Check out my new horror, short story Tidal Pool on Vocal – https://vocal.media/horror/tidal-pool
It’s about five pages, and views can help out in case of ties.
Check out my new horror, short story Tidal Pool on Vocal – https://vocal.media/horror/tidal-pool
It’s about five pages, and views can help out in case of ties.
Finding time to write. Every literary magazine in existence would have you believe that there is always time to write. There is not.
Long work hours, followed by long drives, errands, kids in sports, helping with homework, cooking, eating, cleaning, and you name it. When they all come together, being mentally competent or physically able to stay awake enough to write is sometimes impossible. Now that I’m unemployed, I can either spend every waking moment trying to find another web development job, where we can keep our rental house and not be homeless, or I can sit down in front of my laptop to write, and think about how if I don’t spend every waking moment trying to find another web development job, we won’t be able to keep our rental house and will be homeless. It’s hard to work on character development when you might not have a home in a few weeks.
So, I’m trying to kill two birds with one stone. The stone is Indiegogo. It’s a crowdfunding site that operates much like Kickstarter, but is a lot more lax on what the projects can be and how you collect the money. It’s like Kickstarter, without the red tape. If I reach my goal, I’ll be able to concentrate on finishing The Village by the end of January, without having to worry the roof over my family’s head.
I’m still working on a video where I don’t look and sound like a douche-bag, blink 45 times a second, or say ‘um’ before every single sentence. So it may be a week or so. But I’ve given the gist of what’s needed and why. I’ll be more detailed and hopefully pull at the heart strings a little more in the video.
I’ve also included the Intro and Chapter 1. Tell me what you think. Any and all feedback is welcome. If the campaign is active, you’ll see the link in the left sidebar.
There’s a particular type of sinking feeling you get when your Kickstarter project is 2/3 complete and underfunded. You don’t want to give up. Can’t, really. But you can see the water spilling over the bow as the women and children fill the lifeboats. It’s looking like I’m going to be on the not so wonderful side of that fully-funded statistic. Here is a snapshot of my sadness.
See that plateau? That’s a horrible plateau. If it was a pool of water, you would not want to drink from its stagnant waters. If it was a ship headed to the New World, there would be a mutiny, the captain looking over the edge of his last diving board. If it was a rabbit, it would be a shaved rabbit, with the mange and a Scotty-Don’t haircut, no front teeth, spray-painted yellow and orange by vandals, curled up under a sopping wet newspaper inside a garbage can, slowly gnawing off one of its own front legs. You get the picture.
In one of my last posts, I laid out a few things I had done wrong concerning the project. But it’s too late to fix most of them. So I am going to go post crazy and stoop to the lowest form of selfish, spamtastic, advertising. A slutty form of SEO and guerilla-anti-reverse-subliminal-prodding. I’m not sure what else to do really. I’ve thought of publicity stunts. Like a bomb scare on The Bachelor. No good. I’ve thought of using phrases like California Earthquake gives rise to giant spiders. Don’t panic, I would never stoop that low. I want to shoot this to you straight, like Brandon Knight, and not irritate you like a sprained ankle. Nor would I capitalize on Prom fashion or Mother’s day this year. That would be petty. I just want to do something that cool like Justin Timberlake SNL Saturday Night Live. I want to be like Oz The Great and Powerful and do something beautiful like Danielle Fishel. Nor will I even mention North Korean nuclear threats imminent for fear of giving people a hangover 3 about the whole thing.
And I surely won’t filibuster you like Rand Paul or Google Trend you to death with statistics.
I’ll just say that you should go to Kickstarter immediately and pledge at least $20 to the Sorry, Charlie project. And that’s all I’ll say. Here is the link.
The Pope. The Pope. The Pope. The Pope. The Pope. The Pope. The Pope.
Well, it’s day 14 for my Kickstarter project for Sorry, Charlie. Seven backers have pledged a total of $160, which is 17% of my goal. And while I am very happy that anyone’s even looked at it, much less donated to the cause, the project is about $300 short from the midpoint goal.
Disheartening, but not overwhelming. I have a split personality when it comes to the backers. Part of me is very happy that only one name on the backer list is a friend. Why? Because that means that total strangers have looked at the project and decided it was cool enough to donate to. One person has even hit the $100 mark and gets to be a character in my next horror short called The Trolley. It’s a certain kind of validation when people who aren’t emotionally attached to you in some way decide to back something you’re doing. Sometimes friends and family feel like they have to smile and say nice things about what you’re doing even if it really sucks. Strangers however, will tell you it sucks.
The other part of me is a little irked, and for basically the same reason. Only one person I know has backed the project. One person. I’m not sure what that says, really. The people who normally feel obligated to put my stuff on their refrigerator door have inexplicably gone stealth on me.
I’ve listed some of my obstacles related to the project.
People don’t know – A lot of the people I talked to about my project had never heard of Kickstarter. This was weirder to me than it should have been. I made the mistake of thinking that just because I have known about Kickstarter for over a year now, that everyone else should know about it too. After all, I’m the guy who is usually last in line to pick up on Internet memes or the latest vernacular trends. I was still saying ‘Oh, snap’ up until about 6 months ago. So how could everyone else not have heard about Kickstarter? I think people were still trying to wrap their heads around the whole Kickstarter thing while I was droning on and on about the project. I have since opened with, “Have you heard of Kickstarter?” and progressed from there.
People don’t care – Some people have been very helpful. They let me post my bookmarks on their boards or set them on the counters next to the checkout. And there are some people like the lady at the library closest to our home. I go in and the lady at the front hands me over to another very professional-sounding, smiling face. I think, ‘awesome.’ I explain my project. She smiles and says to follow her. We move to the back of the library. I follow her into a small office in the back. There is no light in this office and I find myself looking around at my dark surroundings with slight apprehension as I move through the office. She opens another door at the back of the office and there is a corridor. There is no light here either, so she takes out her cell phone and uses the flashlight thingy on it. I start to speak, but before I can she reassures me, “Right this way.” She is still smiling. I follow. The hallway has no windows and as we turn a corner, I notice the ceiling is getting lower and lower as we move along. I am becoming uncomfortable. We turn another corner and there is a set of stairs leading down into darkness. I stop. I say, “I’m really in a hurry. I have to get my lunch’s haircut appointment,” which doesn’t make any sense, but I was nervous. She replies, still smiling, “Don’t be silly. Right this way,” and continues down the stairs. I turn around to leave, but then realize that the only light is headed down the stairs with her and the hallway behind me is getting darker. I move forward down the stairs. We descend two flights in silence. I am afraid to say anything. When we arrive at the bottom, we both have to push through some heavy, hanging plastic. Maybe they are renovating or something. We walk for a distance that seems like to me should take us directly underneath the grocery store that is across the street outside. As I am about to speak up again, we stop. “Right here, sweetie,” she says and hands me a sledgehammer, her light shining bright against a concrete wall. I am hesitant, but have no other alternative. I pick it up and begin swinging; closing my eyes each time the iron connects with the concrete, little specks of shrapnel filling the dark corridor. In a few minutes, there is a small hole in the blocks. She motions for me to stick my head inside the hole, which I finally do. She leans the phone in and points it down. At the very bottom of the hole, next to the overturned, exoskeleton of a roach, is a small tin container that holds a few pens with business names on them and a couple of library sanctioned bookmarks. She smiles and says, “You can place your bookmarks here.” I slide my arm down into the hole and drop a couple of my bookmarks in the tin. I am sweaty from the manual labor. My face covered in a white dust. I resemble the ghost of a miner. I am ready to go now, but she points at the hole in the wall and says, “Well, cover it up.” Okay, this isn’t exactly how it happened. But this lady and a few others directed me to put my bookmarks in places that no one would ever, ever see. So really, what’s the difference? Some people just don’t care, and there’s really nothing you can do about that.
People are afraid – One guy handed me two bucks while I was out proselytizing the Gospel of Sorry, Charlie. He didn’t like online transactions. Don’t get me wrong. I’m very thankful for those two dollars. But he represents another layer of possible donations that are buried under a fear of financial transactions over the Internet. My mom said the same thing when I told her. “So, I have to do it online? I have to put all my card and financial information online?” Well, yes. I’m sure the people at Kickstarter don’t want thousands of checks mailed to them each day. And the more I think about it, the more I wonder, even in this day and age of tech savvy consumers, if the whole process of having to set up a Kickstarter account and link it to your Amazon account has put a lot of people off. Older people who might give, but who aren’t really sure how all that Internet stuff works. And then there’s a lot of younger people who would drop you a dime, but don’t have an online account. But what would be a feasible alternative? I’m not sure there is one.
I don’t have a website for my book . . . yet – I know. Very stupid. Should have done that before I even launched my book. Agreed. But I didn’t have a lot of time, and honestly, if I would have waited until my site was up to launch my book, or this Kickstarter campaign, I would have never done either. Sometimes you wait yourself out of ever doing anything. I felt like I had to do something, or the moment would slip away and never happen. So I did. But having a website is very important for a number of reasons. I’m still working on it.
I don’t have a social base built up – From everything I’ve read, this was the number one thing that propelled a lot of projects far beyond their original goal. They already had a relationship with readers, fans, or clients. Some had thousands on mailing lists or following their blogs. When I started the Sorry, Charlie Kickstarter project, I had around 30 followers for my blog. And I’ve never been one of those people with 500 friends on Facebook. More like 30. And Twitter? An embarrassing 5. I know how to grow these numbers on Facebook and WordPress, and I’m doing that daily, although it may be way too late to help this project. But I still have no idea how to get followers on Twitter. None. And I’m long-winded. How would I condense this short story of an article into 140 characters? I guess I could link to it. For my 5 followers.
Blogging more – I have been visiting other blogs and trying to increase my followers. It is very time consuming. And I don’t want to do what I call spam-following or spam-liking. You visit 1000 pages a day and like everything or follow everything, all in hopes that people will do the same for you. You might get 5,000 followers that way, but none of them will be interested in what you are saying. It’s a meaningless swap of ‘I’ll pretend to like you if you pretend to like me.’ Each blogger never again reading what the other puts out. I’m very particular about who I follow and why. If I follow you, I am generally interested in what you are doing. And finding blogs out there that are generally interesting takes surfing time. I’m doing better, but I have to allocate more time to connecting with other relevant blogs and people.
Niche blogging – My blog is a mix of rants, poetry, updates on my writing, projects, short fiction, and more rants. What it is not is a single resource for all things writing. I’m going to start doing more how to’s and exercises gleaned from books on writing. Exercises and resources. Things that can hopefully inspire action in other writers. And I may change the theme of my WordPress blog. Something with a menu that will clearly separate poetry from book promotion.
Bookmarks – I did design some bookmarks. My book cover is at the top, followed by where you can buy the book, and ending with a note to check out my Kickstarter project and the QR code that can take them to the Kickstarter project page. It looks decent. I’ve given away 250. I don’t know if it’s helped at all. Maybe. Maybe not. I probably need to give away more like 2,000. But color copies cost money. And the heavy-weight, gloss paper cost money too. With the slight margin I’ve given myself on the project, I’m liable to go in the hole as it is the next time I spend $30 on guerilla marketing. I could have also listed some of the rewards for different pledge levels on the back of the bookmarks. People like rewards.
Social – I did the initial spamming of friends, family, and acquaintances. And promised not to bother them again. I will though. I put a link at the end of my email signature that links to my project page. And I have started contacting online bloggers who review books and have thousands of hits on their blogs.
In summary, I am doing things post-launch to get the project rolling, but I was not as nearly prepared as I thought I was going into it. Even for the small projects category. Wish me luck and check out the project if you have a second.
His cracked skin glows orange,
a pulsing ember,
eyes white and sunken in the black corner.
toenails that shard Indian Yellow
bone, brittle chitin exposed on toasted concrete,
bitter hair, wet from the dew and mud and clover
open and glistening and freshly pouting their
concerns via glossy, crimson madness.
The sulphurous ascent
rubs the scratchy bricks as the cottage exhales
to the clear night a
spoiled sooty breath of exhumed earth
and ghastly flesh.
The figure hunches,
blind in one swollen eye
and wets the floor with amnesiac piss and chatters
incoherently to a room full of people
who are not there.
He imagines choking whispers
and glitter in the lung.
He invents a tale
where a madman was drown by a village
and withered to a stick
and gutted sick
chucked over the Starboard
and forgotten in the salty night.
A tale where a siren sings his gullet shut
and a mermaid smooths his skin
and a witch tallies her threads
and a swell of froth and jetsam,
malevolent and cursed
washes away all humanity
save a mythical yarn.
And his cracked skin grows pale,
a dying whale,
eyes white and sunken in the black corner.
A year ago, I almost pulled the trigger on a T-shirt project for Kickstarter. Almost. I got the first 15 or so shirts printed, wrote the text for my project down, and had everything going except the video. Then life happened.
I did, during that time, find out that it’s not impossible to self-publish your own book. I self-published Sorry, Charlie on Amazon, made it available for paperback through Createspace, and then placed it on bn.com for the Nook. So I dropped the ball on one thing, but picked it up on the other. I am also looking into getting an accountant to handle all the money I made last year from Sorry, Charlie. $41. That’s my age, by the way, which if there is any correlation there, by the time I’m 80, I’ll be doubling my take. Sweet. But the point is, it made me happy and I proved to myself that I could do something.
Of course, after I published it I realized that about 1000 people a day can do the same thing. I didn’t have a marketing campaign, and so the book got buried under a mountain of digital siblings. After writing the first 100 or so pages of my next novel, The Village, I have launched my first Kickstarter campaign. It’s still not the T-shirts. It’s a follow up to my novella Sorry, Charlie.
I had originally self-edited (never do this). And was creating my own book cover (never do this). Then I had two friends chip in who knew what they were doing. Jerson Campos created an awesome book cover and Bonnie Roberts edited the book. Huge, huge difference in the final product. Get people who do this for a living to perform these two services. Even if you are good at editing, you’re too close to your literary neonate. People don’t look at their newborns and say, “Wow, now that is an ugly baby!” Find people who will tell you that you have an ugly baby.
My very first Kickstarter project is to help these guys. One of them did their thing for free, and the other one did theirs for close to free. You know how it is when friends ask you for crap. You feel guilty charging them what you need to. This will hopefully put a little change in their pockets.
When this project is over, I’m going to launch the T-shirt project. Then a simpler one to spread a little love. Then one for my next novel The Village, so I can pay these guys up front next time.
I did my prep work. I watched other people come and go on Kickstarter. I watched what the successful ones did and I watched what the unsuccessful ones did. I read Don Steinberg’s The Kickstarter Handbook: Real-Life Crowdfunding Success Stories. I read the guidelines and helpful hints from the Kickstarter site itself. I took special care with my rewards. I wrote my story down. I shot my video. About 70 or so takes, I think. I upgraded to Amazon payments for business and verified all my information. I put in pictures of Bonnie and Jerson so backers could see the people they’re helping. Then I did what I believe to be the most important thing so far.
I got feedback. I used the preview link and let other people scour the project. I ended up taking out something that might not have come off as humorous as I had intended if you didn’t know me to begin with. I replaced it with something a little more gracious sounding. I changed a couple of rewards so they clearly stated that they included the rewards from smaller donation levels. I removed a comment referring to something that no longer existed in the video. Again, I stepped back and let people look at my wretched little newborn.
Then I clicked the Submit button and stared at the screen for a day and a half until Kickstarter approved it. Then I published it. Put my fragile ego, I mean infant project, out there with its eggshell crust for everyone to see. I’m hoping that they love him and hug him and call him George.
I published it on February 20, 2013 at 4:52 p.m. and got my first backer that night at exactly 1:20 a.m. Not that I was staring at the screen for 8 hours and 28 minutes straight. That would be creepy.
I’m going to go blink now.
Josh Pilsner awoke to the unsettling drone of a drill. What type of drill, he could not discern through the fog that enveloped his consciousness. His eyes slowly opened and quickly snapped shut again. A blinding light from above penetrated his eyelids. He was in a seated position. That much he knew, but little else. His head was throbbing. Everything was thick and cloudy. That horrible drill whizzing again somewhere to his left. He tried to open his eyes once more, and finally managed to do so, very slowly.
There was a woman to his left. Was he in a hospital? There was that hospital smell; a gagging mix of sterilization and death. The nurse had her back to him, preparing something. Had he been in a wreck? What was the last thing – Ah! He remembered now. He was at a restaurant. Did he drink too much? Get behind the wheel? Oh my God! What if I hurt someone else? His neck muscles protested with dull shards of pain as he turned his head to survey the hospital room. He emitted an involuntary groan as he did so. Bright lights, a hospital bed, shelves of medical supplies, tubing running from the wall, maybe oxygen or something, a stainless steel tray next to him with surgical instruments, a very bright light stabbing him in the eyes from above, and – wait a sec – . Surgical instruments? What the –
The nurse was standing in front of him now, looking down at him like a curious bystander who is checking on a bicyclist who’s been hit by a car.
“Hey there, sweet lips,” she said with a cheery expression that didn’t match the tone of her voice. “Looks like I didn’t give you enough anesthesia.”
“What happened,” he mumbled. “Did I get in a wreck?”
The nurse was turning around to grab something, and that was when he noticed two things. One, there was a peculiar feel to his mouth, a swelling numbness and a strange vacancy of texture he felt when speaking. Two, the nurse in front of him, clad in black, had wings. He moved his tongue around some more and realized what was missing. A tooth. A front tooth at that. He pushed his tongue through the space over and over, unable to yield to the fact that one of his front teeth was no more. The nurse with dragonfly wings turned back around. She was holding a very large wrench. Not the kind of large wrench you would use for turning a nut on a 4×4 truck, but the kind of very large wrench you might use to turn a propeller on a cruise ship. The comically-oversized kind. A strange juxtaposition between the small framed nurse with wings and the shiny wrench that must have weighed 50 lbs.
“Sorry about that sport. I’ll use a little more anesthesia this time. K?” She made an apologetic face that offered no real sympathy and then raised the huge wrench like it was a small umbrella.
Josh noticed something on her wrists and hands as she did so. It was blood. He peered down at his white tank-top. Blood was everywhere. He looked back up at her (and he hated to admit this, considering the circumstances) rather angelic face and saw an expression that could be considered bored amusement.
Josh whimpered, “Is that my anesthesia?”
The nurse’s answer was matter-of-fact. “Cheapest there is. I need you to count backward from a hundred.”
Josh made an attempt to block the blow. That’s when he realized his hands were tied behind him.
“Ninety – . . . “
Josh Pilsner awoke to screaming. At first, he thought it was himself, but then realized he was too groggy to move, much less gather the power to scream. His head was moving back and forth and not of his own volition. The pain was now unbearable. His mouth was wet with something, and he felt like he was drowning. He began to gag and fight for breath, but it wasn’t much of a fight. His head stopped moving. There was a slurping sound as something foreign was inserted into his mouth. He managed to open his eyes in time to see the winged nurse remove what looked like a handheld vacuum cleaner. He blinked through tears to catch the nurse as a smeared, tangled image.
“Don’t worry. It’s a Dyson.”
She sat it back down on the table and Josh could already feel his mouth filling back up with blood. The nurse grabbed something from his right and placed her tiny hands on his head. Her fingers clamped like a vice grip. Something metal, scraping his teeth. A sickening sound. A probing, alien object in his mouth, searching, then finding purchase and a tug. A shooting pain that forced his eyes shut. Now he found the strength to scream. He stopped screaming and for a moment was completely disoriented as the sound continued. But after a few anxious seconds, he realized the screams were emanating from another room. Another room? My God. What kind of place am I in?
“Rere ayum eeyeh?” he garbled. How many teeth am I missing?
The cute (how could he continue along that line of thought?) nurse with wings put her hands on her hips in mock exasperation. Then she picked up the wrench again.
“Your body doesn’t react very well to the anesthesia.”
Crimson spittle flew from his mouth as he screamed, “Ahht’s behawse ihs hotah fuyeeng anehethya. Ihs a gohamn weench!”
She stared at him without saying anything for a moment. Josh had the nagging impression that accosting a 95 lb girl who picked up 50 lb wrenches was not the best protocol in a situation like this. He wasn’t sure what the word ‘protocol’ meant, but it sounded right. While still holding the huge wrench out to her side with one hand, she uttered a question in threatening monotone.
“Do you want me to get the really big wrench?”
She stared at him, waiting. He stared back wide-eyed, unable to answer. He thought of what a bigger wrench might do if she used it as anesthesia. “No, ayam,” he replied as courteously as possible.
“A tough guy, huh. No an uh steesi ah, huh.”
She played with the words, mocking his inability to enunciate properly under said conditions. No bedside manner at all, he thought, and kept it to himself.
“Ruut appened?” he asked, red drool cascading from the corner of his mouth. He felt weak. Sluggish.
“Speed dating,” she answered. “Anesthesia hasn’t worn off yet, I guess. Friend introduced me to it. Definitely a quick way to get the most numbers. Best ROI.”
“Awr Oh Eyah,” he mumbled, silently cheering as she put down Anesthesia.
“Return on investment, duh.” She gazed at him searchingly for a moment. “You’re not really an investment broker are you? I knew you were lying!” she blurted out.
“Oh arah oooh,” he countered and immediately wished he could take it back.
“Fair enough,” she said, grabbing a large set of bloody pliers to his right. His head lolled away from the sight as he grew faint. “But a girl’s got to make a living, ya know?” The nurse with wings leaned in, pressing her knee into his groin to hold him in place.
“AAAAIIIIIITTTTTEE!” Josh screamed. She stepped back, perturbed.
“What, Bleedy Gonzales?” She shrugged with one dainty hand on her hip and one holding the pliers above her shoulder. She was hot in a Gothic kind of way.
“Ooh ayah ooh?” he garbled.
“Who am I? Well . . . you know what? You’re not going to remember any of this anyway, so who cares? My name is Flora Ide. I used to work for the Preternatural Calcium Recycling Corporation. Very high volume. Very competitive with a commission-only based salary. Do you have any idea how many people just throw away their teeth when they fall out? Do you have any idea how many people don’t even believe in us?” She stared at Josh, searching for some semblance of understanding.
Josh wanted to be on her side at this point. He really, really did. He shook his head in the affirmative. Satisfied, she continued.
The only real money is in the pre-pubescent, middle-class division. But I kept getting assigned to the elderly division in Russia. Graveyard shift. Ever tried to dig up a coffin that’s under six feet of frozen tundra? Didn’t think so. And then when you’re down there, freezing your wings off (so she does have wings), boom! You’re liable to find that grandma has an empty grill. Is ‘grill’ the right word nowadays?” she asked.
Josh shook his head emphatically. He did know what that word meant. And as long as she was talking, she wasn’t pulling. His eyes were still watering. Whatever was clamping his hands together behind his back was slicing into the wrist. He was trying to remember how many quarts of blood was in the human body, and then attempting to compare it with the total amount on his clothes and the floor, all the while making very sure to give this nurse his full attention.
“Urah ooph aree?” he asked.
“A non-believer?” she said with disbelief. “Even after all this?” She bowed up, her shoulders swelling, and inhaling deeply, was suddenly airborne, flitting around the room with awe-inspiring speed and agility. Her wings but a blur. Then she landed in front of him hard enough to crack the concrete beneath the linoleum. She grinned ear to ear, the buzzing of her wings subsiding. There was a piercing shrill from the next room.
“Anyway, there was a huge layoff a few years ago,” and as she spoke, she flitted suddenly forward with no warning and he felt a slight jerk, then more blood filled his mouth. She had plucked out a tooth, by hand, in under a second. “Did you catch that? That’s skill. That’s professional workmanship. But they laid me off anyway. So now, “she explained, turning back to the pliers, “I’m with a group of freelancers in a little, out-of-the-way building. We’re a little more proactive, but we pull in a lot more money. Say, would you like some pulp fiction to read while I continue?”
She looked serious. How could he pretend to read right now . . . to make her happy somehow, so that maybe she would . . . and then she busted out laughing.
“Get it? Pulp fiction?” she looked him directly in the eyes, askance.
Josh tried to smile, his puffy lips spreading wide over his bruised and battered face, a gaping, bloody maw dotted with a few lingering vestiges of teeth. Insecurity and fear spreading equally over his countenance like a tidal wave of terror.
In a dark corner of the room, where the overhead light wasn’t working, Josh finally made out the blob where it looked like part of the ceiling had collapsed. What looked like crumbling bits of drywall was actually a humongous pile of teeth. She said, “Out of the way place,” he thought. Somewhere you could torture screaming people with complete disregard for the noise, or the fact that you had wings growing out of your back. He tried to push the thought from his mind, but could not. As her knee pressed deep into his chest, he ventured one more question.
“Ere ayar ee?”
She stared at him for a moment in awkward silence. A dripping set of pliers hovering over his puppy-dog eyes, begging for mercy that he knew would not come. She was deciding whether or not to tell him. As they were poised there, the wolf and the lamb, frozen in time, the door to the room flashed open and a man stood in the doorway. A man on the top half of his body anyway. He was holding a really big wrench.
“Do you need this?” his guttural voice boomed, echoing like a tsunami of despair in the tiny space.
Josh answered for her.
Day 135 . . .
. . . or something like that. I’m not keeping exact count anymore. Kind of like when you get a new car and you’re all like, hey don’t bring that bottled water in here, it could spill. And then a couple months later, you’re licking the chocolate from a candy bar wrapper before chunking it in the floorboard.
That’s what publishing has been like for me, anyway. I was manic at first. Someone I don’t know must buy it. I must get a hundred or so downloads a week for it to be even mildly successful. And I have to have at least 30 or 40 five star reviews. My e-book no longer has that new book smell, that 0 to 60 feel, that ego boosting kick from parking it in the driveway for the first time. (Confession: I’ve never bought a new car and probably never will. I have no pride in knowing I’m paying someone else a shitload of interest over a five year period just so I can stroke my fragile ego. Four years old with decent mileage for me.) I’m not saying Sorry, Charlie is a yard car just yet. I’m saying that reality is sinking in.
So what’s the status quo? It’s about to hit month 5, and I have sold, at the most, about 10 or so per month. During a KDP Select promotion, I gave away almost a thousand. I received two good reviews. This month, I sold nothing on Amazon.com and the only blokes who saved me from a literary skunk were the UK site. They bought one. Thanks blokes.
So I’m trailing off to nothingness. How do I handle this? What’s the plan of action? Do I go networking crazy or hatch some more marketing schemes for a 115 page novella?
No. I’m going to write. Write. Write. Write.
One thing I’ve learned about readers is that they feel more comfortable when a writer has a stash of books to choose from. It makes sense, psychologically. Here’s a guy with five or ten books behind him. He must be a writer for real. And if I like his works, there’s more to choose from. It’s a comfort level thing that doesn’t get much attention because I think it all happens in our subconscious in about a tenth of a millisecond. So, I need to put another out there. Together, the two books can support each other, an online symbiosis. Then a third, a fourth, and so on . . .
Another thing I’ve learned is that although self-publishing is fun and rewarding, as is with most DIY projects, it’s also very tough. Not the getting-the-book-out-there part, anybody can do that, and a lot of people are. It’s what comes next that’s hard. Getting seen. There’s only so many things you can do to get noticed in a flooded market. That’s when having the big guns are helpful. Publishers already have a set process, a network, and a tried and true workflow. I don’t. So one of the next few books I put out needs to be a book worthy of the big guns. The more I write, the better each one gets. At least, I hope so. And so furthers my chances of getting noticed.
And then there’s the books themselves. I don’t write life-changing works of art. Not yet, anyway. And I haven’t put in my 10,000 hours yet either. I believe that when I do, that when anybody does, they will reap the rewards. So my goal then, as it has always been, has remained virtually unchanged by all this.
Write a lot and get better with each iteration.
For the month of March, I sold 4 copies and there was one borrowed. Borrowed means that someone got it on their Kindle and then loaned it to someone else for free. I still get a small cut of the Kindle Select money pot for that month. Of course, most of the buyers were people I know. That’s not a bad thing, mind you, it’s just that as an author, you kind of feel like it doesn’t really count until strangers buy the book. Anonymous, cloud-surfing people who happen upon your page through some mysterious search engine algorithm and like the first chapter enough to click the buy button.
From this, I made $13.22. I consider this a win. A small win, but a win nonetheless.
For April, I have sold 7 copies. If you ignore the blatantly obvious, miniscule figures, and use math to make it sound better, that’s a 75% increase. I think. I can never remember how to figure percent increases. Correct me if I’m wrong. You could also round the 7 to an 8 and say that it’s the start of a geometrical progression, meaning that come December of this year, I will have sold 2048 copies that month. That would be a . . . really big % increase. I would pull in over $5,000 that month. A really good Christmas-recovery check. By next year, millionaire. I prefer to stay positive.
For the month of April (so far), as part of a promotional tool for those of us enrolled in KDP Select, I have given away 535 copies on Amazon, 190 in the UK, 9 in Denmark, 1 in France, 2 in Spain, and none in Italy. That’s a total of 737 digital copies that I have given away. I think it’s really cool that someone in Denmark may be reading my book. I’m international, dude. And after giving away almost a 1000 copies, I finally got 1 feedback.
I realize that a lot of people, from what I’ve heard on the Internet, download a crap-load of freebies and don’t always read them. Or maybe they couldn’t get past chapter 2. Who knows? But I did learn something from the one feedback. The review title read ‘not bad.’ The pessimist in me notes that they didn’t say it was good, just not bad. Like it’s stuck in limbo somewhere in between. A kind of literary purgatory. The optimist in me noticed they said they really enjoyed it. It got 3 stars. I think I could have pulled out another star, but they didn’t like the price. Point taken.
It was $3.99. Before I put the original price on it, I thought to myself, what would I pay for it? Well, I’m a cheap guy. I probably wouldn’t pay over .99 for it. So then, why did I set it at 4 bucks? Because like all people, I have trouble coming to grips with reality. I know that since this is my first book and I am an unknown author, I can’t command a decent price. I know this. I just can’t accept this. That’s because the book is worth more to me than it is to the reader. I sliced my word-veins and bled all over the pages. Why in the world, my tender ego acclaimed, would someone not part with 4 bucks for such a work of art?
Also, anything set less than $2.99 on Amazon will only bring 35% commission instead of 70%. So the other reason for my pricey price is, well . . . greed. But I did take note and lowered it a dollar to $2.99. I can’t bring myself to go less. For now, anyway. But after my 90 days in Kindle Select is over, which should be at the end of May, I’m thinking it’s going to 99 cents. I’m coming to my senses, slowly. I know it would be better to sell a hundred at a buck and get some decent feedback than to sit stubbornly at 5 or 10 a month because of greed. I would make more money and have a much better chance of getting enough sales to edge my way into the top 100, even if only for a couple of days. It’s not that hard to do if you sell a bunch at one time.
But I do appreciate the feedback, whether it’s positive, like this one, or negative. The more the better. So, this Friday, April 27, 2012, I’m having another Promo where everyone can get the book for free! That’s a dollar cheaper than the .99! To me, it’s a path to feedback. So if you get it this weekend, and if you take the time to read it, I’ll go ahead and say thanks. And if you give me some feedback, I’ll give you double thanks, no matter what you said.
On another note, I finally got the proof of my print version from Createspace and accepted it. So now Sorry, Charlie is available on Amazon and Createspace in print form. For some reason, it’s a little harder to find than the Kindle version. The Kindle version shows right away, but you have to search for the paperback version in the horror section to find the printed copy. Weird. You would think it would show right under the digital copy in search results. I’m still figuring this one out.
Again, if you have something you want to put out there, do it. It’s not that hard. If I can do it, anyone can. Good luck.
Okay. So it’s been an even two weeks since I hit the publish button on my book. I gently placed my anonymous, digital book into the Kindle virtual world, armed it with some vague keywords for SEO purposes, stretched a pretty cover over it to make it more desirable, and donned it with a descriptive introduction that should touch the fancy of like minds, warped that is, who might find the courage and the $3.99 to click the ‘Buy’ button on Amazon. Then I blogged about it to my immense number of followers (11). Then I went to Bookdailey.com and set up a first-chapter free read. Then I used Facebook and word of mouth to elucidate the masses as to the location, at the end of the Amazon rainbow, of their waiting treasure.
I now have 4 sales.
This is tantamount to bedding your dream woman and then, right before the Big Bang, having her thump the shit out of your balls. It’s like Paul Harvey never telling you the rest of the story. It’s like the series finale of Lost. It’s like December 22, 2012. It’s very anticlimactic, you see.
The thing is, I understand that none of this is an overnight thing. I know that it takes time and that readers and publishers want more than one little novella from an author. I am also aware that the Internet is a big place and I really know nothing about how to properly market anything. I am standing at the edge of the Atlantic, no boat, and casting my cane pole into the oncoming waves, a tiny sliver of soft Muenster cheese pressed on a barbless hook. Not to mention the fact that the book isn’t exactly an award winning novel. But then again, it wasn’t supposed to be. It was initially a 40 page scribble in my notebook. Something emergent and ephemeral that began to coalesce and demand a clarity of its own. So I obliged. But if I know this, then why does an average of two sales a week bother me?
If you’re a writer, you don’t need me to answer that. If you’re not a writer, I can tell you it’s because idealism will always trump reality. You might say though, hey, Dude, you published a book and not many people have done that. Traditionally, this might have been true, but with the advent of self-publishing becoming one-click-easy, it’s not. Anyone can scribble anything down and hit the ‘Publish’ button. There are millions of books out there, but only a small percentage worth reading. Is Sorry, Charlie one of those books? Who knows?
For every song, story, or play, there will always be someone that experiences it and thinks it was wonderful. That may be one person, or 10,000,000. And I think that is the one thing that is hanging like a grey cloud over my literary ego – lack of feedback.
If I only had 30 sells this year, but 25 of those gave positive feedback, that would in some way validate the process. Of course, even if I got 25 negative feedback, I know I would continue to write without pause. But with no feedback at all, I know nothing. It’s very dentist’s office. I am waiting in the lobby of my own tortured mind and listening to shrill screams against the background of metal grinding raw on teeth. Somewhere out there, someone is reading my attempt at dime store horror – and judging it with every word.
So, I have been working feverishly on getting out a more accessible printed version of the book. More availability, quicker feedback. That’s my reasoning. And I had no idea about some of the things that would come into play. I will share a few of them with you.
One was page size. Would the reader want a smaller 8×5 or a larger 9×6. I ended up going with 9×6 because it was standard, which I understand opens doors to more markets, and gave the book a little bit of mass for its smaller page count. Go larger and your book may not fit on some shelves. Most of what I read relayed that 9×6 was a good choice.
Another was font. I know that it makes a huge difference on readability. Ever opened a book and put it down because of the font? Or maybe you didn’t even consciously make the decision, you just knew something wasn’t right when you started reading it. If the words are too close to each other, your reading voice runs everything together. Too far apart and the line starts to stretch and pull at your attention span and the connections and meaningful associations between the words attenuates with each sentence. And then there’s leading and kerning. How far away from each other should the letters be? And the line spacing? Turns out that you can, and may need to, set the line spacing in points and not use the basic Microsoft line spacing. For mine, I chose the font the best way I knew how. I researched online to find out the most common and easy-to-read fonts, and then I picked out four to choose from. Then I set the font different on each page. I also set each individual font to a different size for each page. I printed the pages out and let my family number the ones they liked the best. They picked Mongolian Baiti at 11 point, so that’s what I went with.
There were common, first-time publishing mistakes of which sites warned. Starting a chapter on the left side of a page, for instance. Or having a line by itself at the end of a page. Or not justifying the text. There was header numbering that wasn’t supposed to be on blank pages or chapter pages. A lot of little things that you see and never think about. Unless they’re off. Then your mind realizes that something is not right, and even if you don’t know what it is, you may shy away from the book.
And there’s the cover. I only needed a front cover for the web. Now I needed to do things like multiply the number of pages by a constant that’s based on the type of paper I’m using to get the spine width. And there’s making sure the pictures bleed off the page and don’t have some weird border around them. This is all DIY I might mention, just time consuming. You figure things out like – If you set your page numbering in the header and then create your section breaks immediately following your page breaks before chapters, and you’ve got the checkbox marked for allowing a different first page header, then the header will not show on the chapter pages. It’s all very trial and error, even with the help of the Internet. Picture someone changing a car tire with nothing but a small hammer and you’ve got the idea.
And let’s not forget what needs to go on the cover. There’s more than the title, subtitle, and author’s name. There’s the description, illustrator and publisher information, pricing, the barcode, back matter, and blurbs, of which I have none. Nor will newspapers even consider reading self-published materials, because again, there’s too many of us and they would be inundated.
So I think I avoided most of the bad mistakes, but we’ll see. And if I didn’t, it’s okay. I’m climbing the learning curve. I’m figuring out things that I never would have if I had a publisher doing all the work for me. It’s a more fulfilling and personal experience. And kind of fun. Kind of.
So while I wait for my extremely underpaid (underpaid meaning no pay at all) but very skilled illustrator to send the updated book cover, I cross my fingers and wait for that first set of five stars to show up underneath my book. Hopefully they will all be yellow.