What They Read (Kids) May 11, 2014Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, education, ideas, iPad, sense of wonder, VIPub, web & computers, writing.
Tags: children, discoverability, e-books, education, fantasy, kids, reading, science fiction, sf
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Discoverability is an important part of any author’s excursion through the profession. How do you get eyes on your work? A study on what kids in K-12 read makes for fascinating reading, especially when you dig down into it and find the youngest grades are more amenable to ebooks than other groups. I’d always said ereaders would never become commonplace until the earliest grades read using them. It has happened.
The report What Kids Are Reading is downloadable as a pdf and takes a while to go through.
Here are some of my takeaways.
Many of these books are assigned by teachers and, to my way of thinking, aren’t of much use to us as writers of VIPub original fiction. A student reading To Kill A Mockingbird as a class assignment is less important than finding that Hunger Games has found itself a high ranking over the past few years or that the younger students read Dav Pilkey. Those are hardly revelations but give direction to our hunt to garner new readers. One trend that seems obvious to me in the younger readers (pre 6th grade) is the number of “outcast” stories. The kids want stories in the little tailor vein, Heinlein’s ordinary person who overcomes great peril to triumph as an individual. Superheroes are ok (are we being force fed them?) but the kids read stories about solitary heroes and heroines, probably because they see themselves that way (a fight between Katniss Everdeen and Percy Jackson?). No super powers, just outcast and subpar and wanting to do great things. Stories of accomplishment seem to rate higher than those of ordering the kids to have self-esteem. SF looks important in this extracurricular reading.
As long as I have been in science fiction fandom, there has been the semi-joke about the golden age of sf being 12. This report bears that out when you look at the number of words read by each grade group (page 55). The sixth graders read the most. You might make the argument later grades are reading more challenging books and are therefore reading less due to the time it takes to wade through. Maybe so, but if you want to capture an audience and keep it, find what appeals to a 6th grader. By that age they have access to an ereader, are becoming autonomous and developing their tastes in reading, and probably have more money to spend on their epurchases than the authors writing the stories.
Mostly, I need to sift through this report and find what is being read for pleasure, then figure out how to capture some of the market.
Networking That Promo July 8, 2012Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, education, Free, ideas, inventions, money, VIPub, writing.
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Finding the “right” way to promote and market your VIPub e-book might not exist. There are always new ways cropping up, ways too numerous for one person to ever keep up with. Therein lies the wonder of both the Internet with its writers’ newsgroups and old-fashioned face-to-face networking. Here are a few ideas that have cropped up in the past month or so I want to pass along (one idea from each of 3 contact methods).
First off from Merlyn via e-mail is unglue.it, a combination of Kickstarter and Project Gutenberg. From the way I read it, you put up a project as in Kickstarter and if you get the money (let’s call it an “advance” as in “work for hire that’s all you’re going to get” advance), then the book goes out into a free worldwide lending library. You keep the advance but anyone anywhere can d/l your book. Setting the price for the advance would be tricky but with first novel advances running around $3k now, I suspect you might be able to do that well. But a different approach to using this appeals to me. I haven’t tried it but I might. I have a lot of reprint book series I want to get out there. Put the first up for a nominal amount with links to all the rest on Kindle, Nook, my bookstore. This would give a small advance on book #1 and potentially big marketing clout on the remainder. (I am not sold on Kindle’s Select program–I see damned little return after putting out titles for free–this drives huge numbers to Amazon but not with followup to actually buy *my* books, even in the same series).
Next is leanpub.com via f-2-f at First Friday. Jerry said he put a book up and was pulling in $100/day over the first 3 weeks it had been up. He does technical books of huge girth and weighty content and the book might actually have gone out for $100, so he’s selling 20 copies to a limited techie niche. But the nice thing about leanpub.com is the ability to publish serialized fiction and get paid along the way. Also, their 90% royalty (minus 50 cents) and ability to price up to $500 beats Kindle. Assuming $13 Kindle max for 70%, this is Kindle=$9.10 vs Leanpub=$11.20. At the $5 price I put my titles, Kindle=$3.50 vs Leanpub=$4.00 Even looking at short stories at $1, Kindle=$0.35 vs Leanpub=$0.40 (which is the same as on Nook). Definitely a site worth checking out to see if it matches any project ideas you might have.
Last is via a writers’ newsgroup. At First Friday one member touted a startup business for doing book trailers. She got in on the ground floor to promote and paid $150 for a 1 minute trailer. Haven’t seen it but undoubtedly it would be professional quality. Future book trailers would cost more. However on the IAMTW newsgroup was mention of a free book trailer site, animoto. You supply the text and pictures (likely book covers and illustrations) and the program generates a 30 second trailer, complete with graphics and music. Unlimited and free. For a mere $25/yr you can do full-length videos or the next step up is $250 with about anything you could want. Professional stuff costs even more with reselling, etc tossed in. But even at the “pro” level this would cost only about what a single book trailer would if done by someone else. You get an idea what can be done on this sample page.
I am certainly going to give it a go on a 30 sec trailer for something. The next month is going to be full of finishing a new western ASAP but there will be time in there to play with animoto. I’ll post the results (of course I will!)
If you give any of these a try, let me know how it works out for you.
Yours, Mine, and Theirs July 5, 2012Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, education, Free, money, VIPub, writing.
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An interesting synchronicity impinged on my world today. Kris Rusch at http://www.kriswrites.com has a wonderful piece on how universities might teach writing but not becoming a working writer, ie, making money at it. “Creative” writing is somehow the end goal rather than paying the rent and keeping the cats in food. In my experience, I’ve found such creative writing programs scoff at actually being paid for the writing–but being a professor teaching how not to make a living at writing is a fine. Fame=literary acceptance, if that fame is limited to literary circles. Fame=making big bucks means the work is inferior.
Read Kris’ blog. It’s got a lot more on her take on creative writing programs vs other fields (hey, I took exactly 2 English courses in college–I tested out of Eng 101, 102 was nothing but Melville and Am Lit 201 was, shudder, nothing but Puritan diaries. All I got out of that was what the Puritans meant by “rogering.” I majored in physics undergrad and engineering in grad school where coming up with nifty problems and finding ways of solving them was the reason. But never was it held out that taking money for the solutions or research was a bad thing.)
Along with this a couple days ago a writer who has 2x more books published than I ever will lamented about his career. He’d written over 400 books, 7 hit the NYT bestseller list, 3 in #1, he is in still demand and yet…and yet he worried over his legacy. The reason? He’s also written under 60+ pen names. All the bestsellers were done as ghost work and his name didn’t appear anywhere. Known in editorial circles, sure, and highly valued as a writer who can deliver the goods. But most of what he’s written isn’t really his being work for hire.
A friend with dozens of titles to his credit realized his work had been all gaming tie-in. Those weren’t his books. They were work-for-hire. His name graced the covers, but they weren’t *his* books in the sense that he controlled anything about them. With today’s legacy publishing contracts, all rights are being tied up, especially e-rights. Depending on the contract, those might be granted for a very long time. With publishing venues changing so rapidly, how much faith you have in the traditional publishers to capitalize on new markets depends on whether you want to buy some swamp land along the mighty Rio Grande.
VIPub (Vertically Integrated Publishing) gives you the chance to control the books and methods of distribution yourself. If you have to promote legacy publishers’ books anyway, why not dip your toe in the VIPub market and do that yourself–and reap the benefits? And, of course, take the risk the book might not go anywhere? This can be a balancing act between advance money and money stretched out over 3-5 years, but controlling the rights completely to your own work might be a good thing for both your pocket book and your ego. It’s great seeing your name in print. It can be even greater controlling how and when your own name is in print.
Eating iPads February 5, 2012Posted by bobv451 in business, education, food, gummint, ideas, inventions, iPad, iPhone, VIPub, web & computers, writing.
The restaurant business operates on razor-thin profits. I ran a big restaurant for a while and we sported the best profit in the chain at a bit over 1%. That took constant vigilance and attention to who was hired, especially at waiter and waitress (this was back in the day when they were called that and not some PC variant like server, which can apply to a computer as easily.)
The paper today told of a NC restaurant equipping its servers with iPads. If the customer can’t decide, a picture of the food comes up (something that I have always felt is counter productive. There’s a reason food ads on TV use Elmer’s glue for milk, varnish on meat and other ugly things to mimic food–real food looks terrible photographed). I suppose this is a way to get past a language barrier, but the idea was to broaden the menu and give the potential feaster a hint as to which wine went best with that hot dog. (Hint:1787 Lafite claret is always a good choice.) The server touch screens the boxes, then submits the order via the iPad. No messy written checks.
It wasn’t stated but there might be another benefit other than using the iPad as a POS device. Put the order into a computer and have that decide how to optimally prepare the meal. Might be possible to fix 2 or 3 other customers’ same order together, cutting down on waste food and improving response/cooking/order time. Churn that computer a bit more and you can inventory the same way that bars inventory using a liquor gun. Every shot is monitored and matched with income. Every shallot can be similarly tracked. And it would be even easier if you could put in an edible RFID.
Why not couple the iPad to a webcam in the kitchen so you can watch the cook spitting in your food?
But my stfnal mind jumped a bit beyond simple profits on this. Paper checks are discarded. Once the meal is paid for now, all the tracking you get is the purchase price. (My son took me to a place in LA where they use Scantron sheets to order on–but below is an article on a restaurant near where he lives in Torrance using iPads) Using an iPad can record what every diner ate, or at least ordered. This can be pumped into a gummint database, let’s call it Michelle’s List, and the FDA can order out the TSA to arrest you if you are not eating properly. Or maybe the FDA will have its own SWAT team like the Dept of Education.
Fertile ground for stories. Of course, since this interests me, I’ve already done one novel with background like this. You can read it for free here, if you like.
Or maybe you can use a restaurant app like Fandango. Set up a reservation, order food and expect it to be ready when you arrive. The restaurant can monitor your approach using GPS to make sure you’re not one of those who orders a mushroom/onion/pineapple pizza and sends it to another house as a prank. With so many fast-casual (this term is being applied to places like Chipotle and, maybe a favorite of mine, Souper Salad) restaurants putting in wifi to keep the patrons there a bit longer, all kinds of other innovations might crop up.
The Perils of Technology January 23, 2012Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, education, Free, ideas, iPad, VIPub, web & computers, writing.
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No, I haven’t become a Luddite but just want point out how we are on the frontier and still not sure what’s just beyond that cloud of dust. Mike Stackpole is using the new Apple book creation software, loves it and doesn’t see a problem with the EULA (End User Legal Agreement). The people at PCMagazine do.
Mike is probably right that the EULA will change, but a recent story comes to mind. It has entered the “legendary” position about how Van Halen demanded all brown M&Ms be taken out of the candy bowl. Outrageous diva stuff, right? They claim it was to be sure the venue providers actually read the contract since they sometimes arrived and didn’t have proper power, lighting, facilities necessary to actually putting on a concert. Brown M&Ms told them to check everything else since the promoter hadn’t read (and abided by) their contract.
I don’t doubt that one software contract actually included the clause that the user sell his soul to the devil. They probably had fun showing how many people actually had not read it. Most (almost all?) didn’t. I figure if they aren’t asking for my DNA genome and bank account number, I’m relatively safe since the publishers long ago devoured my soul.
But we need to think about what technology is doing. Long ago I wondered if anyone checked the airport luggage scanners for radiation leakage. This was before the soft x-ray scanners came into use. I suspect the TSA will either be unable to spawn or will produce monstrous mutant offspring (I leave it to the reader to comment about offspring being human because of reversion to the mean). Another thing that occurred to me a long time back when I first heard how some big companies wanted user software to be on their servers (ie, your word processor would be on MS servers, not installed on your computer, and you would access it via the net) My worry was the internet going down when I needed most to work. Let me keep the programs on my own computer to use when I need them, not when you allow me access. But again those cynics at PCMag bring up another thought I had about this. What if the company where you store your data goes bankrupt?
I saw somewhere that Amazon servers are used by most of the S&P 500 companies. A lot of power beyond selling ebooks and survival food.
It seems that Apple is the 100% provider on educational stuff. Or are they? Again from PCMag here are some good resources for the educator (or the one allowed to actually go online–most schools in Abq prohibit this.)
Time to actually work. Or what passes for it around here.
Is That What I Really Meant? January 11, 2012Posted by bobv451 in education, history, ideas, science, writing.
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My son forwarded a link about a project Bruce McAllister started when he was a high school student in 1963. He wrote 75 authors asking if they intentionally put symbolism into their work
The wide spectrum of authors answering fascinates me. Some were terse like Ayn Rand–but she responded. Others like Ray Bradbury were generous with their time and thoughts (what else would you expect out of a great writer like Ray?) Another revisited the question a year after the initial survey. Interesting to see how long the comments from the sf authors were.
The old saw about “write what you know” is true in the sense that a writer can’t put something into a story if it isn’t already in the brain–or the pieces that are put together to form the story. You are a prisoner of your own experience. Worse, you are in solitary confinement, only getting brief glimpses outside (and then this becomes part of your experience).
I have always said that a writer is responsible for 75% of the story. The reader brings the other 25% and this is entirely beyond the writer’s control. Those that hate a story not only don’t find their 25% engaged, things in the 75% go awry, also. But those that click, those that have their full 25% firing on all rockets, see things the writer possibly never intended–or ever could. A synergy, if you please, makes for the best books.
In a way, finding symbolism is a matter for the academics. I doubt it matters much to writers (unless they are academics and think this is necessary). Delivering a powerful story, an entertaining one, is (or ought to be) what drives a writer.
Bone-eating Snot Flower December 28, 2011Posted by bobv451 in death, education, history, ideas, science, writing.
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Isn’t that the greatest title, ever? I came across this as I was surfing and thought it made an eye-catching (so to speak) lead into weird news and the like. Bone-eating snot flower. Sort of rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?
A moment of silence, please. Cheetah the chimp from the Tarzan movies has died at the age of 80.
Now, in tribute please fling some feces (your own or others).
Or howabout the croc named Elvis that ate the lawn mower? Utterly crazy is the bloke who retrieved the mower (and 2 of the croc’s teeth).
Starlings show why we are susceptible to advertising.
Local news story that is outrageous. A guy in a mask and Santa hat tried to kill his brother-in-law with a crossbow. And in a separate case, a woman ran her bf through with a sword.
And still people wonder where those ideas come from.
Stop, Look, Listen November 4, 2011Posted by bobv451 in business, conventions, e-books, education, fantasy, ideas, steampunk, VIPub, writing.
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What you need to do at a convention like the World Fantasy Convention. There is so much talent drifting around, it’s hard to know who to listen to, what notes to make, how it is all going to affect your work and the way you conduct your professional life.
Talking with editors is, of course, a necessity. But there are new players in the game worthy of more than a few minutes attention. Panels are a good place to pick up ideas (I went to the airships panel. I am a huge airship fan.) As informative as the panel was, talking to other writers afterward probably gave more information. Questions could be asked and speculation trotted out for wonderful results. Engineer-minded Dennis McKiernan came up with the way to conduct air-to-air warfare (you need a belly gun if you’re opting for cannon. Otherwise, rockets are best.) Firing a cannon so you cause the airship to rotate is, well, stupid. The entire mass of the ship has to be used to absorb the recoil.
Newer “professions” are actually offshoots of ones that should have been done by legacy publishers. Publicity is a necessity for VIPub authors, but there is only so much time in the day. Mike Stackpole just sent me a great link about how to best use Goodreads. I don’t have hours enough in the day now. How much more do I add learning the ropes there? I spent a fascinating 45 minutes listening to a woman who had jumped with both feet into the e-advertising game. Mlg lists, places to go (she said Goodreads needs a minimum of 10 recommendations and probably 20 before others will even notice a title–getting a reader to give even one rec is a chore. A Career Guide to Your Job In Hell has solid reviews–but only 6. Does the 10 minimum carry over to Amazon? Maybe. These are things that someone needs to learn. YMMV but every author is in the same boat when it comes to such things. It’s good to learn from pioneers what works and what doesn’t.
Freelance editors abound and Andrea Howe has announced an anthology based on the utterly creepy “Blue Girl” art print in most of the hotel rooms. Looks like fun and who knows, it might garner a touch of publicity for the included authors.
Another of my fascinations (which I have never cadged a ride in)
Old Towns and Research November 2, 2011Posted by bobv451 in e-books, education, geocaching, ghost towns, history, hobby, ideas, music, New Mexico, VIPub, westerns, Wild West, writing.
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After leaving LA, I dropped down to San Diego, mastered the (easy) trolley system and zinged down to their version of Old Town. Relatively recent compared with Santa Fe or even Old Town in Albuquerque (California’s was settled some 60 years later) But this is the first European settlement in California so was fodder for the western fiction research mill.
But I am on a different time zone so got to OT a couple hours before it opened. I took the $10 plunge and had installed the android geocaching app on my cell phone. The 2 hours gave me a chance to try it out. I found 3 caches, one in Presidio Park, another on 1769 Hill and yet one more virtual cache showing how metal rusts in salt air. By the time I had wandered around, it was opening time for the museums.
Life is tough all over. I had breakfast at a restaurant that boasted that it had been established in 2010. In today’s economy that might be long-lived. From here hiked up the hill to the Mormon Battalion Museum. Very slick, very cute girls in period costumes, interesting high tech video presentations, had the chance for some hands on examination of props since I was the only one in the “group” (not peak tourist season, I’d say), got a couple teeny gold nuggets, and was surprised when I asked about music of the era and one guide disappeared and came back later with a handwritten list taken from a contemporaneous journal. Very kind of her to supply this and info will certainly be used (but I’m not likely to order a free copy of Book of Mormon or send one to a friend). The Mormon Battalion has a monument between Abq and Santa Fe (and a geocache, btw) and it was good seeing the end of the 2000 mi trail in San Diego. Not sure I buy all the achievements of the Battalion but they might be true. Will look to see if they actually started the first newspaper in Northern California (California Star–ok, looks factual since Alta California grew out of CStar–founder Samuel Brannan was the first Gold Rush millionaire, but some conflation is going on. Brannan wasn’t part of the Mormon Battalion, coming around the Horn in 1846. And, hmm, this might be the second trailing The Californian from Monterey) or were responsible for first finding gold at Sutter’s Mill (but I certainly think they worked to build it so might well be true). All a bit before the time period considered the Wild West but great background.
On to Whaley House, supposedly the “most haunted” house in California or the US or somewhere. The best that could be conjured was it was built on an Indian burial ground. NM is built on an Indian burial ground, fer Pete’s sake. Nancy Holder later said it was the site of public executions. So why didn’t the period-dressed guide say this? Mostly like restored houses elsewhere in the West, but renewed my interest in writing a western that simply has no mass market. Ah, VIPub. When I get time. Mike Resnick ought to be proud–he had a lot of copies of The Buntline Special on the museum bookstore shelf.
To the World Fantasy Convention itself soon and the VIPub vibe building like a tidal wave there.
Sticks and Stones May 19, 2011Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, education, history, Texas, VIPub, westerns, Wild West, writing.
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I just finished reading James Reasoner’s most excellent Diamondback and appreciated how the book’s trajectory had finally ended in publication. For lots of reasons you can read about in the afterword, the book was marketed around in ‘84 but never found a home until now, when James did it VIPub.
This is a perfect example of a professional quality book being published by the author because legacy publishers passed on it (for myriad reasons). In a way, the book fits a sub genre that no longer exists, at least among legacy publishers. Men’s adventure fiction has a market, just not one big enough for mass distribution. But a few thousand readers, which I hope this will garner, can find the kind of fiction they’ve been missing for so long.
But I wanted to touch on something else in the book and publishing in general. Times certainly change and what legacy publishers find acceptable changes, too. I had a book rejected because the protagonist was a racist–neutrally racist, not actively discriminating but not too bothered when he saw it. Set in the 1880s, West Texas, building the railroad from El Paso to San Antonio, it deals with what the Chinese railroad crews faced. The character arc ran from Jack being as described above and finding both friendship and love as he came to understand the crew working for him. In other words, he changed. A character arc has to start somewhere and go somewhere–it seems to me this is the proper direction to go. But without a starting point of racism, what’s the point? Jack starts by defending them and ends by defending them? Not much drama or anything to root for there. The reader should want to see him change, and for good reasons.
In Diamondback James uses language that has become completely, totally verboten in polite company. The characters using it are not the good guys and you don’t *ever* want them to win. Their language defines them and gives the protagonist, Tom Sloane, serious adversaries. You can cheer when he triumphs because the antagonists are such racists. But I doubt the book would ever be considered by a contemporary legacy publisher without changing the language and emasculating the true evil of the bad guys. Such words cannot be used now.
I worry that some sales venues, such as Nook, have a hyperlink to report objectionable content. To some, Diamondback (and my own China Jack) would fall into that category because of language. These are the same people who demand Tom Sawyer be bowdlerized because of its language.
It’s hard to overcome racism if you’re not allowed to portray true racists, even in fiction.