Filed under: Amazon, Failure, Feedback, Kindle, Marketing, Music, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction, Writing stuff | Tags: Amazon, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, free, Hugh Howey, Jefferson Starship, jim downey, Kickstarter, Kindle, music, promotion, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, Wool, writing
Last week Hugh Howey, the very successful author of the Wool series, published The Report on his AuthorEarnings site which generated more than a little attention across the publishing/self-publishing world.
I’m not going to get into a real discussion of The Report here. I’m in no way qualified to criticize the data or analysis contained in Howey’s post, and others have already done so with thoroughness. If you’re interested whether or not Howey’s post holds up to scrutiny, I’d recommend reading those.
Howey has had huge success, and seems to have managed that arc of success very well. By his own admission, he has been extremely fortunate with self-publishing, and his success is very much *not* what the vast majority of self-published authors will experience. But his success has made him something of an evangelist for self-publishing, and that is reflected in The Report. Hence the title of this blog post — Howey very much advocates self-publishing for authors at every level, and in using the power which self-publishing has to force changes in the traditional publishing industry to benefit authors.
While I actually largely agree with Howey about the benefits of self-publishing, I thought I would offer my own contrasting experience as a self-published genre author who has had only moderate success.
After years of ‘close calls’ in almost getting Communion of Dreams conventionally published (including what would have been a nightmare - losing the rights to the book when a small publisher went under), in January of 2012 I self-published it. Since then, some 27,000 copies of the book have been downloaded, and about 200 paperback copies have been sold.
Looks pretty good, right?
Well, 80% or more of those downloads were promotional. Which is to say, free. And in addition to the paperback copies sold, I gave away about as many.
No complaints from me — this is using the tools available through Amazon, and I knew what I was doing. But that necessarily means that I didn’t earn any money off those books directly.
So in all of 2012, actual sales generated decent, but modest, income. Not enough to buy even an economy car new, but easily 3 or 4 times the advance that the Publisher Who Shall Not Be Named was going to give me. Then last year residual sales were less than $1000. If you add in my successful Kickstarter (after deducting expenses associated with that), all told I was able to stop doing most freelance writing last year and get to work on the next novel. Of course, while still trying to do enough book conservation work to stay afloat, and almost managing.
I consider this success. It’s not Hugh Howey level success. It’s not even ‘mid-list authors a decade ago’ level sucess. It isn’t enough to live on.
But the first novel is out there, and has been well received. And I’m well on the way to having the next one out later this year.
Which is a hell of a lot better than banging my head against the gates of traditional publishing houses.
*Reference, for those who are wondering. I’ve been considering doing a series of blog posts getting into rock music with a SF theme, looking at the development of that sub-genre over time. I still have a lot on my plate with SCW, so it’ll probably be a while, but if anyone wants to comment with suggested songs/albums/performers, feel free.
Filed under: Bipolar, Connections, Failure, Feedback, NPR, Science Fiction, Scott Simon, Writing stuff | Tags: bipolar, blogging, Communion of Dreams, feedback, jim downey, literature, Marcel Theroux, NPR, Paul Theroux, Science Fiction, Scott Simon, St. Cybi's Well, Weekend Edition, writing
A good segment on this morning’s Weekend Edition Saturday with writer Marcel Theroux (son of Paul Theroux). I recommend the whole thing, but two particular bits stood out for me. The first is included on the ‘highlights’ page for the show:
I was trying to be as free as possible. I don’t really think about genre … to be honest. I find it constraining. And I know there’s a certain embarrassment about talking about science fiction in polite company, so some people prefer to call it “speculative fiction” instead.
And the second is my transcription from the actual interview (at about the 5:00 mark):
Anyone who has written a long work of fiction just knows that your mood goes up and down and at times it seems baffling and you feel that you should be doing something that is of value to the human race, not sitting on your own in a room churning out words. Or not churning out words.
Boy, howdy. I am happily churning out words at present, but sometimes it just feels so … self indulgent. And that doesn’t include the moments of complete panic that everyone will be disappointed in the prequel to Communion of Dreams because it isn’t science-fictiony enough or the writing isn’t any good or something.
Back to work. It’s all I can do.
Filed under: Amazon, Connections, Feedback, Science Fiction, Wales, Writing stuff, YouTube | Tags: Amazon, blogging, Communion of Dreams, jim downey, Pistyll Rhaeadr, reviews, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, video, Wales, writing, www youtube
From near the beginning of Chapter 12 of Communion of Dreams:
“I found the reference that you asked me about regarding Mr. Sidwell and Wales.”
“Oh, really? That’s faster than I expected.”
“Well, as it turns out, there are quite a few scenic waterfalls in Wales, but only one that had an inn where someone lived during that time period. I’ve uploaded some images. Would you like to see them?”
The first image that filled his sight was of a great waterfall, cascading over the top of a cliff in the middle of a shallow ‘V’ between two higher hills. The stream was narrow, white with spray around the edges. Oaks and pines grew on the sides of the hills near the falls, and there was some kind of archway of rock about two thirds of the way down. Near the foot was an old iron pedestrian bridge crossing the stream.
Seth’s voice narrated. “It’s called Pistyll Rheadr, one of the ‘seven wonders of Wales’. The drop you see there is about 75 meters.”
The next image was closer to the falls, taken, Jon guessed, from the bridge. Now he could clearly see the wonderful natural stone archway, and realized that the initial drop of the falls ended in a pool just behind that, then the water spilled out under the arch for another significant drop into the main pool below. From this vantage, the spray and splash of the water glimmered in the sunlight, coating nearby rocks, feeding the ancient moss that grew there. A path was clearly visible to the right-hand side of the falls, leading up the side of the mountain.
“This next image is taken from the top of the falls. The red structure you see below the falls on the left-hand side is the inn. I have more images, if you wish to see them.”
As Seth spoke, Jon saw the wide, ‘U’ shaped valley open out before him, the falls tumbling down and away in the right foreground. The hills on either side of the valley were lightly wooded here and there, but mostly given over to pasture. On the left-hand side of the image, a narrow blacktop road wound down the valley, echoing the stream’s flow. And there, as Seth said, was the inn.
“No, thanks, Seth, I think that’s enough. Pretty place.”
“So I understand.”
“I don’t see anything particularly noteworthy about it. But it sure seemed to make an impression on Darnell.”
Guess what chapter I’ve just started writing in St. Cybi’s Well.
All water is graceful, be it a tear or a torrent.
PS: new review up.
Filed under: Amazon, Art, Connections, Feedback, General Musings, Humor, Kindle, Marketing, movies, Promotion, Science Fiction, Star Wars, Writing stuff | Tags: Amazon, art, blogging, Bobba Fett, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, humor, jim downey, Kindle, movies, promotion, reviews, Science Fiction, Sillof, St. Cybi's Well, Star Wars, The Princess Bride, writing
… said no one ever about Communion of Dreams. Oh, it’s got a buttload of positive reviews, but it’s a ‘serious’ book in the sense of being about Big Questions of Humanity’s Role in the Universe and all that . And, truth be told, so is St. Cybi’s Well (at least I hope so).
But as I’m starting to see the prospect of finishing SCW sometime in the next months, and perhaps because I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately, I’m kinda in the mood to write something which isn’t Oh So Serious. Something light, fun, perhaps even popular. (Gawds, what a concept.) Maybe something like The Princess Bride, but recast in feudal Japan. Or Star Wars redone as the Western it is at heart.
And speaking of which, guess what I found:
Bob A. Ford
The typical wild west bounty hunter who sells his services to bring in anyone with a price on their head. His quiet demeanor and lighting reflexes makes him one of the most dangerous men on the prairie.
There’s a whole series of these set in different periods/worlds, and they’re all completely delightful.
And we need more delight in our lives. All of us.
So, something to think about.
Oh, PS: thanks to one and all who downloaded CoD during the weekend promotion. Not huge numbers, but not bad: about 550 downloads around the world. Interestingly, the Amazon portal in Germany was the second-highest number of downloads (second to the US, of course), with a couple dozen. First time that’s happened, and that’s a bigger total for there than ever before to the best of my recollection. No idea why.
Filed under: General Musings, Feedback, Promotion, tech, Predictions, Science Fiction, Marketing, Society, Connections, Brave New World, Publishing, Google, Science, Humor, Amazon, Kindle, Travel, Wales | Tags: jim downey, blogging, technology, direct publishing, travel, Science Fiction, Amazon, Kindle, video, science, predictions, free, humor, feedback, promotion, Communion of Dreams, St. Cybi's Well, Wales, Typhoon, Google Earth, Jamie Norris, electronics, 1991, Steve Cichon
It’s a view of Wales most of us will never see.
This video was filmed from the cockpit of a Typhoon fighter jet which flies over North Wales before heading to the Lake District.
The man behind the controls is Flight Lieutenant Jamie Norris, the RAF’s Typhoon display pilot and a member of RAF Coningsby, based in Lincolnshire, who calmly talks viewers through his manoeuvres at altitudes of between 250ft and 40,000ft.
There’s an embedded video which is a real delight, too, for anyone who isn’t afraid of heights/motion.
I haven’t flown at low altitude over Wales, so I can’t really speak as to how this compares to the slower velocity of a small plane or helicopter. However, I was struck by just how similar the video is to viewing the same terrain via Google Earth, which I have done a *lot* of in the last couple of months as I write St. Cybi’s Well. The ability to zoom in, rotate orientation, and even change the angle to the horizon allows you very much get the sense of flying through the landscape — it’s a very cool technology.
And speaking of very cool technology, just thought I’d share this little item, which gives a nice bit of perspective: Everything from 1991 Radio Shack ad I now do with my phone. It’s a pretty impressive list, and shows how a whole pile of electronics valued at about $5,000 in today’s money has been replaced by a smartphone that fits in your pocket and costs about $500.
And speaking of 500 … that’s about the total number of world-wide downloads of Communion of Dreams so far in the current promotion. Which in itself is a pretty cool bit of technology. If you haven’t yet gotten your copy of the Kindle edition of the book (which you can read on, yes, smartphones as well as any number of other devices), pop over and get it today!
Filed under: Amazon, Art, Book Conservation, Connections, Failure, Feedback, Flu, Kindle, Marketing, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction, University of Missouri, Writing stuff | Tags: 1512, Adopt-a-book, Amazon, art, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, Cicero, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, free, jim downey, Kindle, Legacy Bookbindery, M.T.C. Epistolae familiares accuratius recognitae, MU, promotion, reviews, Science Fiction, writing
Most of the book conservation work I do is pretty nondescript, just workmanlike. After all, the intent isn’t to draw attention to my work, but to preserve as much of the original character and structure of the book as I can.
But now and again I get to do some ‘pretty’. And it’s nice to come across those again later, particularly when for whatever reason I’m feeling a little down. It’s a pleasant boost to my self esteem. Such it was yesterday when I was browsing through the Adopt-a-book program at MU’s Special Collections, and saw this entry:
Adopt-a-Book > Book Detail
Author: Cicero, Marcus Tullius. Published: Venetiis : Apud Aldum et Andream Socerum, 1512
Description: Take apart and resew, saving the label where possible. New leather binding
Condition / repair needed: This codex was printed by the legendary Aldine Press. It was printed during the life of Aldus Manutius, the founder of the press. The most famous dolphin and anchor printer’s mark is seen on the title page.
Thank You to Donor:J. Schweitzer, R. Drake and M. Correale
I’ll explain later why it was that I was browsing the site (it was a good reason, but I don’t want to get into it just yet).
As for why I was feeling down … No special reason, as I mentioned yesterday. Getting over the touch of the flu I had early in the week. A touch of the winter blahs. The mild feeling that I get in the middle of any project that I have bitten off more than I can chew and that I’m going to fail spectacularly.
So it’s nice to see tangible evidence that I actually can do something well.
Filed under: Amazon, Connections, Feedback, Kindle, Marketing, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction, Writing stuff | Tags: Amazon, blogging, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, jim downey, Kickstarter, Kindle, literature, promotion, reviews, Science Fiction, space, St. Cybi's Well, writing
Seven years ago I launched this blog. We’re now within 100 visits of breaking 100,000 total visits.
Two years ago today the Kindle edition of Communion of Dreams was published. Since then, some 26,000 copies of it have been downloaded. I’ve honestly lost track of the total number. And that’s not counting the 35,000+ copies of the earlier .pdf version of the book which were downloaded. The paperback edition was released on January 26, 2012, and I consider that the “official publication date” – watch for a special promotion next week.
Today, I just tweaked my ‘author page‘ on Amazon to include this:
Are you a literary agent looking for new talent to represent? Consider this: the Kindle edition of “Communion of Dreams” has been downloaded more than 25,000 times. As I am working to complete the prequel “St. Cybi’s Well” I am also interested in seeking a conventional publishing contract to get print copies of both books into brick & mortar venues, and would welcome professional representation. Contact me.
Why the change? Well, when I started this blog it was with the intent of documenting my efforts to get Communion of Dreams published through a conventional publishing house, by contacting agents and submitting the book to numerous publishers directly. After years of fighting that fight, and getting oh-so-close several times, I decided to go ahead and self-publish the book. I don’t in any way regret that decision. I’m pleased with the response the book has gotten, from total downloads to reviews and ratings.
But I feel as though I have missed an opportunity. Specifically, by not having print copies of Communion of Dreams in bookstores and other traditional venues. Publishing has changed, and bookstores are under huge market pressure, but people still buy paper & ink copies of books. Yes, I do have a “print-on-demand” edition of Communion of Dreams available, but that’s not the same thing as having it on display at your local bookstore or even at Walmart. The promotional tools available through Amazon for their print-on-demand books just aren’t comparable. So, yeah, I’d still like to see about connecting with a conventional publishing house, one which could fill in those gaps for me.
And for the folks who backed my Kickstarter for St. Cybi’s Well, this could also be a boon — I’d still do a private press run, and make accommodations for everyone. Think how collectible hand-bound, limited-edition copies of a best selling author’s books would be.
Anyway, who knows what will happen? I’m still faced with trying to get the attention of a good agent or publishing house. That’s a long, fairly random process, and there’s a very good chance that nothing will come of it. But at least now I have a demonstrated product and readership, and that has to help matters. We’ll see.
Filed under: Amazon, Art, Astronomy, Cassini, Connections, Feedback, Google, Habanero, Humor, Kindle, Marketing, NASA, Pandemic, Plague, Promotion, Publishing, Saturn, Science Fiction, Space, Titan | Tags: Amazon, art, blogging, book design, Cassini, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, Facebook, feedback, Habaneros, humor, jim downey, Kindle, NASA, pandemic, photography, post-apocalyptic, promotion, reviews, Saturn, Science Fiction, Scorpion Blood, space, Titan
Another item that would likely help get this book moving is a different cover. I understand the imagery now that I’ve read the book, but definitely think it will keep hard-core sci-fi fans from buying a copy (and people do judge books by their covers).
Like I said, every so often a comment to this effect will pop up in a review. And I don’t spend much time thinking about it (and I’m not going to change the cover image at this point), but now and then I wonder just what kind of a cover would appeal to ‘hard-core sci-fi fans’ and still make any kind of sense in relation to the story. Maybe some nice images of Saturn or Titan from the Cassini mission? A depiction of some of the spacecraft (which aren’t described in much detail in the book), or perhaps the Titan Prime space station? Go with a charming post-apocalyptic montage of ruined cities and microphotographs of viruses? To me, none of these would fairly represent the story, and to a certain extent would unnecessarily limit the appeal to only ‘hard-core sci-fi fans’.
But I’m curious what others think. So feel free to post a comment here or over on FB. Over even on Amazon, as a comment on an extant review or in new review of your own. In a week or so I’ll go through all the various comments I can find, and pick someone to get a jar of my latest hot sauce (or something else if they don’t want that).
PS: there’s another new short review up on Amazon you might want to take a look at as well.
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Bipolar, Connections, Failure, Feedback, Health, Hospice, NPR, Preparedness, Science, Society, Writing stuff | Tags: All Things Considered, Alzheimer's, bipolar, blogging, Dark Playground, health, hospice, humor, jim downey, Morning Edition, NPR, predictions, procrastination, psychology, scarcity, science, Sendhil Mullainathan, St. Cybi's Well, Tim Wilson, Wait But Why, writing
OK, actually more like four. Maybe. Kinda. Sorta.
* * *
Interesting item on this morning’s Morning Edition, looking at a new book about how scarcity has a psychological impact which pushes people to make poor choices. The transcript isn’t up yet, so here’s just one passage from the interview with co-author Sendhil Mullainathan:
When you have scarcity and it creates a scarcity mindset, it leads you to take certain behaviors which in the short term help you manage scarcity, but in the long term only make matters worse.
Specifically, it’s a coping strategy: by setting aside some long-term problem, you actually have more time to deal with urgent short-term problems. This is a very normal human reaction, and actually even makes evolutionary sense — not getting eaten today is more important than where that glacier up the mountain will be next year.
I still remember a poster my Resident Advisor had up on her wall in college, which distilled this problem nicely. It said (with appropriate humorous graphic): “When you’re up to your ass in alligators, it’s easy to forget that you came here to drain the swamp.”
* * *
I’ve … struggled … with procrastination all my life. Sometimes more successfully than at other times. It can manifest as lethargy. Or writer’s block. Or simple distraction.
And I learned a long, long time ago that that struggle was made worse when I was confronted with other stressors in my life. A bad bipolar cycle. Financial stress. Emotional stress. Simple lack of sufficient sleep. Just look back through my blog posts while we were doing care-giving for Martha Sr, and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
So when I see someone come up with an interesting take on procrastination, I pay attention. Here’s a very good one:
In the monkey world, he’s got it all figured out—if you eat when you’re hungry, sleep when you’re tired, and don’t do anything difficult, you’re a pretty successful monkey. The problem for the procrastinator is that he happens to live in the human world, making the Instant Gratification Monkey a highly unqualified navigator. Meanwhile, the Rational Decision-Maker, who was trained to make rational decisions, not to deal with competition over the controls, doesn’t know how to put up an effective fight—he just feels worse and worse about himself the more he fails and the more the suffering procrastinator whose head he’s in berates him.
It’s a mess. And with the monkey in charge, the procrastinator finds himself spending a lot of time in a place called the Dark Playground.*
The Dark Playground is a place every procrastinator knows well. It’s a place where leisure activities happen at times when leisure activities are not supposed to be happening. The fun you have in the Dark Playground isn’t actually fun because it’s completely unearned and the air is filled with guilt, anxiety, self-hatred, and dread. Sometimes the Rational Decision-Maker puts his foot down and refuses to let you waste time doing normal leisure things, and since the Instant Gratification Monkey sure as hell isn’t gonna let you work, you find yourself in a bizarre purgatory of weird activities where everyone loses.**
* * *
There was a great story yesterday afternoon on All Things Considered, about a little boy who was terrified by a statue of Frankenstein(‘s Monster). It was funny, charming, and insightful.
What insight? This one:
“Well, your nephew is a brilliant story editor,’” says psychologist Tim Wilson of the University of Virginia.
Wilson has been studying how small changes in a person’s own stories and memories can help with emotional health. He calls the process “story editing.” And he says that small tweaks in the interpretation of life events can reap huge benefits.
This process is essentially what happens during months, or years, of therapy. But Wilson has discovered ways you can change your story in only about 45 minutes.
* * *
There’s a second part to that item about procrastination I posted above (hence my ambivalence about whether this blog entry was about three things or four):
There’s only one way to truly beat procrastination:
You need to prove to yourself that you can do it. You need to show yourself you can do it, not tell yourself. Things will change when you show yourself that they can. Until then, you won’t believe it, and nothing will change. Think of yourself like a basketball player on a cold streak. For basketball players, it’s all about confidence, and an ice cold shooter can tell himself 1000 times, “I’m a great shooter, I’m going to hit this next one,” but it’s not until he physically hits a shot that his confidence goes up and his touch comes back. So how do you start hitting shots?
* * *
3) Aim for slow, steady progress—Storylines are rewritten one page at a time.In the same way a great achievement happens unglorious brick by unglorious brick, a deeply-engrained habit like procrastination doesn’t change all at once, it changes one modest improvement at a time. Remember, this is all about showing yourself you can do it, so the key isn’t to be perfect, but to simply improve. The author who writes one page a day has written a book after a year. The procrastinator who gets slightly better every week is a totally changed person a year later.So don’t think about going from A to Z—just start with A to B. Change the Storyline from “I procrastinate on every hard task I do” to “Once a week, I do a hard task without procrastinating.” If you can do that, you’ve started a trend. I’m still a wretched procrastinator, but I’m definitely better than I was last year, so I feel hopeful about the future.
* * *
Wait — I said three things? Or maybe four?
I suppose it’s really only one, after all.
Time for me to get back to work.