On Authors Kickstarting & General Online Angst

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Author Stacey Jay, whose books I have never read and who I’ve never met before cancelled her Kickstarter and wrote a blog post about it. A really well written blog post, in my opinion, that, according to her, angered the writer/blogger/reader community. In a nutshell, a lot of people didn’t like that she “included money to pay basic living expenses (mortgage, groceries, gas) for the three months it would take to write the book”.

It really did ruffle some feathers. It’s been talked at length about on Twitter. The words “online bullying” have come up. Again.

My two cents:

I like what Chuck Wendig said in his posting yesterday – “Where does that money go? Once it reaches the intended recipients, I mean. I’m going to take a wild guess here and say it goes toward paying their bills. Meaning, I’m helping to fund their lives, if in a small way.”

That’s really quite true when you think about it. Crowd funding doesn’t require a financial audit done by accountants so really, I think that unless Kickstarter requires KPMG to start looking into the financials of every pitched project, some of the money people kick in will go toward paying the bills. Who knows, maybe even the lion’s share.

You see, for authors who haven’t made it yet, $$$ = freedom to write. Say it with me now.

Every author I know wants to be successful but were you to ask them what success looks like, it’s basically, “to make enough to pay my bills.”

Dear God, can I relate to that.

At the time of this writing it is 5:00 AM Central Standard Time where I live. I’ve been up since 3:00 AM writing a novel. I’ve been doing that now since 2007 because I can’t afford to quit my day job. A day job I need to pay the bills. And, agree or disagree, it does have an impact on the quality of my writing. (Yes, yes … I know … it’s not your fault that I have to work full time and write and yes, I know that I’m a lot better off than a hell of a lot of authors.)

Still,  I know that I could be a better writer if I simply had more time to write, but I don’t. I have a mortgage and bills, just like other people. And I’m not physically starving in the sense that I’m living on Ichiban noodles – my day job allows my to buy sirloin. But I know I could write better if I were able to make enough money off the five books I have written and managed to get published. (And the sixth, which I self-published).

I think all the kerfuffle over this issue has less to do with people wanting to express a point of view that their money shouldn’t have to pay for the writer’s living expenses and more to do – way more to do – with the troubling nature by which we communicate via social media these days, the need for everybody to *be heard*. I suspect, though I have no proof, but I suspect that were one to put all the people who kicked up a stink about this in a situation where they were face to face with the author, behavior would be far different. That’s the thing about communicating online – people rarely conduct themselves with one another the way they would were they face to face with someone they disagreed with.

I support the author very much in this case. I don’t think I would have launched a campaign identical to hers, but I certainly know what she’s going through. And I’m really sick to @#$% death of online angst where readers/bloggers are at loggerheads with authors. Dear sweet baby Jesus, but we’re all supposed to be on the same team aren’t we? Authors write because they love to tell stories. Readers read because they love to read stories. Bloggers blog because they love to talk about the stories they’ve read and the authors who wrote them.

So why are we having these online dramas?

I have no idea.

I just wish it would stop but, human nature being the fickle thing that it is, I suspect it won’t. There really is no force on earth quite like social media outrage is there?

I feel bad that Stacey Jay is going through this. I feel worse that this is even being talked about at all.

(Full disclosure – I’m on Patreon – I haven’t received a penny for my proposed project.)

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I’ve got GROOVY book news!

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I’m pleased to announce that my first ever middle grade book comes out this fall thanks to the good folks at Rebelight Publishing! (Yes, I’m finally being published by a CANADIAN PUBLISHER!)

The working title is A CURIOUS CASE OF MISSING CATS and here’s what it’s about:

THE. CATS. ARE. MISSING!

Fear not! Penelope Ann Pickersgill and her grandmother are on the case … assuming that Grandma Bev can coax Penelope out of the spare bedroom and into her psychedelic minivan.

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Did I mention that Penelope’s granny is from the 1960’s?

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Sure there’s macrobiotic food, and yes, the soundtrack from Woodstock is playing on Grandma Bev’s CD player. Yep, the house smells like incense & the Groovy Gals (a trio of hippy seniors with a penchant for civil disobedience) want to bring down City Hall. 

But … there are strange lights in the sky. Grandma Bev is certain there’s a UFO cat-abduction conspiracy afoot. Penelope, being the sensible one, thinks all the evidence points to a faceless corporation that produces GMO’s and one very angry farmer. If only she can convince her granny.

WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CATS?

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It’s  a mad romp to uncover a mystery amid a backdrop of colorful characters and one larger than life pensioner determined to save her granddaughter’s summer.

So, pretty cool eh?

A shout out to award winning author Edward Willett for nudging me toward submitting the project. Thanks, Ed! (PS – order his books. Order E.C. Blake’s books while yer at it because that’s Edward Willett, too!)

Onward, 2015!

 

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The Last Post – 2014 Sucked. There, I said it.

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(I basically wore this face all year)

Dear baby Jesus, please let 2015 be better than 2014 because this has been my hardest year as a writer.

2014 had Strange Chemistry Books going bye-bye back on June 20th leaving all their authors left to muddle through a shit show on an intergalactic scale. I had a project I’d just pitched to them a week before, too – oh well – it’s six months after and I’m still waiting to get my rights back for Poltergeeks and Student Bodies.

Will there be a third book? Right now, I’d like to say yes but I still need the old rights back before I decide to survey the lay of the land. In truth, I’d like to get the pair of books out as reprints with another publisher but I’m not against self-publishing them instead. More to follow on that front, yo.

I became a bona-fide hybrid author in 2014, self-publishing all my back list on Amazon and Smashwords. It’s brings me in a couple of hundred bucks a month in cash money so let’s just say that self-publishing your old stuff generates enough for a car payment. I can’t say anything  bad about the experience other than it’s a huge learning curve and discoverability is the biggest BIGGEST challenge because Amazon is so damned flooded with self-published books. And it makes me wonder what a guy has to do to get noticed? I’m thinking a YouTube show with me in my underpants smoking a cigar and talking books. Call it “Old Fat Bald Guy Book Reviews” – cue the Masterpiece Theater theme in the background.

I also self-published a new book,  THE NORTH.  I made it free for a couple of weeks to see if that will garner any reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. I’m convinced the key to discoverability on Amazon is reviews. What I did learn is that by making the book free, there was NO bump in sales to my other books. Draw your own conclusions with that.

I’ve had a bit of writer’s block this year. I think brought on because of constant worry about getting rights back, my career as an author and working my tail off getting stuff onto Amazon and Smashwords. So a bit of a break from that in 2015 I hope as I’ve been writing like mad over the last month and I’ve got a few new ideas brewing away.

2014 did show me that I have some amazing, wonderful and supportive friends in publishing, though. Every single author from Strange Chemistry has been a class act despite losing out on forthcoming books and the associated trauma of a publishing house shutting its doors. We have been in constant contact with each other since June.

Strange Chemistry published books by the following authors. These are fantastic, amazing, talented people wholly deserving of your support. Do order one of their books, won’t you?

Rosie Best

Gwenda Bond

M. G. Buehrlen

Cassandra Rose Clarke

T. L. Costa

Eliza Crewe

Kim Curran

Amalie Howard

Jonathan L Howard

Danielle Jensen

Ingrid Jonach

Laura Lam

Rachel Neumeier

Lisa O’Kane

Bryony Pearce

Sarah Raughley

A E Rought

Christian Schoon

Julianna Scott

Martha Wells

On the plus side of things, I’m still plugging along. I do have forthcoming book news … it’s kind of fun and happy. Just say the word “psychedelic” and keep saying it until I announce. A small ray of light in an otherwise crummy year. And yesterday I got some other super pre-advance preliminary forthcoming book news on a project that is very near and dear to me. I have to do a bunch of emailing today. More to come on that front, too.

I also have a core group of wickedly talented authors in my writer’s group,  Saskatoon Writer’s Meetup. I would be freaking lost without them. They’re just brilliant people, so a shout-out to:

Nicole, Courteny, Pearce, Cynthia, Jenna, Elizabeth, Jen, David, Anita and Rachel Astor (who is a bestselling author so go buy her books.)

Well, there you have it. Some good news at the end of a downer of a year. I’m fortunate to have great friends, and amazing wife who supports me as I muddle through the ups and downs of being a published author. I still haven’t written that breakthrough novel yet. So … come on 2015. I hope to hell it’s a great year for you and yours.

Happy New Year!

 

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Self-Publishing Confession: Why I Changed the Cover Art

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My new book THE NORTH has only been out now for just shy of two months but the sales haven’t been as strong as I’d hoped. (About 500 copies vs more than 1200 for my still selling very strongly MARSHALL CONRAD in the same time frame).

The few reviews I’ve received have all suggested that readers liked the story very much (although some aren’t crazy there are to be two more books), so I was scratching my head at the low sales.

Yep, zombie books are a crowded market and that’s definitely one of the main reasons impacting the sluggish sales of my novel, but I wasn’t convinced that was the only factor. I decided to spend some time looking at competing titles (and there are a HELL of a lot of them) and I realized the top selling ones or rather, the most consistent selling ones have far more interesting cover art than the cover for my book. And don’t get me wrong: the cover I had made up depicted the bleakness of the world I’d created extremely well buuuuut … it is dark and kind of flat in comparison with the other better selling books out there.

So I decided, to hell with it: I’m the publisher, I’m going to get a new cover done. While the stock image isn’t exactly a scene from the novel, the image is still kind of bleak. The bright yellow contrasts the black font very well and I think it’s eye-catching. I spent the last couple of days uploading the cover art on Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords and creating a print cover for Create Space. It’s all done now and I guess we’ll just have to see if the new cover has greater impact. It might, it might not. Who knows?

Lesson learned though: book covers need color even if your book is bleak as hell. Might work, might not. We shall see.

 

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Adventures in Self-Publishing: There’s Gonna Be A New Marshall Conrad Novel

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It’s been in the back of my mind for a while now but since self-publishing MARSHALL CONRAD – A SUPERHERO TALE I’ve been fairly blown away by the fact that it’s been selling.

(Like I said back in August … I  have no idea why it’s selling. And it’s still selling!)

So far, it’s been in and out of the top 100 in superhero fiction since June and in the top 100 for Dark Fantasy at least once or twice a month. I’ve been getting emails from folks wanting a second book and I already started one four years ago but poor sales made me shelve it.

Here’s the cover for DARK BARGAINS – the second in the Marshall Conrad series.

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He’s just saved Greenfield USA from all hell breaking loose during the summer solstice … you’d think a middle-aged superhero might get a well-earned rest. Something has been hunting Greenfield’s children and it’s not entirely human. It plans on killing them too unless Marshall Conrad carries out five dirty deeds that will guarantee he winds up on the hit list for superheroes all over America. 

Look for it in July 2015.

And here’s a small excerpt:

I grabbed Walter by the scruff of his flabby neck and ran like hell as he let out a wail in protest.
“Stupid freaking cat,” I growled as I glanced over my left shoulder only to see the pair of
smoldering red eyes cutting through the blackness of the pine forest. Walter wasn’t helping any as he dug his claws into my chest as I cursed the day I bought my overweight feline at a garage sale for ten dollars.
The psychic visual I’d received that led me to the abandoned cabin nestled snugly amid decades of new woodland growth was supposed to be where I’d find eight-year-old Victoria Jenkins after she was reported missing by her parents four days ago. The Greenfield Sheriff’s Department was treating her disappearance by following standard protocol, first issuing an Amber Alert within two hours of the time she was supposed to arrive at her after school program. Her mother issued a tearful plea for her safe return at a news conference the following morning and me? I’d spent two straight nights combing the streets from up on high, keeping a vigilant eye out for a red Chevrolet Venture minivan that she was reported to have climbed into by a substitute teacher who assumed it was one of Victoria’s parents picking her up from school.
The migraine, like all the migraines that are a tell-tale sign of a Vanguard’s ability to foresee a crime before it is perpetrated hit me just as Marnie Brindle and I were settling down to watch a chick flick on Netflix. (So sue me, I’m expanding my horizons.) It offered two clues: One was the abandoned cabin and the other was that Victoria would be locked up inside an old refrigerator and left to suffocate. It didn’t tell me about a largely hairless monster with claws that tore could tear through the magical shield I’d invoked to protect Walter and me, and it sure as hell didn’t say the refrigerator inside the cabin would be empty or that I’d be rescuing my cat.
Walter hissed loudly as he dug his claws deeper into my chest, naturally, this only acted to piss off the four-legged demon thing that was the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. Instead of barking at my stupid cat as it chased us up a winding path that lead to where I parked my new old car, a 1995 Chevy Cavalier no less, it belched a jet of corrosive dog vomit which nearly took my head off as I dove behind a fallen log.
Evil? You bet! Bent on tearing out my throat? Why not? Such is the life of Greenfield’s only resident meta-human and part-time destroyer supernatural beasties.
Like demonic dogs, for example.
The creature crashed through the log sending splinters of dried wood in every direction and throwing me about thirty feet in the air. Walter the stupid cat landed against the trunk of a giant blue spruce and skirted straight up out of harm’s way. Did I mention he’s a treacherous bastard?
“Damn it, I’m a cat person!” I snarled as I landed flat on my back.
The demon thing gave its head a shake and bared its teeth as it readied to pounce. Shiny threads of saliva dribbled down from its three-inch fangs as a deep throaty growl sliced through the relative silence of the woods and straight into my bowels. I scrambled behind a large boulder and spotted an opening in the forest canopy where I could take to the skies. The dog-monster let out a mind-numbing howl that I could feel in my fillings as it charged.
Of course I was going to cut and run, I might look like an idiot most days, but I have the good enough sense not to duke it out with giant hairless K-9’s on their own turf. I’d have a better shot at taking the beast down from the sky. The creature leaped into the air and snapped at my boot heels just as I pushed off the ground.
“Not so tough now, huh, Fido?” I snapped as I floated to a safe distance. The creature blinked a couple of times and then it let out a loud sneeze. Its crimson eyes narrowed as the monster coiled back on a pair of hairless rear legs that glistened in the moonlight.
And that’s when the unexpected happened.
Fido launched its body off the ground like a missile aimed straight at me. I pushed higher to avoid having one of my legs ripped off, and that’s when gravity decided to play a trick on me. Instead of falling back to the earth, the creature continued its ascent. The damned thing could fly.

“Walter!” I shrieked, as the fat fur ball dove into my arms. I clenched my teeth and shot into the clear black sky like a rocket. I didn’t even bother to look behind me this time-I didn’t have to because I could hear the demon cutting through the wind current behind me.
Oh, and he let out another corrosive hork of dog vomit.
I grated my teeth together as I climbed higher and higher into the air. Walter dug his claws into my neck as I held onto him for dear life.
No sign of Greenfield’s third missing kid in as many weeks. Only a demonic dog from some weird ass region of the Unseen World bent on tearing out my throat and probably picking its teeth with my cat’s bones. I wasn’t stupid enough to think the demon dog was responsible for whatever happened to Victoria Jenkins; if anything, its presence at a location where my psychic radar told me I might find the little girl was evidence enough of a much larger plot because whoever had taken her obviously knew about me.
Walter hissed and spat as the creature slammed into my midsection sending me spinning wildly out of control. It was clear I wasn’t going to out fly the damned thing so I decided to think outside the box. I broke into a quick dive as wind currents buffeted my body. Below me was a carpet of pine forest as far as the eye could see so I tossed Walter into the nearest tree and headed skyward once more. I glanced over my shoulder to see the creature gaining on me, the wind flapping its lips back to reveal a set of razor sharp teeth that were only moments away from digging into my forty-something frame. But there was something else, too, a throbbing hum of willful intent pouring off the monster.
I reached out through the darkness in order to tap into it – what I had planned was probably going to be my only shot at taking it down. I gathered the energy together into a tight bind and instantly I could feel my own powers charging, as a jolt of energy surged through my veins. My eyes blazed furiously as I gazed quickly at my hands to see them glowing with emerald energy and that’s when I struck out at the monster.
I flew straight into its path; my fingers digging into its rubbery cold flesh. It yelped as I pummeled it with my free hand; my fist connecting with its giant maw over and over again. All the while, we spun around in a tangled jumble of limbs and I could see the ground coming fast. I pivoted my body enough so the creature would crash land first, absorbing the shock of our fall to the earth.
We struck the ground like a meteor; the impact sending me careening into a pine-tree with enough force to split its trunk in two. And it hurt like a bastard. My entire body screamed with pain as I slid into a heap at the base of the enormous tree. I gazed out through the darkness to see if there was any movement from the crater and I got back to my feet with a loud groan; my glowing eyes lighting up the gloom of the forest. I hobbled over to the crater and peered over, half-ready for the monster to leap at me and tear my throat out. And imagine my surprise to see only a German Shepherd whimpering like a puppy like it had just lost its mother. Its neck had been shaved clean down to the skin and there was fresh blood seeping through a strange symbol that looked almost like an ancient Egyptian Hieroglyph that had been carved into the poor dog’s skin.
“Shit … a proxy,” I said quietly as I climbed into the hole. The dog wagged its tail as it caught a glimpse of me and whimpered again.
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