Tag Archives: ebooks

The Audiovisual Book Experience, an Experiment

Today on YouTube, I launched the beginning of what could become my next big feature: “The Audiovisual Book Experience.” The premise behind it is that people don’t read anymore, but they do listen. At least, that’s what I’ve heard from people who listen exclusively to audiobooks and podcasts and can’t be bothered with an actual book or blog post. I think these same people watch YouTube videos on occasion.

I confess that I don’t get it. And, I do think the information is a little suspect. Of course people still read. I’m a person, and I read! I read books and blogs. I also write both. If you’re reading this blog, then you’re a reader, too. Already, you’re proving them wrong.

But, I also see the point they make. The people who prefer audio text to visual text are the people who are too busy to sit down with a good book; they probably spend more time looking through their windshields, making sure they don’t hit something or someone than they do staring at the pages of a paperback or the screen of an e-reader. Of course, they still stare at their phones for some reason, on the road and off. But it makes you wonder: Has no one told them they can read a book on their phone? What else are they going to do at a red light?

Okay, they shouldn’t read a book while driving. Point made. Audiobooks are much better for that. And they’re also much better for running. I’ve tried reading a book while running a few times. It’s definitely too shaky to concentrate. An audiobook would’ve been nicer for that scenario. If these people are so active that they can’t even spend a few minutes in bed with a good book, then perhaps the audio version is necessary.

But what of the people who want both, the reading and the listening experience? Haven’t we all started our reading lives by reading with an adult, where the adult reads out loud while we follow along and try to understand each word? Would it be so odd if we were to read along with someone else again, but as adults?

Maybe. Probably. But we’re going to try it anyway!

And that’s the point of the Audiovisual Book Experience, to allow YouTube users to read a book while someone else narrates it to them. That way, if they need to, they can do other things while the book is “playing.” Or, if they’d rather follow along, they can see each word in its book form. This gives each reader the option of reading the book however he or she wants. For free!

Is it a good idea? I don’t know. That’s why it’s an experiment. But, if it does generate interest, I’ll likely do another. If not, then I’ll commit my time and energy to something else.

I do wonder, though, how other authors with better voices than mine could make use of an audiovisual book experience. It might be worth it for them to give it a try for their own books.

That said, I’m launching my own experience with Amusement, a short story about a businessman who must confront the corporate entity responsible for the faulty product that ruined his life.

The overview video has already launched. The introduction and legal information video will launch at 1 p.m. tomorrow (Monday, September 23, 2019), and “Part 1: Professionalism” will launch immediately after, at 1:15 p.m., both Eastern Standard Time. Each additional episode will launch on consecutive days at 1 p.m. until next Sunday when the final episode, “Part 7: Crash,” airs.

The entire audiovisual book will be curated into a playlist that you can run at your leisure.

If you decide to check it out, please let me know what you think, either here or on YouTube. Hope you’ll enjoy it.

Friday Update #10: The Summer of Silence

It’s been a while since the last Friday Update, and any update for that matter, so I figure with summer ending soon, I should give a progress report about how things are going.

Drinking Café Latte at 1pm:

First of all, the site isn’t dead. It may look it, given that my last post was on May 3rd, but to be fair, my traffic here is so low that sometimes I think I’m wasting my time posting anything new. One of the important things about making the most of our time and resources is to feed the things that work and ignore the things that don’t, and this blog is ignored enough by others that I feel justified in minimizing my time keeping up with it.

But, that’s not the only reason my posts have become infrequent. Frankly, I’ve been preoccupied with other projects of the likes that can’t be posted here, at least not in a way that I’d consider interesting to anyone but me, so rather than bore what audience may happen across this site, I’d rather post nothing.

If you’re wondering, though, I’ve been spending a lot of time rewriting the “code” for a game I’ve been working on since 2009. More on that in a future post.

But, as I said, the site isn’t dead, and I do have some new posts planned for the coming weeks that you should keep an eye open for. I hope to post the release calendar for these posts in the next few days, so keep an eye open for that, too.

Writing, Authorship, etc.:

Even though I haven’t been posting anything on my blog the last few months, I have been picking at some old stories with the intention of rereleasing them with new content. This has been slow-going, with most of my focus on game design lately, but certainly not nonexistent. I’ve since scrapped the idea of releasing a new annual Zippywings title, as my 2016 titles are too few to justify making a new book, and my 2017 titles haven’t been in progress, period. But, I do plan to release a special edition volume that includes rewrites of my 2015 titles, print versions of my 2016 titles, and a handful of extras never before produced as an e-book. It may not be the only Zippywings master collection I produce, but it will be the first of the definitive editions, and hopefully the final short story/novella versions of these stories that date as far back as 1995. If I produce a second volume, I plan to include all new material for that. But that’ll be a while still.

Anyone who follows my e-books will know that Superheroes Anonymous: A Modern Day Fantasy, Year Two, is my most recent release, and is now 15 months online. After a year of releasing one title after another, it may seem like I’ve run out of juice. But that’s not the case.

For those who have not been keeping up with me the last year, I have spent much of the last 15 months relearning not only my craft, but also editing and marketing, and I’ve purposely held off on getting too deep into any new project without having a stronger foundation of professionalism, product value, and delivery.

To boost my chances at getting my voice heard by more ears (or seen by more eyes), in March I’d enrolled in an online course called Author Remake, by Alinka Rutkowska, which outlines step-by-step the process for reaching and retaining the most fans and for getting my work out to the most venues possible, and I’d also subscribed to a few programs, including, most recently, KDP Rocket, to increase my chances at gaining exposure for my books. I’m still figuring out how to make the most of these tools, but the good news is that by this time next week, I’ll be fully paid off on all of it and can start moving toward developing a better central hub and mailing list (and freebie incentives) for those who want to become fans. It should be noted that most of my online presence will likely transfer to that hub when the time comes.

Even though I’m still making updates to previously published stories (because, I can, so why not?), I have new ideas that I hope to break ground on soon. I don’t want to spoil any surprises, but let’s just say that one of my ideas may or may not include a couple of dumb teenagers who somehow save their town from destruction. More on that another time.

In-progress Projects:

In the last year, I’ve mentioned or posted details on future projects that still have not seen the light of day. Here’s a basic report on where everything is at the moment:

Gone from the Happy Place:

This is my rewrite/retitle of The Computer Nerd, which will address some of the story flaws I’d either ignored or didn’t think about when I was rushing to release it back in October 2015. I’ll write postmortem on that story at some point, but let’s just say some practices should not be done, regardless how many “experts” say that you should.

The story is still coming, and I hope to release it soon. But I won’t do so before my author hub is ready. For the time being, The Computer Nerd (or, The Computer Nerd Scandal, depending on where you’re finding it), is still available for sale, and will probably remain on sale until Gone from the Happy Place is released. After that, I don’t know. I don’t really want to confuse readers, but I also don’t like the idea of making anything unavailable, especially for historical purposes. We’ll see.

Teenage American Dream:

The short story version will more than likely make an appearance in the next Zippywings title, but the novel is going poorly, in my opinion. I haven’t spent any length of time powering through it, and for good reason. I’m having trouble deciding if it even works. To be clear, I’m sure I can get it to work, but there are problems I have with it that I haven’t figured out how to fix, and because it’s like a bronco that I have to tame, and finish for that matter, I’ve made it easy on myself to find distractions in other things.

I do still pick at it, and at some point I’ll figure out what’s wrong with it and reshape it into something worth reading. But for now, it’s going to take a while for me to finish it. Don’t expect it before 2018.

Oh, and when I do release it, it will also have a different name. “Teenage American Dream” will remain as the title for the short story version, however.

Sweat of the Nomad and Zipwood Studios:

I haven’t really done anything with these stories yet. Like “Teenage American Dream,” the short story/novella versions will appear in an upcoming Zippywings anthology, but the novels will be further off. Can’t yet say when I’ll have more information. They’re still on the planner, though.

A Modern-day Fantasy Series:

The main hold-up on these books is in deciding how I want to block them. For the longest time, I had a clear vision about how I wanted this series to unfold, but after all that I’ve been learning this year about editing for genre, I’m starting to rethink this vision and how to restructure these stories to fit conventions better. I’m also giving thought to a prequel trilogy called Pawn of Justice, which follows series regular FBI Special Agent Thomas Sturgeon as the lead, and how it sets up the A Modern-day Fantasy story line. At some point, I’ll just need to dive in and write them. But, I want to make sure I don’t dive in blind. Again, this will be addressed in a future blog about The Computer Nerd (if I haven’t written it already and simply forgot).

Snow in Miami:

I got about halfway through this story last December and then stopped. I don’t remember why I stopped, but I think it had a lot to do with the season ending before I could finish, and my plans to release it as part of Zippywings 2016 also ending. Incidentally, that was about when I decided to give up on Zippywings 2016 even though I highly considered releasing it anyway as a June 2017 book. Sometimes deadlines approach faster than endings. They aren’t supposed to, but there are plenty of things in this world that aren’t supposed to happen. Anyway, my current plan is to finish and release it as part of a Christmas trilogy, which would include 2015’s The Fountain of Truth and whatever I write at the end of this year. Hopefully that’ll work.

Gutter Child:

Can’t remember if I’ve spoken about this online, but this remains my least popular story, and I’m sure it’s for good reason. I want to turn the existing story into a subplot for a greater story, and I’ve been reading a number of thrillers lately that have given me some ideas on how to make this better (and more commercial). Like The Computer Nerd and Teenage American Dream, this will get a name change when I’m finished. More on that another time.

Previous Titles:

As part of my plan to rebuild my platform on more solid footing, I’ve either rewritten, am in the middle of rewriting/revising, or plan to revise the following stories (by adding new content and deleting irrelevant content):

  • Shell Out – New chapters to better frame the character’s motivations. (to be done)
  • When Cellphones Go Crazy – New chapters to add subtext to the story and provide a stronger ending. (done)
  • The Celebration of Johnny’s Yellow Rubber Ducky – New chapters to make it less of a fable and more of a story with proper antagonists and goals. (in progress)
  • Cards in the Cloak – Rewritten scenes to keep the conflict front and center. (done)

I need to review The Fallen Footwear for content, but this, too, may get an update if I find one warranted.

It should also be noted that, due to length, I may spin Cards in the Cloak off to its own book and leave it out of the next Zippywings anthology. It’ll depend on how long it is with and without Cards.

If you want to keep up with progress on these existing stories, feel free to check out my page at FictionPress (my user name is zippywings), where I’ve been posting new chapters these last few weeks. They’ll appear there first. It’s the only place I’m getting proper feedback.

My First Mullet:

Stay tuned…. That’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Life in General:

Other than that, I’ve been trying to keep from getting heat stroke this summer. I’ve read a few good novels, which I’ll likely reserve my reports on for a separate post, as this one is getting long. I’ve also seen just a handful of movies—Spider-Man: Homecoming was the only good one since my last post—and I’ve been watching a lot of news. I’ll keep my opinions to myself about current events, though. Socially, things are awful, but that’s nothing new. My car is making strange noises. My debt is less than it was a year ago, but still higher than I’d like. Work is work.

I guess that’s good for updates right now. Oh, I’ve spent a lot of money at Wawa this summer. They’re aggressively opening stores in my area, and I’ve made the mistake of giving them a chance. Now I seem to eat there every week. Sigh. This is why I can’t have nice things. I spend too much on temporary things. But it’s so good. And it’s a gas station. Sigh.

Don’t forget to check back here in a few days for the release calendar of upcoming posts. The future is exciting (unless you’re lame).

Friday Update Bonus: Saturday Night Special – Happy End of the Year Report

So, 2016 is finally over. Hooray!

To celebrate the passing of one of my least favorite years in a long, long time, I would like to point you in the direction of the header where you might see the tab “My Books” awaiting your attention. Doesn’t that look nice and official up there?

Now, look a little closer. If you hover your mouse over the tab, you’ll see a dropdown menu cascade before you. In that tab, you’ll see a list of all of my currently available e-books. You may also notice that some of those titles have right-facing arrows beside them (looks a little like this > ). Note: For you phone readers, you may have to click on the three lines beside the magnifying glass to see what I’m talking about.

A couple of those title selections have had arrows there for months and months, but perhaps you haven’t noticed until now. Those arrows, if you see, point to sample chapters for the matching books. For nearly a year, the only books you could sample were The Computer Nerd and Teenage American Dream (in “Future Books”), and only the first six and five chapters respectively.

Well, as a belated Christmas present and in celebration of 2016’s much anticipated exit, I have not added anything to The Computer Nerd (sorry, keep reading to find out why), and Teenage American Dream remains unreleased, but I have added the entire stories of not one, not two, not three, but eight of my current e-books to Drinking Café Latte at 1pm, each for free, and each completely. All you have to do is select the chapter or part you wish to read from the submenu marked “Read (Title),” or access the store page for that book and scroll down to the bottom, and follow the chapter links to read the stories in their entirety. If you’ve ever been on the fence about reading these books before, now you can test drive them to your house and back risk-free.

And, if you’d like to download the official e-books for your phone or e-reader from the store of your choice, you can still do that. Those links are open. Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Kobo, and Inktera have them available for free. Amazon Kindle has them for $.99 each, though I’m pretty sure it’ll price-match Apple, so I think you can get it free there, too, even if it doesn’t say you can (I’m basing this on recent sales reports). Basically, there’s no reason not to check them out, now that you can have free access to them whenever you want and wherever you are. Want to read at the beach this January? You can do that! (Yes, I know it’s not the right season for that, but I live in South Florida, so every day is a beach day for me.)

The titles you can now read for free in their entirety here at Drinking Café Latte at 1pm include:

  • Shell Out (2015)
  • Eleven Miles from Home (2015)
  • Amusement (2015)
  • When Cellphones Go Crazy (2015)
  • The Celebration of Johnny’s Yellow Rubber Ducky (2015)
  • Lightstorm (2015)
  • The Fallen Footwear (2016)
  • Waterfall Junction and The Narrow Bridge (2016, two stories in one)

I will also likely make Cards in the Cloak and The Fountain of Truth available here for free in the near future. But Cards in the Cloak is almost the length of a novel, with the first chapter in need of a slight rewrite, and The Fountain of Truth has one section that I’ll need to split into pieces, which I haven’t figured out yet, so it will take a little more time to get those online. Keep an eye open for them.

Regarding The Computer Nerd, I am still contemplating the possibility of changing its title and relaunching with a new cover, new first chapter, and a few other changes in 2017. So, I don’t foresee the Drinking Café Latte at 1pm version of the story (in its entirety) going live before then. Again, stay tuned for updates.

Finally, Christmas is over and I did not finish Snow in Miami in time. Rather than rush and release a terrible version of the story, I decided to hold it back for now, until I have a draft I’m happy with. I’ll release it as part of Zippywings 2016, hopefully at the end of February, and I’ll likely release the standalone version next Christmas, hopefully with a companion book. I was too swamped with other things this year to really focus on any one story for long. Plus, I want to launch books a little smarter in the future than the way I’ve been doing before. That said, 2017 will probably yield low in my slate of upcoming books, but I do hope to start releasing new titles after April (when I finish the CPT class I’m taking on Saturdays).

So, that’s your end of the year report. Hope you have a happy start to 2017. I know I will. Thanks for your readership. One of these days I’ll get my mailing list up and running so that you don’t have to stumble upon each update here. For now, keep watching Facebook or Twitter for updates, or, if you hit the subscribe button below, you can get updates in your mailbox. It’s the best way to find out what’s new. You can also send comments whenever you think I’m taking too long to do anything around here.

Happy New Year!

Friday Update #9: Superhero Switch and the Coming of Christmas Brings Snow in Miami

Welcome back to Drinking Café Latte at 1pm. As you’re aware, Christmas is coming fast and hot (well, depending on where you live, I guess), and that means eggnog, gingerbread coffees, cookies, and all sorts of goodies are on the way, and I’m here to let you know about some goodies that are coming your way from me.

Goodie #1:

For those of you who have been reading Cannonball City: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year One this past year (the anniversary of its worldwide release is coming at the end of the month), I have great news. Its sequel, Superheroes Anonymous: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year Two, is now free for a limited time. How limited is this time? Hard to say, but I’ll keep it free throughout the holidays for sure. However, it’s best to pick it up while you can, before I put the price back on. You know what happens when you procrastinate? You forget. And then you lose. So, don’t procrastinate.

This freebie comes with a trade-off, however. My plan since day 1 has been to develop and release a bite-sized version of the series, where the Annual Editions are broken down into individual story units closer to the length of a traditional thriller or adventure novel. The individual stories would add up to the same universal conflict, but due to the way that conventions dictate how a story unfolds, the core story points would inevitably change. Essentially, A Modern-day Fantasy Annual Edition and A Modern-day Fantasy (Standard Edition) would develop at different speeds and in different ways, while keeping the story line roughly the same.

Because I don’t want to confuse readers with the option to choose the bulky Annual Edition over the easier-to-manage Standard Editions (which would take two or three books to equal the story of an Annual Edition entry), I want the pricing to make it easy. In short, I’d rather readers stick with the Standard Editions. The Annual Editions serve as my original vision for the story, but experience has since taught me that the Standard Editions make for a better fit (and more satisfying read). It doesn’t mean they will be over before they begin, but it does mean the story can be delivered at a more sensible pace.

So, the trade-off for Superheroes Anonymous: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year Two going free for the holiday season is that Cannonball City: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year One will now cost you $4.95 to pick up. So, I hope you were one of the people who contributed to its 543 free downloads this year, and not one of the procrastinators who kept putting it off.

It should be noted that I don’t plan to make Cannonball City permafree again. It was free for a year to introduce readers to the character of Jimmy Knightly, but with the Standard Editions on the planner, I don’t see a reason to keep it free, as one of those books will surely come out with a free price tag. Likewise, Superheroes Anonymous will be free for a limited time, but limited times run out before you know it.

Moral of the story: Don’t put things off. You’ve got a good goodie to get, so get the goodie while the getting is good.

Goodie #2:

A year ago, I released an e-book called The Fountain of Truth, which is a collection of three holiday-themed fables, one of which is a revision to the classic tale of how Santa Claus began, one which teaches us to listen rather than to assume, and the titular title reintroducing a story I like to share on Facebook every Christmas Eve about speaking truth. This year, I am preparing another holiday-themed collection called Snow in Miami, which will feature an update to my flash fiction story “Unexpected Weather,” with two new stories, “A Black Friday Tale” and “The Pear Tree,” included. In this book, the three stories will be threaded together through the lens of a husband and father who must learn how to actually be a caring husband and father through his sharing of holiday stories with his wife and son. We get a sense early on that his wife and son are just people who live in his house and demand things from him that he doesn’t want to give. But throughout the course of telling and hearing these stories, he begins to understand just how lucky he is. So, you’ll actually get four stories for the price of three.

I don’t have an estimated release date for Snow in Miami, as I’m still having to split my time between work, CPT test prep, and other projects. But I do expect to upload it to Smashwords before Christmas. However long it takes to get through the channels to the other stores will depend on that upload date.

In the meantime, enjoy this opening sample from “Unexpected Weather”:

Mr. Carson propped his feet on his desk and lit the cigar he had been waiting all day to smoke. Chicago’s temperatures were falling by the minute, and the muzak filling the room was gradually integrating bells and chimes into its drowsy score. Christmas was coming soon, and the bonus he was sure to get from his most recent mega-sale would pay for gifts for the entire family, the neighbor’s family, and even the meter reader who occasionally showed up on his property to gauge him for his utility usage. It would be a Christmas like no other. He’d finally have the means to stock his yard with a holiday scene so spectacular that he would surely win the neighborhood decoration contest this year. He’d even hire that ice sculptor to carve out the outdoor ice bench he had always wanted to sit on, on Christmas day.

His success was a long time coming. Months of proving to the boss that he was capable of leading his office would have to pay off now. Months of top-level ignorance would have to come to an end.

He puffed on his cigar and let the smoke fill his mouth. He was forming cloud nine between his cheeks.

His chair started its backward arc toward the cubicle wall when his boss, Mr. Rivers, popped into view. He had snuck up on Mr. Carson wearing those dang moccasins again.

“Carson,” he said, “how many times I gotta tell you not to smoke in the building?”

Mr. Carson pulled the cigar from his mouth and dangled it over the edge of his desk, just above the trashcan. He wasn’t permitted an ashtray, so he made it his habit to catch the ash in the can. He kept a separate can for paper to the right of the desk to prevent accidental fires. This one just held a single plastic bag.

Mr. Rivers shrugged. Then he handed him a narrow, gift-wrapped package.

“Here, no need to apologize. I decided to make your life easier.”

Mr. Carson took the package, flipped it over and under, listening for something to rattle inside.

“Open it,” Mr. Rivers said. “Early Christmas present.”

Mr. Carson was a little suspicious. He knew Rivers had heard about the mega-sale, and per the standards of the company, sales that large warranted bonuses. Mr. Carson hoped that this wasn’t his bonus. He had been counting on a large check.

But he obliged his boss. He pulled off the wrapper and tossed it in the can to his left. A narrow green box was exposed. He opened it. Inside was a skinny electronic device.

“E-cigarette,” Mr. Rivers said. “Or vape, as they’re calling it now. Unobtrusive and mostly safe for indoors.”

Mr. Carson opened the battery hatch to find it empty.

“Sorry, batteries not included. Figured you could try it at home first, in case it’s not as safe as I assumed.”

Mr. Carson looked up at his boss, but didn’t say anything. He wasn’t sure what to think about this gift. He was an authentic smoker, proud to carry around his packs of real nicotine darts with the silver lighter that had the naked woman silhouette he was so fond of. Gift from his dad on his eighteenth birthday. Refillable fluid. A real gift from a real man.

“No need to thank me,” Mr. Rivers said. “I should be thanking you for nailing the Trifecta Account today. In fact, I am.” He gestured at the e-cigarette. “Stroke of genius.”

Mr. Carson shrugged. No big deal.

Okay, it was a real big deal, but he didn’t like to brag in front of people who cut his checks. They were a notoriously humbling lot, positioned to strike down anyone who displayed too much pride for a job that was somehow enhanced by the assistance of a team, which this particular sale was not: he certainly had a right to say it was all on him, because it was. But Mr. Rivers didn’t like braggarts, so he kept his mouth shut.

“Anyway, I had a talk with the bigwigs upstairs, and they agree that your work on this account was of stellar performance, and they think you would be perfect for their starter office in Miami.” A wide smile formed on Mr. Rivers’s lips. “You start in two weeks. Isn’t that exciting?”

Mr. Carson finally opened his mouth. The smoke he had been savoring finally blew out into the opening and evaporated. The space between his cheeks was now nothing more than a tongue that had lost its taste for change.

“In lieu of a bonus, the board has agreed to pay for your moving fees instead.”

Mr. Rivers leaned over the desk and patted Mr. Carson on the shoulder.

“I’ve already asked Mrs. Williams to set up the conference room with finger foods for your going away party. You like bologna sandwiches, right?”

Mr. Carson was partial to turkey, but his boss never paid attention.

“Anyway, you’ll like Miami. Never gets cold there. Just think, you’ll get to spend Christmas at the beach. Isn’t that exciting?”

Mr. Carson thought about the ice bench he would not get to sit on, on Christmas day.

“Anyway, enjoy your last day. Again, sorry about the batteries. I was thinking I’d let you wait for the party in the observatory. I know you often talk about the big window overlooking the lake. Thought you might want to remember the view.”

Mr. Carson’s sister’s apartment overlooked the lake. They were just over there for Thanksgiving. Mr. Rivers was thinking about someone else.

Mr. Rivers’s eyes drifted down toward the trashcan to Mr. Carson’s left. He reached in it and pulled out the gift wrapping.

“Here, don’t want to cause a fire, right?” Then he found the small plant that Mr. Carson had bought a few months ago to liven up the cubicle. He snuffed out the cigar in the soil. Then he tossed the cigar in the trash. “Housekeeping will take care of your garbage today.”

Mr. Rivers paused at the opening as he headed out to the walkway outside the cubicle. He tried to look at Mr. Carson from over his shoulder.

“Good luck in Miami, Carson,” he said. “You’re going to do amazing things there.”

Mr. Carson was barren of thought by that point. The world stopped making sense to him.

***

            At home, Mr. Carson didn’t know how to tell his wife that the money in Chicago was coming to an end, and that to keep the money flowing, they would have to fly south with the birds. As he rehearsed his speech in his mind, and subsequently shot each version down as ridiculous and an invitation to make Mrs. Carson cry, he took the carton of cigarettes from his trusty brand out to the front porch and lit one stick after another. By the fifth smoke, he was feeling a bit more relaxed. The chill in the air was giving him goosebumps, and the night was steadily growing comfortable.

By the time he had stubbed out half the pack, he was feeling pretty confident in his speech. She would understand. She would have to.

***

            Mrs. Carson didn’t understand.

“Who does he think he is?” she asked, when Mr. Carson told her the news.

“The Great and Powerful Mr. Rivers,” Mr. Carson said.

“We have a life here, John. A life.”

“Yes, I know that, and you know that. But knowledge hasn’t had much power around here lately.”

They were sitting at the dinner table, and Mrs. Carson was just about to pour the wine when Mr. Carson got to the dark side of his speech. It had begun beautifully, with the news that he had succeeded at his big sale. Mrs. Carson was so happy for him that she retrieved the bottle of Chianti from the rack to celebrate. But Mr. Carson didn’t want to lose his place from what he had practiced, so he continued talking. Mrs. Carson put the cork back into the bottle before the first drop hit the glass. Uprooting everything she knew to start over in some gaudy place where the natives walked around half-naked in their front yards at Christmas time was no cause for celebration.

“I just wish you’d stand up for yourself every once in a while,” she said.

“I do. But they don’t listen.”

“Standing up for yourself requires getting them to listen.”

Mr. Carson shrugged. He knew she was right. It wasn’t like him to marry someone who didn’t see the truth in things, and she could see the truth in anything. He liked that about her, even though it caused him stress most of the time.

“Maggie, here’s the thing. The door here is closed. Once they close it, they close it. I know this isn’t ideal, especially with Christmas coming up. But it’s a great opportunity to—”

“Great opportunity? You’re already sounding like them. Have you really thrown in the towel that fast? Without consulting me first?”

Mr. Carson set his fork down. He could sense the conversation was going to interrupt his eating rhythm for a few minutes.

“This isn’t a matter for consultation. They didn’t ask me if I wanted to go. They told me I’m going. Even if we don’t go, I can’t go back to that office, not for anything other than to throw my stuff into an empty box.”

Mrs. Carson’s eyes began to tear up.

“I don’t understand why they won’t give you a choice,” she said.

“It’s called business, Maggie. Relocation was always a possibility. Said so on my contract. I just didn’t think they’d ever call on it.”

Mrs. Carson pushed her plate away and stared off to the side for nearly a minute.

“You know,” he said, “you’ve been wanting a tan for a long time. This could be your chance.”

She rolled her eyes. He noticed the corner of her lips turning upward slightly.

“Your dream body will follow. Imagine the influence of all those bikini-clad beach bunnies turning you to an obsessive fitness and diet fiend. For the holidays no less. Make all your friends up here jealous of your luscious figure.”

Mrs. Carson’s expression lightened. She was considering it now.

“Think of Nancy and her big butt. Then think of you and your smaller butt.” He brought his palms close together to signify the differences in the two butt sizes after hers would shrink.

Mrs. Carson pulled her plate in front of her and started eating.

“I should probably enjoy this dinner while it lasts then,” she said.

Mr. Carson leaned over the table, angling as close to her as he could.

“It’ll be okay, I promise.”

He wasn’t sure it would be okay. He knew nothing about Miami, except that it was hot, crowded, and the music was bad.

Mrs. Carson nodded. “Okay. If we’re stuck, I guess we have to go where the money is.” Her face was still solemn, but not like it was when he had broken the news.

“We’re not stuck. We’re going to be better off than we are here. Richer and happier. And thinner.”

She put her hand up.

“Fine,” she said. “We’ll make it work, I guess.”

After dinner, Mr. Carson retrieved the box that Mr. Rivers had given him earlier and took out the vape. He found a box of batteries in the refrigerator and popped one into the compartment. He wasn’t sure what to do with it exactly, but he started with the button on the side. The thing began to smoke almost immediately. It was as if he had put a thermometer in his mouth and a fever had set it on fire.

“What’s that thing?” Mrs. Carson asked him, when she returned to the table after clearing it.

“Gift from the boss. It’s one of those electronic cigarette things.”

“How is it?”

Mr. Carson thought about it for a moment. It was considerably weaker than his normal cigarettes. And yet, it had a certain flavor to it that he found pleasant. Even fragrant.

“Weird,” he said. “Well, different.”

He pulled the device out of his mouth and stared at it.

“It makes me feel different.”

He put it back in his mouth.

“But in a good way, I think.”
 

(end sample)

Have a good week.

Friday Update #7: A Primate Mailman and Other Marketing News

Since my last update, I’ve written part of a new prologue to The Computer Nerd, in an effort to raise the stakes of the story a little sooner. I still have to finish it and clean it up, but it’s there and in progress. Here’s a snippet of what’s to come:

            Something in the dark slammed against the handle to her locked bedroom door, and she shot forward out of her restless sleep. The ringing echo of clanging metal had barely died when the unknown force hit the handle again. This wasn’t the usual wakeup call she had every morning. If it was even morning.

A pair of stem-shaped shadows divided the dim light shining through the crack under the door and stretched across the floor toward her. They didn’t shake, just remained stock still as the source of the shadows jostled the handle, cursed, and jostled the handle again.

The woman slid her feet out from under the sheets and reached for the table near her bedside. Her robe was folded on the tabletop. She had asked the assistant who placed it there to keep it neat, but now that she needed it, she wished she had left it near her pillow where she could reach it.

“Come on, you useless tool,” said the gruff voice on the other side of the door.

The woman felt anxiety creeping up on her. She expected someone to unlock her door as they always did first thing in the morning, but they usually had keys. And they rarely cursed at the door. She didn’t know who was trying to break in, but the last thing she wanted was for the impatient man to see her undressed. In spite of her circumstances, she still wanted to look classy.

She stretched toward the table again, but the handcuffs locking her to the opposite rail prevented her from reaching all the way.

“Fine, you leave me no choice,” said the man on the other side.

The woman was given one pillow. It was hardly big enough for her head. She tried batting at her robes with it, but she merely brushed the edge of the table.

The shadows finally shifted to the side. The man on the other side of the door was changing his entrance strategy. She had no idea how long it would take him to enter, or what he would do once he finally broke in. In spite of the near frigid temperature of her room, she began to sweat.

And that’s just the beginning. I hope to upload a new version of The Computer Nerd in time for the first-year anniversary of its worldwide debut on October 20th. Keep an eye on the news.

Time for MailChimp

After an unnecessarily stressful time at my job this week, I decided it was time to pull the trigger on setting my marketing strategies to get more attention on my books, as a way to bring me closer to financial independence. Seminar after seminar I’ve been listening to this summer has universally agreed that the mailing list is the way to go, and that MailChimp is the best site for beginners to use. So, that’s what I did this week. I signed up for the service.

Now, I haven’t done anything with it yet. And I probably won’t for a while still. But what I think I’ll aim to do is to write a pseudo sequel to The Computer Nerd (more like a side story involving the bounty hunter Mr. Sanders) and make it free. Then anyone who subscribes to the mailing list through the second book can get the first one free. Then I can resume marketing strategies as usual for the third and, if I deem it necessary, fourth books.

If you’ve read The Computer Nerd and you’re wondering how on earth I would pull a trilogy or tetralogy out of that story, then I would say think of Mr. Sanders as a potential protagonist, and you might figure it out.

Anyway, I’ll be spending some time figuring out how I want to set up my first marketing campaign. It’ll be a while still before I do that though.

The Cost of Marketing

Which brings me to my other eye-opening point. I’ve listened to several of Nick Stephenson’s freebie seminars since June, and garnered a lot of information and tips on how to grow my audience. Obviously, without spending the $600 necessary to get his whole course, I can’t find out all the details, not without extensive independent research. Even though I would like to enroll, I can’t afford that right now. Too many bills and too little income.

But, this week, he sponsored the release of a new book called Broken by author Gordon Hopkins, based on Stephenson’s Leopold Blake character, and offered a 75% launch week discount on the title. Anyone who bought the book between September 10th and September 14th (his traditional five-day window) would gain free access to a new course he’s designed called Your First Six Figure Launch, as well as all six of his earlier Leopold Blake novels.

I bought the book, got the freebies, and listened to the course. And I finally learned of a detail I’ve been trying to figure out since June. Turns out, to get a really good, consistent marketing campaign going, I would need to set aside about $230 a month or so, minimum. And I think that’s before the free 2000-subscriber limit on MailChimp kicks in.

So, for someone whose bills constantly flirt with his matching line of income, I think that’s going to be a huge challenge for me. So, I don’t actually want to get the mailing list active until I’m close to launching the third book (but I’ll start it with the second).

And that’s what I’ve been thinking about this week.

Oh, and I’m back to eating healthier. I’ve lost about ten pounds since the beginning of the month. Cutting way down on the carbs to get that weight loss.

End-of-the Month Roundup: August 2016

My Friday Updates started off with a bang, and then they tapered off, and most of August has been without. “Why?” you may ask. Well, the simple reason is that I haven’t had much to talk about in August.

But, I suppose that’s not entirely true. I have actually done a lot of work, but not on my writing. I’ve been spending much of August studying, marketing in particular, but also editing. It’s the editing I’ve been learning that’s stalled my free-flow of writing. In short, I want to get my stories right, and to do so, I have to better understand the genres they fit in.

I’ve always had a problem with genre classification. I get the general genres like action and drama. But I’ve never been taught the conventions of these global genres, nor the conventions or obligatory scenes of their more defined parts (like action adventure, for example). Thanks to The Story Grid, I’ve been learning more about the genre types, and to some extent the conventions that make them work. More importantly, I’ve been giving more thought to what defines certain stories within their chosen genres, including my own stories. Especially my own stories.

I’ve been wanting to write an update to The Computer Nerd for a while, but I’ve been holding off because I want to attempt to run it through the grid (as outlined at The Story Grid website), and I want to be sure I fully understand how the grid works, and in turn figure out what I still need to do to make The Computer Nerd work. I also want to pick up Shawn Coyne’s book so that I have some kind of textbook to refer to when I give storygridding (a term Shawn Coyne coined) a try. I think it’ll be easier to graph once I know exactly what I’m supposed to do.

To be clear, I do think the story works based on the genre I’ve established. But now I’m wondering if I’ve picked the right genre. And I also think I can make it better. Even still, I have pictures in my head for improving it.

But, of course, that’s not the only thing I’ve been studying, nor the only thing keeping me up late at night.

When I do put it through a new rewrite, and eventually rerelease it, I also need to consider the cover image. I like what I have, but I don’t know that it’s appropriate for the genre. So much to consider, and I feel like no matter how much I learn about my craft, my awaiting knowledge seems to stack and stack.

There’s also the secondary concern about marketing. Whenever I do reedit and repost the story, I’ll want to do so with a change to the metadata. In short, I want this thing primed for marketing, and that means stripping out much of what’s already in there and replacing it with a more direct (and beneficial) link.

But how do I follow that?

The primary marketing tactic I see and hear all over the Internet is that the mailing list remains king. And guess what. I don’t have one. Nope, no mailing list. My blog subscription option is the best source I have for sending out new information, and most of the people who come here come to read my one comedic post about hoverboards, so they’re not going to subscribe. Clearly, that needs to change. So, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the mailing list and when to start it. But, I don’t want to really push the thing until I have what Nick Stephenson calls a “reader magnet” ready, and I’m starting to think that moving the post-credits scene to a mailing list exclusively is a bad idea. That scene is really part of the book, and should remain with the book. So, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a novella about the bounty hunter who’s searching for our mental institution escapees (spoiler alert if you haven’t read The Computer Nerd) and using that as my subscription incentive.

Would you be interested in reading the story of Mr. Sanders’s pursuit of our escapees?

Of course, getting people to subscribe means giving them something else to buy down the road, and The Computer Nerd is not something I plan to make a sequel or an entire series out of. It’s supposed to be standalone. Assuming they want something in the same genre, what do I give them?

I’ve been giving more thought to other stories I’ve posted or have planned to post by now–Gutter Child and Teenage American Dream specifically–and considered that maybe their stories could fit more into a mystery or thriller convention, and less in the convention they already have. So, among all of my other stray thoughts, I’m wondering if I should expand Gutter Child and turn the current plot into a subplot, and give Teenage American Dream a darker problem. I have some ideas on how I can expand them, but that will undoubtedly hold up my current plans of the other stories I’ve mentioned on this blog. I feel like I’ve been ignoring them long enough.

So, that’s how my month has been. No progress, just a lot of studying.

I also host a biannual game-making contest, which had a deadline this month, so I’ve been giving that a lot of my attention. But you came here to find out about my writing, didn’t you?

Friday Update #6: The Branding Betrayal and Other Briefs

I haven’t posted to the Friday Updates in a couple of weeks, mainly because I haven’t had much to say since my last post, but also because I’ve had other commitments and time got away from me. More on that later.

In Support of Branding

I wanted to kick off this post with a slight nitpick. As some of you may know (if you know me personally), I’m a fan of movies. I enjoy a good movie as much if not more than a good book. I enjoy them for the stories, sure, but I especially enjoy them for the experience they provide. And I’m especially a fan of movie franchises, as I can continue to reenter the worlds of my favorite characters and experience something new while hanging on the edge of my seat to the exploits of people old (but not necessarily those of old people, except for maybe Clint Eastwood, and only if he does another Dirty Harry, which I guess would be hard to watch nowadays given that he’s the same age as my grandmother, who just recently passed away—more on that later).

However, one of the things I depend on in my movie experiences is continuity, and that’s especially true of those that actually continue into sequels and more sequels. Franchises like James Bond can get away with actor changes because there are so many of them that eventually the actors will get too old to play the part, like Sean Connery, who’s the same age as my grandmother, who just recently passed away—still, more on that later). The only thing we really must have in a James Bond movie consistently is the tracking gun barrel sequence at the start of each movie, and the opening credits sequence with the dramatic song and the nearly naked women superimposing the movie’s weapon of choice. There are story points that must be addressed, too, but those are related more to the genre than to the franchise itself. At any rate, James Bond has a specific brand we expect each film to adopt, and those are the things we expect—oh, and of course the James Bond theme song by Monty Norman. Other movie franchises like Mission: Impossible also have an expected brand, with the lit fuse marching toward an explosion and the classic theme by Lalo Schifrin (I almost mixed the two composers up—I’ve watched these franchises so many times that they sometimes run together on details like that). It’s also well-known for its anti-brand of style by changing directors and storylines so much that each movie barely resembles the one before it, and really only has Tom Cruise and the opening fuse to bind all five together. Weirdly, this works out great for that series.

If you’re paying attention, then you’ve noticed that I’ve addressed two of the top three blockbuster spy movie franchises currently running. The third franchise, the Bourne series, also has a brand, with each film taking the exact title from the book that corresponds with its entry number (The Bourne Identity is the name of the first book and movie, The Bourne Supremacy the second, and so on through The Bourne Legacy, which changes the lead character but stays firmly in the established cinematic universe), and this keeps them all in the same family.

Or, at least this is true of the first four films.

Now, I just saw the latest Bourne film, Jason Bourne, on Wednesday, and even though I enjoyed it, there are a few things about it that annoyed me. And it all has to do with its branding.

Movies like this remind me why branding in a series is so important. On the outside, novels in a series establish brands by having similar covers and similar fonts from one installment to the next. Their internal content can also establish brands, with recurring themes and recurring popular characters populating them. But they also form brands by the titles they use. Novels do this. Movies do this. Even the names of television episodes (something many audiences will never even see) do this. The show Scrubs, for example, would title each episode as “My [Something].” That puts every episode into a family. My favorite show, Community, would title each episode after a fake and ridiculous course title (“Advanced Complaining,” for example, was never a Community title, but it could’ve been because each episode was titled something like that). I think branding among titles is a good idea, but keeping a continuity among titles to establish that brand is vital if the series has three or more installments and the first two are of the same style.

Before I saw Jason Bourne, I watched the Honest Trailer for the original Bourne film trilogy, and I think it does a fine job highlighting many of the trilogy’s repeat items, enough for me to recognize them when I see them in new installments. I must also say that plenty of elements within the newest movie match those of the older films (the use of the word asset, for example) quite faithfully. And I was pleased to see that the end title song, “Extreme Ways” by Moby, makes its fifth appearance in the series, over the usual hi-tech background graphic where the credits flash, with its expected differences in style from its previous incarnations. And, of course, the story is basically the same as it is in the first four movies. Even though it brings nothing new, it’s still most everything I expect from a Bourne film. Well, almost everything.

Going back to the title, there are two expectations that people like me will have whenever a new entry into the series is released: 1. The title will be The Bourne [Something]. This is how it’s lain out in the previous four films. It’s how the fifth movie should’ve been presented. It’s what we expect when we set up our DVDs and Blu-rays beside each other on the franchises shelf. 2. The title should coincide with the book that matches its installment number. In this case, the fifth book is called The Bourne Betrayal, so the movie should’ve been called The Bourne Betrayal. Even its IMDB entry mentions this inconsistency in the trivia section. What’s worse is that the movie’s plot actually supports this title.

So why change the name? I don’t know. I suspect that the studio dipped its hand where it shouldn’t have, as it often does, and decided that it would make more money or be more appealing to feature the main character’s name instead of what audiences actually expect. I mean, it worked for Jack Reacher, right?

Here’s the thing. The movie is the same regardless of what title it’s given. My complaint is about as OCD and nit-picky as OCD and nit-picky get. But I also think this inconsistency is as annoying as snot. Just give it the expected title. As long as it has the name Bourne in the title, we’ll know it belongs to that franchise. The title change has single-handedly taken a franchise I love and made it into something I love a little less. It just feels like a detached entry now. Being that it takes place 12 years after the previous three just isolates it even more.

Now, if the next Bourne movie is called Jason Bourne 6, and not The Bourne Sanction (the sixth book’s title, and the sixth title to maintain consistency), then I’ll have to stop caring what decisions the studio makes for this franchise. Seeing as how they aren’t changing the formula a lick from movie to movie, either, I’m guessing the series has had its heyday and is ready to take another long nap. I don’t know. Makes me sad, though. This really was one of my favorites for the longest time.

For those of you who write series books or make series movies, please stick to your established brands. Changing them by even the slightest angles derails the momentum you’ve created. Don’t do it. Change the stories instead. That’s what we care about being new.

Other Non-Writing Things

So, I missed last week’s post because I was distracted. We had my grandmother’s memorial the following day, and I was mentally checked out from doing anything creative or informative in the hours leading up to it. I was also exhausted from two straight days of walking several miles on the soggy beach during the hottest time of the day, so I ended up sleeping through most of it. So, sorry if you were expecting news. But I really didn’t have any.

The week before, I was supporting a friend at a cocktail party on the 29th floor of a beachfront condo about an hour from where I live. I was tired when I got home. Plus, I didn’t have any news. I did have fun though. I don’t get invited to cocktail parties like that too often.

Smashwords Sale

For those of you who might’ve been interested in buying my e-books during the Smashwords sale, the sale is over, and everything is back to full price. But, you can still find coupons for discounts and freebies in the Promotions sections in the header, so don’t worry about it. Thanks to those of you who bought something, or will buy something.

(I just noticed that most of the existing coupons are expired or soon to expire. I’ll generate a new batch at some point soon. Keep checking back.)

And that’s it for this week. I’ve spent the last few days working on my computer game, Entrepreneur: The Beginning, and I’ve been reading a lot on the Story Grid website, catching up my knowledge on how to edit, so I haven’t been writing much lately. I will soon, though. Don’t worry. I did write a poem called “My Fading Silence” a couple of nights ago, however. You can read it in my previous post. I don’t write poetry often, so it’s a rare treat.

Oh, and I’ve officially cancelled my preorders for Teenage American Dream, Sweat of the Nomad, and Zipwood Studios until further notice. I will be reinstating them at some point, but not before I get an email list together or something substantial toward their development. I also need to figure out if I want to release their original short story versions under their existing titles and their novel versions under new titles. Check back here often for new information.

Friday Update #4: Market Research Continues and Other Book Updates

Short update this week. I’ve spent most of my free time ingesting more and more information about how to increase my readership and how to give readers what they want. Specifically, I’ve been watching videos from Your First 10,000 Readers creator Nick Stephenson and stocking up on relevant information about building an audience. I know the sales pitch is coming to my inbox very soon, and I’ll have to figure out what I can afford and what I can’t when the time comes. The short understanding is that to move my business forward (and we’ll have to call that what it is, won’t we?), I have to start investing in growth solutions, and that includes implementing the strategies necessary to grow and nurture an e-mail list. So, that’s what I’ve given most of my concentration to this week.

But, my research of indie trends and successful entrepreneurs doesn’t stop there. I also found out this week about an extremely useful resource called The Story Grid, both a blog and a book by highly respected book editor Shawn Coyne, which helps writers target their books with an editor’s eye. It’s in the same camp as Larry Brooks’s Story Fix, a book that I hope to review on this site in the near future, but goes even further down the editing path by identifying genre needs and expectations and providing helpful charts that measure out like a medical reading to diagnose the “works, doesn’t work” qualities of a book. Anyway, I’ve started reading the blogs associated with that site, and I hope to pick up the book (which is essentially an edited collection of these blogs, arranged in a teachable manner) sometime soon. It’s more expensive than most writing books out there, so it’s one I have to plan for. But I do hope to pick it up this summer.

The Computer Nerd

The first few blogs posted in The Story Grid (the early ones from October 2014) have already gotten me thinking about my currently released titles and whether or not they “work.” Some of them are just short stories and novellas, and have smaller structures with smaller needs, so I’m not too worried about where they stand at the moment.

But I am thinking more about The Computer Nerd (or, The Computer Nerd Scandal, if you’re coming here from Smashwords in July) and its climax, and I’m wondering if I’ve really given it all of the scenes it needs. I had this question back in April when I worked on its first post-release revision, but now I’m starting to think the resolution with the story’s villain isn’t quite what the convention needs, so I plan to write and release another small update this weekend addressing the villain’s exit from the story. I’ll be sure to announce its update when it becomes relevant, so check back here soon. But I’ve already gotten a clear idea what this resolution needs, so it won’t take me long to implement it. If you’ve already read the book, there’s probably no need to read it again—unless you want to. However, if you were unsatisfied with the way the villain exits the story, then I hope the next update will do more to please you.

Because I’m learning something new all the time, I cannot guarantee that the next update will be the absolute final. But I do know it’ll bring the story closer to its expected conventions, and that with each update I give it, I’ll feel more satisfied with the product and less certain how to improve it. So, eventually the updates will stop.

Other Books

In the coming week, I’ll likely be making changes to the status of my three novels that are up for preorder. Based on all that I’ve been learning for the last month or so, I’m finding it harder and harder to justify sticking to the schedule, or even to the plan that I’ve established for these books. In short, I’m planning on canceling the preorders for them soon, so apologies if you’ve preordered any of them since they went live last October, but based on the preorder counts of my other books that have since been released, my feeling is that I’m not sacrificing anything by making this decision. I’ll speak more to that thought next week though, as that will require a fuller announcement.

In the meantime, check out those sources I spoke about at the top of this post if you want to improve your writing and marketability, as well. They are very helpful, and I think anyone who’s serious about writing and publishing should give them a look.

 

 

 

Friday Update #3: Book Cover Changes and Smashwords Sale

So, this week I made some changes to my packaging for Gutter Child and The Computer Nerd, including genre classifications, keyword updates, and in the case of Gutter Child, modifications to the cover and description.

gutter child cover alt 10
Cover image for “Gutter Child”

Nice, right?

In both cases, I’ve changed the weaker performing genre categories to Fiction > Mystery > General (with The Computer Nerd no longer classified under Themes & Motifs > Psychological and Gutter Child no longer classified under Literature > Literary on Smashwords or General > Family on Amazon). I hope these minor changes will improve my exposure to potential readers, especially now that my keywords are much more focused than previously.

To give you an example of the kinds of keyword changes I’ve made, here is a list of my old keywords versus my new ones for Gutter Child. Feel free to skip ahead if keywords don’t excite you.

Smashwords Old Keyword List

drama, relationships, family, young adult, college, quirky, writer, teenager, truth and lies

Smashwords New Keyword List

family drama, famous relative, adoption mystery, teen young adult, college life, quirky, writer, teenager, truth and lies, obsession

Amazon Old Keyword List

adoption, college, relationships, family, writer, truth, lies

Amazon New Keyword List

family drama, adoption mystery, college life, quirky, teenage angst, truth and lies, obsession

If any of these changes improve sales or, at the very least, exposure, I’ll be sure to mention so in a future update. One of my current goals for Drinking Café Latte at 1pm is to take you guys on my self-publishing journey, experiences, and pitfalls with me. That way we can all learn what not to do together.

Book Title News:

I was talking about titles with a close friend last night and told her the names of my next three novels. She’s pretty good with labels, and I was paying attention to her reactions and suggestions for improvement regarding each one I mentioned. This conversation started because she’s not the biggest fan of the title The Computer Nerd.

So, even though I am not necessarily changing course at this stage, I am considering updating my future titles based on our conversation. She had some great ideas, and I think they’re worth experimenting with. Here’s what could happen in the coming months:

Teenage American Dream could be renamed something akin to Teenage Dilemma (or something of that nature—she likes the title; I don’t so much).

Sweat of the Nomad we didn’t talk much about, but I’m sure that will be addressed eventually.

Zipwood Studios may eventually become An Invitation to Nowhere. I really do like that title. I also like the original title, but she made a good point that the title is basically the name of a building. Like Walmart. My contention was that a book with the title Adventures in Walmart would sell. She didn’t disagree, but I’m pretty sure she’s right about a title like Zipwood Studios being less likely to sell.

Will I actually make these changes? I don’t know yet. Part of the reason these books even have these titles is because these are the titles I gave to their short story counterparts many years ago, and I like consistency between products and their upgraded versions. But I am considering it.

I’m testing the grounds with The Computer Nerd, which as of July 1st will be called The Computer Nerd Scandal (on Smashwords and its affiliates only, and only for the month of July). On August 1st, I’ll make a decision whether to keep the new title or to revert it back to its original name. It’ll depend on what kind of business the title change gives me.

In Other News:

A few days ago, Smashwords announced its Summer/Winter sale for 2016, to be held from July 1 to July 31, and I’ve decided to enroll my e-books in the promotion. So, even though I’ve already got a number of permafree titles available on my store page to choose from, you can get my other current, usually not-for-free titles either for free or at a fair discount throughout the month of July.

Participating titles include:

Superheroes Anonymous: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year Two (25% off) – $3.74

Zippywings 2015 (50% off) – $2.00

The Computer Nerd (50% off) – $1.50

Gutter Child (100% off) – free

So, if you’ve been waiting for a sale like this to check out any of these titles, now is a good time to get them. Be sure to leave me feedback after you’ve read your copies. As far as I know, the coupon codes for the discounts will be available at checkout.

And that’s it for this week’s updates.

Actually, no it’s not. I’ve spent much of this past week celebrating my 40th birthday. Here’s a picture of me pretending to blow out the candle on a vegan Oreo cupcake (made by my friend April, who’s vegan and good at it) in my new Marty McFly, Back to the Future 2 hat after I blew out the candle for real but my sister was too slow at taking the shot. This photo was taken at my celebration dinner at Mulligan’s Beach House last Saturday.

my 40th birthday
Celebrating my 40th with some 80’s nostalgia.

I’ve also spent part of the week updating a book of interactive fiction that I started about three years ago and then forgot about until recently. It’s called I Like Pigeons, and it’s very much a work-in-progress, but it’s fun to write and a nice distraction from the books I should be working on, like Teenage American Dream, for example.

So, that’s it for this week’s updates.

 

Friday Update #2: Adventures in Marketing Experimentation

I had planned on making this week’s update about Superheroes Anonymous: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year Two and its current rate of success on Smashwords and the affiliate sites, but there’s honestly not much to talk about at this time, so rather than talk about my disappointment in its current performance (okay, screw it, I will—I sold one copy so far, and it’s been out for a month, so now you’re updated :p ), I’d like to instead talk briefly about my plan to rework my marketing strategies for not just new, but existing titles.

A couple of weeks ago, I listened in on a webinar for Bryan Cohen’s Selling for Authors series and took to heart the lessons that he shared with attendees about how indie authors can increase book sales. For almost two hours, he and webinar cohost Kimberley Grabas discussed various strategies for hooking potential readers and gaining sales from people who might not otherwise care about or even find my book. Chief lesson in that series was to use copywriting to get readers’ attention. As a result of that webinar, I rewrote my description for The Computer Nerd to better entice readers to give it a chance. Here’s an example of what it used to say versus what it says now:

Old Description:

When Anston Michaels returns home from his stressful fishing trip weekend, he finds Rebecca, his latest would-be girlfriend, sitting on his porch. They have a date, which he’s forgotten about, and she’s here to collect. Sure, that morning he nearly lost his lucky fishing pole to a sea monster that would’ve taken it to the bottom of the sea had his friend, George, not been faster with the scissors. And sure, the thought of tangling with yet another adversary to his quiet livelihood before he even gets the chance to shower leaves him feeling anxious. But, he kinda likes her, so he’ll play her game.
While he gets ready for the date, however, he checks his answering machine to discover that someone more important called while he was away, and this person is someone he can’t ignore. Even though acknowledging the caller’s request means losing the date, and most likely the beautiful Rebecca with it, he has to take the meeting. It’s a matter concerning his ex-wife, who has just escaped from the mental hospital where Anston had her committed to a year ago. The caller is concerned she’s coming home to see him, and she may not be happy. [narrative story description]
What follows is a journey into the mind of woman who seeks murder or marriage, reconciliation or revenge, or something far more sinister than any of the above, and Anston must rescue her from her madness and stop her from ruining both of their lives before it’s too late. But is it actually madness that drives her? And is it really she who needs the rescuing? [story question]
The Computer Nerd is the suspenseful but quirky tale of a former married couple who seems to constantly walk out of step with each other, even when their love still lingers just beneath the surface, even when their livelihoods are at stake. Their journey is sometimes frightening and sometimes ridiculous, but no relationship is perfect, and they rediscover their range of feelings and their depth of understanding for each other while they work together to deal with a personal crisis that combines kidnap, conspiracy, and, worst of all, forced love into a tidy little demented weekend getaway package that neither is sure they’ll survive thanks to the sociopathic third party who’s tagged along for the ride. [sales pitch]
Also comes with a post-credits scene. [side note]

Okay, right? But not great? How about this:

New Description:

Complete safety in virtual isolation? Or likely destruction in a real romance? In the program of life, we must consider all of the variables. [hook]
Anston Michaels has spent the last year living quietly alone, content with his privacy and loving his slow-paced lifestyle. His is a life without drama. His days are filled with peace. He has two friends he spends once a month fishing with, and he goes on the occasional date to keep things from getting too lonely, but his social life is controlled to his liking, and he’s pretty sure he couldn’t be happier. So, when he returns home from his unexpectedly exciting fishing trip for a night of unwind, he is surprised to find Rebecca, his latest would-be girlfriend, sitting on his porch, collecting on a date that he’s forgotten about. And he’s definitely not ready for it. What’s worse, while he prepares to leave with her, he discovers that someone even more important has been calling while he was away, someone he can’t ignore. Even though acknowledging the caller’s request for a meeting means losing the date, and likely the beautiful Rebecca with it, he has to accept it. It’s a matter concerning his ex-wife: She has just escaped from the mental hospital that he committed her to a year ago, and now she may be looking for payback. [story introduction and emotional tie]
What follows is a journey into the mind of woman who seeks mutilation or marriage, reconciliation or revenge, or something far more sinister than anything Anston can imagine, and he must rescue her from her madness and stop her from ruining both of their lives before it’s too late. But is it actually madness that drives her? And is it really she who needs the rescuing? And does Anston truly know his ex-wife as well as he thinks he does? [story question]
The Computer Nerd is the suspenseful but quirky tale of a former married couple who seems to constantly walk out of step with each other, even when their love still lingers beneath the surface, even when their livelihoods are at stake. Their journey is sometimes frightening and sometimes ridiculous, but no relationship is perfect, and they rediscover their range for understanding each other as they work together to deal with a personal crisis that combines kidnap, conspiracy, and, worst of all, forced love into a tidy little demented weekend getaway package that neither is sure they’ll survive thanks to the sociopathic third party who’s tagged along for the ride. [sales pitch]
Also comes with a post-credits scene. [side note]
If you love human interest stories with unusual twists, and you’re wondering why your marriage isn’t great or if you’re dating the right person, then The Computer Nerd is right for you. [call to action]

[end descriptions]

I’ve tagged each paragraph according to its goal. The second example probably needs more work, but I think it does a better job hitting the primary notes needed to get a reader interested. According to Bryan Cohen, the four elements to a strong book description include:

  1. Tagline
  2. Synopsis
  3. Selling Paragraph
  4. Call to Action

It should be noted that in the two weeks since I’ve posted the new description, I haven’t gotten a single download. But to be fair, I released the thing back in October, so it’s probably not getting discovered as much as it used to, either.

But this is one of the places where I’m putting my focus at the moment.

It doesn’t mean I’m finished with this experimentation, however. Along with various copywriting techniques, I’m also working on new SEO techniques, which includes experimenting with genre listing. As of now, The Computer Nerd is listed as a Fiction > Thriller & Suspense > Psychological Thriller and Fiction > Literature > Literary on Smashwords, and Fiction > Psychological and Fiction > Thrillers > Suspense on Amazon. Even though it has had decent exposure on Smashwords once upon a time, and a couple of downloads on Amazon since its Amazon debut in December, I’ve also gotten only two reviews: one five-star and one one-star review. I’m pretty sure the one-star reviewer was expecting something other than what he actually got.

For reference, the keywords I have for it on Smashwords are suspense, programming, internet, marriage, relationships, quirky, humorous, marriage problems, mental issues, programming nightmare, and the ones I have on Amazon are marriage, quirky, programming, relationships, blackmail, sociopath, love potion.

So, in the coming week, I want to experiment with genre listings and keywords to see if I get an increase in traffic. According to all of the studies I’ve been reading and YouTube videos I’ve been watching these past few weeks, I should see some change in activity.

But, words alone won’t attract new readers to my words, and that’s what I’ve been studying this week. Yep, I’ve been learning more about appropriate cover design.

Now, I feel that cover design is worth talking about in a blog of its own, so I’ll save that discussion for later (maybe next Wednesday), but I did want to give you a preview of what I’m experimenting with in that regard.

As of now, my worst seller is the quirky adoption mystery, Gutter Child, and I have a feeling all of the ingredients to a first impression are at play ensuring that no one wants to take a chance on it. Even when I made it free for almost a month, I had gotten only seven downloads. The Fallen Footwear (my current best performer) still gets that many every 3-4 days. I think the copywriting for Gutter Child probably needs a stronger claw to the throat, as well, but I’m sure the cover is playing the primary reader repellant at the moment.

So, thanks to what I’ve been studying this week, I’ve been experimenting with new cover ideas, using techniques recommended by expert designers. As of now, I’ve got the old cover—

gutter child cover alt 4
Cover Image for “Gutter Child”

Looking like this:

gutter child cover alt 6
Cover Image for “Gutter Child”

And this:

gutter child cover alt 7a
Cover Image for “Gutter Child”

I’m not yet finished, or satisfied, with these changes, but I’m interested to see whether these increase my views and downloads once I do finalize them. Hopefully they may even generate sales.

So, that’s what I’m doing this week. I hope to report the results of these changes for my next Friday Update.

Stay tuned.