You Beta Be-read It!

If you deciphered my clever pun, you’ll have worked out that Causal Nexus is in the hands of my lovely beta readers! They always provide excellent feedback to strengthen the story, make the characters more interesting and point out those pesky plot holes that it’s easy for the writer themselves to miss after being down in the weeds of the story for so long. I can’t wait!

In the meantime I’ve started the groundwork for Untitled Book #4! Step one is to go back over Ascension Point and Venus Rising, and to compile a list of all the open plot threads that I’ve set up in the series so far, that I may want to pick up and complete in this, the final book in the series. I have a habit of semi-casually tossing little elements into my stories that hint at potential goings-on, so I daresay that I won’t choose to follow up on every single possible plotline that I sketchily set up; but in addition to the exciting new major story arcs I’ve got planned, I am planning to tie off at least the big loose ends from prior books and wrap up key character arcs, and thus generally bring The Unity Sequence to a satisfying close.

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Sunday Roundup

Ooh, we’ve got some good stuff today. Let’s start at Pornokitsch, with Draft Posts:

We all become ‘authors’ as soon as we open a Word file, ‘artists’ as soon as we buy paint, ‘bloggers’ as soon as we register our domain name. By contemplating creation – simply by having an idea – we re-identify ourselves.

But then, we also leap to the other extreme. A creator isn’t ‘allowed’ to claim that identification until they have successfully created. You’re not really an author until you finish a book. (Or perhaps even publish one.) You’re not really an artist until you finish a painting. A blogger without posts is a poor example of the breed. This isn’t unfair: inspiration might be the easiest part of the project. Socially, we should celebrate the do-ers and which means focusing on the evidence of what they’ve done.

But what about everything in-between?

Looking a bit further back (because I haven’t read Pornokitsch closely in a while), what if Apple bought the entire UK publishing industry?

What if they just bought the entire British fiction publishing industry?

The point of this (obviously impossible) scenario, of course, is rethinking the value of the book, and taking the terrifying (and hopefully inaccurate) perspective that books qua books are toast. Instead, let’s think of what the value of fiction publishing would be to Apple: a cost-effective way of identifying, developing and testing creative concepts. Books as a massive means of consumer-testing. Think of book sales as upvotes and the fiction-reading population as a gigantic network of slush-pile readers.

According to YouGov Profiles, 18-34 ‘avid or regular’ readers are exactly the people that matter to our networks.

They significantly overindex for all of the following:

  • Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and XBox Live/Video
  • Watching films, in general, on a streaming service
  • Watching films on a streaming service, once a week or more
  • Agreement with “I primarily listen to music through streaming services”
  • Agreement with “Live TV is a thing of the past”
  • Paying for music streaming

If you’re a content streamer, this is your most valuable audience. So why not keep monitoring what they read, and turn that stuff into video content?

Fun stuff, but feels like it’s kind of missing the point: if Apple ran the entire UK publishing industry they would, to a large extent, determine what UK readers were able to read. (Because, while the largely Amazon-based, word of mouth driven discovery of books is extremely alive and kicking, there’s still a heck of a lot of books that get sold simply because a trad publisher puts them out and they end up in bookstores). Basing future movie/TV production decisions on the reception to content that you’ve already implicitly curated seems… well, let’s be honest, nonsensical.

Fun idea, though. Next!

Oh, more Amazon, by way of t-shirts:

Batman, Superman, Spider-man are all t-shirt brands with comic book spinoffs. I think Harry Potter belongs in that pantheon as well: geek culture brands where the identification is now so embedded that they’re part of the visual vernacular. It isn’t just about a nerd franchise being in Primark, it is about a nerd franchise being in Primark and coverage in the Sun.

If anything, Harry Potter’s gone a step further and given us four lifestyle brands. Superhero logos say, generously, something about you. But the four Hogwarts houses have become a socially-accepted Meyers-Briggs self-classification.

#RAVENCLAW4LIFE

The click-baitingly titled (for nerds like me) ‘Are independent bookstores the new conspicuous consumption?

We are constantly repositioning indie bookshops around their moral, not commercial, benefits, and Pullman et al.’s arguments seem to play into that vein. I’m not wild about it because, well, virtually every consumer study says that, whatever customers may say, price and convenience will trump morality at the till. But based on Currid-Halkett’s research, maybe this is actually the best route to survival? Turn independent bookshops into the exclusive playground of the virtuous wealthy, who are happy to pay full price for their Philip Pullman novels. Publishers and retailers can get name-brand designers to create tote bags (done!) and discreet-but-not-too-discreet stickers that say ‘locally purchased’, so those that paid £20, not £10, can get the virtuous and visible buzz they’ve paid for.

I can’t disagree. I haven’t bought a brand new book in a bookstore in five years: I love going to my local store and picking up five second-hand for a couple of dollars, but that’s it. It’s one of those awkward semi-hypocritical situations where I certainly don’t want to see my local brick and mortar book store disappear, but I’m definitely not going to start buying all of my books there. Come on virtuous wealthy, only you can save us now…? (Ugh.)

Meanwhile, a long read over at The Atlantic, from the frustratingly-briefly-named X:

snake-robot designer, a balloon scientist, a liquid-crystals technologist, an extradimensional physicist, a psychology geek, an electronic-materials wrangler, and a journalist walk into a room. The journalist turns to the assembled crowd and asks: Should we build houses on the ocean?…

Like a think-tank panel with the instincts of an improv troupe, the group sprang into an interrogative frenzy. “What are the specific economic benefits of increasing housing supply?” the liquid-crystals guy asked. “Isn’t the real problem that transportation infrastructure is so expensive?” the balloon scientist said. “How sure are we that living in densely built cities makes us happier?” the extradimensional physicist wondered.

But also:

Just beyond the drones, I find Astro Teller. He is the leader of X, whose job title, captain of moonshots, is of a piece with his piratical, if perhaps self-conscious, charisma. He has a long black ponytail and silver goatee, and is wearing a long-sleeved T‑shirt, dark jeans, and large black Rollerblades. Fresh off an afternoon skate?, I ask. “Actually, I wear these around the office about 98 percent of the time,” he says. I glance at an X publicist to see whether he’s serious. Her expression says: Of course he is.

Astro? Astro? Anyway, it turns out it’s just a nickname. Keep reading for a fascinating deep dive into Project Loon, X’s quest to bring internet to the world with balloons.

The world’s biggest need wasn’t hardware but access. Cables and towers were too expensive to build in mountains and jungles, and earthbound towers don’t send signals widely enough to make sense for poor, sparsely populated areas. The cost of satellites made those, too, prohibitive for poor areas. DeVaul needed something inexpensive that could live in the airspace between existing towers and satellites. His answer: balloons. Really big balloons.

The idea struck more than a few people as ridiculous. “I thought I was going to be able to prove it impossible really quickly,” said Cliff L. Biffle, a computer scientist and Rapid Eval manager who has been at X for six years. “But I totally failed. It was really annoying.”

The Atlantic also asks ‘Have we become too squeamish about the inevitable human cost of exploration?‘:

Today, industry and government are both upshifting gears, back into novelty, which means the public’s attitudes toward space travel and its inevitable accidents may return to what they were in NASA’s early, more adventurous days. After decades in a stable and predictable orbit, American spaceflight will return to new vehicles and, maybe, new destinations. The country is deciding which far-off world to point ships toward next, with the moon and Mars the most likely candidates. Private companies are doing the same, and preparing to take high rollers on suborbital romps. And with that leap into the unknown, Americans may become more tolerant of the loss of astronaut life. If they don’t, the government and private industry might not be able to make the leap at all.

Next: octopuses continue to be amazing. Look at this bad boy:

Naturally, scientists are trying to create an artificial version. Sadly, so far the real deal is far too badass to be emulated:

The robots are certainly cool, but they’re nowhere near as versatile as the real deal. Shepherd’s material, for example, can change texture about as fast as an actual octopus, but it can only make one rough shape at a time. The animal, meanwhile, can produce far finer undulations in its skin, which are tuned to whatever it sees in its environment. For now, nothing we produce comes anywhere close.

Finally: Hulk’s bed from Thor: Ragnarok is… maybe exactly what you’d expect?

Good night, moon. Good night, Hulk.

Self-Publishing Master-free

Just a quick one, via industry guru David Gaughran:

Iain Rob Wright has done something pretty amazing. He has created a pretty damn comprehensive course on self-publishing and marketing – over 50 hours of HD Video – and he has made it all free. Not the first bit free. Not free for a limited time. Not free if you also buy this, or agreed to be assailed by that.

The course is called ‘Self-Publishing Mastery’, hence the VERY CLEVER PUN above. I’ve signed up, mostly hoping for a quick and easy refresher on the state of the industry since I was last paying close attention. Having watched the first few sessions, the quality is very good, and Iain delivers the content in a straightforward and easy-to-understand manner. Also it turns out that yes, Amazon is still very much in business.

Worth a look for any aspiring author considering taking the plunge into self-publishing. Or lapsed authors emerging from hibernation, blinking blearily in the sunlight and asking passers-by what year it is.

Read more at David’s blog, or jump straight in here.

My Books Now on Scribd. Netflix for Ebooks, They Say

Scribd. Never heard of it? Nor had I until a few days ago. For $8.99 per month you get allegedly unlimited access to allegedly over 400,000 books–which sounds like a heck of a bargain if you read even just a few books a month. You can also buy books outright, if you want to keep them.

Anyway. Thanks to the fabulous folks at Draft2Digital–the distributors through which my books reach iTunes and Barnes and Noble–both Ascension Point and Venus Rising are live on the site. Payment terms are pretty reasonable: the author gets paid for any sale as you’d expect, but also for any subscription read where the reader got past the 30% mark. Which is pretty neat. They even count ten 10-30% reads as one sale too, which is a little bonus.

Plus, the Scribd site is SWANK.

scribd

Just look at that. Mmm. Shiny.

I’ve added Scribd to the store links for both books in the bar on the left, so head on over and check it out.

REALLIFE, WRITERLIFE and Tom Hiddleston

Hey, look – I’m really nailing this one-post-every-seven-weeks plan. Keep ’em keen, that’s what I always say.

It’s not, of course. It’s just that WRITERLIFE has been frustratingly derailed by REALLIFE for the last few months. A lot of it’s been good stuff, like moving from Brazil to D.C. and settling into our sweet new apartment, but a fair chunk has been being stupidly busy at the day job. (Which has even been a night job sometimes over the last month. The telecoms software game isn’t all champagne and supermodels, I tells ya.)

But that’s enough of my grumbling. You’re here for superhero movie trailers and sweet, sweet hyperlinkage to stuff wot you should read. Some of you even care about when my next book is going to be out! Thanks to everyone who’s pestered me about that. It’s wonderful that you’re keen to read it, even as I apologetically mumble that no, it’s not going to be this year, but I’m damn sure going to try to get it out before the one-year anniversary of Venus Rising. If I can’t knock out a book a year, then something’s gone wrong. I’m not Fran Lebowitz, here.

So. Let’s get it on.

Continue reading “REALLIFE, WRITERLIFE and Tom Hiddleston”

Making sense of the KWL terms and conditions

Just a quick reblog for the benefit of any other authors who received an email about Kobo’s new Ts and Cs, and couldn’t work out what had actually changed. Ahem.

Kobo Writing Life

All KWL authors received an email recently regarding a small change to the terms & conditions of the KWL agreement which will be in effect Oct 17, 2013. Here’s a quick plain-English rundown of what those changes are and why we’ve made them.

The Kobo Writing Life team is constantly on the lookout for ways to help you succeed, and that means keeping an eye on trends and valuable high-end data.  One of the trends we’ve noticed is the Dead Price Point as we recently posted about.  We are keen to pay attention to these types of purchasing trends and do what we can to encourage authors to think of price as a verb rather than as a noun, to experiment with pricing models for different territories and to be careful not to devalue their work.

chart

We’re still trying, for example, to understand the logistics behind a customer’s decision.  For…

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“The 7 Most Common Misconceptions About Science Fiction Publishing” from io9

Worth a read for any writers aspiring to be published by Tor, Orbit et al. Prepare to have your illusions shattered! (Maybe.)

2) When you’ve published a book, you’re immediately a famous author

Often it seems as though people believe that “as soon as you’ve had a book published you’ve made it somehow,” says Jonathan Oliver with Solaris Publishing. In reality, “it can take a long time to build up a profile as a writer and, unless you’re immensely lucky, your first published novel isn’t immediately going to shoot you into stardom and untold wealth. You don’t just write a book and rest on your laurels. You build up a reputation one book at a time.”

Yup, much like being a recovering alcoholic, becoming a famous author is a long process. Full piece here.

More Profane, Wonderful Advice from Mr. Chuck Wendig

I’m back from vacation, sporting a charming ‘tan’ in my classic shade, which I like to call ‘subtle lobster’. While catching up on what I’d missed from my usual writing and publishing blogs, I came across this gem from Chuck Wendig, ‘50 RANTYPANTS SNIDBITS OF RANDOM WRITING & STORYTELLING ADVICE‘.

1. SNAP YOUR TRAP AND WRITE SOME SHIT

Stop talking about writing. Stop reading about writing. Stop dreaming about writing. Stop doing things that don’t qualify as writing. The thing that defines a writer is that the writer writes.

14. YOU’RE YOUR OWN WORST ENEMY

If you’re not writing, that’s your fault. It’s not anybody else’s. It’s not your wife’s fault. Not your Mom’s fault. Not your kid’s fault. It isn’t because of a job, or Big Six publishing, or Amazon, or a Muse, or Writer’s Block. You might as well blame a Yeti (who acted in collusion with a cabal of randy leprechauns). It’s all on you. Accept responsibility. Stop complaining. Fix your shit.

29. SLOW YOUR ROLL, SPEEDY MCGEE

Embody patience. The worst thing you can do for your story is pull it out of the oven before it’s done cooking. Don’t quit early. Don’t publish thirty seconds after you typed the last word. Don’t query a stinker. Stories — like wine, brisket, romance and bondage games — need time.

Writer types: Go read the other forty-seven.

Dear Reader…

Have you read Ascension Point? You have!? That’s great! I wrote you this letter…

——————————————————–

Dear Reader:

Thank you so much for buying a copy of my debut novel, Ascension Point. I hope you enjoyed it. If you were here, I’d high-five you, and then we’d have a beer. Maybe a snack. I’ve got some nice cheese in the fridge.

I’m writing to you today to ask for your help in addressing a shocking issue that’s afflicting one in every one science fiction authors in my immediate area: Ascension Point‘s chronic shortage of Amazon.com customer reviews.

As you may or may not be aware, Amazon.com reviews have comparable value to these items:

  • Uncut diamonds
  • Gold dust
  • Enriched plutonium

While Ascension Point has sold well, and received a small number of (very positive) reviews, my in-depth calculations regarding its sale-to-customer-review ratio have determined that this many readers go on to leave a review:

11 / 500 = HARDLY ANY

This debilitating shortage of customer reviews is the leading cause of at least one of the following conditions:

  • Global warming
  • The rise of militant fundamentalism
  • Teen obesity
  • Me not being able to run a BookBub promotion

But it’s not too late. With your help, we can address at least one of these issues. (Probably the last one.) It only takes a minute, and costs you ZERO DOLLARS.

That’s right.

ZERO DOLLARS.

(Although while you’re there, if you decided to buy a copy of Venus Rising as well, that’d be cool.)

Here are some examples of the reviews that could go a long way to addressing this terrible problem.

‘Ascension Point was a super-fun read. Dan Harris is clearly the new Joe Haldeman, except with less scientific rigour or Vietnam War allegory.’ *****

Or:

‘Even though I bought Ascension Point in ebook format, I made the effort to find a way to print it out in its entirety, just so I could shred it and use it as bedding for my seventeen diarrhea-afflicted guinea pigs. That’s how bad it is. But then the author asked me to leave a review, so here I am.’ *

Or even:

‘Meh.’ ***

You see how easy it is? Even one word, and a pseudo-random selection of a value from one to five counts as a review!

That’s all I ask. Help me help you help me, and together we can guarantee that I’ll write another post exactly like this next year. You can leave a review here.

Thank you.

Dan Harris

You Cured the Patient but the Patient Died

“Look at Amazon’s costs in taking a manuscript from an indie author (or a publisher) and putting it up for sale. Amazon receives an ebook file together with metadata (book description, author, key words, etc.), has someone in India look at the result for 10 minutes, then lists the book for sale. Amazon’s customers decide whether the book sells well or not. Computer algorithms watch sales, generate sales ranks and promote books that look promising via emails and more prominent placement on the website..

Compare the costs of Amazon’s model with the costs involved for a traditional publisher with acquisition editors, internal meetings to decide whether to take the book and how much to pay, contract negotiation (minimal, but still a time cost), internal editing, cover design, meetings with sales and marketing, printing costs, sales pitches to bookstore buyers, shipping costs for physical books, etc., etc. For major publishers, all the people are receiving Manhattan salaries and sitting in offices rented at Manhattan prices.”

From You Cured the Patient but the Patient Died at The Passive Voice. Truer words, etc.