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:
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.
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.
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.
Unnamed Journalhas been kicking a long for a few years now, and I’m mighty glad of it. As a creative outlet, as a process of marketing and stamping your corner of the internet, it has been invaluable. Not only did draft chapters of Void and Last Tomorrow first appear on UJ, but it’s given me a platform to create The Meditations of Caius Caligulia, a project I never thought I’d actually get off the ground, and has caused me to slowly build up my own homebrew space opera universe, short story by short story.
And that past tense doesn’t mean it’s going anywhere. Far From it.
If anything, UJ, currently a quarterly literary journal, is going to be expanding into other realms: a podcast, possibly a larger publishing arm. These things are in the future, and the details have yet to be hashed out. But UJ has a acheived a stable output, and we can only build from here.
Why would recycle a Ron Paul meme? Why wouldn’t I? Why aren’t you?
Okay, so first thing, the new edition of the new quarterly Unnamed Journal is out tomorrow. Layouts will be finished tonight.
Next, Void will finally see the light of day as a completed novella, at month’s end. The final edits are done, I just need to upload them to Amazon.
Next, back to The Sword. Now that the Three Novellas are out of the way, the plan is to devote full time to this. I’m currently in Chapter 6 of a planned 14, so a few month’s determined work could finish it.
In the meantime, I’ve got a western novella I’m toying around with, and the question of what I’m going to work on after The Sword is finished continues to bemuse me. I have one of several paths to take:
The Lord of the Black Tower – swords and sorcery in my home-brew fantasy world, Cevalon.
The Bastard of Maryland – alternate-history of America if Washington had died prior to the Treaty of Paris being signed. An actual (heavily altered) historical figure – the last, illegitimate descendant of the Calvert family – for the protagonist.
Pilgrims of Elysia – Sequel to Solar System Blues. The descendants of Burton discover how the planet he discovered isn’t exactly as it seems to be.
The Fires of Tirzah – A tale of palace coup, blood, and fire, taken straight from the Old Testament.
It’s not a question of which one I’ll write. It’s which one I’ll write first.
I don’t just write and Dad (and Play Crusader Kings) all day, I also work for a living. And the end of summer means the resumption of the daily sweat to earn my bread. Which is fine, because it doesn’t put a halt to writing.
Specifically, it doesn’t put a halt to editing Last Tomorrow. I’m aiming for the end of this month as a release date. As I have for Void, which comes next.
And of course, The Sword, which will be drafted, hopefully by EOY. It’s going to be the next big thing after Void comes out, and the one I’m going to put the biggest push on.
I just put the most satisfying words – THE END – an author ever composes onto Void. The last three chapters will be available in their entirety in the next issue of Unnamed Journal.
Which means I’ve finished almost a week ahead of my June 1st deadline.
Which means I’ve hit all my deadlines this year – with time to spare. In January I had none novellas finished. Now I have three.
So now what?
First, these need to be revised, and then published. On Kindle certainly, and with paperback versions as well.
I’ll probably go back and revise them in order of composition – Devil, Last Tomorrow, then Void.
So let me set myself some more arbitrary deadlines:
The Devil Left Him – Let’s say June 23rd. That ought to be plenty of time. I don’t think this one needs that much revision.
The Party at the Last Tomorrow – I’m going to give myself more time with this one. It’s kind of half-baked at this point. We’re going for July 28th.
Void – I don’t know that Void is going to need much work. I’m going to give myself three weeks. August 18th.
While I’m doing this, I will be working on a full-length novel. It’s the Civil War novel I’ve already started, working title The Sword. If I can get it done over the summer, I’ll be pretty pleased with myself.
Last time I posted, I sounded a little overwhelmed by the threads I needed to nail down to finish Void. Today, I can safely report that I’ve finished the 6th Chapter, and am confident that I’ve set the third act up in such a way as to be able to be confident of a quick Chapter 7.
In the end, it’s all about character. I stopped trying to create competing motives and just let the protagonist and antagonist work it out for themselves.
I also snuck in a classic philosophy problem, which students of the art should catch right away. Hopefully it’s not too on-the-nose.