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from veronika-poems

pensiero felice

il rosa determinato del cielo poggiato sugli alberi e sulle forme naturali, mi fa pensare che issarmi giù dal letto ne valga davvero la pena

 
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from The View From Here

Being risk averse, I’m always trying to figure out the probability of various actions. Probabilities become important when real money’s on the table, as when you’re shelling out cash for cover art or editing — the only actual production costs authors should incur.

Not to say we don’t pay for other things.

Self-pubbed authors have fixed overhead costs in addition to the cost of actually producing the book. Infrastructure like websites and email list services. Software. Heck, even printers, ink, and paper, if you swing that way. Those are all fixed cost. They're the price of doing business you'll incur every month and not the variable costs associated with producing a particular book.

So when I advise people to write five novels in a single niche before trying to prime the pump on sales, I’m aware that I’m asking people to put real money at risk.

Writers who pursue the traditional path incur those costs as soon as the book gets picked up. The publisher figures out how much a book needs to earn before they even set eyes on a manuscript. If they don’t think the book will sell enough units to offset the cost of covers, editing, layout, and all the other variable expenses along with a generous slice of their fixed overhead, they won’t take it. If the book doesn’t earn that much, the writer won’t get another contract from that publisher. They may not get the rights back either.

Writers who self-publish need to do their own accounting to figure out how much they can afford to spend to produce their books.

I’ve seen some pretty horrific numbers coming from new authors. Authors spending way too much for their first novel, beggaring themselves and sacrificing later work on the altar of “let’s see if anybody likes this one.”

Tip: They don’t.

Taking costs in order:

Unless you’ve got a few thousand dollars stashed away to start this new business, go with a premade cover. They can be had for under a $100. I haven’t checked lately but they used to be available for under $50. Google has a nice list of pre-made cover providers. It’s a fun way to spend a couple of hours between writing sessions. I know people who’ve bought a whole series worth of covers before they even wrote the books, but they weren’t new writers trying to finance a startup.

Editing is the biggest expense. Figure out how much you can afford to spend in a year and divide that by the number of books you intend to publish. That’s how much you should spend on editing for any given book. You’re unlikely to earn that money back for a very long time on your earliest works. Budget accordingly.

Speaking of numbers, if that number of books isn't greater than one, it’s going to be a long time before you’ve got enough work out there to get a foothold in the marketplace. That’s why it’s important that new authors don’t fritter away their time trying to interest readers in their first novel at the expense of growing their catalog.

A good first novel release might net $50–$100 in the first month and a few dollars for the next few months before petering out to zero. It’s pump failure as the pool of readers dries up. If yours does better than that, rock on. Some first novels sell pretty well, particularly if the author has done a good job networking with other authors.

I bring this up to temper your expectations about first novel launches. A lot will depend on what you write and what you price the book at. Too many authors get hung up by the amount on the cover without realizing that the true value of their work is the amount on the check at the end of the month.

Realistically, we each write what we want to write. We write in the forms and genres that appeal to us. It's part of the internal scan I wrote about before. As you're thinking about what to write next – or sighing over the lack of sales in your first book – it helps to know what the overall fiction market looks like.

In the US, romance, action/thriller, and speculative fiction account for upwards of 70% of all adult fiction sold. If you’re writing outside those genres, you’re going to have a harder time. Not impossible, but romance earned the right to be the queen. Recognize the rest of us only share leftovers from the royal table. Luckily it’s a big table.

Form matters, too. Novels sell better than shorter works.

Novellas had a renaissance early on in ebook history. They’re still out there. People still write them. They still sell. The shorter form isn’t necessarily better. They can cost less to get edited, but you can't charge as much for them either. The saddle point I mentioned for novels above is closer to the minimum $2.99 for novellas.

Some readers like short stories, but shorts are a notoriously hard sell. There are too few markets for them. Anthologies come along occasionally. It’s possible to put a few together in a collection of your own, but shorts are a tough market. My hat’s off for anybody who writes short fiction.

The basic rule: If you write in a niche that nobody reads, there’s a good chance nobody will read your book, too.

Corollary: A lot of tiny niches still have thousands of eager readers who might love your books, if you put enough out there for them to find.

I’ve talked about costs. What about revenue?

Economics has some words to help us. Price flexibility of demand is the degree to which a buyer will pay a higher cost for the same or similar product. Generally speaking, the more something costs, the fewer people can/will buy it. With enough data, you can calculate the curve that shows revenue against price point. That curve always has an inflection point where the revenue from a given product declines as the price of that product rises.

For ebooks, that inflection point was $4.99 for a long time. The $2.99 price point generated substantially less revenue while encouraging unit sales. Once the price rose above $5, the revenue (and by extension, the number of units sold) tapered off. Above $6 and those numbers dropped sharply.

That told me that readers’ price flexibility of demand stalled around $5. That became the optimal price for me. Enough revenue to support me and a sufficient number of units sold to support audience growth.

It’s also why traditional publishers window ebook prices at prices above $10 in order to make the physical copies more attractive to readers. Once they’ve sold as many hard copies as they can, they’ll lower the price of ebooks to just under the $10 price mark. This practice helps them when dealing with bookstores and supports their narrative that ebooks are not a significant factor in the marketplace so authors don’t need to think about them.

But I digress.

Economics has another useful concept — fungibility. Nothing to do with mushrooms. It’s the degree to which some product might be substituted for another.

Brand loyalty keeps you buying whatever commodity you buy, like toothpaste. In a pinch, say the store is out of your brand, you might buy another. Commodities like toothpaste have high fungibility. You can substitute one for another because they all do about the same thing.

Other goods have fungibility. Potatoes as a starchy veg can substitute for rice or even pasta. Depending on your geography, you may eat more of one than the other but from a dietary standpoint, they serve the same basic function as — say — bread. They’re not quite equal. It’s not as similar as brands of toothpaste, but still fungible.

Books are a different matter. Books have very low fungibility. Sure we read the stories we like but even within genre niches you know the authors you like and the ones you don’t. The lack of fungibility becomes significantly pronounced when you switch genres. Almost nobody would accept a Clive Cussler novel because Nora Roberts was sold out.

Niche matters because fungibility matters to the reader. Once they’ve read the top twenty books in their niche, fungibility suggests they’ll take a chance on an unknown rather than switch niches. Not a hundred percent, but enough that it’s worth staying close to your reader by giving them something that’s available in a genre they like when their preferred brand has run out.

That’s where your book picks up readers organically while other books dominate the charts. You don’t need to be a bestseller. You just need to be available.

It might seem hard to believe but heavy readers will go through the top 10 or 20 books in a matter of a couple of weeks and are left looking for something else to read. Since a lot of those titles camp out in the top slots, those readers have to look further down the list before they find something they haven't read. Having your books there waiting for them is one way you move up in rank.

Stepping back, it should be obvious that a writer can’t make a living from people reading only one book a year. Even one a month. We make bank on the heavy readers plowing through four or more books a week. They don’t all read genre fiction but enough do that it matters what you write.

But back to risk. What risk is most important to you?

From the beginning, I wanted to get my books in the hands — and ears — of readers. Traditional publishing puts too many obstacles in that path. The chance that my stories might not get to readers is too great. I have to convince an agent, or at least an acquisitions editor, to take a chance on the story. The publisher has to try to convince bookstores to stock it. Bookstores have to convince readers to read it.

All for a book by an author nobody ever heard of.

Along the way, publishers want me to do things that, honestly, I’m not willing to do. Mostly because they’re stupid, mass media attempts to use mass market tools in social media channels. Blogging. Tweeting. Instagram and Tik-Tok. All to promote your book by cover reveals and insider tips on how the book got written and why the character they loved so much had to be killed off. They want the author to create buzz that the publisher can leverage with bookstores. This stuff also takes time away from the single most important thing I can do. Writing the next book. Nothing sells your last book better than the current one.

For me, the risk of traditional publishing is too great. The rewards are too small and uncertain to offset the risk.

By doing it myself, I always have a 100% guarantee that my books will appear on the shelves so readers from around the world can find them.

How do I convince them to buy them? I don't.

I do what any normal person would do.

I get their friends to do it.

 
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from The View From Here

The process of priming a pump involves putting a little fluid in the system so the pump has something to work with. It forces the air out so the pump can pump.

New writers need to prime the sales pump but getting those first few sales can rival the twelve labors of Hercules. So many things to do. So many moving parts. Getting advanced reader copies out to generate buzz. Chasing reviews. Cover reveals. Blog hops. Figuring out advertising. Planning release parties.

How’s a new writer supposed to do all that?

My advice: Don’t.

That’s a lot of stuff. It takes a lot of time to figure it out and more time to actually do it. That’s time a new author needs to be doing something more important. Writing the next book.

There’s a danger in priming the pump too early. Once you’ve emptied the metaphorical pond of readers, the pump stops working. In the beginning, that pond is really shallow. Maybe only a few dozen people pick up your book.

Then what?

Maybe they liked it, but it’s a one off. An artisanal potato chip packaged in its own bag. What can they do? They go read something else. Something you didn’t write.

Why didn’t they read your next book?

Because you haven’t written it yet. You were too busy with the labors of Hercules to get it written, edited, produced, and published. You spent so much time and money trying to sell your first book, you don’t have a follow up for the people you managed to sell it to. So they go away. Maybe they’ll remember six months from now. Maybe they won’t. In the meantime, your well’s run dry. The pump stopped pumping. You’ll need to prime it again.

Hercules only did his labors once. Don’t be Sisyphus, constantly having to roll that boulder up the hill only to have it roll back down with every new release.

Before you think about priming the pump, write the next book — ideally the next four — all in the same niche. If you change niches, you have to start over. It’s true that some readers read promiscuously, jumping from mysteries to thrillers to romance to gamelit, but that’s not how you build an audience.

I know that’s a big ask. What if you write all that, get it all published, and nobody likes it?

It’s possible. It might take ten or a dozen.

I got lucky after four but my work didn’t catch fire until I hit five. By the time I had eight, I crashed the Podiobooks server on Christmas eve because so many people wanted the next story.

How? Easy. I borrowed an audience to prime the pump and then kept them coming back by releasing more and more books. No ads. No blog hops. No “buy my book” social media. No ARCs. Just more books.

How do you borrow an audience? It’s not like a lawnmower you can return when you're done with your lawn.

Easy. Make allies.

I didn’t have to ask because all the Podiobooks authors talked about each other’s books to their audiences. There weren't many of us. We all knew each other, or at least of each other. We listened to each other’s work. We became allies. It’s just good practice to talk about somebody else’s work rather than your own. Much easier, too. Less like tooting your own horn. Less like “marketing.”

That was then. Now? It still works, but you have to find your people. They don’t aggregate naturally.

The answer: Social media.

Find authors in your niche. You should be reading them anyway as a matter of course. You can’t participate in the slow-motion conversation of letters if you’re not taking in what others are putting out. When you find somebody whose work you like, even admire, let them know. Reach out. Tell them how much you liked their last book.

Don’t ask for something. Give them something. Recommend their work on your reader-facing blog. Whatever it is you do to talk to the people you hope will be fans someday, tweet, toot, insta, tok about them. You can help them without permission and they will notice. Most will reciprocate when the time comes.

Caveat: Watch what they do in their own channels. Do they talk with their readers or just other authors? Do they just talk about their own books or are they active participants in a wider conversation? Are they authentic? Do they have a positive social presence?

A tip I got early on was to start talking to the fans I didn’t have yet. Don’t waste time talking about how to manage your time as a writer or the thirteen plot points needed to save the cat.

Talk to them about things readers want to know about. Things like when’s the next book coming or where you’ll be appearing at a convention. (Local cons are great places to meet potential fans.) One of my colleagues always operated as if he had thousands of readers, even when he only had a dozen. Now he has multiple thousands of readers. Still talks to them the same way.

Eventually, you’ll be able to turn to your allies and maybe ask for a cover blurb for your next release. I’ve had allies-turned-friends ask for help promoting a new release. Knowing their work, liking their work, it was a no-brainer. Of course, I helped.

Note the key words “eventually” and “knowing/liking.” Another important concept involves social capital and how you spend it.

Don’t recommend a book your audience won’t like. It could be the next Great American Novel, but if your audience is cozy mysteries, they might not appreciate it.

Every time you recommend a book, you’re risking social capital. If you’re right and the readers like the recommendation, you might add a bit of social capital in their account. If you’re not, you’ll lose a bit. The more capital you have with the individual reader, the more likely they’ll take your next recommendation positively. Your social capital balance becomes a measure of your influence. You want that balance to be as high as possible.

Of course, the more positively they respond, the more social capital you’ll earn with the other author as well. You become a stronger ally in their eyes.

But — as always — there’s a catch.

How do you write and publish that many books before you know if anybody will like them?

Go back to marketing. Your internal scan should tell you whether or not you’re a writer. Writers write. Steve Jobs had the right of it. Real artists ship.

Your internal scan might tell you, that one or two was all you had. You gave it a shot and now you’re ready to move on to something you’re more in tune with.

Maybe you need to put it down temporarily.

Maybe you want to write but can’t figure out how to keep doing it. It can be expensive, both in time and money.

I ran into that problem and did what any normal person would do.

I ran the numbers.

 
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from The View From Here

I’m old, so it shouldn’t be surprising that I’m old school. When I learned it back near the close of the 20th century, marketing was what you did to figure out what product or service you’d produce for which market. Basically figuring out what kind of widget you’d make to sell.

On its face, a simple process.

Step one. Where is there a need that isn’t being met? Step two. Figure out what you can do about it.

In marketing speak, these are external and internal scans.

Externally, you’re looking at market size in terms of revenue, geographic location, innovation adoption rates, and market penetration. You're looking for underserved customers or products that need improvement. The bigger the potential market, the more likely you'll be able to attract enough customers to warrant entering.

The internal scan involves what you can bring to the table. How much time and money can you spend? What special knowledge do you have? Even what kinds of things interest you enough that you’d be willing to stick with them for more than a couple of years?

Writers get it backwards for the most part. Instead of figuring out what market they want to be in, they write something. Then they’re left with trying to figure out if somebody will buy it.

In my case, I knew I needed to write a novel for my future podcast experience. I also knew I wanted to write science fiction because that’s my comfort zone. I’ve been reading it since they let me sign out books from the elementary school library.

I always picked the ones with the rocket ship or atom stickers on the spine. Do they still do that?

Anyway, that’s when I realized a couple of important factors about writing science fiction.

  1. There’s a lot of different stuff there. Near earth, first contact, time travel, military sf, space opera, science fiction romance. I can’t even tell you how many there are without looking them up.

  2. I couldn’t write better than the household names already on the shelf.

Rephrased, I needed to pick a niche and I needed to figure out a story that all those people weren’t already telling.

I needed to fine tune my scans and focus on my goal, reaching readers. I picked space opera as my target. Partly because it’s what I like to read most. Partly because I believe that space opera could be more than just the military science fiction that dominates the niche.

In marketing terms, I picked my market and differentiated my product so it would stand out on the shelves.

But how could I compete with all those big names? I’m just one guy in his basement.

Luckily marketing showed me I didn’t have to.

The big names all have one liability that I don't. They all rely on publishers to sell books to bookstores and on bookstores to sell books to readers. I only need to convince readers to give my books a try.

I never have to worry about availability because there's a 100% chance my books will be published.

My books appear on the same digital shelves as the big names, albeit at somewhat more reasonable prices. The largest bookstore in the world is on everybody's desk, available on everyone's phone. All day, every day, twenty-four/seven. Readers can even order an edition with a non-refreshable cellulose display, if they prefer.

So how do I convince readers to try my stories?

First, we need to talk about markets and media.

Conceptually, markets exist on a continuum. Mass markets, like national or even global brands, make goods and services available to the most people across the widest geographical area. Niche markets exist to provide specialize products to limited numbers of buyers.

Think about media as an abstract. Television and radio networks, large publishing houses. Or so-called “consumer brands” that provide commodity goods like toothpaste or tissues. They use mass media channels to make people aware of their goods and services.

The other end of the spectrum is niche. Niche is sometimes local but always limited in what it offers. Model railroads are niche. They only appeal to a smallish subset of any given population. Science fiction novels are — likewise — a niche. Doug’s Dog Groomers is niche because Doug runs his business out of the strip mall down the street. While a lot of people have dogs, it’s just Doug so it’s local and niche.

How do these two different scales of commerce work in this continuum?

On the mass media side, they use a lot of broadcast (one-way) communications. TV ads on national programs. Print ads in appropriate print media. Billboards. You name it. The goal is to put your message in front of everybody you can reach in the hope that some infinitesimal percentage of those people will respond favorably to your message. If you can reach a hundred million people, you may only need a fraction of a percent of them to buy your widget.

But it takes deep pockets to reach that many people at once.

In niche media, you find some of the same techniques but they tend to work best in local settings for products or services that a lot of the locals want. Restaurants. Dog groomers. Hair salons. Everybody has hair but nobody wants to leave town for a haircut.

What about global settings for niche products? Think: hobbyists like stamp collectors and model builders. Specialized mass media still works there. A limited pool of potential buyers makes this difficult but a limited number of outlets helps focus attention where it matters.

While niche media might not need deep pockets, it still needs more than pocket change.

Authors who’ve tried advertising to promote their books with ads found out pretty quickly. It can work, but making it scale and making it reliable is big ask.

Key point: Ads are mass media tools. Mass media relies on a lot of views to get a few positive responses.

Luckily there’s social media. With social media, you use a two-way channel to reach your customers. Your readers. It doesn’t cost much out of pocket to talk to people around the world and have them talk back. That “talk back” part is why it’s social media and not broadcast.

But there’s a catch.

Not only can they talk back, they can also control who talks to them. Unlike broadcast/mass market channels, if the recipient of your message doesn’t like it — or you — they can block you. They’ll never hear another word. Their willingness to put up with your promotional messages hinges on maintaining a “yes” with them. As soon as it flips to “no,” you’ve lost them forever.

So how do you let people know about your story without actually telling them? The common wisdom is “be interesting.” For a lot of people that winds up being cat pictures or dining experiences. They intersperse “oh, by the way, I wrote a book. You might like it” messages between the snappy snapshots and witty repartee. They try to find the balance point between promotional content and filler.

A concept known as social capital drives this bus and it’s based on something called social presence.

Social presence is the degree to which people perceive you as being there in any given context. In physical spaces, some people are wall flowers. They’d have a hard time getting an alibi from the cocktail party because nobody remembers they were there. They don’t earn a lot of social capital with the various attendees.

You know who does? The drunk with the lampshade on their head dancing on the coffee table.

Again, there’s a catch.

The drunk has a lot of social presence. People know he’s there alright. The catch? It’s a unilateral decision on the observer’s part. Maybe they’re amused and the social capital is positive. “That Bob. What a cut up. We’ll have to have him over for dinner.” Maybe they’re appalled and the social capital is negative, draining any goodwill away faster than a red Solo cup rolling down the stairs. On the way home they say, “That Bob. Remind me to never invite him to any of our parties.”

But poor Bob doesn’t know which is which. He might not even notice the snub until, suddenly, nobody’s inviting him to parties any more.

I think of social capital as pennies. Every time somebody reads one of my messages on social media, they make a choice. If they like it, they drop a penny in their bank. If they don’t like it they take a penny out. If the bank is empty too many times, they block me. I’ve lost them, probably forever. No matter how much they may like my next message, they won’t get it. I’m dead to them.

The logical question is “How much is too much?”

Can you do nine cat pictures and a promo? Sure. You can. How risk averse are you?

There's a non-zero probability that your mass media message won't be welcome in a social media channel. Are you willing to take the chance that your promo won't hit them the wrong way? That they didn't have a flat tire on the way home and the first thing they saw was a message about the great review you just got on your book? Are you willing to lose a few potential future readers for the sake of a few new ones now?

Most writers — rightly — hate this. It’s why they feel like marketing is icky. Of course, that’s not marketing. It’s sales and promotion, but I digress.

Personally, my approach has always been “one.” Not one a day or one a month. Not one out of every ten. Not one per time zone.

One notice on my blog. One notice on my newsletter. Just one and only to those people who, theoretically, want to see it.

Key point: The goal of niche marketing is to get your messages in front of only those people who want to see them. People sign up for the newsletter to get that message. They visit your website to find out what’s happening.

But they only follow you on social media if you’re interesting enough. As soon as you stop being interesting, you’re toast. Do they want your promotional messages cluttering up their various timelines? Maybe. Maybe not.

So how can you be interesting?

Be interested in them. Find out what books they like. What movies they’ve seen. What games they play. Share what others are doing. Talk to them, not at them. Have conversations, not speeches. Make it easy for new people to find you and your work, but don’t put the lampshade on your head.

So how do you get that new audience?

Do what any normal person would do.

Borrow one.

Priming the Pump

 
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from BerwickPoetryWorkbook

ACDF

Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) is a surgery to remove a herniated or degenerative disc in the neck. An incision is made in the throat area to reach and remove the disc. A graft or surgical device is inserted to fuse together the bones above and below the disc.

At the moment of explanation That the surgical tools could not reach from front to back, That the surgery was not what it should be I can see myself holding a Boning knife and a cleaver Splitting lamb neck chops for a Healthy midweek stew, Fifty seven percent profit per portion and Salty enough to drive up drinks purchases – no Cheating, just Oxo’s flavoursome goodness.

After the first dressing change, the first view of The incision, Razor edged Precisely drawn across my throat I can picture A Telecoms engineer unable to open a Rusty cabinet, trying to reach through a Hole in the door to rearrange hardware inside Manipulating technology and spaces.

Why would anyone want this? Why the late hours sweating and dreaming with Coleridge at the edge of consciousness while a patient Philipino nurse from an agency plays the part of the man from Porlock?

I want to find the words, conscious of the book Ostentatiously placed on the bedside table, a Memoir detailing precisely The right to have a body that works as we wish it, not by Diagnosis but desire.

 
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from TheBerwickJournal

What's the Berwick Journal about?

In short, it's an attempt at placemaking via a devolved set of publications under the heading of the Berwick Journal. Berwick lacks a strong presence in the written word, so there will be poetry. There will be writing about place. There will be news and reviews, and at each stage there will be opportunities for new and diverse voices to be part of the project.

Why bother?

There are lots of answers. Guerilla academia, for one. Resistance to top down place-making is another. A belief in our ability to shape the discourse rather than be shaped by it is a third. That's enough to be going on with.

 
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from GUTIMETEO

-Máxima: 20,6ºC -Mínima: 1,7ºC -Media: 10,2ºC -Lluvia: 42,8 mm. Mes de Noviembre que empezó con calor y que después fue normal.

 
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from The View From Here

I started reading before I started school. In the beginning, I just made up stories based on the pictures in my Little Golden Books. When I was four, I shocked my parents by actually reading to them.

But even then, I think I wanted to be a writer.

Growing up, writing seemed like a good, clean job. Indoors, out of the weather. Maybe air conditioned. Nice chair. Just you and the work. I learned to type because my handwriting lacks readability, even today. Maybe especially today.

The problem I ran into involved getting paid for that job.

For much of my life publishing didn’t yield the kinds of income that could support me, let alone my family or bankers. So I did what any normal person would do.

I got a real job.

Several actually. Starting with enlisting in the US Coast Guard at 17 to avoid being drafted and sent to Viet Nam. I had three to five careers, depending on how you count them. Everything from temporary agency to VP. Spent a couple of decades in the corporate data mines. Did a couple different stints as educator. One as a stand-up corporate trainer. One as adjunct faculty. Worked as technology director (bit-twiddler) for a national 501( c )( 3 ) serving the low incidence disability sector.

That last one is important because it resulted in me finally becoming a writer. Being mine, the path I followed wasn’t exactly a straight line.

My specialty is distance education. Specifically, online. While my grad school classmates came from educational backgrounds to learn technology, I came from a technology background. I needed to learn education.

That’s a story in itself as they kept telling me that technology wouldn’t do the kinds of things I actually did with it on a regular basis, but I digress.

I really wanted to figure out a way to get access to higher education to a huge swath of rural learners. In those days, post-Mosaic but pre-broadband, that meant trying to get high bandwidth content like audio and video to people who only had dial-up access to the internet.

In late 2004, Dave Winer, Adam Curry, and an intrepid band of internet people invented what we call podcasting today. I latched onto it and stuck it in my ears.

In early 2006 I discovered fiction podcasting with Podiobooks (now Scribl) and listened to every novel they had. It wasn’t many. Podcasting showed me two important things.

  1. The downloads happened “off hours.” They came to my computer overnight when I wasn’t using it. They didn’t need high bandwidth.
  2. The writers/podcasters were having a lot of fun.

Here was a possible answer to two of my long standing problems. How to deliver quality audio over dial-up and how to get my stories to potential readers. In this case, listeners.

Don’t quibble. Reading is reading.

The only remaining problem was — well — I had to write something and produce it. Not just anything. Podiobooks only accepted novel length works. I think they asked for at least five episodes, delivered weekly. Most of them ran longer but could I write a novel?

I’d started half a dozen times over the course of my life. Bought old typewriters and refurbished them for the old Dashiell Hammett feeling. Burned reams of paper. Never found a story. I spent too much effort on the image and not enough on the work. Could I do it this time? With something at stake?

Yeah. I could.

I had a friend, a fellow science fiction fan who egged me on. She read the chapters as I completed them and pushed me to make them better.

January 12, 2007, I wrote the first line of what would become my first completed novel. Which is to say I stole a famous first line from somebody else and just kept going. (I kept that gimmick for years until I ran out of lines I wanted to steal and had to make up lines of my own.)

On January 22, 2007, I finished the novel at 78k. Second draft took it over 82k and another three days. I had what I called a final draft by the 25th.

That was when I discovered I hated the sound of my own voice.

Luckily, that’s a pretty common problem. Nobody else had any problem with it so I sucked it up, printed out the first episode worth of text, and started recording in the front seat of my car. It was the quietest place I could find.

Obviously, I wasn’t driving at the time.

In mid-February, 2007, I uploaded the first episode to Podiobooks and started my publishing career.

I wrote four novels that year, including one during NaNoWriMo. None of them were very long. I got all of them onto Podiobooks by year’s end.

By that time I had about 100 listeners. Within a few months, I had 1000. At last count — sometime in 2010 — 80,000 people had downloaded the last chapter of the last book I narrated.

In the spring of 2009, I was getting half a dozen emails a month from people who wanted to read the books for themselves. I wouldn’t send them manuscripts or PDFs (Permanently Damaged Files) because I still had the idea that I might want to publish them someday.

So I did what anybody would do. I started sending out queries.

I sent out six. I got a request for some first pages, but eventually I got rejections from those who answered. Now, I thank that last agent for rejecting me.

About that time, I had occasion to chat with J C Hutchins, fellow Podiobooks alum, great writer, and supportive colleague.

He asked, “What do you want from your writing?”

I had no answer.

“Figure that out, and the rest will follow.”

It took me a couple of weeks. Money? Not really. I had a good day job, one I liked. Writing was something I just did. I wanted to keep doing it.

I kept getting the emails. “Where can I buy your books?”

I had to answer “You can’t.”

I hated that answer. So I changed it to “You can’t yet.”

Eventually I realized that the only thing I wanted from my writing was to get it into the hands and heads of readers.

That became more nuanced later on, but it’s still the core value.

I want my stories to be read.

At that exact point I realized that the best answer an agent or publisher could give me was “no.”

The problem lies in what publishers do. They sell books to bookstores, relying on the bookstores to sell them to readers. That’s if they publish them at all. Unless you’re a big name — and nobody starts out that way — your book is on one of the back pages of the quarterly catalogs. A bookseller might see it after they’ve picked up all the copies of Big Name’s latest blockbuster. If they get a few copies, they’ll go onto the shelf beside all the other books that aren’t on the front tables or end cap displays.

I mean, sure, it would be cool to see your book on a bookstore’s shelf but that just means it hasn’t been sold. Ideally, you’d like to see it sold out, but they don’t label shelves like that.

So I did what any normal person would do.

I ran some numbers.

They weren’t any better in 2009 than they are today in 2022. Only one in a hundred submissions get accepted by agents. Maybe another one in a hundred get picked up by publishers and see actual publication in a quarterly catalog.

The average advance for those books getting picked up was $3000 spread across three payments — on signing, on completed manuscript, and on publication. Only one out of ten books earned out, that is, earned the advance back in royalties. If you didn’t earn out, you didn’t get another contract. Don’t pass Go. Don’t collect $200.

If the typical royalty was a dollar per sale, that meant that only one out of ten sold 3,000 units. Most sold fewer. The latest trial testimony re Simon & Schuster and Penguin Random House gave pretty stark numbers that some sold many fewer than 3,000.

Could I sell 3,000 on my own?

Maybe.

I did what any normal person would do.

I looked at marketing.

What Is Marketing?

 
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from SarahAnneDipitous

I'm not looking up forums around my interests and joining up. No sirree. Not me. That would be weird and old school and what the hell am I doing?

I'm trying some new things is what it is. And by new things, I mean old things.

Social media has just not been doing it for me these days, and I just want to see how I can build online community in ways that... aren't Twitter, I guess?

So I joined up at RPGnet and made one tentative reply on a thread just to dip my toe in the water, so to speak. Maybe I'll have stuff to say. We'll see. But whether I do or not, at least I have tried. Or I am trying. And it could be cool. Connecting over interests or whatever.

Though I am having “Nerd Imposter Syndrome” at the moment. I'm sure it will pass eventually. Or not. Either way... let's get out there and say some random things.

 
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from FarkasCity Blog

FarkasCity was unexpectedly down today. A user alerted me of this via email, and upon reading it, I took action immediately to solve the problem and discovered that the server had lost power. The power supply issue has since been resolved, and I am working to create redundancies and real-time alert systems. Thank you to the person who reached out to me with the issue, and thank you to everyone else who is active for making FarkasCity what it is today.

#StatusUpdates

 
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from SarahAnneDipitous

I wrote this today, reflecting on the faith that once delighted me, that I miss, but don't know how to reclaim it without violence to those it has historically persecuted.

On Borrowing

The Psalmist sings “Jerusalem!” And my heart rejoices For a place that never was and never will be. The thought arises from a borrowed book. Not borrowed. Taken. Wrested from bloodied hands, The hands that kept it. The book you hold lives Because they loved it And wrote its words again, again. When you “stand alone on the word of God,”

You stand on stolen land.

 
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from Absolutely Horrorfied

This article is a delightful look into the process of creating the show. How Guillermo del Toro's team built a 'Cabinet of Curiosities' full of hand-picked horror

You can feel del Toro's touch throughout the whole show, but you can definitely tell that he also tried to let every director's style and vision shine through.

This quote is amazing:

“He is a magical character, as much as any one of his creatures,” Natali said of Del Toro. “And I feel like he is the great impresario of the Cinema Fantastique, and I think he plays an important role as somebody who can articulate what that is, in a way that very few have in the past. He really understands the cultural importance of horror, and science fiction, and fantasy, and myth, in our present day world. I think that he's elevated the genre in that way, in a very protective way, like a museum curator would. And I feel very honored, and lucky, to somehow have been caught up in that net that he's cast.”

 
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from Absolutely Horrorfied

I watched #Hellraiser (1987) for the first time yesterday, and I kind of don't know what the hell I just saw.

I gotta be honest, the 80s and 90s are not my preferred decades for horror films (1982 John Carpenter masterpiece The Thing notwithstanding). So that's some of it.

I do watch and enjoy weird shit. Baskin (2015) makes Hellraiser look quaint af as far as bizarre hellishness goes. So it's not that weirdness is automatically a problem for me. I also didn't dislike it, per se, and I will watch some more Hellraiser films because the series is significant in horror history.

There's just something about this film that has me going “what is going on though?


I may have just answered my wtf question a bit. I was thinking that the film felt like it was based on some existing intellectual property, like it would have made more sense in another medium et voila! Turns out it is based on a horror novella, The Hellbound Heart. Ok, so that explains the vibes I was getting.


Seriously, this film felt less like a plot or character-driven story and more like it just sort of “happened”, and it doesn't have a clear POV. At some point we switch over from Julia to Kirsty as our apparent protagonist, and it feels kind of confusing. I think this is the sort of thing that tends to work better in a novel than a film, and may be a major piece of what feels off to me.

To me, it would be a better film if Kirsty were introduced as one of two POV characters/protagonists from the beginning instead of feeling like a promoted supporting cast member halfway through.

Likewise, Julia just sort of got demoted. At the beginning of the film we were inside her head, but SPOILERS


SPOILERS

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she just dies without fanfare at the end. We don't get a chance to register shock or anger or anything at Frank draining her (or whatever we want to call it). It just happens. It really contributes to the wtf-ness of the movie to just...no longer have a connection to the character who was introduced to us as the story's protagonist.

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END SPOILERS

3/5 stars. Worth watching, but neither scary enough nor well-crafted enough for me to really feel a lot about it.

 
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