9 September 2015

Weird Things About Being A Digital Author

The cover of  The Elias Anomaly. You could read it
on Wattpad if you wanted. But you'd be the first.
It has often been my contention that I was an artisanal author before I knew what that was. Not for me the hassle of sending stuff off and waiting for the rubber stamp of mid-list approval. Not for me the irritation of people actually reading what I write or caring about it. No. I write for me. I know I am a good writer. I live in the hope that one day someone else will agree with me. If it doesn't happen, well, the world's loss frankly.

Nevertheless it's no good writing things in this day and age and letting them fester on a hard drive. To show intent of actually publishing something one should "get out there" and "build a fanbase". One should, at least, make the attempt, I feel, anyway.

With this in mind I have put a few things up on Wattpad like my spiffing Kafka meets cyberpunk meets Douglas Adams affair The Elias Anomaly. Now complete and available through this perfectly wonderful online e-book delivery system.

At some point soon I shall make paper and electronic (e.g. Kindle) editions available also. This brings us to the point of the weird things mentioned in the post title.

Writing with this method, in these channels, changes the business of writing after a certain point. If you are writing something fresh, i.e. drafting out, then nothing has changed there. Likely it never will. You bang out the words, you get through the material. You write. No problem.

After that it gets tricky.

For a short while (Just over a century?) it has been accepted that authors may not edit their own work. Many reasons are given for this but chief among them appears to be that editors like to eat. Now, in an ideal world where every book was to be given the respect it deserves this would be a no-brainer. If I could be assured that everything I wrote would make enough money to pay for my time and the time of an editor and a cover designer then I would happily pay for these things.

This, however, is not the case. This leaves an author with few choices. One is to admit that writing is a hobby that they like to spend money on. Pay the cover designer, pay the editor, eat the losses. That's cool if you want to do it. No problem with that as an approach.

The other is to find workarounds. This is my approach. I realise I am not a great artist and I am a mediocre cover designer. But hell, mediocre professional cover designers get paid. If I'm doing what they're doing for free I'm a winner, right? Additionally tools like Hemingway help me do a serviceable job of editing. I've read some very poorly edited small press stuff recently, not that I am one of those editing pedants.

The age of meticulous editing on everything we read is over. As the means of production come down in cost and the available stories expand to every conceivable taste it is inevitable that some things you read will have less than perfect editing. My stuff has typos in it, for sure. I have to admit this. I have done the best that I could and I can't do more.

However, I've read stuff recently where there are malapropisms, blatantly wrong uses of words, words added that don't exist AND typos. These things were edited by third parties. It turns out all those copy editors with high and mighty arrogance about how undervalued they were had a point all along. Being a super-editor takes some chops.

I am a good editor, not a great one. Compared to this other stuff I've read that purports to exist in a semi-legitimate state my stuff is golden. Sad but true.

So I am a one man band. This I have become used to.

The really odd thing is that I have evolved working practices to optimise the flow of work going out and they introduce bizarre tasks at weird times.

For example, the best way to edit alone is to go a chapter at a time. The best way to ensure that you are concentrating to your very hardest on that one chapter is to bang it out via Wattpad as part of a serialization. So you take the chapter, Hemingway it and then "publish" it for the delectation and delight of young adults writing mopey, awkwardly eroticised post-apocalyptic steampunk fantasy. No, really, I've just described 95% of what's on Wattpad. Check it out if you don't believe me.

The only problem with this process is that in order to make it look nice on Wattpad you must design a "cover". You don't have to but if you don't take it seriously who else will? No one. So you must have that cover ready before you're even ready to re-edit for public consumption. That's weird.

What's even weirder is that if you have, oh, I don't know, some kind of Patreon thing going on then you might want to promote what you're doing in that medium. Before you can though you really ought to have some sort of video.

I know, mental. You've written a first draft, then you have to design a cover and bang out a video before you're even ready to drip feed your work onto the web. In addition the commercial version of the work won't even be ready until after the thing's already been serialised onto your digital platforms.

In addition you've just graduated from cover designer to short film-maker in your efforts to go it alone.

Never mind weird, being a serious independent author is just a hell of a lot of work. Oh well, off to my editing software I go. Time for me to produce some actual content. 

14 July 2015

The Re-Return of Reviews

So I did reviews for a bit, then I stopped. Then the Kindle was invented, then I started doing reviews again. Then life got a bit hectic so I stopped again. Now I have started writing for Trash Mutant and so I have decided I'm open for review business once again.

If you have a book you'd like me to review read the I Do Reviews page and, if that doesn't put you off, drop me a line. Trash Mutant-y things will be given priority. So contact away I want to read your genre filth!

29 June 2015

Why Your Subscription Means So Much

So, the Bridgetown Patreon has been going for a couple of weeks now and I've released four items of content and I have a small Aladdin's Cave of gifts for the first 100 subscribers. So far, as you can tell from the page, things haven't been going so well.

Copy has been retooled, videos have been re-shot, re-edited, re-rendered and re-uploaded. Subscriber bonuses have been generated. General subscription content has been released and the free stuff has been pointed to and given a little bit of a spit and polish.

In addition I have conscripted friends (not close ones but, yes, still friends) to have a look at the Patreon page and see if it looks okay. So far the two major criticisms have been 1. I am not charging enough, I should set my prices higher and 2. I am taking my subscriptions in dollars and not pounds.

Well, I have done a little towards 1, knocking out the largely redundant $2 subscription level. I would now say that the $5 is the "reasonable" sub level with $1 being firmly the "token" subscription level. As to the second, well, there's not much I can do about that at present. Maybe one day Patreon will do currency conversions for the international market. Honestly I think that was a bit of a bizarre critique. Worrying though if others are put off by the presence of the $ sign.

So, hopefully, one day I will have tweaked the page enough to make the attractiveness of the proposition clear. Until then I just have to keep working at it.

There is a problem though.

Working at my current level is not sustainable in the long term. Market forces would dictate that if no-one wants to participate in puzzles, games and interactive stories set in a comic fantasy universe the Patreon will have to go. Okay, so I am the author but already I feel that would be kind of a shame.

I have played Levercastle on and off for over five years now. The players absolutely love it because of its playfulness and humour. I have had unlooked for compliments come my way regarding the stories too. Those first three books I did to please myself, so knowing that they pleased others too was a good thing.

I know that with a few subscribers we, that is I as the author and the audience as participators in the ongoing creation of the Faerie world I have created, could have a real good time. To a certain extent it's not about living off Patreon money as it is that it's about people buying in to Levercastle/Bridgetown and the idea that an author can produce some great content independently for a low price.

In all honesty I think that just sponsoring anyone who's producing something you like on Patreon is an important act beyond the money that you pledge. It says 'I believe in this artist, sure, but I also believe in independent art. I believe in artists being paid directly for their work without having to also buy the work of a bunch of administrators and middle men too."

It's the same kind of philosophy as all the other crowdfunding platforms out there, in a way it's slightly better because you are paying for work done via the medium of "paid posts" it's not some elaborate investment opportunity you're paying for things that have actually been produced.

I didn't go with Patreon arbitrarily. I think it's a superb platform and I am keen to subscribe to projects that I believe in myself.

Maybe I am fooling myself with Bridgetown and it's actually not that good. Fair enough. But just because you don't think my stuff is good enough to subscribe to doesn't mean that there's not something else that is. Why not have a look about on Patreon? You're not just chipping in a dollar, you're validating artists who are doing work you can support and you're helping in a small way to realise someone else's dreams.

It's bonkers to think it I suppose but I have always believed that helping other people get what they dream of (world domination notwithstanding) will one day lead to me getting mine. My recent setbacks have done nothing to discourage me from this way of thinking.

Please feel free to let me know what you think.

15 June 2015

New Bridgetown - A Small Amendment

Nothing too major, but the first new Bridgetown episode will actually be released to my Patreon page for subscribers only on the 21st. Then the episode will be released to the blog for everyone else a week later on the 28th.

There are loads of other perks to all the subscription levels and the coveted "First Subscriber" treat is still up for grabs (obviously not very coveted then). All the treats in the world cannot hope to compete, however, with the warm and fuzzy glow that you will receive from knowing that you are doing your little bit to help someone achieve their dreams.

See you in Bridgetown!

10 June 2015

New Bridgetown - The Details

So, here's a kerfuffle and no mistake. As I previously made known I'm planning to bring back Bridgetown in as big a way as is humanly possible. The first new tale will be released on the 21st of June to the Bridgetown Blog.

What that actually means is somewhat down to yourselves, dear readers. I'll be honest, back in 2013 making sure that a new Tale was up every Sunday and commit to a full time job nearly killed me. So, although the tales will continue, it will be at the rate of two a month at present. If the situation changes there will be a further announcement.

The way for you to make that further announcement happen is to Subscribe to the Bridgetown Tales through Patreon. By becoming a subscriber you will unlock extra perks detailed on my Patreon page.

The original Bridgetown blog isn't going anywhere. In fact I'll be updating old stories with redrafts as they become available. Your financial support is appreciated but my continued efforts to produce new tales, and new ways for you to enjoy the tales, will continue regardless. The money just makes the plans bigger and brighter. Of course, it also brings the production of new content closer in the calendar.

If you are new to the Bridgetown Tales then you can read the first three books now. They're posted in blog format, so start with the oldest and work your way forward.

The Patreon subscription money that I make will not only support the ongoing life of the serial but also allow me to create even more new content. I have loads of plans for more cool stuff coming in the future and I will keep you in the loop here and on my facebook page.

Bridgetown's Coming Back

Let's keep it simple.

Back in 2013 I spent a year writing the Fairy Tale blog "Tales From Bridgetown". When it was done I was exhausted but enriched by my journey. Over the last few weeks I've been planning the next phase of the journey.

A further announcement will follow shortly giving more details. That's all for now.

4 June 2015

Looking Back At Bridgetown

For those of you that remember 2013 you may recall that these were the days of the Tales From Bridgetown blog. This was a project occasioned by my acquisition of a set of fairy tale dice.

The guilty parties... Guilty of helping make something AWESOME, that is.
When I first looked at the dice the very first thing I thought was: "You know, it would be a shame if I never used these for anything." This was why I decided to take the dice out every Sunday, roll them, and write a story that included all the images I rolled.

I don't know what my intention was beyond that. I did think that one of the "rules" would be to only spend two hours on each story. That went out the window pretty quickly. I also imagined that there would be no continuity in the stories. This took a while to go out of the window. I wrote five stories before circling round in the sixth to deal with one of the characters a second time.

The process of producing the serial taught me a lot. Notably the difference between expectation and reality when it comes to "fun, creative projects". You expect that you will sit down at 1PM every Sunday, write for 2(ish) hours. Then you will read your work aloud once before publishing it. This is a happy fantasy (like a fairy tale, haha!).

Not every Sunday is free for such activity. What if you want to do Nano? Or do some kind of non-writing related activity? Heaven forfend that you should let down your audience. My audience, by the way, was me and Sue. I don't think I have ever met or talked to anyone who has followed the serial from beginning to end.

From talking to my father I have learned that this is how serials used to work back in the old days (by which I mean circa the 19th Century). It appears strange in the age of the word processor to think of a writer just banging something out for a daily newspaper. It's hard to imagine these days seeing work in print that you had barely enough time to think about, let alone craft.

The serial writer of a century ago would have to hand off his work to an editor. The editor would maybe have time to omit a few of those unnecessary words and then it would be off to the presses, out to the world.

Writers these days are encouraged to hone, hone, hone until their work is a polished jewel of magnificence.  We are quick to forget that such a process is the most decadent of luxuries.

I produced Bridgetown to a personal deadline. I am proud to say that I never missed it. Tea time every Sunday it was Bridgetown time again. This was a serial intended, at some level, for children. I did not want to disappoint a child and I didn't, to my knowledge.

I accomplished this by very early on writing up a "buffer" of eight stories. I would put the stories into the blog and schedule their release. Then if I happened not to be able to write one week a part of the buffer would be chewed away.

The other reason for doing this was that for a short while my good friend Justin Wyatt allowed himself to be pulled into this madness. He provided several truly beautiful illustrations for the blog.

One of Justin's Bridgetown illustrations.
If anything Justin is worse at the 2-hour limit thing than I am. Although I found myself surprised and delighted by the work he sent me I had to agree that it was never the result of two hour's work. Justin is a man who believes that if a thing's worth doing it's worth doing really, really well. In the end we both agreed that it was better to leave the pictures until he could be paid for the amazing work he was doing.

I kept plugging away, because it was my stupid idea and I wanted to see it through. I would tell people the stories were there but I don't have any idea who read them outside of my own household. The blog has about 4000 lifetime views at the moment and I'm happy with that. Like so much other stuff I didn't undertake the project, in the first instance, to become famous. I had the mountaineer's philosophy, I wanted to see if I could.

2013 was a somewhat tiring year but it was one I'll never forget.