Filed under: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Connections, Feedback, Kindle, Marketing, Predictions, Promotion, Science Fiction, Writing stuff | Tags: 1500, Alzheimer's, Amazon, blogging, care-giving, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, Her Final Year, hospice, jim downey, John Bourke, Kickstarter, Kindle, literature, predictions, promotion, reviews, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, writing
So, yesterday’s post was #1,500 here. The last Big Round Number was posted on December 9, 2010. Since I started the blog in January 2007, that means that the pace has actually been fairly stable, in terms of my posting — about 250 a year, more or less.
I never really expected it to last this long. But I’m glad it has. And I’m glad that so many people have shared some or all of the ride with me. Have been witness to my efforts to get Communion of Dreams published conventionally. Have shared my experiences as a care-provider for someone with Alzheimer’s (and the subsequent book). Have supported me when I decided to self-publish CoD. Have helped to spread the word about that novel. Have encouraged me to write the prequel.
Filed under: Amazon, Art, Arthur C. Clarke, Book Conservation, Connections, Feedback, Isaac Asimov, Kindle, Marketing, Music, Predictions, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction, Writing stuff | Tags: aesthetics, Amazon, art, Arthur C. Clarke, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, Isaac Asimov, jim downey, Kindle, literature, Moody Blues, music, predictions, promotion, reviews, Science Fiction, Stephen King, writing, www youtube
So, a couple of things to share this morning …
One, the decision has been made: we’ll be going with a design for the leather bindings which includes raised cords on the spine. In terms of the response I got from people, it wasn’t even much of a competition — “cords” were the favorite almost 10 to 1.
But that doesn’t mean that the book has to have an old look. Not at all. I’m playing around with some design ideas which will incorporate the cords, but which will feel more modern. Watch for some preliminary posts on that in a couple weeks.
Two, if you are expecting to get a leather-bound copy of Communion of Dreams, but haven’t yet told me of your color preferences, do so soon. Further, if you didn’t get a confirmation response from me acknowledging your choices, then please contact me again. Because I had something of a book conservation emergency drop into my lap 10 days ago, things have been delayed a bit — but I’ll still be ordering leather and starting on those bindings before the end of the month. Please don’t delay.
And three, there’s a new review up on Amazon you might want to check out. Here’s an excerpt:
this book is very well worth your time if you love classic sci-fi. i would say that so far it is a combination of arthur c. clarke, isaac asimov, and a little stephen king. not too shabby for an unknown author. not sure if this is a series, and don’t want to ruin anything for myself by finding spoilers in reading others’ reviews. i’ll finish this book first. that may be soon- already lost most of a night’s sleep reading it. this is an original alternative universe, populated by humans and their robots, being created here; that is why it reminds me of asimov.
As always, I invite you to produce your own review, rate the book or other reviews, or just leave a comment in any reviews which particularly engage you. And you don’t have to do so only on Amazon — if you participate in another venue where such a review or recommendation would be appropriate, the help is always appreciated.
One final note: yup, the writing is proceeding apace. More on that later.
Filed under: Connections, General Musings, Guns, Marketing, movies, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction, Society, Terrorism, Violence, Writing stuff | Tags: blogging, David Hannum, Defending Your Life, fear, jim downey, John Brunner, little brains, P. T. Barnum, promotion, Science Fiction, sheep, sheeple, St. Cybi's Well, writing
OK, granted, it probably wasn’t P.T. Barnum who uttered the famous phrase “There’s a sucker born every minute.” But if I titled this post “Updating David Hannum” almost no one would have recognized the name.
While I think the maxim still holds true, I think that it could be updated to reflect current usage more accurately. Sure, there are still some “suckers” around — people who are ignorant or unsophisticated generally, or who have just enough larceny in their soul to tempt them to take risks they should know better than take (“you can’t cheat an honest man”) — but the kind of ignorance or unsophistication which existed in Barnum’s time is fairly uncommon now.
With one major exception: people who are suckers because they’re scared.
Fear short-circuits our decision making abilities, particularly if you’re not aware of what it can do and trained to recognize and counteract it. Unfortunately, even though plenty of people are aware of what effect it can have, most folks aren’t very good at recognizing when it is working on them, nor what to do to negate the effect. To borrow a phrase, we’re “little brains”:
Bob Diamond: Being from Earth, as you are, and using as little of your brain as you do, your life has pretty much been devoted to dealing with fear.
Daniel Miller: It has?
Bob Diamond: Well everybody on Earth deals with fear – that’s what little brains do.
Bob Diamond: …Fear is like a giant fog. It sits on your brain and blocks everything – real feelings, true happiness, real joy. They can’t get through that fog. But you lift it, and buddy, you’re in for the ride of your life.
Daniel Miller: God… my three percent is swimming.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently. Partly because it is a major component of the ‘background’ of St. Cybi’s Well (you’ll see) but also because of the 10-year anniversary retrospective of the start of the Iraq War. A war which I think most people in the U.S. will now agree was sold to the public more on the basis of fear than objective evidence. Whether or not those who did the selling were also acting out of fear I leave for others to argue.
And because I’ve been thinking a lot about how fear is used in this way, I’ve been seeing more and more examples of how that is done. Just this morning I came across a very good article about personal cyber security which was a perfect example of fear-based reporting. Yeah, sure, the article raises legitimate concerns, and ones which each of us should address, but the overall tone (and response by many people) is one of fear. And this kind of thing is done routinely by news outlets; there’s always some new cancer-causing food scare, or story about child predators, or a report on how fragile the economy/environment/whatever is. And all of this is used to sell us something. Sometimes it’s just page clicks. Sometimes it’s newspapers. Sometimes it’s Home Security systems. Sometimes it’s guns. Sometimes it’s a war.
And we buy it. Because we’re suckers. Because we’re “little brains.” Because we’re afraid.
So, back to updating David Hannum, er, I mean P.T. Barnum: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
Personally, I like “There’s a little brain born every minute” but it requires too much context for people to understand. Defending Your Life wasn’t *that* popular.
How about “There’s a sheep born every minute”, then?
I think that works pretty well. Conveys the timidity of a somewhat panicked animal, one which is used for the benefit of others. “Sheeple” is already a common slang term. And it references the classic SF novel by John Brunner. Which really isn’t important for a generic cultural maxim, but amuses me.
Yeah, definitely: “There’s a sheep born every minute.”
Filed under: Art, John Scalzi, Promotion, Publishing, Society, Writing stuff | Tags: art, blogging, direct publishing, exploitation, free, jim downey, John Scalzi, Nate Thayer, predictions, promotion, publishing, The Atlantic
Nine years ago, as I was in the process of closing down my gallery of fine art, I wrote the following in response to a query from a local restaurant owner who was looking to offer our artists the “exposure” of hanging their art on her walls:
Having free art to hang on your walls in order to entice people is a great idea. It would be the same thing as getting local musicians to come perform during all your hours of operation for no pay, with the excuse that they’re getting “exposure” and can put out a tip jar or maybe schedule paying gigs – and you won’t even ask for a percentage of the cut! Such a deal! Or to get it out of the realm of the arts, what would you call an employer who “allowed” workers to slave away for no compensation other than the chance to sell their services to some other potential employer when they were noticed for how well and hard they worked? And what do you think that would do for the level of wages in the community?
Folks, this is exploitation, nothing more. It’s using artists for your own personal gain.
I suppose I should have had the prescience to see the coming storm of internships, but back then I wasn’t as cynical as I am now.
Because the truth of the matter is that this sort of thing has almost become routine. Companies hold “competitions” for new logos and other graphic design needs, with the hook that winning such a competition will give the designer “exposure” and a chance to *maybe* do some other actual paid work for the company later. The Huffington Post was built on a model of not paying for content from most of their writers, but rather providing them an outlet for “exposure.” It’s become such a routine practice for online publications to ask for free content that best-selling author John Scalzi posted a bit of a rant back in December about the requests he gets.
Well, two days ago veteran journalist and multiple-award winner Nate Thayer got a query from the Atlantic Magazine to re-purpose a longer article he had published elsewhere. Thayer was open to the query, right up to the point where the Global Editor said that they wouldn’t pay for the piece, but rather it would be good for Thayer because of the “exposure”. Thayer blogged about it, including his email correspondence back and forth with the editor so that the entire horror show unfolds before your eyes. Thayer’s basic reaction is best summed up by this passage:
I am a professional journalist who has made my living by writing for 25 years and am not in the habit of giving my services for free to for profit media outlets so they can make money by using my work and efforts by removing my ability to pay my bills and feed my children. I know several people who write for the Atlantic who of course get paid. I appreciate your interest, but, while I respect the Atlantic, and have several friends who write for it, I have bills to pay and cannot expect to do so by giving my work away for free to a for profit company so they can make money off of my efforts.
The whole thing has gotten a fair amount of attention online, and generated a lot of fairly predictable discussion. Including taking Thayer to task for publishing the emails as well as his audacity at taking umbrage at being asked to provide his work for free.
My reaction to this is best summed up in Scalzi’s two final points in his rant:
9. If this is your cue to complain about how this makes me an asshole, ask me if I care. Go on, ask!
10. But now that you mention it, saying “fuck you, pay me,” to you does not make me (or anyone else from whom you are hoping to extract actual work from without pay) the asshole in this scenario. It makes me the guy responding to the asshole, in a manner befitting the moment.
It’s one thing to be asked to contribute work to some charity. Or to participate in writing for a blog or website which (intentionally) isn’t generating income for the owners. It’s another matter altogether to be asked to give away your work (creative or non) to benefit a for-profit business. That’s called exploitation.
And calling it exploitation doesn’t make you the bad guy.
Filed under: Art, Book Conservation, Feedback, Marketing, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction | Tags: aesthetics, art, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, jim downey, leather, promotion, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well
Well, I’m getting ready to do the actual “normal” edition of Communion of Dreams, and I need to make a decision. The hand-bound, cloth-covered version will look just like that, except with everything done the usual way. Like this:
But I need to make a decision about how the leather-covered versions will look. And I am going to ask the people who have already ordered copies of said versions, but I thought I would also throw open the question for others — particularly if you think that at some point you would like to order one of these (or the same kind of binding for St. Cybi’s Well when that is done).
The question is this: would you prefer a smooth-spine, modern-style leather binding similar to what is shown here:
Or would you prefer a more classic-style leather binding with raised cords on the spine, such as this:
It largely comes down to how the books are sewn together. The cloth-bound edition is sewn on tapes (as seen in the images in this post). I can put the same binding into a leather cover without a problem. Or I can sew the books onto cords (as seen in this entry on my professional site). I don’t mind a little extra work — which would be the case for the raised-cord bindings — but wonder whether the aesthetic is out-of-step with a modern work of science fiction.
Edited to add: The two different leather bindings shown just demonstrate the differences between the structures on the spine of the books. In each case, the overall design was determined by *that* project. The final design for my books will be different — and related in theme to each book in a way I think is appropriate.
Filed under: Amazon, Art, Augmented Reality, Comics, Connections, Humor, Kindle, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction, tech, Writing stuff | Tags: Amazon, augmented reality, blogging, Communion of Dreams, Danielle Corsetto, Darnell Sidwell, direct publishing, Girls With Slingshots, humor, jim downey, Kindle, promotion, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, technology, Tweet, Twitter, writing
Lots of fictional characters have Twitter accounts — usually, one created by a fan to have a little fun. Well, the idea* occurred to me today to set up an account for Darnell Sidwell, who is the main character of St. Cybi’s Well.
If you’ve read Communion of Dreams (and if you haven’t, why not? I mean, seriously, go read the damned thing.) you know Darnell as the crusty old prospector with a colorful history. St. Cybi’s Well is the start of his story (OK, not really — he’s already middle-aged — but for our purposes it is), and you get to meet a man who is 40 years younger with a lot of changes ahead of him. Personally, I love the character, even if I’m going to put him through hell in this book.
Anyway. St. Cybi’s Well is not being written from Darnell’s perspective. Rather, like Communion of Dreams, it is written from a third-person narrator’s perspective.
But the Tweets are going to come directly from Darnell, from his perspective. He’ll be writing about his thoughts and experiences as the story of St. Cybi’s Well unfolds. Sometimes there will be hints about the story. Sometimes he’ll give away some insights. Sometimes he’ll (unintentionally) mislead, because he won’t understand exactly what is going on in the bigger picture.
This will be fun — and somewhat useful for me, since it is always a good thing for a writer to completely get inside the head of a character, to understand how they view the world. To a certain degree I go through this exercise with any major character, but this will be a way I can share some of that process. When all is said and done, it will form something of a supplement to the novel, and I’ll probably figure out a way to have those Tweets collected/linked in the final version. In the meantime, you can ‘follow’ him @DarnellSidwell, and we’ll put up batches of Tweets on the St. Cybi’s Well site. He’ll probably Tweet every day or two, as my schedule allows.
Now I need to get back to work. Toodles!
*Credit where it is due: this idea came to me when reading today’s Girls With Slingshots strip — note the ‘hover text’.
Filed under: Amazon, Art, Brave New World, Connections, Feedback, Humor, Isaac Asimov, Kindle, Marketing, Predictions, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction, Writing stuff | Tags: Amazon, art, blogging, bookbinding, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, free, humor, Isaac Asimov, jim downey, Kickstarter, Kindle, literature, promotion, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, writing
A couple weeks ago, when I was setting up the price change and promotional stuff for the one-year anniversary of Communion of Dreams, I was again confronted with something I had pondered and then ignored previously: was this book part of a “series”?
See, when you’re going through the interface to publish a book with Amazon, that’s one of the questions you need to answer. The helpful little dialog box explains the idea this way:
A series is a connected set of books. If this book is part of a series, identify where the book exists in the sequence with a volume number. We only accept volume numbers in numerical format (“1″, “2″, or “3″). Magazines and journals are also often grouped as a series. Identifying the series helps customers find other books in the series.
It makes me jealous.
Well, OK, it doesn’t really. But it does make me wonder. What would I call the series for the slightly-altered-universe in which Communion of Dreams exists?
When I first published Communion of Dreams, I thought that I would eventually like to write several other related books, but I didn’t know for sure whether I would ever get around to doing so. I mean, we make plans, and have hopes & dreams and all that, but it seemed both a little presumptuous as well as potentially risky (in the “tempting fate” sort of way) to claim that I was going to write a series of books before seeing what the response to the first one was.
And then there’s the complicating fact that at least for the time being I consider Communion of Dreams to be the end of any such series. St. Cybi’s Well is a prequel — the start of the so-called series, in fact. And I have some rough ideas for other books which would be related to the overall story arc, about one per decade of the time between now and the setting of Communion (2052). But those are just approximations. How can I number the books in the series when I have little confidence in how many there will be? And wouldn’t it be confusing to number the books in the order they are written, since they jump around in chronological sequence?
Anyway, this is all by way of saying that I could use some help and suggestions with this. If you’ve read Communion of Dreams, you have some sense of the overall arc of the series, at least as the history is outlined in that book. And I’ve chatted a fair amount about St. Cybi’s Well. Knowing those things, what do *you* think would be a good ‘series name’ for these books?
I’m serious — I’d like suggestions. Post it here in a comment, drop me an email, say something over on the FB page. If I use your suggestion, I’ll credit you with it and send you a hand-bound copy of either Communion of Dreams or St. Cybi’s Well depending on your preference (and if you’ve already got those coming as part of the Kickstarter rewards or something, we’ll work out an equitable substitute).
Filed under: Amazon, Failure, Feedback, General Musings, Kindle, Marketing, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction | Tags: Amazon, blogging, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, free, jim downey, Kickstarter, Kindle, promotion, reviews, Science Fiction
Well, we had a grand total of 340 downloads/sales of Communion of Dreams this week. Not impressive. Part of me is tempted to say that I can’t even *give* the book away.
But that’s not true, and to be honest I can’t say that I am terribly upset that we didn’t break the 25,000 mark. Yeah, sure, it would have been neat, but in the end it was just an arbitrary ‘big round number’, and I am still very happy with the overall performance of the book this past year.
So — thanks, everyone! For your support. For your reviews. For your kind words and comments. For telling your friends about the book. For helping to back my Kickstarter. For everything. It’s been a good year.
I’m going to leave the $2.00 discount code for my CreateSpace store in place for a while, perhaps indefinitely. I can’t really drop the overall price for the paperback sold through Amazon by very much, since the actual costs of printing and selling the book are high enough that I would lose money on each sale. But there’s more room on the pricing in my CreateSpace store, so I can offer the discount there: 99K4TNJZ
And I’ve dropped the retail price of the Kindle edition to $3.95. Such a bargain!
Filed under: Amazon, Art, Feedback, Humor, Kindle, Marketing, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction | Tags: Amazon, art, blogging, bookbinding, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, free, humor, jim downey, Kindle, promotion, reviews, Science Fiction
So, earlier this week I mailed off the first ‘backwards’ books, and have now heard from four of the recipients. Here are a couple of excerpts in their responses:
“The koob arrived safely – thanks! Looking forward (er, backward?) to re-reading it “
“words. fail. me. the exceptional feeling of awe at this exquisite, hand-made work of art, serendipitously brought about can hardly be conveyed. it’s beautiful.”
Damn, I wish *I* had thought to call the thing the “koob”! See? My readers are clearly more intelligent & witty than I am. Pat yourself on the back — you deserve it.
Anyway, so that’s that.
I read this and thoroughly enjoyed it. It definitely has an ‘early sci-fi’ feel to it. People have compared the writing style to Clarke. I’m more into the military sci-fi but this was a refreshing and enjoyable change.
Today’s the last day of the big promotion. So far this week things have been really slow, and we haven’t made hardly any progress since Wednesday. Meaning that there’s still something like 1,400 to go to break the 25,000 mark. Obviously, it’s not a big deal if we don’t make it. But if you haven’t yet picked up a copy of the Kindle edition, or know someone who might like it, you might as well get it for free today. And if you prefer paper over electronic format, then use the $2.00 discount code in my CreateSpace store: 99K4TNJZ
Have a great Friday!
Filed under: Amazon, Arthur C. Clarke, Feedback, Kindle, Marketing, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction, Writing stuff | Tags: Amazon, Arthur C. Clarke, blogging, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, Facebook, feedback, free, jim downey, Kindle, promotion, reviews, Science Fiction, writing
If you read this review, please know that I stopped reading after a chapter or so.
Why? Well, it’s hard to not see the similarities to Arthur C. Clarke, even if the story eventually takes a different turn. But that would have been OK if the writing had been better. Instead the author really whips through the logistics of assembling a team and arranging transportation to investigate the phenomenon. There’s no depth, little thought and weak writing.
But other than that, he thought my post-apocalyptic world was “somewhat interesting.” That was good to hear.
I noted that this review was up last night over on the Facebook page, and a couple of people pointed out the simple truth that no matter what there are always going to be some people who just don’t like some things. That is something I have said many times myself, going all the way back to the very early days of this blog.
So why mention it? Well, I’m just trying to be honest. With myself, and with you. I like to tout the good things which have happened, the positive reviews and other forms of feedback. So I figure I should also be forthright about the more critical things people say. But I haven’t lost sight of the fact that positive reviews outnumber negative ones by more than 10 – 1.
Anyway, so there’s that. Remember, there’s still a promotion going on, and we haven’t improved much on yesterday’s numbers. Maybe it’s a bit silly, but it’d be fun to break 25,000 copies in the first year — and we still have about 1,400 to go to do that.