Tag Archives: hyperfiction

Testing Kindle Scout: Cutting Edges; Or, A Web of Women

My most recent indie experiment is actually based on something fairly old: my hyperfiction piece, Cutting Edges; Or, A Web of Women. I put the hyperfiction* version of Cutting Edges up on the web over 20 years ago, in a fit of literary experimentation when I still thought my future might lie in academia.

Well, it turns out that both hyperfiction and my future in academia didn’t have much of a future after all. Cutting Edges got a fair amount of attention at the time, but has now been languishing mostly unread for well over a decade.

So I decided to turn it into a more traditional novel and use it to test the Kindle Scout platform. You can check out the campaign here.

Cutting Edges

Lyssa Strutter only wants to make her magazine, Cutting Edges, a success. But then the unthinkable happens…

Mercy Kennedy Flunk is dissatisfied with her life and her marriage, but she feels stuck. And then the unthinkable happens…

Diana Archer is looking for a new band in need of a singer. But then the unthinkable happens…

These women and their friends respond with something unthinkable of their own: they organize a strike in bed in order to put an end to rape.

Sound like a fairy tale? It is.

But if we want to change our lives, we have to change the myths.

If you’re unfamiliar with Kindle Scout, it’s a platform where readers can browse unpublished books and vote for their favorites, thus giving them a better chance of being published through an Amazon imprint — including all the promotion that entails. The royalty rates are lower, but since Cutting Edges doesn’t really fit with my other published fiction (other than the fact that it’s feminist), I decided to run it through Kindle Scout. And who knows, with it’s theme of women’s reaction to sexual harassment and rape, it would be a good companion to the #metoo movement — if anyone notices. 🙂

* Hyperfiction is (or was) an experimental genre in which the narrative could be read however the reader chose, via the links provided in the text. If you are curious as to what I mean, you can try out my story “Triple Helix,” which was originally published in Ideomancer in 2007, but is no longer available on the site. You can now read it here: http://www.nestvold.de/helix/helix.htm

Revising the Aphra Behn time travel

After completing the first draft of Island of Glass, I started on revisions of Chameleon in a Mirror, my popular literature homage to Aphra Behn. Commercially, this one will probably be a washout, since it’s balancing on so many chairs, and none of them comfortably. The subject matter is literary history, but the approach is conventional, accessible, with nothing much innovative to challenge the reader. I certainly don’t have anything against innovation — I’ve written hyperfiction, after all, and the single Nebula nomination I’ve garnered was for a short story told in a series of computer database entries.

But the thing is, even though she was revolutionary, the first professional woman writer in the English language, Aphra Behn was nothing if not accessible. Her plays drew large crowds. Certainly, she messed with the conventions of her male contemporaries, she did wonderful things with the trope of the innocent heroine, and she made the bad-girl whore so sympathetic, it makes it hard to root whole-heartedly for the spunky heroine. But while she wrote the first epistolary novel in the English language, she wasn’t experimenting for experiment’s sake, she was venturing in to a new medium, the long prose narrative, and trying to find an effective way to tell a story.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I regard Aphra Behn as the Steven Spielberg of her era. So while some might think a “literary figure” like Aphra would deserve a “literary” treatment, I think she deserves a gripping plot with lots of twists and turns and surprises, just as she once delivered to the Restoration audience of the Duke’s Company. I doubt if my time travel will do her justice, and it will probably suffer just as much from too much Literature as it will from not enough Literariness. As if that weren’t enough, it’s undeniably a stand-alone novel — there is no way I can turn it into a series. Which is the form which seems to be most likely to lead to success in this brave new publshing world.

But it’s important for me to finally finish this project of my heart, and I’m glad to be working on it again.

I did lose a day with a stupid mistake — the version I started editing at first was an older version that apparently I had open to consult while I wrote the new version last year. It took a couple of hours of frustration with myself at the writing being so much less polished than I’d expected before I checked the directory again and found the REAL new version. Sigh. I must find a better method of naming my files, obviously. But at least now I’m a little more inclined to believe that I really am still capable of learning as a writer and haven’t hit some kind of wall where I can’t see my own mistakes. 🙂

Despite the false start, I’ve managed to revise 70 pages of 350 this week (a manuscript of 110,000 words total). I’m good with that. I’ve also been working on the next group promo, which I will officially announce tomorrow. Watch this space!

I also spent most of a day creating a new page on my blog for my books. If you have time, please check it out and tell me what you think!

Wishing everyone a very productive and successful week. 🙂

Marketing is Eating my Brain: Advantages and Disadvantages of the Ebook Revolution

I’ve had a couple of things up on Smashwords and Amazon for several months now, but I never really got serious about this whole publishing revolution until I decided to put Yseult up as an ebook. Ok, so I’ve written hyperfiction before (hyper-what?), but that was back in my former life, when I was concentrating more on literary criticism than fiction. My creative writing ideas at the time reflected the research topics I was writing about for my day job.

Ebooks now are a completely different animal than hyperfiction was back then. People who wrote hyperfiction were experimenting with new ways of telling a story; people who are publishing their works as ebooks are exploring new ways of trying to make a living as a writer. The hyperfiction crowd didn’t have to worry about that, since most of them were employed at universities, like I was. While I still find the narrative potential of hyperfiction fascinating, I think the developments going on right now in publishing much more far-reaching. Stories told in linked text fragments may yet become a more common way of telling a story, although even in the dark ages at the dawn of the World Wide Web when I was writing the stuff I had my doubts. But the authors now who are becoming successful with models outside of traditional publishing might well be at the forefront of a paradigm shift similar to that which eventually led to the medieval patronage system being almost completely abandoned. (It could be argued that vestiges still survive in various forms of “writers in residence.”)

But while it’s really cool to think of yourself as a revolutionary at the forefront of a paradigm shift, it comes with a big price tag.

Marketing and promotion.

The short stories and novellas I put up as ebooks last year were all previously published works, fiction I had already “earned out” on, and as a result, I was not too invested in sales numbers. I mentioned the ebooks here and there, and got a few sales here and there, and that was it.

I guess you could say I “earned out” on Yseult too, since I got a very respectable advance for the German translation, Flamme und Harfe. But I spent years on that book, and when I decided to bring it out as an ebook after I got the English rights back, I didn’t want it to sink like a stone. After all my effort writing it, it would definitely be worth some extra time marketing it, right?

Well, like usual, I underestimated what “extra time” would entail. Since I didn’t have a clue how to market ebooks, first I had to research marketing strategies. I signed up for Goodreads and LibraryThing and organized a giveaway. I wrote a bunch of sites that will review ebooks (not much luck until now). I announced Yseult everywhere I could except Twitter (although I did announce there when it went free for two days). I read more articles on ebook marketing. Lather, rinse, repeat, er, repent.

But it worked. I’m not going to be an ebook millionaire anytime soon, but during the first freebie promotion, Yseult had over 8500 downloads. After the promotion, while I was still spending a lot of time on marketing (but not tweeting “buy my book” I swear!), I was getting 20-30 sales per day, the high point being 38. But I wasn’t writing anymore.

I had some excellent suggestions on my blog last week how I might be able to balance writing and marketing, (thank you all!) and I tried to implement them, but I think my problem is that I’m still learning the whole marketing gig. I can’t do it in half an hour a day. I need to read blogs, try what’s worked for others, figure out what works for me. In the last week, while I was concentrating on writing rather than marketing, the sales of Yseult went down from over 20 a day to under 10.

So I have a new plan, given my lack of experience in promotion. Two days a week, I’ll concentrate exclusively on marketing, including researching how best to go about it and trying new strategies. The rest of the week, I get to work on writing projects: editing, writing new material, brainstorming, whatever needs to be done. At some point, I may be able to develop a daily routine of a few minutes a day (hah!) where marketing-related activities are concerned, but I don’t know my way around enough to be able to do that now.

I figure it’s better to be a zombie only two days a week than all the time. Maybe someday marketing won’t even involve turning into a zombie anymore!