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Networking That Promo July 8, 2012

Posted 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.

CephaloBob at work!

Looking Into the Future From the Past April 21, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in conventions, history, inventions, nostalgia, science, space.
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It’s hard for me to believe the Seattle World’s Fair opened on this day in 1962. My dad was a big fan of such fairs, for some reason, and one of the few family vacations that didn’t also touch on visiting relatives got us moving northward from El Paso.

For my part, I was in hog heaven. LBJ opened the NASA exhibit but who cared about petty politicians? Wernher von Braun was there, too. A real superstar in my eyes, but we couldn’t get in to see the talks. Doubt my dad would have been all that interested, since he didn’t share my enthusiasm for things outer spacial.

According to this article, JFK wasn’t at the closing ceremony because of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Who knew?

The article also goes on at great length about how the fair theme was overpopulation and how we were going to nuke ourselves into oblivion. I don’t remember a bit of that, though considering that JFK was trying to keep the Russkies from doing that very thing, perhaps I should have paid more attention.

I remember the weird vending machines that kicked out hamburgers in cellophane wrappers (gee, just like the ones I buy at Costco, only they come in big boxes and not from vending machines). Never a big one of trinkets, I still got a glass sculpture of the Space Needle. Alas, I have no idea where the 6″ glass structure is. Too many moves since then doomed it, I fear.

This is the first time I ever saw color TV. KOMO had a live broadcast, their afternoon guy and a basset hound. Comparing the TV picture with the real thing was a revelation. The basset hound really wasn’t purple. That was a little disappointing. Riding the monorail was fun but not the transportation system of the future they made it out to be. Last time I was in Seattle was 1989 and rode the monorail for old time’s sake. Wasn’t the future of transportation then, either.

I remember the cube buildings and, of course, the Space Needle. In ’62 didn’t eat there because of the cost, though we did ride to the observation deck and look around. In ’89 did eat there and the view was great and the food mediocre (unlike the Calgary Tower where both view and food were superb). And nowhere was there a hint of Jessica Alba sitting on the outside.

The AT&T/Bell Labs display. I got shunted aside when I was chosen to show how much faster touchtone phone dialing was compared to rotary. And yes, I was the perfect choice and was *much* faster on the buttons. But the guy pushing this innovation didn’t appreciate my comment that the central switching system still took the same length of time to put the call through since it was mechanical, especially since he shoved a microphone in my face when he asked what I thought and hundreds of people heard.

An excursion around town to the Archway Bookstore was a revelation. El Paso didn’t have bookstores, per se. Newsstands and department stores, but an entire store of nothing but books? In the basement of the Archway was about every Ace Double ever. Or so I thought. I must have spent close to $3 on books! (A princely sum for me then) Apparently this store is long gone.

The fairgrounds is undoubtedly far different from 1989 and vastly so from 1962, but memory of seeing von Braun, the bold architecture (which style burned itself by 1970) and the idea of the future all appealed. (Another World’s Fair I went to, this one in New Orleans, had the most depressing exhibits of massive water valves and pictures of hydro plants ever–their theme was “water.” That trip was fun for reasons other than the fair.)

We’re From the Gummint, and We Want To Protect You March 17, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in gummint, inventions, web & computers.
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So many new items, but the use of drones keeps cropping up. Yet, according to this article, there’s no real need for gummint drones to spy on you. All the CIA needs is for you to connect to the internet through some of the nifty TV gadgets that stream video or otherwise connect that big screen with the virtual world. So, be warned. Don’t sit and watch TV in your underwear. You might be violating public indecency statutes. (Don’t think the gummint snoops would put this on YouTube? )

But there is yet more proof the HSA folks are on top of that terrorism thing. I am very lucky all I got was x-rayed and groped by the TSA during my recent trip (and all this for the price of an airplane ticket! On the free market, it might have cost far more–easily that much, considering what a full body x-ray costs these days. I don’t even know what the grope would cost down on East Central). Proof positive you might possibly be a terrorist? Behavior! If you yawn, stare fixedly or, worst of all, stand rigidly or have goose bumps, then you gotta be a terrorist. That’s what it said in the DHS official guide “Terror Awareness and Prevention.”

This after the FBI deciding that paying cash for a cup of coffee was suspect. Definitely suspect, and CAT (Communities Against Terrorism) says so, so it must be true. So if that cute barista asks for you name, phone number and address, fingerprints and DNA sample, she might not be hitting on you–she might be ratting you out to the feds.

And if you think using a credit card gets you away from surveillance, nope. The NSA is going to collect everything: “pocket litter” as they say. Everything from that evil pink slime burger you bought to where you park and how much gasoline you buy. Everything. And I thought Carnivore was pushing the envelope.

There is an upside to all this. You won’t need to use any of those cloud storage companies–all data from your computer will be kept for you by the gummint.

Where your tax dollars (and private information) are going.

NSA Data Center

Mechan-app for the iPad February 8, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, inventions, iPad, iPhone, web & computers.
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A few years ago the dreaded “check engine light” blinked on. I’d had the car for a while, but maybe it wasn’t anything serious. Or it could mean the sun was going nova. A look in the operating manual (after I found the section in a language I could read)offered no help. So, off to friendly neighborhood car repair guys.

They could check it out by hooking into their diagnostic computer, of course. But that single light could mean any of 1400 things were wrong. The car was hooked up and downloaded and…they had no idea what the returned code meant. They offered to turn off the light for me. They did and I haven’t had any trouble since. But it cost me a trip to the mechanic, both $ and time and there wasn’t any real resolution other than “sh*t happens.” Only this was simply a light coming on and nothing more. Unless the inscrutable Oriental car is being really sneaky and has lain in wait for 7 years to spring the problem on me when I least expect it.

But the ever astute app makers for iPad (and I assume Android) have a diagnostic app so I can check out my car personally. It’s pricey and I wouldn’t know what the heck it told me, but this seems a way of reassuring yourself that the check engine light doesn’t spell the Mayan Apocalypse early.

One free iPad app that will ruin my work schedule is Frotz. Gordon introduced me to Zork! in the early ’80s. At (I think Milehicon in Denver) he pulled out a suitcase filled with a computer and acoustic coupler, logged into the MIT computer and we played Zork for I don’t know how long. I bought a copy for the Apple ][e and played it until the ferric oxide fell off the floppy. This is a text adventure, no flashy graphics. And Frotz is similarly text based. I’ve gone through the first of, oh, 300?, adventures. (Hint: look under the bed)

Speaking of Gordon, he sent me this. I pass it along for your amusement. (And this, too, where a 12-yr-old UK kid learned some words from Siri he might not have known before, but probably did)

Eating iPads February 5, 2012

Posted 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.

Time Efficiency January 3, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, ideas, inventions, iPad, iPhone, Time, VIPub, web & computers, writing.
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All a writer has is time. I suppose this is a subset of time being all anyone has in life. How do you fill it? With stuff you enjoy or stuff you hate? This economy makes it likely a job, any job that pays, whether you like it or not, is a precious commodity.

But writers may not be working but are never out of work. We might not get paid, but a lot of people are unemployed. Which would you rather do, write something you don’t get paid for but enjoyed writing or mope around looking for jobs you don’t want on Craig’s List? If the end result is zero money in both cases, I’d prefer the former. In addition to enjoying your time, you have a product that can go up on Kindle/Nook, and all the other usual suspects, and maybe pull in a few dollars that being turned down for interviews won’t get you.

Who knows? Lightning may strike and you’re the new Amanda Hocking. Chances are really good you’re not going to be offered that CEO position at Goldman-Sachs listed in the classifieds.

More than 4 million Kindles were sold over Xmas. That means 4 million more potential markets you can reach with an ebook. Will you? Good luck, but don’t count on it. But that’s a growing market, which is more than you can say about most markets in the US. Better yet, your reach is worldwide. IBM made the prediction (mentioned earlier in this blog) that 80% of everyone *in the world* will have a cell phone in 5 years. That’s almost 6 billion potential readers. Most won’t have any interest, but if a couple dozen out of that audience do, you’re still ahead with your writing rather than futilely looking for a job you will hate.

If you can find a job you love, good on you. But that job might just be writing, and if it is, write. (A nice thing about writing is that you can still hunt for the mind-numbing job and continue to write).

Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Ready For My UFO Ride October 23, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, gummint, history, ideas, inventions, New Mexico, science, space, UFOs.
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Living in NM it is impossible to escape the Roswell Incident. I’ve even written a couple stories explaining alien abductions and those anal probes. An entrepreneur is gearing up to offer flying saucer rides at Spaceport America.

Alas, in spite of being able to fly 75mph with a ceiling of 2000 ft, the actual ride would be like a Disneyland simulation at 10 ft and 35mph. Still, this is mighty cool and while it isn’t suborbital, the ticket price has to be less than $200k. What would you pay to buzz around in a hover craft on a preset course you couldn’t control?

An interesting development seems to be the possibility of launching small satellites from the Virgin Galactic White Knight. Only 17 pounds or so but Vanguard 1 weighed only 3 lbs and we’ve got 50 years of miniaturization behind us. So more payloads than space tourists are planned. Launch your own satellite for $200k? Beats going to the ESA (the first Soyuz will launch Thursday out of Guiana with 2 satellites, payload 3.2 tons). The downside is that Congress needs to free our commercial ventures from the onerous burdens they have spent decades putting on NASA and unless they do, commercial use & travel is going the same way as the space shuttle. While I am cautiously hopeful, bureaucrats are worse than cockroaches and as hard to exterminate. Maybe Sinnamary has room for other commercial vehicles (once intended for launching in the US)?

Here’s our answer to the greys!

Mooning October 19, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, gummint, history, ideas, inventions, science, space.
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Ken sent along an article on mining the moon (he being a mining engineer type of guy–seems odd, he deals in rare earths but the Moon has the more common stuff. Unless there is…lunite!)

The article says Naveen Jain wants to mine for platinum and titanium. Seems to me these are heavy to ship back as ore so on site smelting would be needed. Solar power could actually be useful. I’m not sure how a zone furnace would do, but I suspect well (you can look up Bill Pfann and his zone melting–circa 1951 or so–for a neat little device. I think this has been used to a small extent on the lamented space shuttle missions.) Might not even need to put the lump of Pt into a ship and bring back. Set up a rail gun and zing it back to Earth orbit where it could be picked up.

And then there is the He-3 there which might be quite useful

The prospect of turning the Moon into a giant billboard exists, too. A huge “card section” like at football games (or the Olympics opening ceremonies) could change the message according to sponsor. What would it cost to advertise worldwide, say, Coca-Cola or Tampax? It might be possible, if the array was large enough, to turn it into a drive-in movie with short videos, and who’d notice the 1.5 sec lag time?. Who needs Youtube if you have the Moon?

I see stuff like this and think Heinlein was righter than I ever thought he would be. Nobody in the ‘40s thought it would be a gummint project getting to the Moon. And once the gummint showed no resolve about staying there, who woulda thunk it would be private business wanting to actually use it? (I will a book for and dedicate it to anyone defacing the plaque left on the Moon–pry loose Richard Nixon’s name and leave the rest).

This Lio cartoon doesn’t have anything to do with the blog but I thought it was cute (and cautionary).


(Social) Maps of Mars October 15, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in history, inventions, science, science fiction, sense of wonder.
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I missed Bubonicon 43 and what, by accounts, was a most excellent presentation by Dr Maria Lane, author of The Geographies of Mars: Seeing and Knowing the Red Planet.

Geographies of Mars: K. Maria D. Lane

She is a geographer (specializing in water rights) but wrote this book to analyze more the progression of social imagining of Mars. And she did a reprise of the talk since so many others missed it.

Schiaprelli it turns out was color blind, so the blue areas on his maps of Mars didn’t mean a lot. Certainly not that he thought there was so much ocean there. The progression of opinion was cemented by Percival Lowell and his elaborate description of how the canals changed over the seasons, water having, simply *having* to flow from the poles to the agricultural areas. Most intriguing was how Lane tied in British imperialism with the notion that the Martians had to be superior beings. Their world was dying, so they had accelerated intellect to fight the “desertism.”

And still more intriguing was how Lowell bypassed the peer reviewed journals and went straight to venues like The Atlantic and Cosmopolitan (not the same as today’s. The idea of those Martians working so diligently to save themselves from drought caught the imagination, both in Britain and the US. But the different interpretations were noteworthy. The Brits saw it as vindication for imperialism and the US for individual exceptionalism. One thing that entered my pea brain was that HG Wells, anti-imperialist, saw the War of the Worlds as an allegory of how the British Empire died from within.

All of Lowell’s maps of the canals were composites, no one ever seeing more than 3 lines at a time. By 1909 photographs and 40″ telescopes showed the lines were optical illusions or “seeing” problems.

Also in the news is the Mars endurance test is about to end, purporting to show cosmonauts could make the trip to mars.

I leave you with today’s Bizarro

Are You Listening? October 14, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in contest, history, inventions, New Mexico, science, science fiction.
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A contest! To rename the EVLA (Extended Very large Array). The role of the 27 radio dishes out on the Plains of St Augustin has expanded. Computers link the “ears” with others in Chile, there has been a huge upgrade to foptic (fiber optic) cable from wave guides and new computers somewhat better than a laptop (when I saw the VLA for the first time a lot of years ago, even then I was astounded at how primitive the tape drive storage was when I had a better hard drive in my desktop at home).

FIRST gave images at the 20cm band, mapping the skies from a year back. The EVLA has been one of those relatively inexpensive scientific projects that pumps out huge results. And, being in NM, some years ago it has spawned an sf anthology,
A Very Large Array:New Mexico SF&F

If we aren’t allowed to go to the stars, at least the EVLA lets us eavesdrop.
So, be a part of history. Give it your best shot and you might be the one renaming the VLA.