alexandraerin: (Default)
Started: 5/18/2011
Status: Rough Draft
Word Count: ~1800
Hours Writing: 2

Note: This is the beginning of my draft for Working Class Villain, the follow-up to The Gift of the Bad Guy. If you haven't read that latter book yet this contains some mild spoilers. You can fortify yourself against them by buying the first book from me (PDF and EPUB formats) or Amazon (Kindle format), for a mere 99 cents.

Please note that comments are turned off for a reason... right now I'm posting this for the benefit of the interested/curious rather than to solicit feedback. At this point in the process that would be like asking for directions without telling anyone where I'm heading.

Spoilers for The Gift of the Bad Guy )
alexandraerin: (Default)
For every 10 sales of The Gift of the Bad Guy Kindle edition... up to the first 70... I will expand the map(ish) that I drew showing Pelorus and the Mother Isles. So the "finished" expanded map will cover eight times the area, extending north to show Tylea, south to show the Argentus, more of the Ardan, and the location of Malbus and some other assorted places, and east to show the western part of Khazarus and the edge of the Shift proper, plus some other stuff to the west.

Note: It's not going to be any higher quality or more detailed... I'm working with physical limitations here. But it'll give the relative locations and approximate shapes of things, which more graphically capable people could use as a starting point and readers who have a difficulty reading about distant lands without a visual aid showing where they are in relation to each other can have that aid.

American Kindle Store.

UK Kindle Store.

German Kindle Store. (Note: Book is in English.)

Note: Kindle format e-books do not require a $100+ piece of specialty hardware to run. You can read them on your desktop or on many major smartphones using free software. While I get the same money even if people buy it just to see more of my map scrawlings, my actual goal here is to get more copies of the book into the e-hands of more people who want to read it, faster.

This offer expires in a week. When I wake up on Tuesday I'll check the sales and then start drawing the appropriate number of map segments. After that I won't have time to draw the map before WisCon, and after WisCon I won't be at my desktop computer for a while.

Edit: To sweeten the pot a little... my housemate has some actual "skills of an artist", as they say dans la belle internet... so when my scribblings are finished, and after I've shared them with you, I'll be turning them over to her to produce a higher-quality version. What do you say, internets?
alexandraerin: (Default)
Here she be.

(It's also available on Amazon UK and Germany.

Personally I prefer the PDF version even on Kindle, but if you've been waiting for a dedicated Kindle version (for instance, to use the accessibility features) there it is.

If you buy it and like it... or if you've already read and enjoyed The Gift of the Bad Guy in other formats... if you could please take the time to leave even a short review on the Amazon page, I would deeply appreciate it.
alexandraerin: (Default)
Can't sleep. Creative brain isn't awake to write. So I've put what I hope are the finishing touches on the The Gift of the Bad Guy Kindle Edition and sent it off for review.

I've been having good results on the self-published version (in EPUB and PDF) with the sale price of 49 cents, so I'm going to leave it up for a while. That sale price is not going to be a permanent feature, but I'd kind of like to get a "critical mass" of copies out there.

Sales of the special Author Appreciation Editions (also available on that page, scroll down) are going to be closing on May 21st so I can draw a line underneath GOTBG and move on to other projects. Because of technical limitations, I'm not able to offer AAEs in Kindle format, though the PDF version works fine on Kindle and looks pretty sharp.

Top two questions I get these days are both from people who are eager to see the next newsletter, so I guess it's a hit. They are "When's the next one coming out?" and "Is there some way I can pay in advance instead of setting up a subscription payment?"

The answer to the first question is the last week in May... this way I have a whole month to accumulate content for it.

The answer to the second question is, yes, yes there is. I got like half a dozen inquiries along that line after the April newsletter went out, so I set up a "just send me the newsletter" payment plan. It's a one-time thing, gets you the newsletter for a year. The price is flexible. Default price is $25, which is just over $2 a month. It goes as low as $10 and as high as $100. So far most folks have been content to buy in at the $25 level.

The newsletter has generated way more "fan mail" than anything else I've done. It's really quite incredible.

On another note, in order to get more grist for Fantasy In Miniature I'm considering taking a page from other crowdfunders and doing a thing where people who make a donation to the site can provide a prompt. I'd put a "stock" limit of 3 or 5 or some other small number so I don't get buried... assuming there would be enough demand to bury me, of course. I'd put a field on the story to credit the prompter and list the actual prompt. If I do this, I think I'll name the service "For Prompt Payment and Speedy Insertion", which discerning readers will note is a reference to the greatest Edgar Allen Poe story of all time.

That's "if". Right now this is just an idle idea. If it tickles anybody's fancy, feel free to say so... an enthusiastic response can be the difference between "if" and "when"... though it would still be a "when". I've got a lot going on right now, so this would probably be a late June or July thing.

Anyway, I'm getting sleepy again... time to go upstairs and hit the floor.
alexandraerin: (Default)
And fairly amused (and occasionally bemused, but not yet c or d-mused... arguably, though, I am e-mused) by the comments on the OT I posted last night.

The character of Lorellon has always existed on a conceptual level. For the longest time I toyed with the idea of having her first show up in a completely unrelated context so that any guesses as to her identity would be guesses.

I'm making some tentative plans for my second quarter fundraiser. The first quarter one started at the end of January and lasted for one week. I know the next one should last two weeks because I had people lamenting that it fell between their paydays. My previous thought had been to do it in May, but that's the month of WisCon and it would be better to know where I'm standing financially a little bit further in advance of that. So I believe I'm going to be running it in April, and because I expect it to be a little less... compelling, I suppose, than the Hazel/Dee/Steff face-off, I'm going to let it run for the month.

I don't want to proffer a further raft of incentive stories when I'm still burning off the ones from the last one... I don't think I'm going to get any complaints about how they're turning out, but I don't want to add to the top of the backlog. Even if I do one a week I've still got a month of them left. Well, I guess that wouldn't overlap too badly with a new set of them. I suppose I can start it and then see if incentives are needed to keep things in motion... I did add them after the start last time.

Perhaps instead of additional stories, I can offer answers/confirmations for lingering questions to crop up within the story? I think good incentives are an incentive for me as a writer as much as they're an incentive to the readers, and one of the things I do plan with Volume 2 is to offer a few more resolutions. Yes, I'm liking this idea.

I also want to offer a voting opportunity. I don't think there's going to be a single issue that as many people would care about as strongly as the last one that I would feel comfortable leaving up to a vote... at least not in this juncture in the story. My Q3 fundraiser or Q4 fundraiser, depending on how far the story progresses in how much time (there's another incentive for me as a writer to keep things moving) is probably going to be get a huge response. But I suppose it's probably for the best that the big ones get spread out.

Aaaaaaaand I'm realizing that it's the end of the month and I still haven't got the newsletter or subscriber list put together. I guess I'll do a double one in April to inaugurate it. This work week schedule thing will help me keep on top of things like that.

Now that I'm more awake I'm going to go make the corrections to the few typos that were reported in The Gift of the Bad Guy... these are why I haven't been pushing it more. I haven't really been at my best the past few days, and I didn't want to go messing about with the editing the text and remaking the PDFs in that state. I'm feeling better now and I have orders to fill, so I'm going to do that and then I'm going to start drawing a little more attention to the book with a sidebar ad on Tales of MU and a Project Wonderful campaign.

Not Quite Edit* To Add: Mwaha, I've figured out the poll for the Q2 fundraiser... right after I finished writing this I found my mind turning to the question of which of the major MUniverse side stories should be revived first/given the most attention as Volume 2 moves forward: Jamie's Tale, the Underworlders, or the new parallel story with the Harrises. I think that's a winner. Like the last poll I did, there are three choices that I pretty much find equally compelling, and I can't realistically do all three. The winner will become an ongoing thing, the losers won't be abandoned per se but they'll become (or remain) more like recurring OT features. Which is still better than languishing as a separate serial that's not being updated.

*Because I forgot to actually hit submit on this.
alexandraerin: (Default)
There's an interesting and unexpected side effect of releasing The Gift of the Bad Guy: I'm getting reader e-mail in a way I never have before, even when I have a visible contact address on the MU website (which I do now). I attribute this to the fact that the people who've purchased and read GOTBG are mostly if not entirely MU readers and they're used to being able to comment on what they read from me.

And of course I'm used to getting comments, so I don't regard this as a bad thing. But a reader/author email is one-on-one communication, typically, so I wanted to take some time to address the feedback in a general sort of way. I'm going to be paraphrasing things because I didn't seek permission to quote people here.

Two of the first pieces of feedback I got were in the form of someone on Facebook likening the book to a TV pilot and an email from someone who said she was surprised that it was a "day in the life" type story. I enjoyed reading both of these things because they gave me a feeling of Oooh, I nailed it. Those both pretty much sum up what I was going for with this piece.

Its follow-up Working Class Villain is going to give a wider look at the world by basically showing you a typical week for Marie. This isn't to say that the series is going to follow the day-to-day minutiae model of Tales of MU. There's an arc there. But it's going to be seen through the lens of "I'm a professional antagonist, and this is my life."

As far as the arc-vs.-minutiae angle goes, I had another insightful reader say "This is another one of your anti-stories, isn't it?" They made it clear that it wasn't exactly a complaint but they were expecting something different. Well, in my defense, I believe GOTBG is something different. There are only so many ways to follow a conventional model. There are a lot more ways to go off in a different direction. Anyone who's spent much time reading my stuff probably has noticed that I think shaggy dog stories are high art, but rest assured The Gifters Saga isn't one of them.

More than one person (two, to be precise) remarked that it's shorter than they expected. Neither of them seems to be disappointed or upset about this, but it's one of the things that leaves me shaking my head. When I started talking this book up, I thought it was going to be 40-60 pages. I sold it on a sight called LitSnacks that proclaims itself on the front page to be a home for works of around a hundred pages or under. The final version of GOTBG clocks in at right around a hundred pages. I'm going to add an approximate page count field to the story page on LitSnacks, but that aside I don't know what more I can or should do to let people know what they're getting.

Under this cut is discussion of story/plot details, which I don't think necessarily count as spoilers but are cut for the courtesy of people who want to read without knowing them. )

I had one person helpfully pointing out some typos that made it through. I was disheartened to see this at first, as I spent more time going over this story than anything I've written before, and had other people go over it, too. But it was three mistakes in a hundred pages. That's pretty good. If a large enough number of people get a hold of copies with the typos, I will hear from someone who tells me how unprofessional they are and how they don't see typos in "real" published books, but that is of course bullshit so I won't worry about it.

The most frustrating thing is that one of them (a "know" that's missing a "k") I know I fixed at one point, which means that at some point I ended up working in the wrong file or saving over the right one. It's possible I'd fixed the other errors at the same time, but I don't have specific memories of them. In any event this highlights what I was saying before about the importance of processes. I ended up with multiple copies of the file as I was putting it together because I had no process for how to handle creating a final copy from multiple draft documents.

That's a "learn and move on" thing.

Now, the single most common piece of feedback I've received is "When is the sequel coming out?" That is a good thing to hear! Unfortunately, I don't have an answer. In order to avoid a repeat of the rather dysfunctional spiral I was in towards the end of The Gift of the Bad Guy's production I'm not going to set a release date until the thing's all the way nailed down. It's probably going to be a matter of months, rather than weeks or a year. I suspect major new (as opposed to adapted from serials) offerings from LitSnacks will be a quarterly thing, but that's not to say that Working Class Villain will follow exactly three months behind The Gift of the Bad Guy.
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So, it's only in the last few hours... after looking at automated converters and converters-for-hire and editors and generators and so on... that I actually learned what the EPUB format is made of (dead simple HTML). The thing that's been the hardest part of putting The Gift of the Bad Guy to bed would have been the easiest part if I'd realized that sooner. I almost announced that the EPUB would be delayed again while I remade it "by hand"... there's a lot of pointless stray code left by conversion programs, though I think I removed everything that was causing problems... but I decided against it. I don't think Jack would stand for another "late night at the office". This project has really destroyed my rudimentary sense of work/life balance.

Also, as much as I want my first time out to be perfect, it is my first time. The next one will be better. And easier. So much easier. I've decided to use Sigil for my EPUB editing because of how seamlessly it moves between text and code. Instead of converting the same file I use for the PDF into EPUB and then trying to take out everything that doesn't look right and won't render correctly on simpler readers, I'm just going to copy in the text and then format it... I can't say why doing it the other way seemed smarter/faster, except for maybe the psychological appeal of "not starting over from scratch". But insofar as an EPUB isn't a PDF, starting over from scratch is really preferable. I mean, trying to make a pizza out of raw ingredients is easier than trying to make a pizza out of a bowl of chicken stir-fry, right?

Other things that I'm going to simplify for future offerings (and to some degree, for future sales of this one):

1. I'm going to keep offering font choices in PDF, but every reader program and device I tested the EPUB on had an option to change the font, so I'm going to offer three choices in the future: PDF Avec, PDF Sans, and EPUB.
2. Since the price is "one size fits all" (or rather "You pay what you like and get what you like."), I'm just going to package the three versions as a ZIP. Simplify the buying process, simplify the delivery process.
3. I'm going to have a hard, bright line between "the time I'm writing the book", "the time I'm putting the book together", and "the time I'm selling it". I was so on fire with this concept back when it started that I was trying to do everything at once. And for a while I was managing it. But that kind of energy never lasts forever. And then when the writing was finished and I should have been focusing my attention on getting it out, I kept having the urge to tinker. Next time: write until I'm satisfied it's good enough that I'd post it on the internet, polish it during the put-the-book-together phase, and then consider it set in stone when I go on to the marketing phase.

Anyway... I tested the EPUB on everything I could, but I don't have everything. If you bought the EPUB and you're having problems, please let me know. And be aware that some software/devices override the font choice to begin with, so if you put in your Sans copy and it's got serifs or vice-versa, look for viewing options to see if you can toggle that. Just another reason why I'm not going to do two EPUBs for the next one.

I haven't restored the "buy" buttons to the website just yet. That'll happen sometime today, but for the moment I need to put my mind on other things.
alexandraerin: (Default)
Getting ready to send out The Gift of the Bad Guy and I realized that I had a greengrocer's apostrophe that snuck its way in to the blurblet for the next book. I'm sooooo glad I decided to give it another read-through.

Now that that is fixed, I'm going to start sending them out.
alexandraerin: (Default)
So today is what I had planned as the launch day for The Gift of the Bad Guy.

As you might guess from that sentence, it isn't any more. I just finished sending an e-mail to all the pre-buyers to let them know I'm pushing it back. I'm really, really glad I did that because it gave me another chance to review the email addresses in the list I had set up. I hate delaying it, because I'm excited about this story and I want it to be read, and because while it's not available for sale it's not making any money... but, well, I looked at it like this: I could spend the entire day Monday, from the wee hours right up until midnight, scrambling to get everything perfect in order to send it out at 11:59 P.M. and technically fulfill the original date... or take the time to do it right in a way that's not going to sap my spoons for the rest of the week for a product that, under the circumstances, would probably have some pretty big flaws.

I can do some great writing under the gun, but great formatting and clean-up and such? Not so much.

As my first serious e-book e-ffort (the existing Tales of MU ones are just PDFs of the files I used to make the print editions, which themselves aren't terribly impressive), there's been a lot of "figuring things out" involved in the making of The Gift of the Bad Guy. If I could go back in time and do it all over again, I'd... well, I'd take advantage of everything I've learned to do it right from the start. But if I could only send a short message back in time to myself, I'd tell myself to start with converting the first book of Tales of MU or The 3 Seas rather than learning as I go on a brand-new project.

When I set the roll-out for March 14th, I thought I was being conservative. I thought I'd have everything set up and ready to go with a few clicks at just after midnight. For a long time I'd planned on doing it on March 1st. I gave myself an extra two weeks, "just in case".

The book is finished. It's compiled. But there's some formatting stuff that's still not 100%. The PDF is mostly there. The EPUB isn't quite. I have some help lined up for that, though.

I have a tendency to beat myself up over these speed bumps, but in the grand scheme of things this book is going to be available forever (or as long as I'm around to sell it, and as long as other people keep circulating it)... whatever necessary roughness occurs during its launch, once it's out there it will remain out there. That's both all the more reason to get it right and all the more reason not to worry if Book Launch Day isn't quite everything I was dreaming of.

So, anyway, while I'm going to be continuing to work on the writing of the second part of The Gifters Saga, the next book or two to come out on the LitSnacks site are probably going to be largely collections of already written material given a polish and re-package, so I can hone my polishing and packaging skills.

Lessons Learned:

  • No matter how much is written and how little is left to write, don't consider the book to be "practically done" unless it is in fact done. Pursuing publishing options, working on formatting, arranging proofreading and art and such, etc. is all not writing and won't bring the book any closer to being finished. I don't want to sound like I'm saying a one-person operation is impossible, but there are good solid reasons why specialized divisions of labor are standard. Do the writing first. All of it. Be a writer. Then put on the other hats.
  • Don't budget time for publishing based on how long you think it might take to figure out how to do something. Figure out how to do everything, then budget time based on that.
  • Offering multiple font/file formats is not a bad thing, but it can lead to a cluttered shopping interface and more complicated logistics. E-books are tiny files, relatively speaking. Just offer the whole thing as a package.
alexandraerin: (Default)
So at least Friday doesn't feel like Monday this week? It's interesting to me how my idea of what day it is always gets worst at the end of the week. It's like the weekend resets my calibration, but it starts drifting as soon as the week starts.

News For Today

Six AAEs sold. The previews had two errors (so far, though they may be the extent of it) that made it through proofreading and one error in the Sans copy that I induced myself with an incautious edit after proofreading. I arranged the proofing a little late in the game for the preview; there will be time for more scrutiny on the finished product. I'm not overly concerned... despite any unwise claims an industry partisan might make to the contrary, one does find errors in professionally edited and traditionally published manuscripts, and an e-document is easy enough to amend and re-issue.

I was wise enough experienced enough at messing this sort of thing up to have procedures for record-keeping and easy, brain-fog-proof fulfillment in place before I started doing this. All the AAE purchasers have been sent an email confirmation with their number and the details of the order to ensure that the name and such are correct. This information is also in a spreadsheet that lists them all in order. When the book is assembled in its final form I can go down the list and prepare an email to each one with the attachment(s), to go out when the book is launched.

I haven't sent separate confirmations to the people who pre-bought the standard edition... my thought is that PayPal's email notifications should be sufficient proof of order when there are no personal details. Right now there are only a few and they've each elected to pay more than the minimum, but I don't want to start a precedent based on that and then have five hundred 75 cent orders that need to be addressed. Before my next LitSnacks project... probably before this one launches... I'm going to have a more efficient email solution in place. I'm not exactly doing everything by hand, but there are things that can be automated.

I'm learning as I'm doing things here... I put a lot of planning into this project, but one part of that plan was "Keep an open mind and open eyes for ways that I could do something better next time, because there are things that won't become apparent until I'm actually in the thick of it."

Interesting sidenote from my spreadsheeting... because I'm tracking the gross and net on my sales, I can see that as of right now I'm keeping 93% of the money that's spent on these books. That number might trend upwards towards 94% if most of the purchasers are in the U.S. and buying the AAE or down towards 90% as more people buy the standard copy, but either way it's a darn good rate.

Personal Assessment

Doin' okay. Slept more than four hours. Looking forward to some sunny weather next week.

Dreams From Last Night


Random Link

Kickstarter is a site that's pretty much all about the crowdfunding. I've seen a couple of projects (a roleplaying game book and a music album, if I recall correctly) being financed through them. It allows for "all-or-nothing funding", where a goal must be reached in order for transactions to be completed, so you can get all the money needed to start a big project (or even one that's not huge but too big for you to do on your own) but nobody loses out if it doesn't come together.

As an example of a Kickstarted project, here's a refillable bamboo notebook project... Jack sent me a link to this yesterday and while I don't remember what his total was I seem to recall thinking that the poor guy had quite a ways to go and was nearing his deadline, but now I check it today and he's over the top. This is clearly a guy with a business plan and the skills needed to pull it off, which has to help.

Maybe when it's time to do print editions of collected LitSnacks or Tales of MU, I'll use Kickstarter to raise funds to get things like proper, professional designs and a print run that brings the price down. It would be easy enough to build a pre-order into it, as this gentleman has done with his rewards.

Plans For Today

I've got a pretty important chapter of Tales of MU to write, so that's job one... Wednesday's update would still be a treat, I'm sure, given that it saved people waiting four days to resolve the tension from the previous chapters, but I doubt the folks whose Amazon subscriptions earned it would feel properly rewarded if I kept everyone waiting five days for the resolution to that chapter.

I'm also keeping an eye out for any more feedback on the initial version of the preview downloads and will be filing any more orders that come in while I'm working. Jack is off on a fun little get-away this weekend and my housemate will be going to work in about an hour so I've got a nice, big chunk of time to myself this evening in which I can sit down and get things done.
alexandraerin: (Default)
At the current time, the sample is only available in PDF. I have a working EPUB conversion, but EPUB both has more for me to learn and less to worry about in the finished product.

As mentioned in my previous post, I have also set up the pre-sale for the finished book, coming out March 14th (Edit: Address corrected). I'm not going to do much to publicize the previews or the sales at this point... those of you who are lurking my blog in the wee hours of the western hemisphere's morning are getting the earliest glimpse and the first crack at the Author Appreciation Editions. This will also give me a chance to tweak the format (font, margins, line spacing, etc.) if there are any real widespread problems reported. I can read it just on the three devices I've tested it on, but I know experiences can vary widely.

The next wave of attention will come when I update Tales of MU later today (tonight, probably). I'm not going to make any real attempt to let the world outside my usual audience, blog followers, and friends know about this until Monday, so you folks will have the weekend to snatch up the low numbered AAEs.

Feel free to leave feedback on the formatting on this post. I'm going to make a second post as a catch-all for that, later on when I start linking to the files from elsewhere. It's particularly the visual presentation and ease of reading that I'm interested in. If anything in the story itself seems off or wrong... i.e., a mistake or a confusing bit, I am very interested in knowing about that, too. I've revised this story more often and more carefully than most things that I write, and other eyes have gone over it quite carefully, but... things slip through.

I am interested in hearing what you like or don't like about the story, but that's for marketing and potential future storytelling purposes. My goal for a given story is to match it up to the people who want to read it, not to alter it to fit someone else's tastes. The long-term purpose of the free samples is going to be so that people can figure out for themselves if they want to read the whole story or not. If you are intrigued, read on. If you're bored, read off. If you're kind of on the fence, don't worry... this chapter is labeled a prelude because it serves as the foundation for what happens next, not the model for it. There's more action in the very next chapter.


Sans Serif.

Serif. Serif With Revised Spacing/Margins (Revision has been accepted, new version uploaded.)

(If you wish to download these to put them on your handheld devices and it keeps opening them in the web browser, right-click on the link and look for a "save" option.)
alexandraerin: (Default)
I'm finalizing the previews for The Gift of the Bad Guy tonight... I'm taking a lot of time over it because it's an advertisement for the finished product, and because work I do now can carry over to that product. The details of things like font size and spacing might change based on feedback, of course.

I've also decided to start taking pre-sales at the same time that the previews go up, and to take pre-sales for the regular edition as well as the Author Appreciation one. I hadn't planned on taking pre-sales for the regular version or setting the AAE pre-sale up until later, but it just hit me that I'm gong to be sending this little booklet forth into the world and hoping it gets shared and linked beyond my own audience/contacts and it's going to be pointing readers to a page that says "Check back in a few weeks." No. Bad business sense, no biscuit. The previews should continue to generate traffic back to the landing page long after the launch, and that will turn into sales, but the initial annoying Zelda fairy-like flurry of activity at their launch could be one of the biggest bursts of traffic.

A pre-sale makes sense for other reasons. I'm going to be handling fulfillment myself for the first little bit, as I explore the options for not doing that. I've got it worked out to be semi-automated, but it will be easier for me to handle the initial demand if i can fulfill lots of orders at once.

As for the Author Appreciation Editions, my scienterrific marketing datish tells me they will sell roughly twice as well at the $5 level as the $10 level... meaning I'd make -about- the same amount of money either way. So, I'm going to go with the $5 price. I can make twice as many people without losing money. Depending on how things go, the price may go up on future offerings... this is the first outing for this concept, and the first book in a series. While there is perhaps a certain cachet to being able to say "I was there from the beginning.", it doesn't mean as much when you're still at the beginning... I expect the whole thing might seem like more of kind of a big deal further on down the road than it does right now.

I'm going to be capping the AAEs at one hundred. I don't expect to reach it during the pre-sale; the limit is for the lifetime of the book to make sure that even with the most popular of these litsnacks there is a point where I can draw a line under them and move on.

All pre-sales (regular and AAE) will get a bonus companion short story "Interview With An Angel" along with their order.
alexandraerin: (Default)
The Gift of the Bad Guy is the first installment in The Gifters Saga, and also the first e-book I'm going to be publishing under a new imprint using a new combination of marketing concepts I've been putting together. It's a small book of a bit under one hundred pages, it will be available in both PDF and EPUB, and it will carry a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license. My current plans are to launch the book on March 14th. There are some details I need to iron out between now and then, and participating in this survey will help me do so.

Please note that the "would like to know more" choices refer specifically to "before making up my mind to buy it." If you're already mostly sure you're going to buy it but this has not blunted your desire to know more, please choose the result that signifies your willingness to purchase.

[Poll #1679177]

You can find more information (including a teaser snippet) by checking out the tag I created for the story.

To explain the concept mentioned in the third question: I've hit upon the idea of an "Author Appreciation Edition" to standardize the process for people who wish to give a little bit more, and also give them some recognition. Each AAE would include a personalized acknowledgment up front (your name and my thank-you, or someone else's name and a custom dedication if it's a gift) and would be individually numbered. The numbers would be for ego purposes, so you know where you were in line. As a DRM-free electronic document, your copy would be as unique or as ubiquitous as you want it to be.

Copies of the book sold after an AAE are purchased would include the buyer's name in a list of credits at the back, save for purchasers who wish to remain anonymous. This might not apply to copies of the books purchased through other venues/stores. I'll have to see how easy it is to update the manuscript in those cases.

If there's sufficient interest in this plan for me to actually do the AAE copies, there will be a pre-order period for them. People who pre-order will have the certainty that their names will appear in every copy in existence.

Feel free to use the comments of this post to give more specific feedback.

Just In!

Feb. 8th, 2011 11:28 pm
alexandraerin: (Default)

The main title splash for the cover page of the The Gift of the Bad Guy e-book. Designed for me by [ profile] lissa_quon... basically, I wanted something as dramatic and comic booky and overblown as possible while being simple and black-and-white for best rendering on the most devices. The ellipses were added as an afterthought, after she first showed me the design. I think they're really what makes it, for me.

(And not just because I love ellipses.)

You can see some more sophisticated examples of her work on her website. I am beside myself with joy at the thought of being able to credit the title design to Foolish Mortal.
alexandraerin: (Default)
Here's your first glimpse of the story I've been working on. I'll be putting up the rest of the chapter later in the week... but I thought it was time to whet a few appetites after having talked about this story so much.

Snip! )
alexandraerin: (Default)
Tomorrow I'm going to do another behind-the-scenes post for Tales of MU like the one about things that changed in the execution, but for now here's Yet Another Update On Gift Of The Bad Guy/the snackbar concept. I'm excited about this.

First, Bookman Old Style is almost definitely going to be the serif font. The number of people who've said "ooh" when I told them what I'm planning on using is impressive, and what's more, I like the reasons I'm hearing. It seems to be a genuine aesthetically choice... you don't have to be educated about why it's a good font to think it's a good font.

Second, at some point I absorbed and internalized a very wrong internal benchmark for estimating the page count of a work. Someone early on in MU's existence did a quick-and-dirty estimate using 500 words per page, and I thought that sounded about right and never questioned it. Turns out that 250 words of a standard 12 point font fit much more nicely on a printed page.

So my little fifty page book? Is a hundred pages long. I'm re-examining the price point question based on that, but it's possible that the results of my examination will be "No, I still want people to have a dirt cheap buy-in." Never fear, gentle readers... I wouldn't be giving it away at a penny a page if I wasn't sure I could make money off it.

And if it doesn't exactly sell like gangbusters? Meh. I've had a good month. If it starts slow, it starts slow. It's not like I've invested thousands of dollars and there's a whole department full of people whose jobs are riding on my first quarter sales figures being outstanding across the board. This is the beauty of a one person operation: if I somehow only sell three copies of the book in March, it's not a failure... it's a book that has yet to succeed.

I mean, I still have money trickling in from the PDFs of the first five Tales of MU books, and they are not half as snazzy as this is. I'll be honest, I'm not proud of them. I put them up because people demanded them. I did not at that point have the skills to make a decent e-book. I'm sure I'm still not great, but when I load the mock-up I made of Gift of the Bad Guy onto my phone and look at it, I get chills. I've never believed in the collected volumes of Tales of MU to the degree that I believe in the serial, and it shows.

This thing... both the specific book and the publishing concept behind it... is something I believe in. It's something I think people are going to want. It's something I think people are going to enjoy. And maaaaaaaaan, I know and you know that my hard drives and the internet are littered with the bones of my projects that ran out of steam, but here's the thing: this is not just another entry in that long line. It is the ultimate entry in it. Because that's exactly what happened with Gift of the Bad Guy... until I threw out a bunch of my preconceptions and started making new shit up. And now I'm looking at a bunch of stuff I never finished and I'm seeing them with new eyes.

Honestly, I feel like I did when Tales of MU started to catch on. MU isn't my first crack at weblit... I was writing stories on the internet as far as back as my junior year of high school (spoiler warning: they weren't very good. Though Ariella's were a thing of brilliance.) I'd been writing serials online for like three years before I started Tales of MU, but Tales of MU is where a bunch of things just fell into place for me.

Anyway, I'm blabbing a lot about this but it's because I'm excited and because honestly it's killing me to have a story and not be sharing it with people. Among the reasons I'm not launching the book with my typical ready-fire-aim immediacy is that I've arranged for a proofreader to go over it first. The first chapter should be available in a finished state sometime this week, and when it does I'll be putting up PDFs of both versions (sans and avec serif).

And I'm going to cut this post off here, because I think it's been sufficiently established that I can ramble on forever about this topic.
alexandraerin: (Default) various places and also Googling to find existing discussions of the same topic. (It's pretty amazing how much you can learn by watching other people having the same conversation you're trying to have.)

There's a very clear preference for serif fonts, which I expected... but my highly scienterrific research methods suggest that maybe between 1 in 3 and 1 in 6 readers may prefer sans serif. I'm wondering if there's any substantial reason not to offer both a Sans and an Avec edition. I can't see one, especially on works that will likely only have 4-6 chapters each. It'll be very easy to reformat the body text and then make sure nothing got broken or looks weird.

For Sans fonts, Tahoma seems to have a lot to recommend it, and the text looks pretty good in it. I mean, it's the standard Windows font for a reason. That reason is MS designed it to be, but I mean, of all the complaints I hear about Windows it's not that their font makes people's eyes fall out, right?

I saw an unexpected recommendation for Bookman Old Style on a forum post about ebook formatting... unexpected because I've never given it much thought as a font. But it's got a nice, pleasingly round shape to it. It seems very readable. I like the way it looks.

I'm not saying I'm deadset on these fonts. Those are just what I'm leaning towards after one evening of research. As always, I am emphatically not a visually-oriented person. If something does not appear to be actively trying to kill me, I find it aesthetically pleasing. I'm also not up a trained typographical ninja or anything. I'm putting these up here as candidates; if anybody has any suggestions for other fonts that might be better, or any pitfalls I might run into using either of these two, I'd appreciate it.

Also any other tips on ebook typography. I'm probably going to go with a slightly larger font size, like 14 point... something that won't stand out as huge but will be nice and readable. Does that strike anybody as too large? Honestly, I'm probably going to need to get an ebook reader, if I'm going to make a serious go of this... that way I can see for myself how this will look when it's held in the hand instead of looking at my computer screen and trying to imagine it.

After I give the first chapter to my proofreader and get it back, I'm planning on putting up a PDF of just that chapter for anyone who wants to see it. This will be both a free preview of the story and a chance for people to weigh in on the readability and visual aesthetics.


After making PDFs of the current draft of the first chapter in both Bookman and Tahoma and loading them up on my phone (the closest thing I have to an e-reader at the moment), I have to say I'm pretty settled on the decision to offer two different versions. While I generally prefer serifs myself, I find it markedly easier to read the sans font on the little screen. I can comfortably read the chapter in sans with the phone upright and a whole page displayed at a time. In the serif'd version, I have to turn it sideways to enlarge the text, which means I'm scrolling more. But it's very readable and looks pretty awesome when enlarged, so I think people who are going to be reading it on devices with slightly larger screens will be pretty happy with it.

I'm planning on putting the two versions of the first chapter up sometime next week. Hopefully I can get feedback from people using actual e-readers.
alexandraerin: (Default)
...but after viewing the first episode, I'm struck by a fierce desire to call Summer Glau's character "Orwecle" how much the part of the title character's gimmick that isn't tied up in the cape matches the original concept behind my character of Ray Vallenzio/The Fire-Eater. I didn't play it up so much in any version of the Star Harbor stories that actually got written, but the idea that someone had the whole package of crimefighting skills packaged as circus/carnival performer training is where the character came from.

I can't claim credit for the idea (and I certainly wouldn't claim that they got the idea from me), because I didn't come up with it. I lifted it wholesale from The Phantom of the Opera. I mean, Erik wasn't a superhero, but that's where I got the idea of using that particular battery of skills to simulate/replace superhuman abilities.

I'm glad I didn't start watching The Cape before I started writing Gift of the Bad Guy, but I'm glad I'm aware of it now... they're two very different takes on the genre/milieu of superheroic fantasy, but the themes of showmanship underlying things in The Cape could be fertile ground for inspiration as the GotBG storyline moves forward.
alexandraerin: (Default)
So, one of the lessons I've learned over the past few years is that not everything works as a serial. This should be obvious. I mean, among the reasons I started doing serials is my belief that not every story's suited to be a novel. Form should follow... I don't know, not function exactly, but the form of the story should suit its needs.

And yet the bulk of my stories and attempted stories have fit into a few very narrow confines. Serials and flash fiction being the most common... extremely long, open-ended stories and extremely brief ones. I've written a few short stories. I've attempted a few novels. I'm not really sure I have it in me "to novel", though. I'd go into that more, but that's really a side point.

I've been talking a post about Gift of the Bad Guy and my plans for it. These are also, incidentally, my plans for Dustball Ramblers and possibly The 3 Seas and a very evolved version of that story I started writing one time with a bunch of my D&D characters that maybe six of you have read. And possibly the book about the woman who is a wizard, though that one I might live to novel yet.

None of these projects are going to work as the sort of open-ended serial I write. That isn't to say they could be serialized; it is to say they don't lend themselves to the Tales of MU style, which means I'm not the right person to serialize them. But there are things about the serial format that I like. I like the immediacy, the instant gratification for both author and audience. I like not having to wait to get paid, for that matter, and having my full body of work continue to generate income passively.

And I'd like to diversify my income a bit more, branch out from cup-rattling and into selling content... without putting a subscription gate on my principle work, Tales of MU, naturally. What I'm planning wouldn't have worked three or four years ago, when nobody knew who I was. I have a name to trade on now, but having other options doesn't make my original plan less sound.

So what am I talking about? A series of unfortunate events of very short, very cheap e-books. In a few weeks to a month, I intend to put Gift of the Bad Guy up for sale in this form. It might not be called that. I haven't worked out if that's the name of a series or of the first part or a title that will work better for something later in the series.

This will be part 1 of a series. It'll be between 25,000 and 30,000 words in its final form, most likely. Maybe between 50 and 70 pages. Smaller than a NaNoWriMo-winning novel, and that always seems to me to be a respectable size for a novella. I've been seeing the term "novelette" lately, and it might fit, though I still have some qualms about using any novel-derived label as to me a novel is a specific form.

This story will be self-contained and it won't be. I mean, you'll read it and I hope you'll be satisfied that it doesn't just stop in the middle of a scene, but it will very clearly be a part 1, and not in the sense that The Matrix would have been a part one if they'd ever gotten around to developing the rumored sequels for it that they never actually produced ever. There's no fight scene or big resolution. It'll be more like part one in the sense of being an introduction.

I'm thinking it will debut at about $1. Unless I give in and go the Retail Mind Tricks route and make it 99 cents. Future installments in the same series will be more like the $2 range, because you already know what you're getting. I want the buy-in to be cheap on the first book, you see, and I want it to be affordable to continue reading.

Print editions will happen when there are enough volumes to make an edition worth printing. If demand is high enough, I might shop around for something other than self-publishing, or at least do a pre-order dealy so I can do a volume print run to save everyone involved some money.

So, anyway, that's the deal. As I suggested above, I'm planning on reworking The 3 Seas into this format... no idea yet if any of my other gestating/failed/malingering serials will go the same route. If you've ever been a supporter/sponsor of The 3 Seas serial version, you'll be getting courtesy copies of any e-books that include material adapted from the stuff I've already published in that version. You've already paid for it. I'll be letting you know when I have more of an ETA on that. Editing is slower for me than writing, and that's basically what the 3 Seas job is going to be.

These things'll come out between 1 and 3 a month, depending on muse and ability. My intent is that after I've been doing it for a while, there will be something like a snackbar people can order from a la carte. Some of the stuff might be truly stand-alone. Some might end up being only two or three installments before being brought to a close. I'm going to be eschewing a one-size-fits-all solution here. I may or may not end up attaching share-alike type licenses to the books, since I'm obviously not going to be overly bothered about piracy of my $1 e-books.

Like everything else I do, it's an experiment. I think it could be big, but I won't have to invest too much in finding out, as I've already got most of the first offering

(And I'm going to be taking its results into account as I consider what to do with my RPG project.)

Answer To The Fully Anticipated Question:

Definitely PDF, probably also EPUB.


alexandraerin: (Default)

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