Possible back-cover copy for FWYCR

I’ve been working all day on the cover design for my new novel, Forget What You Can’t Remember, most of that time spent on writing the copy for the back cover. This is what I have after about 8 hours of trying to write two or three paragraphs to sum up and sell a 292-page book:

Zombies! Doomsday! And someone who actually finished writing a novel in a month!

Mary, Lance, Brady, Lorraine, and the Sergeant are a handful of the survivors from a zombie outbreak that decimates a city. Each of them responds a little differently in the aftermath of the tragedy and to the inexplicable and possibly unrelated memory loss some of them seem to be suffering. Paul is obsessed with a worldwide cataclysmic event he’s been predicting for years, and while everyone else seems able to go on with their lives in its wake, he just can’t let it go. Add a utopian city in the sky and a mathematician who can fly, then watch all these elements intersect and converge in a place where some see a moral void and others can’t escape deep questions of right and wrong.

Forget What You Can’t Remember explores everything from economics and ethics to politics, post-traumatic recovery and the lonliness of heroism. If it doesn’t leave you guessing, it’ll at least get you thinking.

And then, in another part of the cover, alongside a small version of More Lost Memories‘ cover (which I haven’t even started on yet… Ugh.), the following:

More Lost Memories is a companion book to Forget What You Can’t Remember, a collection of short stories each of which delves deeper into a character, event, or situation from this book. Find out how the zombie trainers died, about Lance’s restaurant, what was really going on in chapter 21, and more. Available now from Modern Evil Press.

That’s assuming, of course, I can fit all those words on the cover in a readably-sized typeface.

Please, please, please give me your feedback, either here in the comments or via email or via Twitter reply, or via Plurk ASAP. As soon as I can get these cover designs done, I can send the books to the printer. The sooner that happens, the sooner I’ll have them for sale. I’d really, really, like to have them for sale close to the time the podcast of the book starts (1/2/09, on Podiobooks.com). Thank you!

New novel complete!

(This post was originally created for and posted on the Modern Evil News (& Podcast) feed.)

Monday night I finished typing up the first draft of my new novel. (I’m still working on a name – what do you think of “Forget What You Can’t Remember”?) I wrote the entire thing on a manual typewriter, an Olivetti TROPICAL, which is to say ‘on paper, with ink.’ In between other projects and errands in the last two days, I’ve read the entire thing from start to finish. Out loud. Mostly to myself and to the cat. But it sounds pretty good, and I think it’s self-consistent, well-resolved, and perhaps yet another novel without an easy answer to the question “What’s it about?”

Briefly: It’s a followon to Lost and Not Found, though not a direct sequel. There are roughly two characters in common between the two books, and the main character from Lost and Not Found does not appear at all in this new one; it has an entirely new cast of characters and settings. It begins with the event that changed the world at the end of Lost and Not Found, and with zombies, but soon the story follows the characters to the flying city of Skythia while delving into the ways these various characters respond to both what has happened to them and the strange environment they now find themselves in. Going back to their old ways, moving on with their lives, lashing out against a system and a world they don’t understand, falling in love, or simply going a bit mad in a mad, mad world – the several interconnected characters’ journeys are really the heart of the story.

I’m about to start re-typing the whole thing into my computer. I haven’t decided how and when to first make it available, but I know for sure that it’ll be available in all the formats I have to offer: Paperback, eBook, and audiobook. I’m also planning on writing a companion book in November (for NaNoWriMo, actually), a collection of short stories which will tell stories somewhat perpendicular to the main thread of this novel. That is, where the novel follows closely the lives of its ensemble cast, especially re: the main progression of events, the short stories will help to build out the world the story takes place in, adding richness in the periphery of that story by telling stories that intersect with it. So, for example, in one chapter of the novel a superhero interrupts a mysterious, murderous heist at a Kwytzwyk Temple, and it changes his outlook on justice and ethics – and I want to write the story of the thieves, their previous exploits, and to give a lot more detail on the specifics of the Kwytzwyk religious practices and beliefs; all things that weren’t relevant to the main story of the novel, but which is a narrative with details worth exploring. (Playing around with a title for that gives me things like “More To Forget” and “More Memories For Forgetting”…)

An idea about reviews for new media & independent publishers

Alright, so here’s a post about a concept that has occurred to me. It would probably serve me well to implement and participate in it, but -like so many of my ideas- it will probably not get further than this post. Depends on how ambitious I feel, I suppose.

It’s a pretty basic idea: Old media’s old ideas about reviews don’t work in the new digital world.

Not just because fewer and fewer book reviews are being published, and not just because the old media isn’t interested in new media, independent and self-publishers, and anyone who happens to use the ‘new’ tech of print-on-demand (unless they “hit it big”, sell out, and stop being those things). The old ideas don’t work for reasons I discussed here semi-recently: More books are being written and published than ever before, and more than could ever be reviewed in the old media without overwhelming everything else. Over a thousand new books a day in North America alone, last year. Heck, five of those were mine. So what’s the solution for getting all these new books reviewed? Heckifiknow. But I have an idea for getting some of them reviewed.

How about creators themselves -rather than just pro and amateur reviewers- review each other’s work? There could be some sort of central site where authors could log in and connect with each other and readers could come and see all the reviews in a central, searchable, well-organized location. The reviews could be done quid-pro-quo, ie: I’ll review yours if you review mine, and every book review then brings visibility to both works (because there’s always that “[name of reviewer] is the author of books such as [blah] and [bleh] and writes a blog at [blerg]” at the bottom of a review). Authors could exchange PDFs (MP3s, HTML files, URLs, et cetera), or probably, if they wanted a paper copy of the book, send them a pBook at cost (instead of full retail, since you’re getting a review, but also because none of us wants to go broke trying to get internet reviews). Reviews could then be cross-posted to the authors’ blogs, linked form their books’ sites, et cetera… Increasing the visibility of the review site. And the site would be able to scale better than most of the solo-blogger-reviewers out there, since every new author that wanted to be reviewed would have to become a reviewer. It should be media-agnostic, since we’re all internet people, here: eBook, audiobook, POD book, dynamic hyperbook, whatever, it’s all good. Lots of duplicate reviews are (I think) good, since different people have different opinions on different books – book reviews aren’t objective. A system similar to the one they use at MiniBookExpo For Bloggers could be used (except not just for Canadians), so one could be restricted to three (or so) pending reviews at a time.

Obviously, such a site would take a certain amount of work to be put up and maintained, but since it’s powered by the strengths of the network (each independent author / publisher handles their own distribution of the books, and is in charge of posting their own reviews, and for generating traffic to the site, and the more authors are involved the better the whole thing works), it’s mostly a matter of getting it off the ground.

Ooh, or does this exist already, and I don’t know about it? Point me in the right direction. I’ll sign right up. I should be doing more reading, myself, and adding the selfish motivation of getting my own books reviewed sure would help get me to review other people’s works. I bet it’d do the same thing for yours. Know anyone who could help put this thing together?

Press, Release. Marketing, Products.

Haven’t decided whether I’ll be verbose or brief on this subject, here, today.  Have to look back and see, I guess.

Conversation threads this morning on Twitter (which I can’t retrieve, on account of Twitter is “stressing out” – and I don’t feel like trying to track everything down with tweetscan/summize), included one creator saying they were thinking of planning on releasing a project they’re working on … in September or October.  To which my mind replied: “I don’t understand.  If you have a releasable product, why not put it out there as soon as it’s ready? For a finished product, why wait?”

Now, I can see how with certain products – say, a dancing Santa Claus doll or a new line of Valentine’s Day candies – releasing at a particular time of year might be appropriate.  And I can see how products which will only be relevant for a limited time should be released in a specific time period – though that’s now, not later – to avoid irrelevance.

I can even see where something like a blockbuster movie, trying to maximize attention and profits would want to schedule its release to not be the same weekend as a directly competing release, which would not only compete for viewers dollars but for the actual, finite number of screens, but — and this is a big but — I can’t see why a studio would hold off on releasing a movie for months or, as actually happens more often than you’d think, years after it was ready to be shown.  The finite number of screens is (I believe) now well over 30,000 in the US alone, and even the widest of releases hasn’t topped 1/3 of those – there’s a LOT of screens, if you have a movie ready to go, put it out there!   If you don’t think it’ll make “enough” money in theatres, throw it to DVD – as long as you keep it in print, it’ll be available to whoever wants it.  As long as it’s sitting “in the can”, unreleased, it’s not making anyone any money, it’s not entertaining anyone, it’s not communicating anything, it’s wasted.

Which, I think, is part of my problem with the whole thing:  Someone, possibly a lot of someones, put their hard work and creative energy and ideas into creating something, and that work, that creation, is being held back, hidden, kept from its audience. Continue reading Press, Release. Marketing, Products.

A Difference in Motivation

I have been “self employed” for a couple of months now, and have been “networking” with and connecting to more and more independent people who are doing the same sorts of things; authors, authors doing their own audiobooks, bloggers, artists, illustrators, graphic designers, photographers… et cetera.  As I have spoken to them, I have noticed that there seems to be a difference between their ways of thinking and mine, about success and about what they are trying to accomplish.  Even the independent creators who -at first- seem to be the most successful and accomplished and appear to have a lot of fans and plenty of “true fans”… and presumedly sales to go along with them …seem actually to want more traditional forms of success.  Authors are trying for, hoping for, dreaming of getting a deal with a “real” publisher.  Podcasters seem to want to have radio or TV shows.  Bloggers want to get hired by a company and get a salary for blogging.  I haven’t managed to network with enough artists to figure out what they want, but it’s not hard to guess that it’s in the same neighborhood.  These creatives, these independent creatives, the ones using “social media” and “web 2.0” and advanced technologies connected via the internet, print on demand, RSS distribution, CC licenses, crowdsourcing, et cetera…  Creatives who own their IP and connect directly with their fan base in a meaningful way – which I know for a fact cuts out a long line of middle men and increases the creator’s share of every sale substantially – seem to want to “sell out” as it were, or “hit the big time” as has been defined for the last 50+ years.

But that’s not what I want.  I’m not doing what I’m doing in an attempt to get a job doing something else.  I’m not doing what I’m doing because I want to get noticed by a big publisher, an internet startup, or some faceless corporate entity.  I’m doing what I’m doing because this is what I want to be doing.

I want to create art.  I want to write stories.  I want to record my stories, in my own voice.  I want to explore new distribution techniques (podcasting audiobooks, publishing books with some features of a wiki, creating an internet video channel of a poet reading their own poetry, et cetera), new ways of sharing, using and re-using ideas (all my novels and audiobooks are available under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license),  and new ways of connecting with an audience of interested people and of fans (twitter, blogging, facebook/mySpace, and platforms yet to come).  I want people to be able to enjoy what I create.

I hate money, conceptually.  It would be my preference to not have to deal with the foul stuff at all.  I have no desire to accumulate wealth.  Yet I must eat, and the grocery store doesn’t seem to accept stories and art in trade for food.  So:  I want to publish my books myself, not just because it gives me complete control and complete freedom with the finished product, but because as the publisher and the major retailer (via modernevil.com), I get those portions of the revenue (70%+ vs. 8%-12%).  I want to show my art on my own terms, sell directly through my website to the people who want it, talk to the people who are interested in it directly, and -yes- take the full retail price for myself, not just out of greed, but so that -as I’m starting out and building a name- I can set my retail prices lower (and hopefully make more sales), and still make a reasonable amount of money.  —  If I get a deal with a publisher, I still have to do most of the marketing (a fact that most authors learn too late; that except for the top few books, most publishers do little to market the books they print) for the book I wrote myself, but I only get a small percentage of the retail price of each copy sold (the retailer takes half or more, the distributor takes some, the publisher takes a chunk, and the author gets the leftovers).  If I get my art shown in a gallery in Phoenix, and hand-deliver it, the gallery takes half and I get the other half, but if I get shown in galleries out of state or -ohmygosh- in a big gallery in New York or internationally, then the gallery takes their half AND I get to pay (at least part of) shipping costs for getting everything there and -for everything that doesn’t sell- back again.

Advanced technologies, internet connections, and other modern wonders make these things possible.  One person, from anywhere, can run a business doing most anything.  They can have books professionally printed and distributed, and can do so with less overall environmental impact and for lower upfront costs than “big” publishers by using the bizarrely looked down upon technology of print on demand instead of giant offset print runs coupled with later pulping of unsold copies.  They can connect with more people, in more meaningful ways, anywhere in the world – far more than a traditional author signing tour or art festival circuit allows – and they can do it every day, all year, even while doing those more traditional marketing things.  This is the future, people.  Creators whose hard work pays them directly, and gets the IP into the hands of the fans directly, using technology.  It’s either this or a total collapse of civilization and a return to pre-oil lifestyles, and then the sell-outs lose, too.

Why does it seem like I’m the only one who not only sees that this is the future, but actually wants to make it a reality now?  I’m not doing what I’m doing because I want to be doing something else – this is what I want to do, and it’s possible now, and I’m doing it!  I may not be the best at marketing, but at least I’m getting every dollar of pitiful sales that I earn instead of a few cents of each dollar my weak marketing can pull in.  At least I’m trying to be both feet in the future instead of one foot in the future and both eyes on the model of success that is rapidly becoming past.  I’m going to get to work on another painting (write-up soon; it’s nearly complete).  That’s enough blogging for now, I think.