Email Lists, Book Covers, Periscope, and Other Assorted Jazz

Blog, Books, Publishing

In my research as to the proper way to have a career as an indie author, I’ve read a good few useful books and absorbed what some successful authors have had to say. The boys over at Realm and Sands, who do the Self-Publishing Podcast, have coined the phrase “Write. Publish. Repeat.”, which is the title of their indie author self-help book, which I’ve read, and found useful.

Then, scrolling through my twitter feed today, I found this:

You need not watch to the whole thing, as his cheeky meta-obvious promotion might or might not be your cup of tea. But he’s a success, what he and Write. Publish. Repeat. have in common is the insistence on the importance of an email list.

I’ve resisted this, because I get so much email that I barely bother to read it. But apparently it works, so I’m going to have to get a list going. I’m leaning towards MailChimp right now, based on initial research, and also because it’s free until I hit 2,000 subscribers. Free is the right starting price for an indie author.

Also, I have this urge in me to start Periscoping. I think it might add something to my social media presence and help get the word out when I have some new content to talk about, like a book or a new issue of Unnamed Journal. Speaking of which, did you see this?

uj8cs

February 1st, people. Mark your calendars.

I made this on my iPad using Adobe Spark, which is a fun little photo design app that’s allowed me to up my book cover design game. At least, I think so.

For example, here’s the current cover for The Devil Left Him, along side a cover I just did on Adobe Spark:

thedevillefthim

devil-1

The second one just Pops more to my mind. What do you think?

I Get Bad Reviews

Books

I’m starting to think I should keep all my short-form content free on Amazon. Sarah Hoyt advises it, and now I’m starting to wonder if the price of zero would spare me reviews like this:

2.0 out of 5 stars No true fan of Aaron Burr would like this book., November 23, 2013
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: A Brief Conversation With Aaron Burr (Paperback)

This book is way too brief for its “conversational” purpose. It does no justice to Colonel Burr, except to make him out to be somewhat irascible, which (though justified) he certainly would not have been when talking with another, unless, of course, he knew that the author would be treating him in such a shallow way.

Fieri non potest, si iocum confutuere

simpsons_nelson_haha

 

Madness in Great Ones Must Not Unwatched Go.

Books

“And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon that is dreaming…”

I don’t know if it’s my subconscious ruminating on the debased state of American politics, or just the idle curiosity to re-watch a train wreck, but I found myself viewing, for the second time, the 1979 film Caligulia with Malcolm McDowell on Netflix. I only got an hour or so into it before I decided that it was just as bad as I remember it, and finally put my finger on the reason for its badness. It’s not the sets, or the script, or the acting. It’s not even the dull pornography. It’s that the film has no moral center. There is no one, not one person in this refuse worth caring about. Monsters and fools alone abound.

Well, it worked some kind of perverse inspiration in me, because I suddenly have the yen to write another book. I want to get elbow-deep into this boyish monster, and plumb the human depths of his tyranny. I’ve lined up the books I must read:

  • Suetonius’ Lives of the Twelve Caesers, because it’s been sitting in my bookshelf and I’ve never had the chance to really dig into it.
  • I, Claudius and Claudius the God. I’m familiar with the BBC series, of course, but I’ve got old copies of this, too. Been wanting to read them.
  • Camus’ Caligulia play. A friend of mine read this in college, and gave me the gist of the twist: Caligula, far from being insane, succumbs to the ennui of supreme power and seeks to “make the possible likely.” I like the premise of that, and it’s about time I read it.
  • The obligatory myth-debunking scholarly biography.
  • Possibly Allan Massie’s Tiberius: The Memoirs of the Emperor.

I’m interested chiefly in the widely-reported notion that Caligulia believed himself a god. The Roman Empire was a time of great religious flux, as the old Republican pantheon gave way to thrilling cults from the East: Isis, Mithraism, Manichaeanism, Gnosticism, and Christianity. So I’d like to shift this most notorious emperor from Crazy to Self-Deifying.

This will naturally be a long project. Check this space for details.

The Solar System Blues Review is In!

Books

T.B. Markinson at Self-Publishing Review calls it “an exhilarating read”.

Not only is this story science fiction, but it’s also a thriller.

As Burton and his assistant travel further and further into space the story slowly unfolds. It all starts to make sense. In the meantime, Burton has music from decades ago to keep him company since it’s lonely in space. Very lonely. Of course Burton also has the ship’s computer to talk to, but have you tried to have a philosophical conversation with a computer? It’s not easy.

There is much to like about this story. Burton is an interesting character: witty, flawed, loving, determined, and obsessed. The teenager is your typical teenager. She wants to rebel but has no friends to rebel with. That doesn’t stop her from doing what she can do to antagonize the one adult in her world.  Even in space there’s no controlling teenage hormones.

The world building is subtle and the author avoids too much information dumping on the whole. This book is a quick read and is only 140 pages. While the action and mystery come at the reader fast, after you get past the first few pages, it doesn’t feel overwhelming.

Read the whole thing. Then buy the book. On Amazon, or Barnes & Noble, if you prefer. All one to me.

 

Authors: Social Media Will Not Bring You an Audience.

Books

It will help you keep an audience when you’ve got one.

That’s not what this post at Book Designer starts to say, but that’s what they end up concluding. The lede is buried here:

Your key to more followers isn’t posting more frequently or having more conversations. Nor is it constantly checking your feeds to see who said what.

A readership develops because they have something to value and talk about. The best way to accomplish that is to give them more fiction. Writing good stories, as always, should remain your top priority.

Good storytelling will lead to a fan base, and then social media will start returning results. You’ll see more links, retweets, and likes. Your voice will start circulating and your reach will expand.

Joel has even proposed not significantly investing in blogging until you have a readership. I think that makes a lot of sense.

Suggestion: Work on your craft, refine your voice, polish and publish. That’s what matters most. The better your writing, the better social media will work.

I’ve been operating under the If You Build It, They Will Come idea since I started self-publishing. I’m glad to hear that I’m not out of my mind.

Content? Fie Upon Your “Content”

Blog, Books, Music

Is there anything lamer than  having two “Sorry I no blog” posts in a row?

But I seriously had a good reason. Seriously.

Seriously.

Anyhoo, while I prep for the school year, here’s some nonsense. First my first feedback on Solar System Blues from someone who doesn’t know me and is therefore under no pressure to say they liked it (Goodreads link):

This book was just amazing. I won it through a good-reads giveaway and was so excited when I won. The whole idea and aspect of the book keeps you on your toes and excites you to turn every page. I recommend reading this book.

So there, people who have not the readiness to slam down $2.99 (more for dead tree) for a copy of an “amazing” book! How stupid do YOU feel?

Yeah, not very. I get that. God carried away. Sorry.

Here’s some vintage 1978 French punk rock, by way of an apology. I know, but listen to it:

That just rocks, that’s all that does…

My Daddy Drives a UFO….The Official Launch of Solar System Blues

Books, Pop Culture

Solar System Blues began as a spoken-word element of a band show for The Fest, a music and arts festival that my brother and his friends used to put on in Lancaster, PA every July. It’s the first thing I consciously created a First Draft for, and circulated said draft for comments from friends and family. That was back in 2009, and I’ve futzed and tinkered with it ever since.

To the particulars: the story is set in the late 22nd century, in a dystopian/cyperpunk future, when six or seven leviathan superstates battle for dominance with terrifiying weapons. One wounded soldier of these wars, employed on a secret project to enable humanity to survive nuclear war, instead steals the ship, and with a self-aware computer, a store of frozen genetic material, and a teenage first mate born in space, goes in search of a new planet for humanity to live on. Everything goes according to plan, except for what doesn’t.

For me, this book is less about future shock and more about human community: how it is destroyed, and how it can be restored. Is it really possible for humanity to have a mulligan? Or would we just make the same mistakes under different stars?

Anyway, it’s available in paperback and Kindle form. Hie ye to Amazon and buy (Think of it as “Hitting the Freaking Tip Jar,” as a wise man of my acquaintance once said). Darling Daughter needs new shoes.

She puts plenty of miles into the ones she has.

She puts plenty of miles into the ones she has.

To Lulu or To CreateSpace?

Books

How recently would that question have made no sense at all?

Having played around a bit with Amazon’s CreateSpace service (Those books on the sidebar: They’re mine, I swearsies), I find it functional, intuitive, and free. Zero complaints about how the system works or how Amazon pays out. Yeah, you don’t make tons of money, thanks, everyone who’s ever tried to be an author. If you want to see your name on a book cover, they will take care of that for you and even throw some royalties your way. I haven’t heard that Random House does differently.

But I’m not the kind of guy who never wonders whether that turf on the obverse of the palisade is indeed more verdant. I bought the Wife a Nook HD+ for Mother’s Day, even though we’re an Amazon/Apple family, as much to check out a different platform as because of the sale. Since self-publishing had the Stigma Removed, I have looked about at all manner of publishing sites. Smashwords seems altogether too “YEAH! PUBLISHING!” But Lulu.com and I have had a long online flirtation. I like the aesthetics of the place, the cornocopia of services, the lure of publishing a HARDCOVER BOOK (that’s right, Millenials: Generation X still reads books printed on Paper, because we’re old).

The only thing that’s held me back is the suspicion that to really get anything that looks like a saleable book, I’m going to have to plunk down a not inconsiderable amount of money. One thing CreateSpace does is offer up a free library of images to help you design a cover: I’ve used that, and I’ve used my own images. Lulu only seems to offer a set of Modern Library-esque texture covers for free (and, of course, anything you own the rights too). Which, for certain monographs, wouldn’t be bad, but not for the sort of books I have in mind.

It’s something to wrack the brain about.