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Time Is Not On Your Side June 18, 2017

Posted by bobv451 in business, death, e-books, ideas, money, sci-fi, science fiction, serial fiction, Uncategorized, VIPub, westerns, writing.
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Tick. Tick. Tock. Cuckoo clock chimes. The weights descend and you are out of time. All a writer (or any of us) has is time. That’s the commodity to hoard and covet and use to its fullest extent.

I come up with a never-ending flood of ideas. That’s not a problem of “What next?” When I get down to writing, there’s not a writer’s block to be seen. No problemo. What is harder is choosing among the ideas to work on next because there is so little time and triage has to be done.

Looking back on 40+ years of writing, I mostly wouldn’t change things, but maybe, perhaps, kinda, one tactic stands out that should have been modified. Writing series books (ie, Jake Logan, Trailsman, Nick Carter) is fun and it paid a lot of bills. But none of those books is mine. I can’t put up new ebook editions or take them down or do anything. They belong to the publisher and are forever deadwood to me. Filling some of the time spent writing so many with my own work would have been a smarter move. I know writers of prodigious output who own almost no titles of their own–they did too many work-for-hires. As a result they have only a handful of titles under their control, ie, to make money now as opposed to when it was written.

Write what you need to stay alive. It’s tough out there and always has been. But do as much of your own as you can. It’s yours and there is never enough time to do “just one more.” Time’s arrow will pierce you and once gone from the quiver, time cannot be recovered.

In case you want some sf about relativity….

Analysis Paralysis January 19, 2014

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, ideas, money, VIPub.
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“If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.” Lord Kelvin’s statement works for things technological. If you can’t measure it, what do you really have, anyway? When it comes to matters like psychology, mathematical analysis gets chancy. (Mike Stackpole tweeted on this article earlier today) Can you mathematically define happiness? Considering that they used chaos theory ought to give a clue to that. The starting point (boundary conditions) affect the outcome. Begin a wee bit differently and you get, possibly, a hugely different result.

VIPub (Vertically Integrated Publishing) authors have to choose not only where we start but what our desired outcome is. That decided, how do we measure it?

For years I have followed investment newsletters. The more I look at them, the more contradictory the advice becomes. The recommendations turn into Johnson-Nyquist background noise. For every one saying “buy” another says “sell.” It comes down to my gut feeling and how I see the future. The best that can be done to avoid the analysis paralysis is to choose an advisor who produces the best result, however imperfect, and ignore the rest. It all averages out to average mush otherwise.

The big question in VIPub is how to get eyes onto your book. I’ve tried lots of schemes and will try many more to find better ones. But the analysis of how to say one is better than the other technique shouldn’t be too hard. It shouldn’t be just what sells books. You can rack up impressive numbers by giving your book away for damned little. A different metric is to my liking. The money in the bank is the counter, the measurement, the end result of various experiments. The Laffer Curve might well pertain here. How much should we spend on promotion/advertising for the biggest monetary return? (I won’t entertain political argument on this–I think the Laffer Curve is a model of reality and don’t care about your opinion). If pricing low and selling huge numbers works better than higher prices and fewer sales, go for it. But it could well be the other way around. The measurement: total money in your pocket.

The trouble comes in analysis paralysis, having too much data. Reading other blogs on this gives me the impression nothing works–and everything works. David Morrell once said at a WWA panel, 10% of your time ought to go for promotion. And no more. Your time is better spent writing (and I agree). But what kind of promo? Another bit of advice was to make a list of all the possible promotional gimmicks you can do–then pick 3 to pursue. A new wrinkle is introduced with paid advertising. Do FB or Google ads work? Maybe not if an ad has to be seen 7 times to be effective. They can sell more ads than you can afford. Again, what return do you get for your money? The maximum bang for the buck?

You as a VIPub author have to decide, but if you read too much and think about what you can actually do too little, you are going to end up in a sea of despair. Analysis paralysis. Pick and choose. What works for you won’t necessarily work for others. But do choose. Then do it. (And if it doesn’t give you the money (not sales) you expected, try something else.)

analysis paralysis cartoon photo Fin16s.jpg

Triage March 17, 2013

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, fantasy, ideas, money, sci-fi, science fiction, VIPub, writing.
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Ideas are easy, developing them isn’t. Worse, choosing which to work on is even more daunting. I have a row of notebooks filled with ideas accumulated over the years and, as good as some are, I will never try to use them because others are better.

This segment of a Dilbert cartoon seems appropriate.

Did you ever have to decide?

Did you ever have to decide?

So how do you choose? Excitement has to be a factor for any writer. All you have in way of capital is time that must be spent properly. An idea that won’t let go of your imagination is a good candidate, but writing and rewriting it in your head isn’t good enough if you want to sell it to a publisher. Think of a Venn diagram of all the ideas you want to write and ideas that are salable. The intersection of the two sets is where you write. That’s not to say any other point in your “what you want to write about” set isn’t worthy. But to sell to an editor, that overlap has to be there.

Otherwise, VIPub (Vertically Integrated Publishing) is the way to go. Do it yourself. Damn the commercial sales, full steam ahead! This opens vistas galore, but the money isn’t likely to be as good (face it, not every book is going to be 50 Shades of Gray, which, depending on your outlook, is a good thing. But I am talking sales, not content.)

So, traditional dead tree publishing requires that overlap in idea/commercial. That eliminates a lot of what is always kicking around in my head. For a year or two I’ve wanted to do a Gormenghast type fantasy but it doesn’t have the feel of something that would sell. But it would be great to write (from my personal standpoint). Likely, it’ll stay on the backburner until a mystery and an sf book, both dancing on tippytoe through my head for years, are done since both strike me as great fun to write and commercial. One way of deciding if an idea is “good enough” is the test of time. Does it endure in your head and even grow? Or do newer ideas supplant?

You’ve got to decide, then stick with it to finish the writing before moving on. Don’t be seduced by the Siren’s lure of a “better” idea or you’ll never see a completed story.

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!

Yours, Mine, and Theirs July 5, 2012

Posted 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.

Strategy vs Tactics and Knowing The Difference in Writing May 19, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in autographing, business, money, Uncategorized, writing.
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Marketing stuff. Writing stuff. How do you keep them separate? Ans: you don’t. You shouldn’t. VIPub (Vertically Integrated Publishing) means you’re doing it all, so it is one huge stewpot. But knowing the difference between what goes into the stew and the pot itself is important.

A VIPub author needs to create a brand. A reader has to look at a title, see your name and think “good experiences before.” The brand is like that pot. It holds everything together. That’s your strategy, to create the brand. This is the all encompassing purpose of your career. The big picture. The brand.

How do you mix up the stuff in the pot? That’s the tactics. The little stuff all added together to be confined by your brand/strategy/stewpot. What goes in can be a lot of different genre, though it is likely you ought to make smaller pots (strategies) for different ones. This is one reason I sue pen names. A reader of a Karl Lassiter or Jackson Lowry title shouldn’t expect science fiction. The branding should cry out “Lowry writes damn fine western fiction!” Holding it all together are the tactics of short stories and novels and autographings that give the taste to the reader. Not sure if it is possible to have a strategy that works without good tactics. IOW, good branding is accomplished by producing good writing.

But good writing isn’t enough. You need that strategy of how to market, where to market, who ought to be your market to best sell what’s boiling around in the pot. Without the strategy, a writer without a surprise “fairy godmother time” breakout book won’t get noticed–the brand hasn’t been established. Consistently good work is the goal but this is only a tactic on the way to branding.

Know what you’re aiming for. Strategy for an overall writing career is necessary; your name becomes a brand. Getting to this point requires tactics. A solid body of work, ways of finding your audience and enticing them to read your work until branding is achieved–that’s tactics. Twitter and FB and Goodreads and autographings and all the rest are tactics.

Set your sights on the goal (strategy) and start firing (tactics).

So How Hard Should VIPub Authors Worry? May 7, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, Free, ideas, money, VIPub, writing.
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The buzz about Amazon charging VIPub (Vertically Integrated Publishing) authors to sell their books rises again. Being the 800 lb gorilla with its nose under the publishing tent, Amazon can pretty well do whatever it wants.

So, more than taking 30% off the top already, what would Amazon gain? The upside doesn’t seem too great to me for Amazon to begin charging a posting fee in addition to the sales fee they already receive. The cost of keeping an ebook on a server is pretty small. Even multiplied by millions, books don’t take up much space. (All my books over the years–and it is in the hundreds–wouldn’t fill a single CD. In fact, most of that CD would be empty. Don’t even go there talking about a DVD.) The storage intensive products are videos for Amazon, and they seem intent on bumping heads with Netflix for streaming and even offering a challenge to the cable companies, looking for their own original content.

Songs, videos, those suck up the bandwidth. And how. I’ve seen guesstimates that 80% of bandwidth is vacuumed up by Netflix in the evenings.

Moving ebooks is small potatoes, so why charge? Bookkeeping is automated for Amazon. Humans don’t even need to enter the virtual domain once it is put into action.

But what if Amazon did charge? It would hit me worse than most since I’ve got over 50 titles up. Even a fee of a $1/mo/title would cut into my revenues big time. This would force me to do two things. The first would be removing all the short fiction since that is only there as a gateway to my novels where the $$ is. The second?

Really pushing hard on my own online store. I had to move it today to a new host. $50/yr to sell unlimited stuff. Plus whatever I pay to register the domain name every year (a few dollars more). No 30% cut to Amazon. And not as much traffic, either. So a fusion of short story/novel sales on my store coupled with select titles posted with Amazon would be ideal. What would go onto Amazon likely would be the first novel in a trilogy with links to my store for the complete set. In this way, any fee Amazon charged to post the title would become advertising expense.

Another possibility is that Amazon would charge the fee only for those titles not enrolled in their Select program. This would give them exclusivity on a title without them paying a dime for the privilege. I have had limited success with the Kindle Select, but others rave about it. If Amazon did this, posting the first book in a trilogy exclusively might work for VIPub authors with their own stores, too. Put Book#1 up on Amazon Select–cannot sell this on my store–but also sell an omnibus of all 3 books at a price below what the remaining 2 titles would go for individually. In essence, give #1 for free with the purchase of #2 and #3. The bulk of the money still goes to you, the author, using Amazon as a billboard.

Would other online booksellers pop up? You bet. This would drain revenue in the long run from Amazon. Not as much as video or music, maybe, but some. They are in the biz to add to their revenue without spending any money, if they can. Why encourage competition when you can crush it?

There must be other ways to thread this needle, but whatever happens the ball is in Amazon’s court. Will they take it and stop the game or return it so we figure how to put some spin on it?

Toxic Money March 29, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, ideas, money.
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Last night in Second Life while waiting for Mike Stackpole to show up, we discussed the matter of the half a billion dollar lottery drawing due up tomorrow. Nobody actually expects to win such a treasure trove, of course, since the odds against are greater than being struck by lightning or eaten by a shark. Or being struck by lightning while being eaten by a two-headed shark in the Sahara. 1 in 197million, more or less.

But the idea of being so close to that kind of money is beguiling. OK, yeah, I have a ticket. Look for megaball #23. But there is no chance I will ever be this close to half a billion dollars any other way, which makes even NBA and NFL players’ salaries pale in comparison. For that brief instant, a single winner would be richer than all but a handful of people in the country. Gates and Buffett would be 100x richer, of course, but they don’t pay taxes (or has the IRS finally collected from Buffett?)

But a half billion would put you in the category of almost rich enough to date Sara Blakely, if you didn’t mind her being not only richer but married.

James Lileks points out some of the pitfalls of winning so much. You might think your friends wouldn’t change, but they would. So would you. Howard Hughes probably became a hermit for a reason–driven to it. (My former lawyer is representing one of the cases against Hughes’ fortune). Getting so much money in a lump brings back the underlying theme in the old TV show The Millionaire (Voiced by the immensely talented Paul Frees–was there much difference between Boris Badenov and John Beresford Tipton, other than JBT succeeded in ruining lives and Boris didn’t?) I never really watched but can remember only one episode where the money actually improved the recipient’s life.

But the fantasy! To be not only rich but super rich in a day when $3m is considered “rich.

For a brief day or even split second to have the potential of having so much money in the bank (watch out, though–accounts are only insured to $250k and SIPC to $50m, so be ready to split that money into a lot of accounts)

Fingers crossed until tomorrow 😎