I bitch. I complain. When I read a book, especially one published by the so-called "real" publishers, I don't expect typos. I don't expect continuity errors. I don't expect issues with the narrative. When I find them, I get extremely angry. Why? I paid, usually top dollar if it's from a "real" publishing company, for an inferior product.
That said, however, I am in the publishing game, at least for my own work. I do my best to make my ebooks as professional as possible. For the most part I succeed. However, every now and then, my editor and I will miss something. When it happens, it's embarrassing and humiliating. But I have to own up to it.
A reader recently sent me an email outlining three mistakes in the Lovers ebook. They weren't huge. And in fact, most readers that weren't as diligent would have skipped over them completely. One was a continuity error involving a lamp. The other was a name change for an extremely minor character. And really, it was just a couple of letters off. Regardless, they are errors.
So what did I do? I fixed them. Immediately. I sent the reader an offer for a free, autographed version of the corrected ebook and thanked them for their careful reading and having the guts to email me. I am republishing Lovers with the revisions as we speak. In other words, I'm doing my best to make it right.
When books are published in paper, there are no "oops" moments when you can easily retract the version out there and replace it with a fixed one. Once a book goes to print, it's over. There's no more fixes possible until the next printing. Since most books only get a single printing, those mistakes are going to be there in perpetuity and there's not a damned thing the author or publisher can do about them.
In the ebook world, however, there is a chance to fix mistakes. It doesn't take much work to correct the issues, re-export the book, and then update your sales channels. Obviously going through something like Smashwords poses additional challenges, but for Kobo, BN, Amazon, and my own channels, it's extremely easy to republish.
So why don't we? Why don't most publishers modify their ebooks when they are notified of an issue? Several reasons. Most of them subcontract out the work and therefore have to pay more cash to get a fix, or at least that's what I like to think. However, my cynical side says "they don't give a shit." Unfortunately, I think that's the real reason.
The old publishing elite out there don't understand the new digital world. They never have. Until the moldy old bastards at the top die from disease or from going out of business, we're going to be stuck with one-off, never corrected volumes of digital crap. I simply don't see this changing any time soon.
But, I'm better than that. If there's a problem with my product, I WANT TO KNOW ABOUT IT! I do my best to put out quality. I want to give you the best read I possibly can and that means paying attention to not only the writing itself, but the proofing, the layout, and etc.
Indie publishers are gaining acceptance, but the big five (or is it four now?) continue to tell the world we are a bunch of rank amateurs putting out crap. Yet for every mistake I find in an indie book, I find ten more in the big publishers' books. But that doesn't let us off the hook. Not at all.
We have a responsibility to police not only our own products, but the products of our fellow authors/publishers. It's important we strive for perfection.
At least that's what I'm doing. If you find a problem in my books, let me know and I'll fix them. If you like, I'll send you an autographed, personalized copy of the "fixed" ebook. I strive for perfection. I'll always fall short, but I'm doing my best.
An interesting question was posed on this week's "The Dead Robots' Society." As 2012 is currently rolling into 2013, we asked ourselves what our achievements were for the year. "Do you think you were succesful" was followed by writing, business, whatever.
I read the question as "do you feel successful as a writer." And it made me think a bit.
Since I started releasing my fiction via podcast and then selling a hardcover and many e-books, I've made less money off my writing than I usually make in three days of contract work. And that was at my old, very expensive rate. Yes, it's all relative. I know.
So why the hell do I spend all these hours writing, podcasting, editing, conversing, and etc? Why would anyone work so damned hard for so little money?
I guess because I enjoy it.
Let me level with you. Thousands of folks have downloaded my books via podcast. The vast, and I mean vast, majority didn't purchase the hardcover of Fiends. BTW--if you're looking for signed, limited edition copy of said book, please visit my store. They didn't purchase it for one reason or another. Probably because I was charging too much money for what is essentially a collector's item. Or maybe because they didn't know if was for sale? Possibly because they simply couldn't afford it. So was all the money, time, and risk spent frivilously? Was it a failure?
How come I haven't sold millions of ebooks? Should I feel I have failed because Garaaga's Children, that I thought was a sure thing, hasn't managed to take off like a fighter jet? Was all that effort, the writing, the research, the editing, the podcasting, and etc, simply wasted? How I can possibly feel I've achieved anything less than 0 when I haven't even recouped the cost of a professional editor and artist for nearly every one of my books?
I'll be honest. I put way more effort into what I do than what I'll probably ever get out of it. At least monetarily speaking. I know this. I know the chances of me making a living at this are probably worse than purchasing that big jackpot lotto ticket.
There are better writers out there. I know several of them. There are stories that are much more satisfying than the ones I write. I read them. There are characters, settings, and plots much more complicated than anything I can dream up. Yup, very well understood.
So what have I achieved?
I'm a writer again. It gives me pleasure. I can act in front of the microphone, bringing my characters and story to life, and it makes me happy. I'm not as popular on the podcast circuit as I once was, but I have lots of listeners. and therefore my words are reaching them. As long as I have listeners, I'll keep podcasting, because that in itself is an achivement.
It took much longer than I'd planned to write Scrolls. I can write an entire essay on why that was, but trust me, it was extremely difficult to finish. But I did it. And the comments I've received tell me I hit the mark. I count that as a great success.
I'm almost finished with the first draft of The Rider, which is my very first science fiction novella. Getting asked by Dark Øverlord Media, by the FDØ himself, in fact, to write a novel in the GFL universe was a huge achievement.
In addition, I'm now part of The Dead Robots' Society which I consider a great honor. But don't tell Justin I said that. I didn't ask to be part of the show, I was asked. Either Justin and Terry are insane, or they think I add something to the show. Yeah, I know, they're crazy.
Basically, this year has been chock full of personal achievements. Money has not been one of them and that will either come or it won't. I work hard at what I do and I'm constantly trying to improve myself. Perhaps one day I'll figure out how to make decent money doing this. Until then, I'll just keep writing, podcasting, coding, and etc.
You keep listening, I'll keep podcasting. You keep reading, I'll keep writing. There are many more stories for me to tell. Stay tuned while I bang them out.
Michell Plested was kind enough to invite me on his "Get Published" podcast to babble about writing, publishing, and the state of things in the Fienddom.
Thanks for the opportunity to come on your show and incoherently ramble.
Well, it's happened again. The Dead Robots Society made the mistake of having me on as a guest. And as expected, nothing good came from it.
Thank you for having me on, folks!
In case you've been hiding under a rock, I released Garaaga's Children: Lovers on Valentine's Day. This release was done a little differently than all my other ebook-only releases. I pimped it like Ice-T.
I scheduled it. I called down the thunder on the social media networks. I got people excited. And those folks who'd heard it via podcast were smitten with the idea of reading the story.
But there are a few more things I did differently this time. I'm not just grabbing my already saturated audience. I've been grabbing some new readers who have no idea who the hell I am. How did this happen?
Amazon has a wonderful little feature called "tagging." You see, when you publish an e-book through Amazon's KDP, you only get 2, yes TWO categories to add the book to. Just two. For those of us who write mashups, we're SCREWED with only 2 categories. I mean what do I choose for Lovers? It's got horror. It's got suspense. It's got erotica. It's historical fantasy with gods and monsters in ancient freakin' Babylon. Two categories?
Tagging allowed me to get around this. I added a crapload of tags to Lovers. After that, I went back and tagged the first e-book in the series, Legends. I made sure each shared the same overall tags and then customized some others. For instance, there's no erotica in Legends, so that tag didn't make any sense for the title.
But guess what happens after you tag your books: Amazon's search engine uses those tags to add them to search criteria. So suddenly my books started showing up in searches about Babylon, Sumer, Mesopotamia and the like. Interesting, huh?
If you're a newbie to the KDP universe, you really need to spend some time with those tags. The category crap? Your own book blurb? Not enough. Readers click on those tags to find other books that have been tagged the same way. It simplifies the reader's searching and makes your books show up more frequently.
One more thing: I tagged everything with "paul elard cooley." Why? Because f'ing Amazon doesn't allow you to use your middle name! Yet my podcast listeners know me as those three words. Now if you type that into Amazon? You get ME. ME! The Fiendmaster. Oh, guess I better add that tag too...
Most of you authors who read this are probably smiling and saying "you're such a n00b." And yeah, I can't believe I didn't think of this before either. But the important thing is that this time, I TOOK the time to work it out. If you want to sell books, you have to do more than simply hit the "publish" button and pray. You have to work. You have to shake. And you have to dance for your proverbial dinner.
So shake it like a gigolo, my fellow indie authors. Shake it, don't fake it.
Although I've hinted at this before, I think it's finally time to come clean.
Based on the strength of an outline alone, and the success of Tattoo, a publisher offered me a contract for Garaaga's Children. As you might expect, I was a little more than overjoyed. That is, of course, until I saw the contract.
The contract was an intellectual property agreement. What does this mean exactly? Basically it means that the publisher in question wanted to license all the characters, stories, and etc for Garaaga's Children for a time period. They would publish all the stories and give me 70% of the profits. In addition, they reserved the rights to hire other artists and writers to work in my world and with my characters. All of this was acceptable. Up to a point.
I did a book launch. Yes, Blue Moose Press is my publisher, but it's essentially an author co-op. They provided fantastic resources and experience in getting a book from editing phase into layout, graphics, and the like. Basically, without their help, Fiends: Vol1 would never have happened.
Now, I was absolutely certain I was going to screw this up big time, and I did. Just not in the way I thought. So here's some lessons if you're going to self-publish.
1. Have an on-going work to keep your fans interested.
One of the biggest problems with this book launch has been getting the word out. Since I've had no new fiction out there on the podiobook circuit, much of my listening public has taken a vacation from my podcast feed. That vacation from the feed has really been detrimental to building interest and excitement for the book.
Without a new title streaming through the internet, folks have little reason to even pay attention. Although I've been fairly good about providing infocasts, essays, interviews, and even some guest content, it's simply not enough to keep listeners involved, except, of course, for the die hards (and I LOVE you folks).
So if you're a podcast author and you have a book release coming up, make sure you TIME it with the release of another novel or story collection. I feel this is key to keeping things going.
2. Coordinate with your social media buddies. COORDINATE DAMMIT!
I have been a guest on many many podcasts over the past year. However, I didn't time this properly with the book release. Instead of being on a massive PR run on the circuit, as well as getting folks tuned in to the promo, I sought those resources at the last moment. In fact, I didn't go out of my way to ask the big folk for help. That's assistance they were willing to give, I was just too bashful to ask. This too put a nail in the coffin for good results.
3. Pre-sales are tough...and when you're niche player, they're even tougher
As a writer of psychological horror, my audience is quite a bit smaller than say a Scott Sigler or a Phil Rossi. And that's fine. I don't have a problem with that. But that also means that with that many less listeners, there are that many less buyers out there for a $35 hardcover. I believe I greatly over-estimated the demand for the book. Also, I have had a lot of my die-hard fans tell me they just couldn't afford a $35 book. I completely understand that and I'm not disappointed, per se. This was a learning experience dammit.
If you're a niche player like myself, it might make more sense to learn to crawl before you go to a full run. If I was smart I would have known this and only done maybe a 100 copy run for the hardcover. They'll selll out eventually, but I had convinced myself they would sell out more quickly. Mea culpa.
I priced the book according to the fact it's a limited edition and that it also comes with the free e-book. I thought that was a pretty good deal. Next time? I'll make it more affordable and print fewer of 'em.
4. Have the ebook ready to go...
If I had really done this right, I would have had the ebook ready to ship immediately. In other words, you buy the book on pre-sale, and you get the ebook via email same day. This would have given people the feeling of instant gratification. I had talked myself out of doing the ebook formatting myself (although I know how) and I believe that hurt me. Again. If you are going to use a service like Ebook Architects or similar, check well ahead of time to see how long it will take them to format and make your book available. If you don't you're going to have problems.
5. Have an actual damned store
We used the paypal store for this run. We shant be doing that again. Calculating shipping (expecially for intl) is a mess. The paypal system is slow, clunky, and a bitch and a half to use. I can't tell you how many hours I spent trying to get the damned thing working properly. If you're using it for digital items, it's perfect. But anything that has to be shipped? Well, if you have plenty of time on your hands, it'll work. If not, it's a serious pain in the ass.
Those are the big lessons I've learned. I have a long way to go in selling the hardcovers. The con circuit is coming up, so I'm hopeful I'll be able to move a few of those as well as the trade paperbacks at impromptu and formal book signings. Also, I have another revenue method up my sleeve, but we'll talk about that when it's ready.
The idea for this was not to make a whole lot of money. If I manage to break even on everything, I'll be damned happy. We have a ways to go before that happens, but we'll get there. I made all this happen because my fans wanted books. And I wanted to give 'em to you. On that, we were successful.
Once Garaaga's Children starts up, hopefully more listeners will travel to my site and take a chance on purchasing the book. If so, then we'll clear things out in a hurry and all will be well. If not? Well, there's going to be some serious bundling opportunities in the future.
Pay attention, oh fellow authors. These are the lessons I learned. Please make sure you heed them so you're more successful than I and suffer a LOT less stress.
I think I said this before, hell think I included it in episode 14 podcast, but I have submitted query letters to two publishers. Both were sort of solicited, meaning I was invited to submit my work. One of them is with an editor I've had many conversations with and whom I respect. Neither of us was sure whether or not Closet Treats was right for her company, but we both decided to give it a go.
Turns out, CT doesn't quite fit. I received the kindest, most helpful "rejection" letter of my life. Exactly what was needed, I think, to try and get over the shitty experience I had back in '95. Back in the saddle again. I'm going to ride this bronco for a couple of months. If no one wants my damned book after that, then it'll be time to pull a Scott Sigler and just DO IT.
The world didn't end. I'm not swirling in deep depression. I am, in fact, rather happy. Strange, but true. Why? Because I got great advice and managed to establish a relationship with someone in the biz. That is the best sort of experience I could have realistically hoped for. And I'm damned glad I took the chance and did it.
Some thoughts on "slow burn" fiction.
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Written and performed by Paul Elard Cooley.
Music by Nine Inch Nails from their album: The Slip. Please visit their site.
This presentation is copyright 2010 by Paul Elard Cooley.
Visit shadowpublications.com for more free stories as well as my rant casts.
First off, I've been podcasting my fiction since September 08. I was very very green in the gills when I first recorded "The Hunt". I think it turned out okay, but I'm definitely going to re-record it before DragonCon.
That said, I have received numerous requests (including many people I know who do not like podiobooks as a rule) to create "text" editions of my work. In the past, I have just given them a .pdf of the document and been done with it. But, it's not that simple.
The way I write, I tend to put all the files for a single story in a directory. The files are numbered (so I know what order they go into) and then I use a *nix command called "cat" to take all the files (in order) and put them into a single text document. The resulting text document is then placed into OpenOffice, formatted to make it pretty, and then exported to a .pdf.
As you might imagine, this is a SIGNIFICANT pain in the ass. It requires me to engage in a multi-step process that is error-prone and difficult to reproduce smoothly. As a software developer, this is a great anathema to me.
For DragonCon, I'm going to produce CDs that have all my fiction podcasts (up to August) as well as the textual versions of those stories. But .pdfs suck. I don't want to use them. .pdf is a great format if you want a document that can be easily printed and shared. But, as far as viewing them on devices, they are total shite.
iPhones, Crackberrys, Kindle, etc are capable of reading formats like amazon's proprietary kindle format, or .epub books. The .epub is obviously more ubiquitous since it is supported by both free and non-free software. I will support the kindle format too, but the most immediate need is to get .epub working first.
Now, before some of you start throwing furniture at me, asking why the hell I'm inventing something that's already out there, let me say this: no, it's not out there. To create .epub books, the tools out there assume you're using the great hated satan (m$ Word) or openoffice writer, or .rtf or some other format I don't want to use.
Why don't I just change my writing style? Um, right. Why don't you change how you say certain words? Or better yet, switch your handedness. What it comes down to is this: for longer works (novellettes, novellas, novels), it's much easier for me to break things up into their constituent pieces. So every chapter/subchapter gets its own file. The great thing about this is that I can re-order the files anyway I want without all that copy/paste bullshit.
I HATE THE MOUSE! I want to do things that are predictive, reproducible, and reusable. So, I need a converter.
So that's all the rationale I currently need in order to justify myself. I'm going to keep some blog topics on this and keep going until I succeed in making the entire process work. It'll bore the shit out of some people. But for us authors who hate using clicky-buttony thingies that get in the way of us being productive, I think it's a very useful conversation.