Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How much "exposure" do you need?

It looks like Showtime should have had a different pitch for their latest contest. Instead of promising graphic designers exposure at an upcoming boxing event, they should have labeled it a free vacation package.  That might have gone over a bit better. Or the designers who are boxing fans would be more inclined to say yes.

Though to be fair, this is an ad/PR firm working on Showtime's behalf. I'm guessing more PR than ad company.

Let's look at that email and Mr. Cassaro's response.

I'd have a few "Qs." (It's cute when ad people try to be hip.) How long are these spots? How prominent will my contact info be on these spots and at the MGM Grand? Yeah, I get exposure on the social media, which might include some decision makers for various companies that might be client material (who now know I will work for "contests.") But who do I get real face time with?

The answers are pretty pat here. The only real exposure will be on social media, which is a crap shoot (pun intended) and where it really counts at the MGM and on broadcast the answer will be "They will see your art only, no contact info. What you are asking for is almost like an ad." Well, PR/Ad firm, that is what your pitching me right? I've gotta leverage the most out of it.

Because working as a creative is a business at heart and, when you're lucky, a business with heart, but you have to make savvy decisions about your "exposure." Because frankly, it's a wash most of the time in any business.

I've seen all type, sign makers, marketing firms, and even contractors get taken in with a big client who promises "exposure" and to put your name out there if they are happy with the end result.

And then somehow it never works out.

You've put the client is now in a position of real power and they'll abuse it like crazy. Mostly by making countless changes to the project that you take the hit on to keep the client happy. You'll realize those hits have put you in red too late.

Ask the VFX companies hows that working for them.

So I'll wrap up with this classic bit from a classic curmudgeon. It's relevant.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The price of growing up ...

is seeing all of your childhood heroes pass away.

Robin Williams

May his family find the solace they need in these trying times.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Yep. That's pretty much how Starbucks is.

When that urge to be a "Starbucks" writer hits me, I gotta look at the time. If it's past 5pm, forget it. The 7-person knitting circle has taken all of the comfy leather chairs.

I don't make this stuff up, honest.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Three bags of hurry up and wait

Well, that took a bit longer than I thought it would.
The prize aspect of a writer is discipline. You got to keep your butt in the chair and keep plugging away. Even when you’re staring at a screen that says “Uploading your ebook now.” That’s not so great for my ADHD.
My plan to e-publish was two-fold. The first was to provide several short stories so that potential readers could have more content to choose from. The second was to spread my distribution among the big three -- Amazon, Nook and Smashwords.
But if you have 7 shorts that essentially means you’re uploading 21 stories. I should have thought out that math earlier. So my plan to do a massive upload in one day turned into more like a week. Technically, I could have done it in a day, but I would have gnawed off my arm by the end of it, and learning to type with one hand is a bitch.
At this point, the experience of it all is a bit blurry (having a cold that week didn’t help). But from what I can remember …
For any of the three e-publishers:
·         They will want your tax information: It’s the price (or payment) of doing business. If you haven’t incorporated yet, they will take your social security number in lieu of your tax ID number.
·         If you have the  .doc file and a short story, you’re all set: it’s savvy to learn how to set up your formatting and TOC for your novel in Calibre or Scribe. If you have a .doc (not .docx) file, though, all three publishers have online conversion tools that should work for short stories.
·         Each company has different cover sizes and they change without notice: Do your homework on the covers.
·         For all the talk of how traditional publishers want to straightjacket you into a marketable niche, the genre labels for these companies are mostly either generic or what’s trending. If you happen to have a post-apocalyptical Science Fantasy short in the vein of Vance’s Dying Earth, good luck with that getting lumped into Science Fiction, Apocalyptical, and Adventure. And the Fantasy genres will only touch on Epic, General or Contemporary/Paranormal.  If you’re lucky, you could find Steampunk. Unfortunately, the pull-down menus for these are clunky. I’ll get to tags/labels with each publisher.
·         And no matter the publisher, if you have more than one book online, then you probably aren’t going to be happy on how you have to drill down in the reports to see what’s really going on with the sales numbers. That’s for just 7 stories. I can’t imagine what hoops the writers who have dozens of stories have to jump through to understand their data.
·         A “Same entry as last time” for things like author, publisher and price would make the process much less of a time suck.
·         Have a “cheat sheet” of your blurbs, tags and author bio handy to do a lot of cut and paste
Now for the individual guys:

You sly, sly dogs. I’ve already said that Amazon tries to make themselves a convenient one-stop shop for an author. They allow you to use Styles from Word to set up the formatting for TOC and offer a gallery of customizable book covers. However, then they’ll try to tempt you to go exclusive with them. (But do you really want only one company holding all the cards at the end of the day?)
Amazon only allows 7 tags for your product and offer limited genre choices. The biggest positive is that I saw one or two instant sales -- but then afterwards, nothing.  My cynical side wants to think that Amazon has a slush fund for buying the first copy of a writer’s work. If they can keep you hoping, then you’ll keep putting out content.
Not that I have any proof of such a silly idea. Maybe I should just pat myself on the back that I got lucky day one.
Uploading takes forever and you can’t really go on to the next project as you wait. The whole process happens over several different screens.
The actual publishing of your ebook takes 24 hours.
Nook doesn’t offer you a free cover, but they do try to make themselves your browser-based word processor/Scrivener project manager. If you have any bold or italics in your document, you’ll have to go back and add them in via the Nook system.
I seem to remember this one was the most clunky to work with, though they seemed to have the most flexible system for cutting and pasting your tags in.
Again, uploads take forever and it seems that you take chances if you try to skip to the next project. You have to go through several screens related to different silos (price, audience, actual upload).
The upside is, they publish your ebook in a few hours.
How I hate and love you.
Smashwords had the only single upload screen process, which was great, and the process actually invites you to upload something else as your ebook is translated in any format you need. Neat.
But SW has the most proprietary system for formatting your work (which at the very least means including a copyright that names your submission a “Smashwords Edition.”) For example, Their Word TOC system works off Bookmarks, not Styles and other odd bits.

->TL:DR Read their handbook. It will save you from a lot of grief later.
Even though the actual upload is painless, it take days -- yep days – for a story to go live. It makes me imagine that they have a light-starved gnome locked in a server box, reading every upload by the light of a candle and a Sega Genesis.
I still believe enough in my strategy that I’d do it again. But in the future, I’ll be adding individual stories and remember that I have to multiply my efforts by three.  
’Cause as an ebook author, there’s no such thing as bulk shipping.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Help a Franchise Fiction Brother out.

Do you like Star Trek, Farscape, and World of Warcraft? What do these three things have in common? A great writer who's in a bit of a pinch.

A Master of Franchise Fiction,  Keith DeCandido, selling and signing a lot of out of print stuff to make ends meet until the next set of projects pay off.

I've personally met the guy and he's a great person. Give his Facebook post a check and see if there's something you'd love to have on your shelf.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ohhh. Amazon you sly dog ...

There has been a seismic shift in e-publishing in just the last few years.

A. The paperback market has been shrinking, not just on the consumer end, but the distribution end as well. thanks to big box stores who have been very busy in trying to drastically narrow the selection of paperbacks a consumer sees on the shelf at all.  There used to be a top 10 national bestseller list in every genre, mostly because each region had its bestseller's list and that was aggregated into a national list. Now, realistically, there are only three top sellers in each genre because these stores don't want to mess with regional sales. They want one easy list to buy from.

B. The technology has finally caught up to make self-publishing very easy.. I spent a bit of time learning how to work programs like Calibre, only to find out that now I don't really need them. Amazon, Smashwords and the Nook now do the Word Doc converting for you.

C. Who hasn't heard of the woman who has made $30k in one month off of Bigfoot erotica. ... That's not a typo.

That's offered up some good things. With anecdotes like that, several professional writer's organizations are getting ready to approve bylaws that allow ebook authors to join. To see these organizations go from naked skepticism to embracing epublishing in a few short years is amazing. It's like watching a behemoth turn a pirouette on a dime. 

As for probably the worst part, now that's easier to upload your book and there's little shame in doing so, you might as well do it.


Along with about several other million other writers, aspiring writers and Baby Boomers who decided that they want to be writers during their retirement years. 

Despite all that, Amazon's stayed on top of it all with their bag of tricks. Going beyond the mobi. conversion tool, they've kept switching things up and delivering on promises that  make it worth your while to be exclusive with them, including being their part of their Amazon Prime library. 

There's also Kindle Worlds to entice established authors with the promise of "free money" for letting fan fic writers publish-- and profit share -- their efforts in the world of their favorite author. (Oddly enough, now some fan-fic writers are grumbling that they their hard work -- in someone else IP, shouldn't be "taxed."*)

Update: The Vampire Diaries franchise author, L.J. Smith, who was kicked offer the series is now using Kindle Worlds to get back into the series that she put on the map. 

It makes Amazon really tempting as your one-stop publishing shop, which has been their savvy goal from the beginning. The minor miracle here has been how they've stayed on target for so long. 

Makes me wonder what their next step is.

*So we gone from fan-fic writers being grateful they don't get cease-and-desist letters to some how thinking they should be the sole beneficiary of work they based on someone else's world. A world that took an author, an agent and a publisher, years to develop and grow. Just saying.

The infamous triangle

They say there are three choices you get in every project, Fast, Cheap, or Good. Pick two.They also say that the last 10 percent of a project takes up about 80 percent of the time working on that project.

I'm discovering that writing pretty much holds to these rules. In the past couple of months, my goal of getting 7 short stories and one mini anthology out has slowed to a crawl since I've picked Cheap and Good. My great friends and family that are helping me do some final editing are all great volunteers who are doing this on their off time. So things are moving, but slowly. 

In my experience, I'd have to say that people like playing book critic. When these were just Word Docs on my computer, I had to reach out to find some volunteer editors. Once I slapped a nice ebook cover on it, people have been asking me to take a peek and "offer some advice." Maybe next time I'll get the cover done first and then write a story. Hey, it worked for the old pulps.

But hopefully soon, we'll be done and then these little stories will have to fly on their own out on the great winds of the Internet.