Category Archives: Marketing

Valkyrie Project Episode 4: More Immediate

Download “Valkyrie Project Episode 4: More Immediate Now!

From the description:

Ana and Marisol are tasked with breaking up a weapons deal between the Continuum and a reclusive bioengineer.

Sounds like standard fare, but I assure you, this one is anything but standard. It is what some might consider my finest writing to date (at least I look at it that way).

Look at this quote that I would like someone to write about it:

Episode 4 is the best so far, with action that doesn’t stop and shocks and jolts that will make you jump like Kris Kross! Nels never lets up on the pace and I’m pretty sure I literally had a heart attack half way through!”

That would be pretty awesome if someone wrote that, right?

Episode Notes

Seriously, though, I really like this one. I went over and over the revisions and each time I reread something I’d revised I thought “Yeah, that really does make it even more awesomer [sic].”

I actually have some director-style commentary that I wrote while going through this episode, but I’m going to save that for some bonus material to add to the Amazon version that I will actually be charging people for. That version will be a collection of the first five episodes, and I’m going to make sure it gets distributed to not just Amazon, but the iTunes store as well. I had thought about making Episode 5 exclusive to that collection as a marketing ploy, but that just seems lame, or like I’m some sort of drug dealer (though a really bad one if I’m giving away the first four for free). So, instead I am thinking I’ll add the director’s commentary (and maybe some actor commentary, deleted scenes, or bloopers!) for the “pay” version.

Stat Updates

Seems like a good time to throw some numbers out there…

(All numbers represent free downloads)
Episode 1: 259
Episode 2: 270
Episode 3: 172
Episode 4: 31 (since 4/10/2011)

I did see another spike for the first three episodes when I put number 4 up there, but since it’s already dropped to the 33rd page of All Books on Smashwords, I’m not expecting a lot more indirect traffic until Smashwords decides to put up some “People who read this also read:” type widgets. Seeing as how they’re making money off every book that someone pays for on there, I’m not sure why they haven’t implemented that yet. They do at least list other books by the author when you look at a particular book page, and I’m sure that’s what accounts for the spikes in downloads for the other episodes when a new one goes up. But it would be nice to get some cross-author traffic going. I suppose I could review other people’s books (since I have read a couple), but when I see authors writing reviews it seems like they’re just trying to get more traffic back to their own page when people click on their name from the review. It just feel dirty, like a very transparent attempt to game the system… but I’m sure it does drive at least a bit of traffic back.

Other “charts”: Episode 4 is still on the 2nd page for most recently published General Sci Fi and #4 for MRP Free General Sci Fi, and I’m pretty sure that’s how anyone not following this blog will find it going forward.

Articles On and Arguments For: Self-Publishing

From the perspective of an author with a huge fan base, Alisa Valdes writes:

The first book, The Dirty Girls Social Club was published through St. Martin’s Press and sold more than half a million copies. The second Dirty Girls book, Dirty Girls on Top, also with St. Martin’s, came in just under that. When I did the math, I realized I’d only have to sell 100,000 copies on my own to earn what I’d made for six times the sales with a major publishing house. If I sold the same number of Dirty Girls books as I’d sold in the past, meanwhile, I’d be…a goddamned millionaire. A goddamned millionaire in control of her own career and destiny.

JA Konrath posts numbers like these all the times. The impressive part, though, is that the math works. These are realistic numbers (given the circumstances of the author providing the numbers), and the math just works. Most people underestimate the long tail of any market, but companies and people that capitalize on the long tail can still make some big money.

More from Alisa:

Back in 2004, my first suggestion for a second book for me with St. Martin’s was a Dirty Girls sequel. My editor condescendingly said no and told me I had to build a “body of other books” before doing a sequel. Why? Because that’s how it had always been done. Fatal mistake on her part. Fatal mistake on mine for trusting her. My readers were not the typical readers. They were new to commercial fiction, many of them, and they saw themselves in the Dirty Girls. My fans wanted Dirty Girls, period. They still do. First rule of business? Give the customer what she wants. Big publishing did not trust me to know what my own readers wanted, and we all suffered in the end. And here I am, mid-listed and falling.

Lesson effin’ learned. I would not give big publishing a second chance to screw up my career.

The next step in my evolution was to figure out what, exactly, St. Martin’s Press had been doing for me to merit taking more than 90 percent of the profits from my work. Best I figured it boiled down to six things. Editing. Copy editing. Cover design. Marketing. Publicity. Distribution.

The first paragraph here is something that I just don’t know why authors continue to put up with. I mean, obviously most authors have yet to realize that they can publish whatever they want and if it’s good, it will find a market. That used to not be the case, but when the world is connected like it is now and you can get your product into the hands of anyone anywhere on the face of the Earth, you can find an audience if you have a product that people will want. Even if it’s only 1,000 people around the whole world. You used to maybe only be able to find 1 or 2 of those people based on geography. But now, if they want to find a hard SF military gay romance book, or a a historical friends to lovers story containing a marriage of convenience plot, they can. They just have to look for it on the internet and if it exists, they’ll find it. All you have to do is provide the product to the market and make sure they can find it when they look.

The latter half of this is something I keep coming back to in my decision to self-publish (well, besides the fact that I’m not actually needing to make a living off of writing): Writers generally say that when it comes to getting published, they do most of the marketing themselves. And when you’re looking at eBooks as a major market, distribution is as easy for me (or any other author) as it is for big publishing houses. So, really, what you get is Editing, Copy editing, and Cover Design. From reading other indie author blogs, I know that you can find editors to pay on an hourly basis (much like you should do with financial advisors) who will cost less than the share that a major publishing house takes. As for copy editing? I was just reading a reprint of Snow Crash released after Neal Stephenson released his Baroque Cycle and I found two pretty obvious typos. So, yeah.

Then there’s cover design. This is another one that a lot of authors complain about. They may say they love the cover when it comes out because they kind of have to because what choice do they have? But after the fact, I read that they had no input into the design decisions and that’s the one part of the process that they would really want to go back and do over. Now, I’ll give you that I suck at fond selection and design, but I feel like the rest of my covers so far (all 2 of them) have been pretty decent, or at least somewhat interesting.

Sure, but what if you (or, perhaps a better example: me) don’t have a huge fan base of millions of loyal readers already?

Well, that’s where this interview with Zoe Winters comes in…

at first I was still thinking that “maybe” I wanted a trad pub but that I could start building a platform this way, cause publishers like platforms. But the more I got into it, the more I knew it really WAS for me, and I was like “oh screw that. I’m doing this myself!” For me indie isn’t a stepping stone to anything. I want to be the best indie I can be and it’s not about someone else later validating me.

Any success that comes later aside, this is how I feel. I just feel like there’s too many negatives that come with getting published by a traditional publisher. Unless you’re one of the million-copy selling authors, it seems like you’re not going to get the respect of a traditional publisher. I read the same kind of advice about the music industry (longer ago than I’d like to admit), which went something like “If you sell enough records to get the attention of a major label, then you’re already better off on your own.”

SF Signal: 'Judgement' – The eBook That's Both Free and Cheap

SF Signal: ‘Judgement’ – The eBook That’s Both Free and Cheap.

The story here obviously isn’t really about the book. You can click through if you want a description of thigns like plot and characters.

What really matters is that John at SFSignal says:

You can either buy the novel in various eBook formats at Smashwords for the more-than-reasonable price of $2…or, you can read it online for free.

This flies in the face of conventional wisdom that says people will not pay for what they can get for free. Will it work? The thinking is that people will pay for what they like, especially if it’s cheap enough. I’d be interested in hearing a few months from now how well this works…

I have to point out, though, that the “read it online for free” part means you have to read it on the author’s website on a really, really, really… really, really, really long web page. So, really, it’s not an experiment to see if people will pay for something they can get for free because what they get for free is not the equivalent of what they pay for. It’s more of a test of how much people are willing to punish themselves before they spend a small amount of money.

Of course, I did a quick test, and was able to get a high quality version of the book simply by copying the really (really, really, really) long web page into an Open Office Writer document. I’m pretty sure there’s a script the author could embed on the site that would prevent people from selecting and/or copying text – if he really wanted to see if people would pay for something they could read online for free.

Of course (number 2), it would also be interesting to have 2 versions and do split testing to see if you get better conversions to the pay version from the site that doesn’t allow copying, or if people would just give up and not even read the book. As Tim O’Reilly says, “Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy.” (h/t: Cory Doctorow)

When Science Fiction Becomes Mainstream

Yes, by now, we should all realize that Science Fiction is being viciously and excessively co-opted by the Mainstream. But, when things like Wolverine and Transformers are Action, what does that leave for Science Fiction?*

In her article on the Internet Review of Science Fiction, Kristine Kathryn Rusch says:

“I think science fiction as a genre will be dead in just a few years.”

I think a few years is a little too “shock and awe” to be realistic. But the rest of the arguments she makes in the article are valid.

Then there’s Paul over at Barnes & Noble’s Unabashedly Bookish who quotes Orson Scott Card saying that science fiction is “no longer a cutting-edge genre – the edge is now in fantasy.”

And while that’s certainly plausible, it could also be that the genre-melding of SF and Fantasy that Paul claims is happening, is, well, actually happening. Or, if not a genre-melding, then at least a large blurring of the line between the two:

I believe some of the very best – and most innovative – science fiction will actually be categorized as epic fantasy. Take Ken Scholes’ Psalms of Isaak saga, for example. It’s actually post-apocalyptic science fiction cloaked in grand-scale fantasy. Last year, reading the first installment in the series, Lamentation, was an almost surreal experience. I knew almost immediately that I had stumbled across a novel that was not only surely destined to be a classic but also the beginning of a series that could very well redefine both science fiction and fantasy.

I mean, was there not a time when quote-unquote Paranormal Fantasy was actually Horror because it had vampires in it?

And then there’s the never-ending question of where Star Wars fits in. Since it takes place “a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”, then isn’t its setting better compared to a fantasy world (like Game of Thrones as an easy example)? I actually believe it should be, because they’re basically battling it out with laser-broadswords, and flying around on X-wings instead of dragons using robots instead of faeries. But since “literary SF” (as opposed to “TV/Movie SF”) had been growing for so long when Star Wars broke out, it’s literary scholars headed further and further into the Hard SF category, where everything has to be explained (or else derided). Did George Lucas have to explain how “Light Speed”, or “Light Sabers”, or “Light Side” worked within the limits of traditional physics? Certainly not.

And here again I use Kristine Kathryn Rusch so as to not have to rebuild arguments already made:

I read fiction for entertainment, relaxation, and enjoyment. If I want to work, I read the history, literary essays, biography, science, and legal books that grace my shelves.

Last week, for the first time in more than a decade, I saw an sf novel on the bookstore shelves that made my barbarian self reach for the book with joy. The cover had a picture of a derelict space ship. The back cover blurb talked about far futures and finding artifacts in outer space. The cover quote said, “In the old tradition of Astounding.” … the novel promises the very things that Star Wars gives: An escape, a journey into a new yet familiar world, entertainment. A good read.

The things you still find in fantasy fiction. The things that sf jettisoned in the erroneous cold equations practiced by the New Wave.

Thank you.

And again:

“Good” sf can retire to the specialty press where the Science Fiction Village can read and discuss it. It’s time to return to the gosh-wow, sense-of-wonder stories that sf abandoned when it added literary values to its mix, the kind of stories that Star Wars, and by extension, Star Trek, Stargate, and all those other media properties have had all along.

I’m happy that some people are acknowledging the need for some sort of alteration to the Science Fiction genre as it stands. I’m busy (at least, I try to be) writing a space opera, an advanced-tech-future action serial, a post-apocalyptic quest, a surreal futuristic adventure, and story which is essentially characters representing science fiction and fantasy battling it out on a global scale. I plan to give no explanation about the technology in any of those other that what is necessary in a Star Wars sense.

When Science Fiction becomes Mainstream, you have to give people what they want. It’s not selling out if you are still writing what you want to write. It’s just a happy coincidence (and happens to be a good business practice).

* Honestly, I’d rather have things I write classified as Action as opposed to Science Fiction because then you can get all those Mainstream people who don’t realize that they like Science Fiction to check it out, where they might not be apt to have a look if they see that it’s marketed as Science Fiction. Yes, Science Fiction may be Mainstream, but call it Science Fiction, and a lot of people will still think it’s for dorks who live in their mom’s basements and play D&D. (Kind of like bloggers, that way)

Cory Doctorow's New Publishing Experiment

(I want to apologize in advance that this turned out longer than I’d originally intended, but if you read at an average speed, you’ll still get through it only 2-3 minutes; 12-13 minutes if you watch the accompanying video)

Publishing Point has an interview with Cory Doctorow about his new publishing experiment which involves a collection of short stories sold in what I would call the Nine Inch Nails or Radiohead model, where the bulk of the material is available for free, but special editions are available for those who want them.

I’ve embedded it here, but in case it gets taken down, there’s more below…

I think my favorite part was the advice that Cory provides near the end for aspiring writers. To summarize: Finish a book, sell it to a publisher, and then ask for advice on how to market your book. It’s great because at this point, the best way to end up like Cory Doctorow (which is what those aspiring authors asking the questions about marketing want – i.e., the ability to sell a book exclusively via Publish-On-Demand) is to do what Cory did, which was basically to sell a book to a traditional publisher. Yes, he did fight to make it available under Creative Commons, but that’s been done now, so it won’t gain an author as much notoriety as it did for Doctorow at the time.

I am still anticipating (as I’m sure many others secretly are) the first artist and/or author to gain the kind of fame that platinum artists and bestselling authors have without going through a traditional label or publisher. (Perhaps it’s been done, but since it hasn’t registered on my radar, it has yet to meet my internal criteria) The traditional problem has been that physical media had required a distribution outlet. But with digital media (and POD) becoming more prevalent every day, it’s only a matter of time before the garage band and short story author go from internet-sensation-signed-with-big-name to internet-sensation-making-living-without-big-name.

Going a bit off topic… The transition to the new model will continue to be aided by discovery engines. I continue to use the music industry because, as I’ve noted many times, I’m a slow reader, but I can listen to a lot of music, and so, once again: Lala.com. I signed on to Lala this week to discover that Dashboard Confessional and Wale both released new albums. I knew that Wale’s was coming, but didn’t really remember when. I honestly didn’t even know that Dashboard Confessional had a new album coming out. But I’m listening to it right now. Did Interscope (their label) have anything to do with that? Not really. All they did was (I’m speculating a bit): Give DC some money, make an album cover, and put them in stores. All of that is useful, but none of it helped to make me aware of the release. Lala did it all. It knows that I’ve listened to a lot of DC and so it highlighted it on my personal home page. Same with Wale (I mean, who knows how many times I’ve listened to Chillin’ already, right?).

Amazon has the same kind of information, and it will only become a stronger recommendation engine for books as more people get Kindles. Of course, if I were Amazon, I’d be working hard on making sure that anyone could read any eBook they wanted on the Kindle as long as I could verify what book they were reading. More reading data = better recommendations. My theory has always been that people who aren’t going to buy stuff aren’t going to buy stuff, so let them use whatever free media they want, and work on the people who will actually buy stuff if you make it easy enough for them. Back to Lala to finish the analogy: Dashboard Confessional’s DELUXE album is only $2.16. Compared to $9.49 for the MP3 version, I’m willing to make the sacrifice and take the restrictions that come with only being able to listen while connected to the internet because that’s $7 that I can put into my retirement account. Bam, said the lady.

FlashForward vs. Stargate Universe: The Loser Will Be The Winner

While I didn’t make the straight comparison in my mind the way SF Signal did, it does seem an obvious comparison to make; they’re both new SF shows for this season and even started just about the same time.

Unfortunately for me (and, I would argue, everyone else), the better show is not going to last as long.

FlashForward had better acting, had more interesting characters, is more character-driven (rather than “see what we happen to come across in space”-driven), had a more interesting back story, and had better directing/cinematography.

I really wanted Stargate Universe to be good, if only because I like John Scalzi’s blog and he is employed as a creative consultant on the show.

He shouldn’t have to worry about his job there, though, even though I feel like Stargate Universe is an inferior program in just about every way.

Why?

Well, first off, as SF Signal points out, FlashForward has a pretty specific end date: April 29, 2010. Yes, I can think of several ways they can get around that (and the writers probably already have in mind several others that I didn’t think of), but even if you get past that date, there’s just no way to that the show is going to continue on for any extended period of time without getting a little Lost. (Pun intended)

Stargate Universe on the other hand, starts out basically on a ship that is who knows how far from the final destination. They can just keep heading back towards Earth, encountering new and different kind of aliens, and having turmoil within the “crew” of the ship, for, I would say, at least 10 seasons if the viewership is there to sustain it. Which brings me to the next reason that FlashForward is going to bow out first: Audience.

FlashForward is on network television, and it seems like more and more if shows don’t post big ratings numbers right away, they get canned. I don’t have cable, so I don’t know if it works the same way there, but the fact that Stargate SG-1 was on for 10 seasons indicates to me that shows on cable have a little bit longer of a runway in which to get off the ground and gain a following. It’s sad when people have to start Twitter Campaigns just to keep their favorite (good) shows on the air even for a second season. I mean, I’m sitting here thinking about just running the shows I like on Hulu in a separate tab just so the networks will see them getting more views.

In summary, I’m very interested to see where FlashForward goes, and I hope we get to see it come to a logical conclusion, and I’m not at all interested in what happens in Stargate Universe, but I’m sure if I did want to catch up at some point, I could just buy the DVDs that are already being pressed.

Twilight Inspired Author

So, I was researching new music (it’s actually for a writing project, so don’t think I was vacuuming the dog or anything) on Lala, and through a fairly Six Degrees-like path, I came across this artist: Midnight Sun (Twilight Inspired Artist)

new_moon_midnight_sun

The Album on Lala

My immediate thought was: So, if I put “Twilight Inspired Author” after my name, will I automatically get me some extra readers? I mean, sure they’ll realize after not too long that my writing has nothing really to do with vampires, but maybe they’ll get to the almost-angsty character-driven parts and maybe think it’s okay. Or else the Meyerites (or whatever they’re called – Twilites?) will start a smear campaign against me. Or else they’ll just forget about me and move on.

Anyway, just a thought.

Also, I found it interesting that on the “unofficial” score for New Moon, Midnight Sun put “Sam Cushion” instead of Midnight Sun. Is he trying to get hired to do the score for the next one?

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