s no doubt getting harder as time goes by, and it requires endless patience and perseverance, but there are plenty of authors who’ve used it satisfactorily. So sometime you can expect another post from me, triumphantly announcing I’m one of them. Maybe. In the meantime, you can always sign up to my newsletter.

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About Writers, blogging, book promotion, book reviews, book sales, inspiration, publishing, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

It’s a Community

above: Terry Pratchett 1948-2015 By Artist ‘Sandara’

One of the advantages of joining a community of like-minded people on the ‘Net is the likelihood of meeting someone totally unlike yourself. That is always good for a writer. I can’t draw an expressive crooked line. But Sandara can create a whole world in one image. Her visualization of Terry Pratchett shaking Death’s hand is fresh, striking and memorable. Don’t we writers wish all our stories were that good?

Amazing, the talents in the writing community: Publishers, editors & marketing people of course. Cover artists, beta readers, blurb writers, personal assistants and reviewers are some more. I’m sure I’ve left out important categories. No writer has all of the talents needed for a successful book. Hence, the usefulness of belonging to a writing community. Want to know the best print-on-demand service out there right now? Ask.

And best of all is the feedback. Excellent services at reasonable prices receive as much publicity on a writers’ forum as do services that waste your time and money. Think you have a really good idea for marketing your book? Ask and see if anyone has already tried that. Not sure of your book cover? Post it for comments.

Finally, always return favors. While I do owe her one, the real reason I recommend Sandara Tang here is her art. Take a look at some. It will surprise your imagination.

The Art Of Sandara
https://sandara.deviantart.com/ (best Hi-Res images)
https://www.facebook.com/ArtofSandara3/

Who have you worked with that you would recommend to other writers?

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

What Happened

Traditionally, publishers sold books through bookstores, book distributors, mass market retailers, book clubs, even, sometimes, to organizations wanting a promotional tool. (Wells Fargo, for example, might buy 5,000 books on stage coaches.) Sales representatives, working for publishers and independent sales groups, attended industry sales conferences and made calls on retail buyers.
Authors wrote books and received royalty payments on their book sales.

Amazon changed all that. Today, authors list their book on a website with 11 million other books in the hope that individuals will find and buy it.

We have gone from a powerful industry selling books to a website listing.

That’s what happened.

What can we do about it? Obviously, success requires more than one author selling to one reader at a time because readers only buy one book. We ain’t selling Hershey bars. Our reader won’t come back for a box of the same book.

The idea here is to build a list of businesses and organizations which have the potential to buy, or distribute for sale, many copies of the same book. Yes, we still have bookstores, book distributors, mass market retailers, book clubs, even organizations wanting a promotional tool. But without a big publisher’s clout, how does any writer market to them?
And, are there other organized groups that we can target to help sell our book?
Any ideas? Perry Palin 🙂 ? Anybody?

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book promotion, Literary Agents, publishing, scams

Your Publisher May Not Be A Publisher

computer-virus-rev-1-300x200 Each and every day brings an exciting pronouncement that so and so has been published. It’s a thrilling announcement, one which envisions a bright future for the impending literary scion, and one that is, so often the percentages died aborning, wrong.  I’m not going to slam self published authors – at least not today – rather I’m going to help clarify some terms. They are important ones to know if you’re serious about your craft. The word “publisher” dates back to the 1500’s. It originally meant “one who announces in public.” which makes complete sense even today. The more modern interpretation,  “one whose business is bringing out for sale books, periodicals, engravings, etc.” dates back to 1740. Whether or not a publishing company pays an advance to a writer they do, or are supposed to, provide certain services for a fee based on sales, or, to be clear, work on commission. No legitimate publisher charges an author up front monies for anything.

Those services, in a nutshell, are promotion of the work, marketing, licensing (when possible), and distribution. Included in that will be the arrangement of some interviews and other forms of personal publicity which are designed to sell the author just as much as the book.

Should sales, or projected sales, warrant it the publisher may suggest the author ascertain the services of an agent. That person will take over the job of selling you and all your intellectual properties to the unsuspecting world all while trying to get you a better publishing deal than that piece of shit you signed (every agent just laughed here, every author just whimpered).

Good news, no reputable agent will charge an author any upfront fees either. Bad news, like unicorns and South American hockey teams, they are difficult to wrangle. If, as noted in the previous paragraph, you find yourself in need of one many publishers will offer suggestions but no more than that. It’s in their best interest for you to succeed, not to interfere  or micromanage your life. They have other shit to do.

Consider all of the above bullet points to refer to when you’re talking to publishers.

Now, which companies aren’t publishers?

Amazon KDP
Book Baby
Create Space
Draft2Digital
Ingram Spark
Liberio (recently out of beta testing)
Lulu
Nook
Smashwords

All of the above use the phrase “publish your book” but use it very carefully. They mean the phrase literally. They are all, with a variety of different options available to writers, print on demand services. They do not vet your writing in any manner, other than for formatting or decency standards (if they have those). If you write a book claiming that Iron Sky, my favorite movie series involving space Nazis, is a documentary, and that numerology proves it, no one stops you. You just hit send and off it goes to the Internet. Where it goes after that depends on how much money you want to spend. None of the companies listed above are going to have a single unpaid intern lift a finger on your behalf. That means all of the tasks I noted above are now yours.

Which means, and you need to understand this, you are the publisher. It is now on you, and nobody else, to present your work to the wider world.

Now, for some help. since the majority of writers reading this blog are involved in sci-fi or fantasy, I’m going to share a list of scams sited on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) website.

As you cringe through the many instances of fraud, all of which have been adjudicated, you’ll note some common themes.

  1. Film deals were based on getting talent signed first, all you need to do is provide a little “seed money.” Just FYI, there is no such animal in the film industry. It’s financing first and then that money attracts names. If an actor or actress likes the author they may “attach” their name to the presentation, but they are under no obligation go appear, support, or otherwise do a damn thing. At least not until they have a contract and money. Not “or” but “and.” That’s important to remember.
  2. Authors were charged fees for services unrelated to, in wildly in excess of, what they needed. Yes, editors charge fees. But agents and publishers are not editors. At least not exclusively. When you’re ready for editing hire someone who does that, and only that, and you’ll save yourself agita and money.
  3. Celebrity endorsements. Be extremely wary of these. The number of faux agents I’ve seen touting them is amazing and, always, a lie. Just last week I reached out to someone I know to ask if she was really “cheering on an amazing author.” Her response, edited for profanity, was “no.” Unless you have evidence, photographic is best, you could end up getting a wonderfully threatening “cease and desist” letter from a lawyer who makes in an hour what you earn in a year. That said, they do happen. I have gotten them from Rosario Dawson and John Fuglesang, for example, but even then I’ve been careful not to use them in advertising or any other commercial venue. You can post them on social media, as I have, but anything else requires a contract. Simply put, “don’t worry about it, they’re friends” is bullshit.
  4. Reading, evaluation, and/or marketing fees. These are where your money goes to die. The SWFA has a litany of reasons why you should run screaming from the room if they’re mentioned. Simply put, they are designed for people to make money no matter what happens to you. And, far more often than not, nothing happens that benefits you in any way.

As a point of reference, all of these publishers have been deemed scams.

  • American Book Publishing (Salt Lake City, UT)
  • Archebooks Publishing (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Helm Publishing (Rockford, IL)
  • Hilliard and Harris (Boonsboro, MD)
  • Oak Tree Press (Taylorville, IL)
  • Park East Press (Dallas TX) (formerly Durban House, formerly Oakley Press)
  • PublishAmerica (Frederick, MD)
  • Royal Fireworks Press/Silk Label Books (Unionville, NY)
  • SterlingHouse Publisher (Pittsburgh, PA–imprints include, among others, Pemberton Mysteries, 8th Crow Books, Cambrian House Books, Blue Imp Books, Caroline House Books, Dove House Books, and PAJA Books)
  • SBPRA/Strategic Book Publishing/Eloquent Books (Boca Raton, FL–formerly known as The Literary Agency Group and AEG Publishing Group)
  • Tate Publishing (Mustang, OK)
  • Whitmore Publishing Company (Pittsburgh, PA)

The list of disreputable agents is too long to recreate here, so click on the list to see if the person who claims you’re the next J. K. Rowling is there.

So what to do? This part is absurdly easy.

  1. Ask for, a minimum of five, references with direct contact information. Make sure you can reach every single one.
  2. If a celebrity is attached contact their management. All that info is listed on any authorized web site.
  3. Use this new fangled Google thing to search for whoever has made you this amazing offer, you need to act on now – NOW! DO YOU HEAR ME?!?!, and add the word “scam” after their name. You’ll be amazed how much time and money that little trick will save you.

Just like having a blind date at an S&M bar, caution is your friend. Be careful out there.

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