Backlist Publishing News: Amazon Price Shift

Word around the internet campfire of authors is that the best place to make money, especially as a self-published author, is to have an extensive backlist. That way, when you have something even mildly successful, people will come back looking for more. As it happens, I have a backlist of self-published works, novellas mostly, but I haven’t had a hit yet, and I haven’t published anything since 2018. I’m going to change that in the new year, but in the meantime, I’m going to make some shifts to my backlist. For one thing, I’ve delisted anything that was a short story. I’ll probably repackage all the short fiction together in one collection. For another, I’ve lowered the price on all e-books to 99 cents.

Whenever I publish anything, I usually get a tiny boomlet of sales. Hopefully with what’s coming in the new year, I’ll be able to get additional sales from like-minded folk.

That means that, as soon as the new prices show up (Amazon says it can take 72 hours, but I’ve never seen it take that long), you’ll be able to get the following books for 99 cents on your Kindles:

I Am Mildly Distracted Right Now, but Also Writing.

As is the most of the country. Not the writing part, but the distracted part. Lots of things are demanding my attention, and the weight of the current political clown show casts a pall over merely creative activities. I would like to take a nap, but I am too angry.

On the plus side, I’ve returned to a project that I had almost shelved, as it features opportunities for eloquent violence. A sad tales best for winter, and now is the winter of our discontent.

It’s a Western, called Death Riding, and it’s merely a novella in a larger tale that may or may not be related to The Sword. Which reminds me, that book needs an editor. And possibly an agent.

The return of Death Riding owes itself to Pulp by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, which is a page-turner of a graphic novel, one worth owning in hardcover. It pays homage not just to Westerns but to the Pulp era, and reminds us that Westerns had a strong pulp following in those days. They could again.

Unnamed Journal Issue 24!

Witness the firepower of this fully-armed and operational story node!

Click here to purchase on Gumroad

It’s a long long issue, and it looks fantastic:

It’s full of cool stories that have to be read to be believed. If you like space opera, demon-slaying, mad emperors, and other such, it’s the issue for you. Click here and Pay What You Like on Gumroad!

New Poetry: The Flat Circle

My two collections on Amazon, Stir and The Short Cool Summer, have had some readers, but the writing of poetry requires practice. This new project is exactly that, practice, so I’m posting it to read on Tablo. It will be updated as I add works to it. Right now there are 6-7 pieces.

Check it out, Check-it-outers:

Click to Read on Tablo.io

Yes, it’s in keeping with my current, Blue Period. Click here to absorb.

Rabbit Riot, or The Mystery of the Missing Micro-Press

In the last Shallow & Pedantic podcast, I went off on an extended tear on a literary podcast that I used to listen to with great interest, but stopped. I removed the section from the finished product, but I’d like to address it now.

A while ago, I became the kind of guy who Listens to Podcasts by discovering the Dead Rabbits. The reference to old Irish street gang (upon which Gangs of New York was based) intrigued, as did the young-scrappy-and-hungry vibe. More than a podcast, they were a Press, a Reading Series (whatever that might be), a will-to-publish. And listening to them gave me a sense of the headspace of Sarah Laurence-grads who wanted to write The Great American Novel, or at any rate who wanted to carry the torch of literary culture into the new era, whatever that might mean. It was inspirational, in the sense of “Hey, what’s stopping me from doing this, too?” I listened even when I didn’t care particularly about the topic. I even bought their first release, Brian Birnbaum’s Emerald City, on Kindle.

And then, quite suddenly, they vanished.

Which happens. Economics is not the friend of tiny lit-fic presses. But then they were back. Exactly the same, now calling itself Animal Riot. The people didn’t change, the books didn’t change, the About pages didn’t change, but the name did. Even the Dead Rabbits Reading Series, which pre-existed the press and the podcast, was retroactively renamed the Animal Riot Reading Series. A cursory googling reveals no news story or explaination for the change, but old episodes of the podcast have had their introductions edited, and there, at least, it is acknowledged that they are operating under a new name.

So I’m not crazy, I haven’t slipped into an alertnate universe, and I’m not suffering from the Mandela Effect. They really did call themselves Dead Rabbits, and now are not.

Why? Some legal injunction, perhaps? There are other podcasts calling themselves Dead Rabbits, such as Dead Rabbit Radio, which puts itself out almost daily. They started in the spring/summer of 2018, whereas the Dead Rabbits/Animal Riots started in November of that year. But podcasts having the same name is nothing new. There are about a million podcasts called “Whatever“, which is why I’m probably going to change that name to simply “The Content Blues Podcast”. But I will let you know when that happens.

A better lead comes in the form of a NYC bar known as The Dead Rabbit, which deliberately crafts an atmosphere redolent of the street gang, and has published a mixology/history book with graphic novel flavor. The owners are two immigrants from Belfast, and are known to be litigious regarding use of the Dead Rabbits name, according to this article on Recalled Comics.

The Dead Rabbit bar in New York City (below) is famous for its cocktails and has used the “Dead Rabbit” moniker since 2012 for comics strips (related to the New York gangs) in their cocktail menus and books (some of which have been CGC graded).

Image released a Dead Rabbit Ashcan in Spring 2018 and later that year released the series with #1 hitting the shops in 2018-10-03. The NY bar owners (DRT Group LLC) had their lawyers send a cease and desist notice to both Image Comics and Forbidden Planet on the 22nd of that same month.

However, Forbidden Planet apparently did not respond, and Image apparently asked for more time but went ahead and published #2 anyway in early November leading to DRT group lawyers filing lawsuits against both in the New York courts claiming $2 million from each in damages.

The series was quickly cancelled in late November 2018 and the comics recalled (although too late as most would have been in collectors’ hands at that stage) and traces of the comic were removed from Image and Diamond’s websites.

recalledcomics.com

Now, this was over an unrelated comic book. But, given that Dead Rabbits/Animal Riot and The Dead Rabbit bar both call NYC home, and given that the bar publishes books related to the brand, one can fashion a theory that the bar sued the press, and the press, having even less resources than Image Comics, ceased-and-desisted in the same way. I have no evidence that proves this theory, but it does fit the facts.

The Lesson: Make your own brand.

SubStack, Marketing Lamentations, and Cover Design Refreshes

There’s a new publishing platform out there called SubStack. I heard about it on Twitter. It looks cool, it’s free to use, and it’s got a bunch of features like MailChimp that cost extra on WordPress (the number of things this blog doesn’t have because I don’t feel like shelling out for a WordPress business account would stagger the imagination. The stumbling block is huge. It’s why I podcast on Spreaker). I thought it might be a good place to put some content that isn’t really for UJ or, some stuff I’d like to showcase.

The idea is similar to Patreon: get subscribers in the door, and they pay you for content. Visually, it looks a lot like Medium. I have had a hard time with both, and I don’t really know why. I can publish the stuff, but no one reads it. I’m not one of the big names SubStack boasts of. I have, at present time, no name at all, despite damn near 20 years doing various kinds of blogging. For some reason, I’m just not getting it.

Perhaps I’m just too esoteric. Perhaps I haven’t managed Marketing. Certainly when I try to read about SEO, my eyes glaze over. Everything that’s not conceptually obvious seems out of my reach. There’s a trick that I’m missing, some step beyond. I look at the names of people who have tens of thousands of subscribers at $15/month and I don’t know who any of them are. They all seem boring or the same Connected Elect as already write for big publications. I’m sitting in the middle of the Information Superhighway, watching the same Mack Trucks run me over, bragging about how light and nimble they are.

The curse of this age is that anyone can get their stuff made, but only a curated few get their stuff seen. Everybody has a way to put video on the internet, but only Superhero tentpole movies, featuring characters decades old, made by international megacorporations, seem to matter. Having a blog today is like having a UHF station back in the 70’s: Yeah, you’re doing it, but no one cares.

The practical upshot of all this is that until I figure out how to grow an audience, expansion into anything else is absurd. And there I confront the reality that the kind of art and story I like, that interests me, is not the sort of thing that jumps out of the Internet and screams “Pay Attention to Me!” Screaming “Pay Attention to Me!” is necessary but also stupid. And that would put me in the camp of the Intellectuals, except I hate them even more, because they don’t merit the title. They all write like ad-men and Buzzfeed interns.

And that’s why the place is called Content Blues, in case you should be wondering. I create Content, and I have the Blues about it.

But that sort of defeatist groaning only takes you so far. This isn’t an online suicide. I’m not done.

Click image to buy on Amazon.

What’s this? Something that’s been published since 2018, the Year of the Three Novellas. A good novella, eight chapters, clean narrative, third-person focused. It starts with a reference to Blade Runner and it uses an Alien encounter story to explore the Philsophical problem of the Ship of Theseus. It’s not as erudite as The Devil Left Him, or as creative as The Party At the Last Tomorrow, but I might like it best.. Like a lot of my work, it’s pro-human, as despite my well-documented moral cyncism as regards the capacity of my species, I am and always have been firmly on its side. I am human; I prefer human to other forms of life, and am unbearably wearied by those who do not.

Why am I talking about it now? Simple: I made an elementary change in the cover: I improved the font.

Orignal cover on the left.

The book bills itself as an “Existential Sci-Fi Monster Tale”, and the original font just did not suit that theme. It looks too comic, too chunky. A void is a place of emptiness, therefore having the letters fill up so much space feels wrong. I went through scores of cover designs during and after the writing and editing of it. What I went to press with had the right image, and so I probably didn’t want last-minute self-doubt rabbits gnawing at my purpose.

The beauty is, I can revisit these decisions. Will the new cover excite any interest? I’ll do a price-reduction on Amazon next week and see. Hope is just another word for nothin’ left to lose.

Caligulia Fights Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

No, not really. That’s the sort of click-bait stuff that everyone talks about as the Almagamation of Awesome, but no one actually reads. And with good reason. Juxtaposition for its own sake usually hides a paucity of narrative. Instead, an authorial update to announce progress.

First, I have in fact, completed a thing long talked of The Meditations of Caius Caligulia. Which is to say, I have completed a rough draft. I consider it a skeleton about which meat can be hung. I need to do some more deep diving into Virgil and Lucretius and Ovid before I can flesh out the Un-Mad Emperor’s thoughts and story. But it’s done. The sixth Chapter, On Conquest, will appear in the October issue of Unnamed Journal. The final chapter, On Death, will appear sometime over the winter, with the complete volume.

Second, I have also completed a rather long short story, Cantilever Jones Runs Hot, set in a space opera galaxy of my own devising, a universe that goes under the name “Gods of the Sky”. There’s a good few stories set in this universe, including two previous Cantilever Jones stories, and some Death-emperor vs. Star Buddhists expositions. I’m building the universe in shorts, with an eye towards a novel. I’ll probably put a collection out sometime next year. This story will also appear in the October UJ. The story clocks in at around 7,000 words, which is borderline a novelette. It can be frustrating when you’re trying to get a story finished, but also exciting when it keeps taking on a life of its own. But when your hero is trying to survive a battle he didn’t create on a jungle planet inhabited by velociraptors, you just go with it.

Anyway, I will be moving on to other projects shortly. Watch this space for publication details, and enjoy some cover art concepts while you do.

The Singles Collection is Here!

What you’re looking at here is the standalone stories from Volumes 2, 3, and 4 of Unnamed Journal. These include some very weird tales and some hilarious pieces as well. We’ve got Kaiser Wilhelm yelling at his generals in “How I’m Pretty Sure World War I Started”. We’ve got a strange love affair with a scarecrow in “Lost in the Cold, Strange Pleasure of the Night”. And perhaps my favorite piece, a primordial bureaucracy harnessing the typing power of simians to create the boundaries of reality in “Infinite Monkey Union.”

It’s on the Shallow & Pedantic Patreon, available to all Patrons, for the next 10 days. If you’ve ever thought about subscribing, now’s the time. Subscriptions are $1/month at the basic level, $2/month for upper-tier (which gives you early access to podcasts and other things).

We’re also going to make it available for direct-sale on our Gumroad for $5 even, starting next week. Now might be a good time to pick up our most recent issue. Use the discount code “uj23” to get $1 off.

Click here to go to our Gumroad.