22 December 2012

Holiday Time!

Just madly doing a bunch of chores and similar in preparation for the Yuletide getaway. The post-facto marketing of Chicago Shadows is turning out to be really time consuming. Poor Sue is watching me cut and paste loads of stuff into various forms to try to make some kind of a "noise" in the wider world.

I am really feeling the pinch of not having reviews for the series. I know they're bloody good and will become successful in time. I just didn't make enough noise about them ahead of time. Not a mistake I plan to make with the 2013 releases.

Anyway, just a brief note to say Happy Christmas to one and all. I'll catch you next week in preparation for putting my best foot forward in 2013.

Have a good one folks!

Review: Dark City Blue

The Book: Dark City Blue by Luke Preston

Price: £2.90

Review Category:  Luke Preston was the first author to follow me on Twitter, I instantly bought his book to review.

The Blurb:  A fistful of people are murdered, fifteen million dollars is stolen and detective Tom Bishop is stuck in the middle. When he hits the street, every clue points in the same direction - his colleagues in a police department demoralised by cutbacks and scandals. Hunted, alone and with no place left to turn, Bishop embarks on a hellish journey down into the gutters where right and wrong quickly become twisted and problems are solved with gunfire and bloodshed.

Over the next two days, Tom Bishop will be cornered. He will be beaten. He will bust into prison. He will shoot at police. He will team up with violent criminals. He will become one of them. He will break every rule in the book, chasing a lead nobody else will go near down a rabbit hole of corruption, murder and buried secrets.

Will Bishop become the very monster he set out to destroy?

A modern hard-boiled tale that unfolds at a relentless pace, Dark City Blue is Serpico, if Serpico snorted a fistful of cocaine and hung out with Lee Marvin.

Preview Available: Amazon Look Inside dealio, also his twitter feed links to the first few pages.

Would I buy this (again)? : Oh yes... yes I would.

The Product: A decent well-formatted e-book. Don't think much of either title or cover because they totally don't do a very good job of conveying the quality of the contents.

The Nitty Gritty: I'd never really considered the possibility of there being a sub-genre called "hard boiled oz noir" before cracking open Dark City Blue. The first thing to note about this is that the Australian patois definitely delivers a unique wrinkle to a powerful, bloody, violent thriller.

Let's be clear about this, there is something joyously adolescent about the violence, the swearing, the cranked up adrenaline-soaked machismo of Dark City Blue. I think the jazzy mood title does little to convey the swaggering minimalist confidence of this assured slice of sardonic action.

The story revolves around your classic hard man super cop Tom Bishop hunting, and being hunted by, a network of corrupt cops in Victoria. The novel wastes no time kicking off with a gun battle, proceeding through an armed robbery, into a balls to the wall action chase where Preston takes every opportunity to beat the crap out of Bishop in a most satisfying manner.

The language is terse and revels in its punchy economy. There's exactly enough story to keep the whole thing barrelling forward, not so much you ever find yourself confused. Dark City Blue is an assured exercise in literary economy. It's the closest thing to a great tits and explosions action movie I've ever read in novel form. The whole thing's a gestalt, no individual element is unusually strong but the whole thing pulls together to make a terrific d├ębut novel and I wait with eager anticipation to read the next Tom Bishop novel.

14 December 2012

Monkey Marketing Magic

So, fully APEd up I have begun to feel my way into the wacky world of marketing. The first thing I have learned is that, should I ever write a writer's manual it should probably be called "How To Write For Fun (And Profit?)".

I like writing, I like publishing, that is I actually get a kick of pushing my little babies into the world, but do I like selling them? I mean, yes, when people buy them it is a great feeling. But do I like selling them? I would have to respond in the ambivalent on that score.

Here is a quick run down of how I feel about marketing so far:

5 Things I Like About Marketing

  1. Social networking is fun if approached right: If I am, in fact approaching it right. I am taking an interest in people, websites and all that jazz, I am hoping they take an interest in me. People are interesting.
  2. Doing stuff is quite easy: I've filled in a lot of registration forms, retweeted items of interest, read a book, reviewed a book. It's all pretty good.
  3. It feels like you're involved all of a sudden: People keep saying that writers are hermit-like, I never got that until the point where I started not being hermit like.
  4. It moves pretty fast: It's kind of exhilarating sitting in a whirl of tweets, status updates, shelves and circles. You can feel the thrum of humanity swirling around you in digital form.
  5. It's filled with opportunity: Taking a good look around feels like you are on the verge of seeing something remarkable, so much is going by that something good must be coming... right?

5 Things I Dislike About Marketing

  1. It feels a bit never-ending: There comes a time when the punch is flat at the party and the buffet food is down to curly sandwiches and a weird bowl of sweaty looking potato chips. A sensible person would go home but nobody's sure if that's the right thing to do.
  2. You have to properly mind your ps and qs: Not in a fake way but everyone's a bit naive, or at least I think that most people at the great social internet dance are not fully aware of the protocols until they get violated. It seems way too easy to be a bore, or inappropriate or to become a wallflower. Exhausting balancing act.
  3. You question whether you're doing things for the right reasons: There's a purity about committing an act of artistic creation, unleashing it upon the world and then walking away trusting that people will discover it in their own time. The minute you start actually wanting to push it towards people you enter a state where you are a salesperson, rightly or wrongly. I think selling things is a skill, the right thing needs to be sold to the right person in the right way. Targeting the right people in the right way is super hard.
  4. The curve is insane: Being socially polite is easy, being socially polite and somehow introducing a segue into "but my stuff" is really hard.
  5. The agenda isn't clear but the consequences of wandering off it seem to be quite harsh: It would appear that the rules are as follows:

    -Rule Number One: Don't annoy people.
    -Rule Number Two: Skate pretty close to annoying people to get your point across.
    -Rule Number Three: If you skate over the line then you will be persona non grata.

After typing all that I have to wonder if maybe I'm too scared of being judged. I think you're not supposed to take the whole thing too seriously, but that's hard when I do take the writing and the publication processes seriously. I like my stuff I think it's worthy. The problem I am wrestling with at the moment is: How do I let everyone else know that in a sensible manner?

12 December 2012

Review: APE: How to Publish a Book

The Book: APE: How To Publish A Book by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch

Price: £6.42

Review Category: Bought after it popped up in my newsfeed.

The Blurb: In 2011 the publisher of one of my books, Enchantment, could not fill an order for 500 ebook copies of the book. Because of this experience, I self-published my next book, What the Plus!, and learned first-hand that self-publishing is a complex, confusing, and idiosyncratic process. As Steve Jobs said, "There must be a better way."

With Shawn Welch, a tech wizard, I wrote APE to help people take control of their writing careers. APE's thesis is powerful yet simple: filling the roles of Author, Publisher and Entrepreneur yields results that rival traditional publishing. We call this "artisanal publishing"--that is, when writers who love their craft control the publishing process and produce high-quality books.

APE is 300 pages of step-by-step, tactical advice and practical inspiration. If you want a hype-filled, get-rich-quick book, you should look elsewhere. On the other hand, if you want a comprehensive and realistic guide to self-publishing, APE is the answer.

Preview Available: Amazon's usual "Look Inside" deal.

Would I buy this (again)? : Absolutely

The Product: A fine example of artisanal publishing ;)

The Nitty Gritty: I bought Kawasaki and Welch's "How To" guide because I needed some advice about how to upgrade my woeful marketing skills. The book has definitely helped me and, for no extra cost, has shown me everything a "How To" guide ought to be.

After labouring over being an author and a publisher with novels and role-playing games I have evolved my own approach to the titular A (Author) and P (Publisher). So being given tips on "How To" by the authors lead me into situations where I felt vindicated and situations where I point blank disagreed with the advice given.

The book is formatted to within an inch of its life with a swish font, nice use of drop caps, stylish bullet lists. This book has had time and attention lavished upon it in terms of making it a product.

The prescription for doing this is that it will drive people nuts if you don't. This is because the display will go wappy on certain devices and you will know nothing about it as you only previewed it on your e-reader and the e-reader of a close personal friend. People will view your completed tome on all manner of inappropriate devices and you need to make sure that you have as much control as possible over the way it will display.

I permitted myself a smirk as I read this advice off the screen of my Galaxy Ace, which rendered all the wise words of quoted sources in thin columns about five characters wide. The fact is that fancy formatting is always going to break something somewhere, so I have always adopted a formatting lite approach to my books. I commit the sin (according to APE) of marking dialogue with "dumb" quotes because in some places "smart" quotes render as little diamonds with query marks embedded in them or hollow rectangles of character doom.

My approach to the smoothest possible read is to make the typography as unfussy as possible while still rendering it readable. Indented paragraphs, font sizes, italics, and ASCII characters only need apply. This is possibly because I write fiction and to me the words are the medium in which the story is contained. If people are reading Chicago Shadows thinking: Hey, I like the way he's starting each section with a weighty drop cap! then, dear reader, I have invoked the wrath of the fail whale.

If I was writing a text book maybe I would need some advanced typographical-fu. I know that in the case of the RPGs I wrestled long and hard with LibreOffice and its PDF exporter. So, the advice to publishers is largely dictated by the needs of the text being published. In other words: sometimes it's different strokes for different folks.

In addition the overview of being an author runs you through the process of deciding whether you should even write a book that did cause my eyebrows to raise. After all, if you didn't even know that you definitely should write a book then why would you pick up a guide telling you how to publish one? Circular, indeed.

I have to confess that I didn't read the Author section in any great depth. It is too late for me. Maybe this volume will help to save a few but I have my corner of Hell pre-booked and warming nicely.

Where APE came into its own for me was in the 'E' section, which stands for Entrepreneur. Essentially I have spent a long time learning to write a book and a long time learning to publish a book but I have, to date, spent no time learning how to market a book.

I am 100% positive that a marketing expert would tell me I didn't necessarily "need" to follow all of Kawasaki and Welch's advice in the Entrepreneur section, much as I would advise authors and publishers that they didn't need some of the advice in the other sections. But the point is I don't have a handy marketing expert to advise me and having a concrete list of things to do is already a great comfort.

Don't get me wrong, the authors have managed to break the bad news to me that the release of Chicago Shadows 1-3 has been handled "wrong". I have missed out several things I "should" have done prior to release. What is comforting is the fact that I now know this stuff even if I didn't before I released my heart-pounding gritty cop thriller trilogy. Following up on the tips that I can in APE means I am one step closer to being able to tell people about my books properly in future.

So, if you know all this stuff and are reading APE to feel vindicated you may find that you're not always in agreement with Kawasaki and Welch. If, on the other hand, you are clueless about any of it then APE will give you a good solid wedge of practical advice that will support you through the production of your own self-published marvel. That is all anyone can really ask of a solid "How To" guide.

7 December 2012

All Worth It?

This morning I have awoken to find that one person that I almost certainly don't know (bought through .com so US or India surely) has bought a copy of The Silent Majority.

Was it worth it? In this world where literally thousands of competing media vie for every available second of every human being's attention, you betcha.

I appreciate the fact that friends and family put up with me doing what I do. I know it's a pain. My wife listens to me read things to her (a stamp of quality she honestly wouldn't bother if they were rubbish) my beta readers provide me with insights and everyone else gives me support and recognition.

In a very real way when someone random buys a copy of one of the books, any of the books, it validates all their effort in tolerating the odd habits of a man who moans about not having enough time to fiddle about with Neverwinter Nights because he's too busy writing a book.

So I guess we all thank you anonymous purchasers of people's novels because otherwise we would all have been wasting our time. One of us slightly more than the rest is all.

5 December 2012

At Last!

Please visit the books page to see my wares! 50% of the profits made from sales until Jan 5th will be donated to the Office of Letters and Light, the charity that runs National Novel Writing Month.

4 December 2012

Getting There

Okay, so volumes 2 and 3 are now visible in the United States. Volume 1 will be visible... er... any time now. Apparently the books take a little while to become visible in other countries. Being UK-centric, of course, I am really only concerned about the visibility in .co.uk

Links to be posted here, in case you want to buy a copy, as soon as they are available.

I never imagined that "direct" publishing would take, er, days. That's really not so direct now, is it? Still, it's more direct than the "regular" publishing industry. Keep it tuned, look for new pages.

3 December 2012

Today's, Apparently, Not The Day

So. KDP.

I submit my book for publication. At this point you completely remove my control over my book and place it "in review". Then, inexplicably, two books parts 2 and 3 of the trilogy, skip merrily through your "review" process and head on to publication. In the meanwhile volume 1 sits in review.

Okay. I hadn't considered the possibility you might only want to publish volumes 2 and 3 without also publishing volume 1. I don't want you to do that. Could I just call the whole thing off until we've sorted out volume one?

Oh. No. I still don't have any control over my files. Great work. How long will it take before I can remove volumes 2 and 3 from sale? Up to 12 hours? Well, if I just want to cancel publication why would you make me wait until the middle of the night to do that?

No reason. Oh. Okay, I see.

Why do even the simplest things have to be turned into a major ordeal?

No reason. Right. Fine.

Please find a hole, drop into it and die.



Today's The Day...

I'm wondering if I mentioned that I was enrolling the Chicago Shadows trilogy in KDP Select.

I probably didn't.

At some point in the past I railed against Amazon attempting to monopolise self-publishing with its Select programme. I still think it's a bit iffy, but not as iffy as I first thought.

1) In 90 days the trilogy will be de-enrolled from KDP select and released to other channels. For this flexibility Amazon get my exclusivity until spring.

2) All the numbers say that the greatest number of sales come through Amazon so as a starving artist I really have no choice.

Now to go and make a "Books" page.