Is it Wear your Best to Work week? I’m all for that kind of thing. I mean, we live in a fantastic age where we have incredible choice for what to wear, so why not bust that suit out and wear it with pride? But no, no, it’s not that week.
Is it Stay in Bed week? Unfortunately no. While I would welcome the change of pace, I’m sure the economy wouldn’t enjoy workers dropping tools, wheels, keyboards and pens to take a kip.
Is it Put your Phone Away Week? I wish, I wish, I wish it was. You know how much fun it is when you can talk to someone without a black rectangle covering their face?
Alright, alright. I’ll let you in on the gag. It is, in fact –
And to celebrate, they’ve got a bazillion titles up on discounts. 25%? Yup. 50%? You bet. 75%? Even so.
100%??? There sure are! In fact, if you head to my profile page:
You’ll find all of my books for… free. That’s right, gratis. Go nuts. Get the entire set of Adaptation (Just get the compendium, it’s easier). Go on. What’s that? You want an octopus detective? OK, go get Tedrick Gritswell of Borobo Reef and, while you’re there, get Tedrick Gritswell Makes Waves.
Not your thing? Grab Atlas, Broken or the Bullet. Or if you’re into Paranormology, grab all five books and shove them in your cart. Electrons come free, baby, so go nuts.
Then, when you’re done, go and visit some other authors and give them some love. And then… and then… and thenread them! That’s part of the whole ‘Read an E-Book’ week deal. If you enjoy them, great! If not, that’s fine too. Oh, and if you don’t mind, please come back and leave a review when you’re done.
If reading really ain’t your thing, might I suggest you listen to the audiobook versions? It’s kinda sorta still almost and E-book, right? It still counts. It’s just that you’re reading with your ears. Yeah. Let’s run with that.
What are you still doing here? Go and read a book!
Read an E-Book week goes until March 7, so get in while you can.
It’s cold in Melbourne. Don’t know if you’ve noticed? No? The ice that covers the car windows? The chill wind that worms through your jacket and tickles your tummy when you’re not paying attention? Ring any bells?
When it’s cold, what should one do? One should, of course, close the doors, throw a blanket over one’s knees and hold that down with a cup of tea and a book.
But you’ve read all of them! There are no more books, right?
Because it’s… wait for it… Smashwords 10th Anniversary Summer (Winter in the Southern Hemisphere) Sale!
Wait, wait, it’s not on yet (sad trombone). It’s between 1st of July and the 31st (hopeful clarinet). So if you can hold on for a couple more days (resounding trumpet) you’ve got yourself a treat! Books will be heavily reduced across the board.
Last post I uploaded the front cover to the KDP creator. I had blundered in that the DPI or dots per inch setting was at a default of 72, rather than the required 300. Changing the DPI to 300, re-exporting to PDF and then uploading resulted in the following:
Check through the list on the right. The markup within the table of contents was removed, without affecting the table, so that’s fine. Also, it asks you double check the Author, ISBN and Title. Good idea. Do that. Character for character.
Hey, there’s even a 3D view:
Woohoo! Looks pretty good. The automatic whatsit that Amazon has going stopped complaining about the size of the PDF since it now closely matched the dimensions of the book itself.
You can look through the pages, and I would strongly encourage you to. Why? Because the PDF you uploaded will not be what gets used. Observe:
If you look closely, the border closer to the spine is greater than the border against the edge. I used a 1cm border in the PDF, Amazon has automatically added in an extra padding on the spine. This is a good thing, since it will mean the words aren’t squished into the paper-fold.
I can’t guarantee it, but after playing with it for a bit (doing a few uploads to get it ‘just right’), I think that the engine is smart enough to recognise page changes and update the table of contents accordingly. Even so, check that each chapter in the TOC matches the actual page for the Chapter. It’s a small task that will save you having to apologise to your readers for a dodgy TOC.
Once I was happy with it, I hit the ‘Approve’ button. Click
So life is grand, right? I’ve uploaded the manuscript, I’ve uploaded the front cover as a PDF, it’s looking pretty much how I want it, all I need to do now is order a proof.
What’s a Proof?
Electronic eBooks are cool because, hey, what you see is what you get. You can pop your ePub or PDF or mobi file onto your favourite reader and have a look-see to make sure it’s all fine and dandy like cotton candy. Of course, different readers with different dimensions will display things differently, but you can rest easily knowing that the software does a best effort to make stuff look and read properly.
Not so with printed books. Paper ain’t that advanced.
And while PDFs are fantastic for viewing something as a bunch of pages, the conversion to a hardcopy means extra padding on the inside of each page, a few extra pages added for the actual printing house and physical constraints applied because of the thickness of paper, the stock used, etc.
In other words, once you’ve done all the work uploading your masterpiece, you need to order a proof to make sure that it – it being the actual book what gets pumped out by the presses and will land into the laps of your audience – looks and feels and even smells like you want it.
Yes, smells. There actually is a difference in smells between books. I’m not sure if it’s the cover or the paper or a combination or just something in the manufacturing process, but there certainly is a smell associated with a new book.
Lulu strongly encourages ordering a proof. They will not allow you to use Global Reach without you having ordered and actually looked at a copy of your book. For this, they will let you order it at cost price.
I personally make a habit of buying at least two so I can keep one and give one away as a present.
What about Amazon? No. You cannot purchase a proof, even though you own the book.
Let me clarify: There is no facility for ordering a proof at cost price. You will pay the full price of your book.
But… but I made the damn thing!
I know, I know. Believe me, I know. It’s yours. You did it. You made it. Why do you have to sell it to yourself?
It turns out Create Space, by itself, does allow author copies. And while Amazon uses Create Space to manage your hardcopies, it does not allow you to purchase author copies.
So what happens if you wanted to print off, say, 1,000 copies and distribute them yourself in a vanity-publishing style venture? You’re up for either ordering the 1,000 copies at full price or temporarily discounting the book to cost, ordering, then raising the price back up. Either way, it’s ugly.
This is a two-sided story. Personally I believe that author copies should be allowed, and encouraged, and even enforced like Lulu does. I can see, though, that purchasing your own book at full price does affect the ranking of the book, and rightly so. A purchase is a purchase, regardless of who made the original purchase.
And before you ask, no, I’m not an expert on how Amazon does the rankings. I’m sure it’s time based and it’s also categorically based – that is, you have different rankings for different categories – but as for how the numbers get calcumalated, I can only say that more sales -> better rank.
Also, depending on the royalty rate, you’ll get some of the money you spent back. Icky, I know, but maybe it’s Amazon’s way of avoiding rank-diddling by someone with a hefty cashroll. Eh. Dunno.
So, after all of that, I picked up my credit card, and ordered my own book. You won’t believe what happened next!
I told you I’d do it! Tedrick Gritswell of Borobo Reef is up for pre-release.
What does that mean for you?
It means you can pre-order it so that, on 1st of June, 2017, it gets automatically added to your library and you get the honour of being the first spud to read it! It also means you can rest easy knowing that I’m going to use the next few weeks to spruce up the book, get the formatting down, all of that.
Here’s the link:
What does it mean for me?
It gives me a chance to slow down and take stock. The work doesn’t stop, though, you should know that by now. I need to:
Work on the cover (woot!) some more. That’s not the final iteration.
Fix up some grammatical and spelling errors.
Make a few last minute additions and subtractions.
Rev up the marketing engine and concentrate on that properly.
Get this into a hard-copy version el-pronto.
I’ll keep you posted about how it all goes, including how the KDP uploading went. In the meantime, I’m going to take a break, have some lunch, maybe even head to Bunnings for a walk-around.
Who ever said that writing was glamorous? Not me, I can assure you. I can think of many words to describe it. Glamorous doesn’t make the list.
The writing bit is fun. You know, making up the story and getting all the words on the paper and building up characters, scenes and plots. That’s a hoot, but not glamorous. It’s fun, sticky and sugary, like eating dessert for an entree.
The marketing – promotions, adverts and posts – that’s all boring but essential, like steamed vegetables.
The worst part, for me at least, is editing. I’ve already read the damn book. I’ve worked over little details, scrubbed whole bits out, rammed other bits in, smooshed it, smoothed it, worked at it and sat on it. Then, after a period of recovery, I get to do it all over again.
And that’s just the second draft.
Rinse, repeat. Third draft. Oh brother. Looking down at the plate, you’ve got something in the realm of cold porridge, mixed with a spoonful of unsoaked lentils.
Ugh. Editing. Spoon by spoon, it’s a slog to get through, especially the third draft. It’s where I have to concentrate not only on grammar and spelling, but flow, repetition and any major flaws that are sitting there. Did Barnes come before or after I fought the Unome? Was Belvedere oblivious to Sassam’s plot? How much did Wyra blab to Coraline?
Yes, these should have been taken up in the Second Draft. Doesn’t mean they were. Consider it the last chance to nut all of that out before the galley is produced. I’ve had some assistance to this end in the form of my father grabbing a red pen and for this I am very, very grateful.
Of course, since he stole the red pen, I’ve been forced to use the green for my own amendments. I can live with that. Want to hear the good news? It’s all done. The hard-copy side of things, that is. Now comes the second part of the editing task: working back over the printed pages and translating the scribbles and scrawls, side-annotations and asterisks over to the electronic version.
This the is down-hill part of the task. Doesn’t mean it’s any less unpalatable, just that it takes less time.
What’s the date today? May 1st. Cool. In that case, I have reached the decision to put this book up for pre-release May 4th on Amazon’s KDP (the Kindle Direct Publishing thing), for an official release June 1st. That’s from a Thursday to a Thursday.
I’ll try my best to document the process. I’ve got Smashwords and Lulu down, but the KDP is still a bit of a foreign concept.
Last post I ended with the line “…Why not stick a little of you inside there?” ‘There’ being your work, ‘you’ being you.
It’s a vague line. It kind of smells arty-farty or new-age or cliched or something, doesn’t it? But I meant it. Putting yourself into your work is by far the best way to brand yourself. Not the easiest, not the fastest, but best for longevity.
Put yourself into it
Knowing that this applies to all facets of your work (not just art), I’ll use writing as an example. Let’s start with style.
If I try to write like Dean Koontz, and I’m sure I probably could if I studied his style and mannerisms and all of that, then my books would be merely ‘Koontz’ clones. I wrote them, yet I’m not in them. If, however, Dean Koontz is a major influencer of my work, but I’m not actually seeking out to emulate him, then I’m free to add my style to it. It might be considered ‘Koontzesque’, that is in the style of Koontz, but since there’s too much of me in there, it’s not a Koontz clone.
To give a different example, say I paint in the manner of Van Gogh. If I copy his works and contribute nothing new, then my paintings, although nice, don’t have me in there at all. If his style influences the way in which I paint, not dictates it, then I can do stuff ‘my way’. My painting may be considered ‘Van Goghish’ but they are distinctly my own – I’ve made them, not copied them.
I would argue that it’s practically impossible to come up with a new style of anything that cannot be linked to someone who has ‘done it before’. OK, that’s fine. Not an issue. You are still quite capable of producing original work.
While my style my be linked to someone else, what cannot be attributed is my experiences, my history, my life. We are shaped by our environment. All those events, big and small, those catastrophes and celebrations, explorations both physical and metaphysical and, importantly, your decisions, all of these have contributed to what you are.
That’s a fingerprint right there, isn’t it? That’s something unique to you and, while it might be similar to another person’s, it cannot be the same. Two men go off to war together, fight on the same line, see the same things, but their upbringing, their circumstances and their philosophical outlook on life – and just about everything else – will be different.
How does that help you? Simple. Stick it in your books. Build your characters off those characters you know and love – or hate. Use them as a template. Exaggerate their attributes. They’re your creations, built from your experiences, viewed from your perspective – they are extensions of you since they come from your world.
Likewise the places you’ve been. Used to live in a depressing suburb? Walked the streets of a shantytown? Entered the marbled floored foyer of a grand hotel? These are things you know because you’ve experienced them. You smell the bacon frying whenever you walk past the corner cafe every day, you hear the cars and trucks rumbling the overpass on your way to work. These are experiences unique to you.
I read a few Morris Gleitzman and Andrew Jennings books when I was a kid. Generally narratives, they start off with the ‘near end’ of the story, then back track to the ‘how I got here’ and finish off with ‘And here’s the end’. Not every time, but often. Often enough that, after a while, I could pick the pattern.
Lately I’ve been reading some Henry Beam Piper. Through each of his books, he has common elements of science fiction: Burp guns, sonic stunners, Para-time police. While these things aren’t unique to him, they are his in as much as he uses them, to great effect, to drive his stories.
How about Asimov’s positronic brain or the Laws of Robotics? Other authors have used these, but they remain distinctly Asimov-esque.
Even the elements that make up a story can be a signature. Bedford-Jones with his swashbuckling, reluctant hero. Frederick Forsyth and his multi-plot spy thrillers. Defining a signature isn’t necessarily about a word or a phrase or a theme or a character or a situation or a plot-device… it’s about any or all those little things, and more.
How would Tim Burton portray a fairy tale? How about Spielberg? How about Linklater? How do you know? Not because they shout from the rooftops their style and ideals, they put all of that, themselves, into their work.
Remember: It’s not about inventing a new ‘you’. You’re already there. All the pieces are in place. If you try and make yourself out to be something you’re not then your audience will be more than a little miffed.
It’s about looking in the mirror and figuring out just what you can enhance, what you can play on to make what you produce unique to you.
Next post I’ll be looking at using the internet – this magic thing that does stuff – to help your quest to be seen and heard, so stick around.
In the previous post, I told you that, along with all of your other hats, your going to need to don a marketing cap. Goody. Sounds like fun.
Let’s start with a few cliches: You are an artist. You make or do things. There are many artists, but only one you. You are unique.
You. Three little letters that means something different for everyone on the planet. My version of you is very different to your version of you.
Therefore what you want to do is not yell about what you’ve made (your book, your song, your movie, etc) rather you want people to know about who made them. Why? Because your not going to stop at one book or one song, are you? Of course not! Your not a one-hit wonder who’ll abandon the audience because it all got too hard. You are in it for the long haul.
How much time and energy have you invested in just making your book, eh? How many brain cells have you lost due to frustration? How many late nights, juggling work and family and other commitments? What sacrifices have you made?
And what do you have at the end of it? Your masterpiece, that’s what, crafted and honed and bludgeoned into just the right shape according to the requirements of one person:
That’s right: YOU!
You made it, you own it, it is part of you. Thus, part of your marketing should involve, you guessed right, you. For some people, talking about themselves is natural. For others, myself included, it’s uncomfortable. I don’t want to talk about myself. I’m a very private person.
Whoops! Did you see that? By revealing that I’m a private person, I’ve just revealed something personal and important about myself.
That was easy, wasn’t it? Accidental, more like it, but still you get the point. Even though you may not wish to divulge personal, private, confidential information – and rightly so – the audience is hungry for the stuff. No, they don’t want your credit card details, nor do they want to know what brand of toothpaste you use.
What they wish to know is the human side of you. What are you? Why are you? Where are you? What are the major influences in your life? How did you decide to bite the bullet and publish your work? Are you a professional or an amateur? Are you signed up or indie? What values do you maintain?
Why should I, as a member of your potential audience, look at you over the artist who is standing beside you? What attracts me and, just as importantly, what will repulse me? Can I, as another fellow human being living on the same Earth and breathing the same air, relate to you?
Here we might talk about branding, establishing a consistency to identify you among everyone else.
You are the brand. You aren’t a corporation, you are a human and, as a human with free-will, artistic talent and brain to suit, you make stuff – not the other way around. You are more than the collective sum of your works. If anything, they are products of your brain and body working in collaboration.
The question, then, is how do you brand ‘you’?
I drew a little logo and a handle of “Jeztyr” to help out, but that isn’t me, is it? It’s not even a representation of me. You couldn’t look at that little jester with his bangly baubles and goofy grin and go, “Yep, I know exactly what he’s on about”. So why did I bother?
While the logo and moniker isn’t a representation, it’s not my face or something distinctive that I’ve done, it is distinctive enough such that putting it on a work or in a blog post lets the user know that this is not something arbitrary, some auto-generated slop or corporate sponsored material, rather it has being created by a person.
On one piece, it’s a little picture or a word. On two or three, a pattern emerges. After a while, people will dig, by implication, what I’m about. This is an interesting way of doing things since I am showing you, rather than telling you.
If I slap it on just about everything I do, then, like a signature, the collective usage defines the brand. This weblog, my YouTube channel, on the back of books, anywhere that appropriately defines something about me. Just be careful not to overdo it.
You can take this approach, too. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a logo. Your name should be good enough if it isn’t something too common like John Smith. If it is, don’t despair. Grab a guy who knows marketing and ask what they can do. After all, even if your name is John Smith, you will want to differentiate you, John Smith, from the John Smith standing next to you. Perhaps stylize the letters, or make something out of the J.S.
Make it unique and run with it.
Of course, there’s a more to all of this branding stuff than making props. Props are cool and all, but consider this: What says ‘you’ more than you? Nothing, right? So why not, when you’re making your stuff, when you’re writing or painting or composing, why not stick a little of you inside there, too?
How? More of that in the next post.
P.S. That’s not me in the picture up there. That was at the Royal Melbourne Show. If you are the dude in the pic, my thanks for the use of your mug.
You’ve written a book. Super! You’ve edited it, you’ve put it through the wringer a few times, ironed out the bumps, made a front cover, and it’s looking shmick. You head over to your favourite publisher – Smashwords, KDP, Lulu, or perhaps you’re going the route of Calibre and doing it all yourself – and your fingers are trembling, your heart is racing.
Here it is, the big moment. The point where you give the world your work. You triple check everything, chew the last of your nail from your punished fingers and push the submit button.
It’s all published. Some publishers take a few hours or a day to get it online, others are instant. Great. But it’s up, it’s up. You can’t sleep that night and feverishly check back throughout the next day. One download.
One. Measly. Download.
The subsequent days aren’t much better. From the reports you get, there’s little or no interest at all. Why? Is your book not good enough? Did you need to do even more editing? Was the front cover lame?
Perhaps. Perhaps not. Arguably the latter. Why?
How many books are out there, right now, in a library? Now, how many more are out there online? Now, how many books are being created every day?
The answers are, respectively, lots, even more and heaps. Your amazing book is a flash in a very bubbly pan. It’s almost luck that anyone got to download it. Sure, there are ‘New’ lists that people watch but, if they are asleep at the time you push your book out, there’s that opportunity gone. Even if you happen to hit the timing perfectly, that’s only a tiny portion of the people
If you have an agent, or get published through a large house, advertising and marketing is part of the (substantial) fee. They have people paid to reach customers and entice them to take a look-see at your book, and they’re good at what they do.
If you’re an independent then you are on your own. OK, so you can tell your family and friends, that’s good, it’s a start, but it cannot end there. Why? Because unless you’ve written for your family (or painted, or sung, come on now) then they aren’t the people who you want to see your work. Uncle Bob might be into your garage music, but sure as heck Aunty Mavis ain’t.
What you want is to thrust your goods into the ears and under the eyes of those who might actually dig what you’re dishing. OK, easy job, just go stick some fliers in some letterboxes or staple them to the telephone poles.
The fundamental problem is this: There’s you. There’s guy who would actually like to see what you’ve got. And between you are a thousands of other you’s in exactly the same boat, seeking to reach a hundred thousands of the other guys in the other boat. It is now your job, and it is a job, to get what you’ve done out there.
Over the course of a month or two, there will be people who trawl through the lists, bots that pick up on new releases in genres and tweet them to subscribers, reviewers who are looking for the next big thing. Relying on these things to get your book under people’s noses is folly. What you need to do is blow that horn, beat that drum and make some noise already!
The internet is your friend in this instance. It serves as a platform on which to serve your music and books and film, excellent, and it also serves as an enormous soapbox reaching, well, the entire world. Let me say that again: The internet soapbox has the potential to reach every country in the world. That’s a lot of people.
“But,” you say, “You said that there are a thousand people just like me doing the same thing, and many of those people have professionals to help them out!”
True, true, but let me put it this way: If you bury your head in the sand, you severely (dramatically, extremely, vastly, pick your own adverb) reduce your chances of been seen. If you stand up on the soap box, even though you might be rubbing shoulders with a bunch of your peers, at least you’re in the game.
Get active, go join a forum or three, give advice and chats, start a blog, post updates about what’s cracking in your world.
99% of people won’t give a coin about your antics. That leaves (Pauses to do the math) 1% who do. And its that 1% you want to reach. 99% of people don’t dig war novels. 1% do. 99% of people don’t like vampire romance. 1% do (Actually, that figure, unfortunately, may be higher). The point is, don’t give up because you can’t fathom the sheer numbers. Even if there’s one shmuck out there who gets you, awesome, you need to let him / her find you.
You have to be able to reach who you’re after in a manner that will encourage them to stop and take a look at you.
Word of mouth is good if your audience is of the type that likes to recommend things. Forums and social media work if you can pick the right niche, and get a rapport with the people who frequent them. Don’t stop with the internet, though. You know those fliers? Not a bad idea if your target demographic is at a uni campus. Not a great idea if they are farm hands.
The reality for any artist is that, in order to be seen, they need to raise their voice. It doesn’t have to be an earth shattering crescendo, or a big explosion, or a stunt. Rather, a consistent, well articulated, “I’m here” is a great place to start.
Over the next few posts, I’ll be sharing some of the marketing techniques and pitfalls I’ve come across.
I thoroughly gave a Synfig, Audacity, Anvil Studio, Gimp, Corel and good ol’ Microsoft Movie Maker a workout.
I haven’t got a lot to say except that the promotional animation for Grosvenor Lane Ghost is now up on You Tube and Daily Motion (hehehe… Daily Motion. You know, like, one’s daily constitutional?) and any other place that I can find.
Please share, enjoy and criticise. Don’t worry, I won’t be listening, I’ll be sleeping. Right now it’s a warm Milo and off to bed.