Confessions of a Digital Novelist

Archive for October, 2010

Self-Publishing Expo

by on Oct.23, 2010, under Digital Publishing

After about 3 months of work, I have finally finished the development edit of Evermore: Call of the Nocturne. I’ve taken the rest of the week off to relax, play some World of Warcraft, watch some baseball playoffs, hang out with the little one, and generally avoid my novel for fear of finding more continuity errors.

Starting Monday, I will go through the novel (yet again) to follow-through on the line-edit that my editor has suggested. This should go fairly quickly as I shall follow the rule that my editor is always right. For those of you who are still on the fence, hiring an editor is one of the best decisions that I have ever made. I have learned more over the past four months about writing than I have over the last ten years.

In the meantime, I have been reading Michael N. Marcus’ synopsis of the Self-Publishing Expo in New York on his blog at http://bookmakingblog.blogspot.com/2010/10/impressions-of-self-publishing-book.html. It’s a good read and I highly recommend it. There were several observations that he made that I thought were interesting.

There were lots of people there, right from the opening at 10 a.m. It was obvious that Expo impresarios Diane Mancher and Karen Mender were correct in assessing the need for such an event, and they made the right decision in making the exhibit floor a freebie for all attendees. Last year nothing was free. The panel sessions I visited were well-attended, with an alert audience asking important questions and getting good answers from knowledgeable and experienced experts.

The irony about the self-publishing industry is that we are as much consumers as we are sellers. So it’s interesting that they made the show floor free for everyone. given that I hope to publish within the next year, I should definitely think about attending, New York hotel costs not withstanding.

I was surprised and dismayed at the ignorance demonstrated by some self-publishing newbies, and even by some of the exhibitors. It seemed strange that there had to be a session called “Why a professional editor can be your best friend.” People in the audience (and the authors of most of the books I featured in last week’s BAD BOOK WEEK) just didn’t realize that professional editing is vital–not optional. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: “If you can’t afford to hire a professional editor, you can’t afford to self-publish.”

It’s understandable. You spend a lot of time on a book and you think that its perfect. you are insulted to think that someone else could improve it. But as I said before, it is an absolute necessity. Once you get an editor, you can never go without. they are outstanding tools.

I was surprised to see the large number of companies offering marketing and publicity services. There is definitely a need for them, but I don’t know how an author can decide among them. I spent some time with Beth Werner, who operates Book Marketing Boot Camp, a series of one-to-one sessions to help you create a marketing plan. Beth believes that advertising fiction can be profitable for the author, which surprised me. Beth seems to know what she’s doing and her service is definitely worth considering.

I am very reluctant to recommend marketing and publicity services. Start with free publicity through your own blog and social media connections before thinking about paying someone to do your job for you. You should delude yourself into believing that you’re going to sell ten million copies through self-publishing. Your going to sell hundreds, maybe thousands. The only thing that is going to push your sales numbers higher is the quality of your manuscript, not your promotional dollars. if you have money to burn, spend it on your editor, not Publisher’s Weekly. Just look at Minecraft. No promotional dollars but it has sold like hotcakes due to word of mouth.

The Expo was great place to pick up chicks, for those so inclined. (I’m married and don’t cheat–but I do browse.) A recent study of the publishing industry revealed that people in the business are overwhelmingly female (and white). Some online commenters said that this condition has resulted in scarcity of books for men. But, since most book buyers and readers are female, I’m not sure about the cause and the effect.

This has become a problem with the industry as a whole (not hot chicks at the SPE but the dependence of the publishing industry on female readers). Women readers and writers are great but we need to bring back young boys and men for the industry to be healthy. What do male readers want? Action, action, action. As my dad says, “I like those Tom Clancy books when there’s lots of action, but I get bored when they go back to Washington.” There is a huge untapped market in the male reading demographic that mainstream publishers are not addressing. Self-publishers must pick up the slack.

Jason Kuykendall [from Amazon] admitted to owning both a Kindle and an iPad. (MEMO TO JEFF BEZOS: Don’t fire Jason for heresy. He’s good for Amazon.) Jason was smart to point out that Kindle should be considered a channel for distributing books, not just one family of devices for reading them. He’s right. I’ve enjoyed many Kindle books on my iPad. Jason gave me some surprising good news. I had heard that it was very difficult to format a book with lots of graphics, and my books have lots of graphics. Jason explained that it can be difficult to do a Kindle book with complex graphics like flow charts and mathematical formulas, but there is no problem with ordinary photos, diagrams and charts. Based on his recommendation, I uploaded my first Kindle experiment a few hours after I got home from the Expo. I still have to make some adjustments, and I’ll give you a full report later.

It’s a good point and indicative of Amazon’s strategy. I read Kindle books on my iPad and the experience is awesome. I prefer the iBook reader but Amazon simply has far more content. It’s a strategy that seems to be serving them well as several commentators have started to question whether or not the iBook is dead after six months due to lack of content.

In short, the Self-Publishing Expo looks like a great experience. Hopefully next year, with Evermore: Call of the Nocturne available for purchase, I’ll find the time and the money to attend.

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Late Night Thoughts

by on Oct.15, 2010, under Digital Publishing

And so I am up at 2 AM in the morning typing a blog post on my iPad. For some reason, I can’t sleep tonight. I’m not exactly sure why. But it does give me an opportunity to apologize for my readers my lack of posts over the last few weeks. However, that has been due to some great progress on my novel. For those of you who might remember, I hired Erin Stropes in Montreal to edit my novel. She did a great job and got it back to me in June.

Since then, I have been diligently working away at it. First, I have been doing a development edit. This will be followed by a line edit based on the comments that Erin gave me. To wit, the development edit has been hugely successful. I have probably rewritten about 25 percent of the novel, but the changes have made the story much quicker with far less confusion than before. I have probably learned more about writing over these past few months then I had over the previous ten years.

I should finish the developmental edit this Sunday. I will probably take the rest of the week off, make sure that I don’t have more major changes that I would like to make and then start on the line edit. The reason that I have to push myself so quickly is that I have to get the next version of the manuscript to Erin by early December so she can do the second and final edit over the Christmas break. I have been spending about 2-3 hours a day on this manuscript so it will be nice to get something of a break. I wish I had the time to go into more detail over the changes at have been made but it’s hard to explain what exactly is going on without having the manuscript in front of you. Once I submit the manuscript to my editor, I will have more time to post.

There have been some topics that I would like to go into further detail over the Christmas Break. I would love to write a shot-by-shot analysis of the zero-g fight scene in Inception and explain why it works so well (hint: it’s the carpet) and how it forced me to change a key fight scene in the middle of my novel. another idea that I would like to try once I publish the book would be author commentaries. Recorded and distributed for free through iTunes (so you could listen while you read), author commentaries would be a neat idea that could work on a digital platform like the iPad. Another project that I would like to work on would be a wiki for the world of evermore. It would contain character biographies, object descriptions and plot synopses from the novel. I will hold off on that until the text is finalized for production.

So I hope that this post gives you a better idea of what I’m up to and how the novel is progressing. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment.

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