Tag Archives: ebook

Smashwords and Nanowrimo

I’ve mentioned any number of times goals of “getting this or that up on Smashwords.” I haven’t followed through on very many of those goals, but today I got my first Paypal payment from Smashwords! It wasn’t much, barely enough for a dinner out, but perhaps it will motivate me to follow through on a few more of those ebook goals.

The other motivator at the moment is Nanowrimo, that collective writing insanity that goes on during November. I wasn’t intending to do Nano this year, but then, so many people I know decided to, and you know, the company is good, and it’s fun to be hanging out with a bunch of crazy writers. So on the weekend I got all the notes and plot ideas and characters sketches for my latest novel set up in the Nanowrimo edition of Scrivener. And If you don’t know Scrivener yet, give it a trial run. It’s brilliant. I already bought it for the Mac a couple years back, even bought a used Mac for the sole purpose of writing with Scrivener, but now I’m giving the new Windows version a shot, and even after two days, I already know that I’m going to have to buy Scrivener again. (The Mac and PC versions are separate products, unfortunately.)

So good luck and happy writing to all who are plunging into Nano-month!

Determining my Target Audience (John Locke and the Rest of Us, Part 2)

You can read my initial thoughts on John Locke’s e-marketing ideas here. In this post, I’m going to attempt to define a target audience in the way Locke suggests in his book, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in in 5 Months!

I don’t write in any one, single genre, even though most of my work falls under the general genre umbrella of “sff” — science fiction and fantasy. But among my published works there’s space opera, near future, magic realism, epic fantasy, dragons, witches, and Mars. So it would be pretty hard to define a target audience for my fiction as a whole — it would probably end up so general as to be useless.

Instead, I’m going to try to figure out the target audience for Yseult and maybe eventually I can do something with that.

Ysuelt is a Big Fat Fantasy of almost 200,000 words. The German translation came in at about 700 pages. While Yseult is a retelling of the Tristan and Isolde legend, it is not as medieval in feel as a lot of Arthurian novels. By that I mean that it isn’t set in an era of jousting and tournaments and chivalry. Yseult is set in fifth century Ireland and Britain, a brutal, transitional age. I did a lot of research on Sub-Roman and Post-Roman Britain, as well as early Christian Ireland, trying to create a gritty, historical atmosphere, despite the fantasy elements. At the same time, I read lots of medieval Arthurian works, in particular Welsh. I liked the old Welsh names best, and used quite a few rather than the more familiar French versions, e.g. Bedwyr instead of Bedivere, Cai instead of Kay, Myrddin instead of Merlin. For the same reason, I didn’t include Lancelot (an invention of medieval French writers). While the main plot line is the tragic love story of Yseult and Drystan, I didn’t skimp on the larger political picture, the war of the British kingdoms against the encroaching Saxons, and there are a number of detailed battle scenes.

Next step: what kind of readers would like to read a book like that?

First off, my ideal readers like both fantasy and historical detail. They get a kick out of learning something new, even when they’re reading fiction. At the same time, they want to be entertained; they like grand passion and epic conflicts. They probably have a weakness for tragedy, as long as the ending is satisfying. A familiarity with Arthurian legends is a plus, combined with an openness to seeing old stories told in new ways. They like a good battle scene as much as a good sex scene. They don’t mind their heroes getting dirty, and they don’t like it when magic solves too many problems. They’re fans of High Mud Fantasy.

Ok, that wasn’t quite as hard as I expected. But even if I have a better image now of my ideal readers, the next step according to John Locke is writing blog posts aimed at precisely those readers, posts that will draw them to my page and make them click on the links to where they can buy my books (see the images to the right *g*). Those targeted blog entries are the real challenge. How am I supposed to come up with posts that will attract thousands of readers of High Mud Fantasy and inspire them to buy my stuff?

Locke emphasizes how long he needs to compose those critical posts, but at the same time, he makes it sound so easy. You figure out what your ideal readers will be attracted to, and *whamo* they’re there and buying your books! You do, however, have to use Twitter to promote your blog until your posts go viral. Repeatedly:

When I’ve posted a new blog, I write a couple of tweets to my 20,000 followers and hope some will vist my blog and re-tweet the link. I also send group tweets to Twitter pals, maybe four to six pals per message, and maybe six to ten tweets altogether …. I tweet to different friends each time so I’m not hassling the same people every month. When they re-tweet my news, I let a few hours go by, or maybe a day, and then re-tweet their “re-tweets,” spreading the message out so I’m hitting different times of the day and night. This keeps the buzz going.

From John Locke, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in in 5 Months!

Well, aside from the fact that he leaves out the instructions on how to get 20,000 followers in the first place, if I can ever come up with a post that will bring my ideal writers flocking to my blog, I’ll be sure to write it. But promote it regularly on Twitter? Don’t people get irritated with tweets like that?

There are a lot of good observations in this book, however, probably first and foremost being that too many writers blog about writing. Which means the only readers they are attracting are other writers, not the folks who might eventually buy their books. Definitely something to think about there. I don’t have to worry about all this marketing too much yet, though. The first thing is to make a cover for Yseult and get the novel up on Amazon and Smashwords. Then I can start testing sales strategies.

Otherwise, I’m still doing pretty well on my goals. I added 700 words to a story that was requested for a rewrite, and progress on the medieval level of Fragments of Legend is steady. Since I set many of my goals up as weekly goals, I’ll post a summary at the end of the week.

Little writing, lots of Photoshop frustration

My writing progress in the last couple of days has been minimal: 50 pages of revisions on a novella I’m writing with Jay Lake, “Second Contact.” I still haven’t gotten back to my convicts on Callisto story like I intended, but when I try to do things I’m not trained in, the time sink is enormous. And the last couple of days, I’ve been trying to teach myself Photoshop so that I can make decent covers for all the previously published material I have lying around taking up space on my hard drive.

Well, I have to say, for me Photoshop is not intuitive. I spent most of the day today trying to do a tutorial for making a cover, and I failed spectacularly. Not only were the colors all wrong when I desaturized, I couldn’t even figure out how to move the image on a new layer I’d created. So I fear for the time being, my award-winning sf novella “Looking Through Lace” will have to stick with the cover it already has.

I would hire professionals to create covers for me if I had the writing income to do so, but until now, my expenses for ebooks are about five times what I’ve earned, and it doesn’t make any sense to me to shell out any more cash until I can turn this thing around. Who knows, if I had amazing professional covers, my sales might take off, but I don’t think there’s that much income in story collections and novellas. We’ll see what happens when I get the first novel up.

I did make some progress on platform this week, however: I created a new page on my WordPress blog for pictures and bios, a sort of “press kit” for publicity purposes. I spent most of the day yesterday choosing and cropping the pics and putting together the page. Please take a look. I would be very grateful for any feedback you might have!

A New Look and Some New Projects

Did a lot of work on redesigning my blog in the last couple of days. Chose a new theme, and added a bunch of links to my publications and anthologies containing my stories. Still need to do a lot more, but at least it’s a start. What do folks think – was it worth the work?

I also finished the hard copy revisions for Chameleon in a Mirror, my Aphra Behn time travel novel. I was hoping to hire a freelance editor of my acquaintance, but she’s booked solid through December. I wanted to get the ebook put together before Christmas, though. Does anyone have any suggestions?

This week, I finally started critiquing again on Codex. I got really bad about that while I was working on Shadow of Stone, so I’m pleased that I’m finally getting back into a critique group. A couple of the collabs I’ve done recently have been through Codex as well; I neglected that great community far too long, and it feels good to be back.

The next project I want to tackle is finishing my Callisto story. After that, I’m a little unsure what to do next. Should I go ahead with the Aphra Behn novel? Or should I work on Yseult instead, my retelling of the Tristan and Isolde tale? Since that has been published in translation in German, Dutch, and Italian, I know there’s a potential audience, and the original manuscript has gone through the editing process. Any thoughts on the matter would be greatly appreciated!

Aphra Behn and the Odds

For me, one of the great things about having Aphra Behn as a role model is that it keeps me from indulging in complaints about my lot too much. Of course, we all need to gripe now and then to get things out of our systems, but whenever I want to blame my life or somebody else for how little I get accomplished, all I have to do is look at Aphra and I know I really don’t have any excuses.

Not much is known conclusively about Aphra beyond her plays and publications other than that she worked for the Crown as a spy in the Netherlands. A number of her letters begging the government to reimburse her for the money she’d spent on her mission have survived. After she returned to England in 1667, she may even have briefly landed in debtor’s prison because the government refused to pay what they owed her for her services. At this point, her father was dead and her mother probably as well, and in any case, her family does not seem to have been wealthy to start with. The most likely candidate for her father was a “barber-surgeon,” and while the woman he married came from minor gentry, she married beneath her. There is no indication among any of the Aphra’s writings or the writings of her contemporaries about her that she had any wealthy family to fall back on, as did most of the “scribbling women” who came before her, such as Katherine Philips or Margaret Cavendish.

Nonetheless, two years after her letters to the Crown begging for the money to keep her out of debtor’s prison, her first play, “The Forced Marriage,” was produced by the Duke’s Company at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. It was a great success and ran for six nights, providing its author with two nights’ income. (The “third day” always belonged to the author of the play.)

She definitely deserves the famous words of Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own:

All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds. It is she–shady and amorous as she was–who makes it not quite fantastic for me to say to you tonight: Earn five hundred a year by your wits.

The last couple of days, I’ve gotten an average of 25 pages a day revised in hard copy on Chameleon in a Mirror. I should be done by the end of the week. Then I have to get the changes into the file and start working on a cover. I may also be wanting to hire an editor to go through it one more time. But my goal is to get the novel up as an ebook at the very latest by the end of the year.

Brave New Worlds and (Cowardly?) Stubborn Old Bitches

As we all know by now, the publishing industry is in a state of flux, and none of us can really predict how things are going to look five years down the road. A couple months back I started trying to participate in the revolution by creating some ebooks of my own by uploading some previously published stories and novellas. All the experts assured me that I could have my files ready in a matter of hours, minutes even.

Uh, can you say days? And then come the error messages from Smashwords

Well, there was too much going on in May, including both travel and increased grandmother duties, for me to deal with renewed demands on files that had originally been approved. Finally tackled that task tonight, thus this little rant. I can only hope that all those experts are right and eventually I will need mere minutes to create new ebooks. Right now, however, I have pretty much forgotten everything I taught myself in March and feel like I’m starting over from scratch.

Perhaps an ebook a week is the ticket.

Entering the Ebook Era

I have finally gotten around to uploading my first ebook to Smashwords, my Tiptree and Sturgeon-nominated novella, “Looking Through Lace.” To celebrate the event, I have also generated a coupon, good for the next month, for 50% off. If you would like to download the story, use Coupon Code: YP88U at checkout!

I still have a bit to learn: while the pdf and mobi versions look good, the html preview has lost the formatting for the front matter. Eventually I’ll get the hang of it, I’m sure.