Elegy of Efforts, Part 3

So this week, I’ve done some more things to drum up popularity for Highsong and thought I’d share them.

* Took out a Facebook ad, because they offered $50 for free.

* Took out a small banner ad on one of my favorite webcomics, Gunnerkrigg Court. What the book has earned so far will pay for it, so yay!

* Emailed the Guys at Penny Arcade, because what the hell.  I’ve got nothing to lose, do I?

* Posted on The Domestic Fringe’s Fiction Friday.

* Asked folks in my ring to tag-bomb on Amazon, and also traded tagging with a lot of folks on the Amazon indie/ebook forums.

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Refrains of Reviews

I promised I’d talk about requesting reviews from folks.  Really, the whole process reminds me of querying.  You pitch your book, and these people will accept or reject it.  Luckily, most of these guys are not nearly as picky as literary agents.  Good reviews are key to getting book sales.  And really, there’s only two rules in approaching a book reviewer.

1. Be polite.  I can’t stress this enough.  Most of the people on the ebook or indie scene are just everyday folks who happen to like books.  They have lives, and they have time constraints just like everyone else.  Don’t make assumptions of any kind, and that includes sending them stuff unasked.  You ask permission to send them something; don’t just attach your ebook and hurl the email at them saying “Let me know when the review is out!” It’s up to you to make the book sound interesting, which is where your pitch lines and summaries come in handy.  You can include links to the book and its reviews, but considering the average attention of an Internet user, there’s no guarantee anyone’s going to click on that link.  Keep your emails short.  Treat it like a casual but way shorter and  friendlier query letter, and you’ll probably get a good response.  If you get rejected, DO NOT be pissy about it.  Move on to the next one, and maybe even at least send an email thanking the reviewer for their time.  You never know when you might write something that is to their preference, or that you may have been rejected because these people have a 6 month’s supply of books to read.  And may have accepted your book for review 6 months down the line, but you decided to be a jerk, so …

2. Do your research.  At the very least, you need to know the name of the person you’re emailing, and their genre interests.  I did run into a lot of people who said quite plainly “NO EBOOKS.”  I’d’ve been wasting my time trying to cajole them into Highsong.  I also don’t want to send my sci-fi book about dolphins to a chick-lit reader.  It just wouldn’t click. Most book review blogs have a tab that outlines their preferences of how to approach them.  I found I didn’t really need to tailor my letter that much when requesting a review.  Title, word count, publication date, a pitch line, and a link to my book trailer were about it.  (Which is another difference from querying a literary agent; everyone says “Include something personal about the agent!”, which can get kind of tiresome.)   Most of the time, if you flub your attempt, you won’t get a reply.  One of the first requests I sent off (number sixteen, but I don’t count it because I messed up) stated clearly that she only accepted .mobi file types.  I discovered this about three seconds after I’d hit “Send” on an email that said I’d be happy to send her a .pdf.  After figuring that out, I changed the line in my request to “a .pdf or any file you prefer.”  Catering to the crowd never hurt anyone.

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Flutes of Fiction Friday

My entry for The Domestic Fringe’s Fiction Friday.  I figured I’d post the first chapter of Highsong.

Fiction Friday with The Domestic Fringe

Chapter 1.

The Trellia had a song all its own. Harp heard it.

The science-vessel’s twin engines cutting through light years of space sent an imperceptible hum through the structure. Sometimes he rested his hands against metal just to feel it. It was comforting, like the ship was alive, and protective. But that was the sort of stupid thing everyone on the ship would expect from a thirteen-year-old boy. So he kept his mouth shut, especially when he was in the intern’s bay listening to the jokes and conversations of xenobiology and xenogenology students ten years his senior.

He lifted his hands away from the Trellia’s soothing cadence.

Lightning pain flashed up his skull. He winced and ran a careful hand over the back of his head, feeling the restraining bolts there. The smooth plates hid long needles, anchored by a halo of metal that ran to his forehead, which fed a steady stream of paralyzing sedatives into his lower brain. The needles stung if he moved his head too fast, and sometimes his heartbeat made them throb.

He sighed, straightened the Braille generators on his wrists, and tried to get back to work. The generators picked up the digital readouts of the displays and created somatosensory signals. Running his hands over the smooth display panels felt like touching small bumps of Braille.

Thoughts from the other interns began to rise and fade in his mind. His restraining halo beeped a warning of a change in brainwave activity. He knew why the Risen called the sensation “mindsong”. The outside thoughts leapt, wild and dissonant, threatening to catch Harp up in rhythms of thought that weren’t his. His head ached with every chord.

He pressed his hands against the metal edge of the table. The Trellia’s own song enveloped him, driving away the chaos. He needed rhythm, constant cadence, be it psychically or chemically induced. His headache eased. His restraining bolt gave a two-note beep, indicating a return to stable patterns.

“Hey, kid, move, will you? We need this panel for our calculations.”

Harp turned his face, frowning. He recognized intern Ress’s voice; he heard him direct that cold arrogance towards his peers all the time.

“Ress!” Another voice, female and shocked. Maya had a nervous tremor that came out when she presented a finding or confronted someone. “Be nice to him!” She dropped her voice to a whisper she thought Harp couldn’t hear. “He’s blind.”

Harp twisted his lips and swiveled his chair to face them. “The Captain sent me here to help you, you know.”

Ress snorted. “Really? Because it’s so helpful of you to sulk over here, hogging a panel we need, and working on … oh! Trajectory calculations for cargo ships.” His voice turned mocking. “With all this complicated math, I can see why you couldn’t be doing this in your personal quarters.”

Harp bit down on a flash of irritation. His mother, Captain Cait Hess, had urged him to go among the others instead of hiding in his room. If he didn’t behave, it would mean an extra lecture from Lieutenant Locuxu. “You haven’t told me what you’re working on, but—”

“We’re attempting to simulate a stable planet as a control group, so that when we arrive on the rim world Ptaal our comparative readings will be accurate,” Maya said gently.

Harp bristled at her. “I know what a comparative simulation is!”

Ress snorted. “Look, can you just get out of the way? You can’t do what we can do; it takes years to learn the kind of stuff we know, all right?”

“I can do whatever you can,” Harp said with molten calm.

His heart pounded. He hated it when people thought being blind meant he was stupid. Before Ress could answer, Harp swung back to the readout panels and opened his mind to Ress’s mindsong.

The knowledge wasn’t much. Harp’s mathematics outstripped Ress’s; it was the specifics of the simulation Harp lacked. But he knew it now, as his fingers blurred over the readouts.

Maya gasped. “What’s he doing? Ress! He’s building it!”

Ress’s could only sputter in reply. Harp knew the simulated planet was rising out of the holographic displays in the center of the room. He spun the data built by the interns into the final build, correcting a few equations here and patching an algorithm there. His mind roared, blazing with the energy of two minds. His head, normally so heavy with the weight of the metal halo, sang light and free.

The other interns exclaimed in astonishment.

“Look, the magnetic core of the planet is stable now! How’d he do that?”

“Our weather patterns are fixed!”

“I bet that threw off all sorts of things.”

Harp finished, sending a copy of the file to his personal log to review later. He couldn’t even smirk in triumph before pain exploded behind his eyes.

“It’s beautiful.” Maya sounded surprised.

“Wh-what did you do?” Ress said. “Download me?”

Harp choked, feeling a warm trickle of blood from his nose before his spine spasmed. His halo emitted a shrill note of alarm. Panic seized Harp. He couldn’t hear anything but the roaring in his ears, or feel anything but pain. He fell, or was falling.

No real thoughts anymore. Just bursts.

Panic. Fear.

Help.

Risen.

Available for purchase here and here for $.99 .

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Elegy of Effort, Part 2

So, it’s been a week since the book released.  I’ve sold 23 copies between Amazon and Smashwords, got two 5-star reviews and one 4 star on Amazon, and have 2 independent bloggers willing to review the book.  Not too shabby!

I thought I’d post a list of the things I did during the week to market the book, so other people can start making their own.

*Posted about the book EVERYWHERE.

*Emailed all my friends.

*Emailed all of my writing circles.

*Posted on my art blog and art forum (asking for reviews from everyone, but only one of my friends posted on Amazon!)

*Posted on Facebook.

*Tweeted about the release.

* Emailed 15 reviewers with a request to review the book (2 said yes, 2 said no, and the rest I’m still waiting on.)

* Made a Listmania! on Amazon that included my own book (shameless!)

*Started reviewing other books on Amazon to try and get to 100 reviews so my user profile gets noticed (and thus my book.)  This one’s gonna take a while, though.

* Posted a profile page of the book on TvTropes, because I just freaking love that website.  And Twittered about it.

I will say: thank god for my tagline, my summary, and my book trailer.  Taking the time to make these high quality paid off, because I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel every time I was trying to tell someone about the book.

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Expressions on Ebooks, Part 1

For those who care, I think I’d like to ruminate on ebook publishing for a moment, because this experience has definitely changed the way I’ve looked at publishing and my dreams of hitting it big.

I’m not going to weigh in on the whole “Are ebooks going to destroy traditional publishing!?”  deal.  Humans have a natural need for stories, and technology’s continuous changing hasn’t affected that one bit.  I’m more worried about the environmental impacts that things like the constantly-updated-newer-and-better ebook reader will have, rather than wondering if the Internet’s spurious influence has destroyed the cognitive ability to absorb a novel.

While I self-published, I have a friend who recently landed an agent and publishing contract for a middle grade children’s fantasy.  I’m happy for her (and plenty jealous), but I’ve been glad for the opportunity to compare my journey to hers.  Because, see, after my rewrites, my book went to print.  It became available almost instantly.  My friend is still in rewrites based on feedback from her publisher and agent (which is a good thing!), and it occurred to me that her book won’t be available for at least another 6 months, if not longer.

So, while I would have liked to have had professional feedback to make my book better, I have to say it sure was nice to put things out there in 24 hours.  Faster is not necessarily better, but in marketing and business, it sure can mean a lot.

I”m also doing my own footwork to get my book reviewed.  (Which I’ll be posting about next.)  And I’ve realized that my friend will have to do this, too.  Her publisher will give her some things, but by and large, the traditional publishing rings are pushing the marketing deal onto the author these days.  It’s the author’s responsibility to market their book.  (Unless you start making it big, of course, then a publisher can spare $50k for you to do a 20-city tour across the US.)  But as much as I ached (and still ache) to get an agent, I’m really glad I took this leap.  Because it’s changed so much about I think about myself as a writer, and what I really care about.  (Bottom line: the fact that someone buys my book is far more satifactory to me than the pittance it puts in my pocket.)

And last, in searching for reviews, I’ve noticed a bastion beginning to rise.  Traditional publishing circles are guarded.  An agent, an editor, and/or a published book are the only thing that will get you into the more esteemed circles of review.  Kirkus Reviews asks for $450 to review something indie, and that’s far beyond the scope of most indie ebook authors, especially in this economy.  A traditional publisher, on the other hand, can easily pay the fee.  Lots of bloggers state things like “no vanity press” and “no ebooks”, and the bigguns say this the most often.  So it looks to me like traditional publishing is defending itself against the onslaught of ebookery by declaring their own legitimacy.  Their circles are special, vetted, and high-quality need only apply.  My friend will have libraries and school visits as marketing tools, but she’ll probably have to land them herself.  Thank goodness she’ll still have the Internet, which is the only market I need.

Which may change soon.  But for now, I still want an agent.  It does lend a sense of legitimacy to my work, and I’ll still pursue it.  I hope that my ebook is successful enough that I can break into traditional publishing.  That would be great. I realize that other people may not feel the same; that they don’t want to sacrifice control over their project in order to satisfy someone else.  But it’s a great source of comfort to me to know that regardless of what I write in the future, if it gets rejected, there’s still an avenue to get things out there.

That’s not vanity press, that is.

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Buy Highsong Now

Well, it took a while, but Highsong is now available for purchase.  Huzzah!

Kindle users can go here.

And other types are available here.

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Fifes of Formatting

I figured I needed to say something about formatting, since it’s pretty critical.  In real publishing, the fastest way to get your stuff rejected is to format it incorrectly.  I know that I as a reader would be irritated by stuff like that, too. And when publishing an ebook, all the typos and grammatical errors become your fault.  No pressure!

1. Research your formats.  I went the Smashwords route, and they have a very nice built-in set of guidelines for how to format your ebook so it appears correctly across all file formats.  (Like Kindle versus an iPhone or so on. Considering file format bit me in the ass for my book trailer, I paid extra close attention this time.)  I worked in Word because it called for that.  I usually type in an extremely ancient and outdated program called Corel WordPerfect 8, because it has a decent thesaurus and my version of Word suggests synonyms like “conversation” for the word “conversations”.  I had to convert to an .RTF to open in Word, and “nuke” my text, i.e. I cut everything out of Word, pasted it into Notepad, cut it out of Notepad, and pasted it back into Word.  This got rid of any formatting or internal corruption in the text, but also eliminated all my previous formatting and italics.  I’m still debating whether to start writing my rough rafts in Word, but that’s my problem.  Your ebook publisher/distributor should have guidelines on what you need to do, so take the time to read them carefully.

2. Turn off Autoformatting.  In Word, this seemed to be the biggest obstacle, at least according to my guidelines.  Once I turned it off, I was able to create my own formatting for paragraphs and chapter headings without fear of messing all my other paragraphs up.  My guidelines advised not to go crazy, and so since this was my first ebook, I didn’t.  I set a first paragraph indent and stuck to bold and italics.  I had the option to stick my book cover in the file, but I decided against that.  The book cover will appear in certain formats that support it; otherwise, it still serves its purpose as an eyegrabber on a website.  I had to go back and redo all my italics and bolds, but that may not necessarily be your problem.

3. Reread until your eyes fall out. I can guarantee you that no matter how many pairs of eyes have seen your manuscript, you’re going to miss something.  Even if it’s an extra period or a missing “had.”  I had about 6 people critique my manuscript, one of which was a professional grant writer with a wicked editor’s eye.  I was still correcting stuff.  Read in spurts if you must; if you feel yourself getting fatigued, you’re not going to pay attention as well as you should.  Take a break and come back.  Odds are you’re going to hate yourself and get a massive attack of the hacks, combined with the nauseating feeling that you’re about to put yourself out there to thousands of people that will hate you and every sentence you fumbled onto the page. In addition, you have no professional credentials to reassure you that you don’t suck; agents and publishing contracts lend themselves to legitimacy and you’ve got nothing but your flimsy dreams and self-confidence.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go breathe into a paper bag.

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