Sunday, October 28, 2012

How not to use a PDF to advertise yourself

Isn't the value of a book determined by the amount that people are willing to pay for it?
Ok, this is one of those situations that even if you do not know the players involved, you can still roll your eyes with me.

A few years ago, someone issued a fifty dollar hardcover book. I think it was technically self-published.

It went out of print, and soon people were trying to sell it for a thousand dollars--but the highest I have seen it sell for on eBay is one hundred and fifty, and no one--I mean no one--has ever offered me more than the original fifty for the copy that is in my possession.

A couple of years ago, a pdf of the book ended up on the pirate sites. I am not sure if it is up on Pirate Bay, but I imagine that it is. I know that I could easily find a pdf of the book today if I didn't already have a copy.

There are some issues with this particular pdf. While it has all 666 pages, they are occasionally blurry and not all of them are in proper order. (The book is ok until page 505, then it has 520 & 521, then 536 & 537, then goes back to page 506, proceeds ok until page 519, then to page page 535, then goes back to 520, all is ok until page 523 when is jumps to page 538.)

Recently, the author (who refuses to publish anything new, or even reprint this book, because of the behavior of internet pirates; and brags about how much his book goes for, despite the fact that he says that resellers are a bunch of dishonest scalpers) offered a pdf of his book to people that attended a webinar of his.

Now, I have a friend who attended the webinar because they were hoping for a better pdf of the book. After all, it is simple to create a better pdf from the original files--and that what should be happening, right?

[Not a spy--a friend in this person's organization. There is a difference...or at least, in my universe, it is. I am quite sure that this author will think otherwise, but they already hate the fact that I occasionally communicate with people inside his organization. After all, this is an organization that has labeled me an enemy, and here I am still friends with people on the inside of it.]

Wrong, the writer was giving away copies of the bad scanned and formatted pirated version of their book. Oy vey. Here is a person who obviously does not know a marketing opportunity when they see one.

What they should have done is create a clean, completely readable version from their original file, added a few advertising pages (are they really married to the 666 page count?), with a linked table of contents, and gave that version out instead. You know, a version that was superior to the version already available on the pirate sites, complete with a note saying that they were giving an improved version of book to the greater community. You know--a win-win situation.

I do not know why they did not do this. But I do know that they missed a golden opportunity to advertise their expertise. A new clean version, complete with an advertising page, would get them more respect than giving out the same bad pirate version that most of us already had a copy of.

Oh well, they will still have a field day advertising themselves once they see this post...because they will come up with a spiritual reason about why what they did is better than doing this in the business-like manner that I think they should have used. After all, what do I know about spiritual matters--for god's sake, I am treating this situation like it was just an advertising campaign.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

And then the power went out

The only thing that did not happen last night.
So yesterday, I fielded a phone call, annoyed someone on Facebook (if you talk about me, I am going to annoy you), did some household chores. Then I started to get ready to nuke myself some dinner before starting to write. I figured that I had time; my wife was stuck in a class last night.

I am popping open the tupperware container containing the leftovers that I plan on eating, confident that I am going to get a couple of hours of writing done. So what happens?

*drum-roll please*

Yep, that is right. The power goes out. For over fifteen hours.

So instead of writing, I ended up thinking about writing, and going to bed early. I also had a surge-protection power-strip fried. And as I write this, I am still one of the lucky ones. There are still a thousand people near-by who still do not have power, thanks to this fall snow storm.

Let's see if tonight's writing goes as plan, shall we?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Should writers depend upon the Christmas shopping season?

As I write this, the entire retail world of the United States, or a good percent of it, is preparing for the Christmas shopping season. The biggest retail shopping days of the year, such as Black Friday, are rapidly approaching. Retailers often depend upon the Christmas shopping season to survive--the bulk of their business is done during Christmas; and the rest of the year, they are lucky to make enourgh to keep the lights on.

And this goes beyond the retail stores. The last restaurant chain I worked for, Renzios (a Greek shopping mall type restaurant), did excellent sales during the Christmas season (captive audience situation)--yet also managed to stay in the black for the rest of the year.

Yet that was not true of all of their locations. For instance, the location that I worked for. My slowest time of the year was the Christmas season. I used to send my employees to other locations (one, so that they could get extra hours; two, to save on my labor costs). There was exception originally, and that was the two nights of the Parade of Lights--but when the Pavilions on 16th Street Mall was built, that all changed and the Parade of Lights became two of my slowest days.

So all this is in the back of my mind as I shift to my new profession--writing ebooks and e-articles--and face my first full Christmas season as a writer.

Should I place a lot of weight on the Christmas season?

My immediate gut reaction is "no."

My logic being that: One, I do not control anything beyond my own keyboard; and Two, if I am not ready for Christmas already--well, it is too late.

Now, this is not saying that there is no possibility of getting some extra sales this holiday season. But honestly, how many people buy other people ebooks for the holidays? I have yet to see solid numbers to answer that question.

As a writer, my business model is a year-round business. Any extra sales I make during Christmas have to be divided and budgeted to support the rest of the year. My Christmas season campaign is actually a writing campaign for a couple of books that will not be released until next year (if ever--there is always a chance that they will turn out to be pure trash and never released).

When you work on projects that require months to complete...the excitement of Christmas sprees take a backseat. Even a simple article can be in the pipeline for months, if not years. (Honest truth, I once got paid two years after submission for a $25 dollar article.) My tasks as a writer are to slowly build up my stock of books and articles, and my readership (audience), over the course of years. A seasonal event like the Christmas shopping season is just a speed bump at best, a distraction at worst.

It would be nice to get a bump in ebook sales if it happens, but I am not banking on it. And I do not think that any writer should.

[And realistically, I still do not have that much stock up--and what I do have up is short stories. I have yet to get a finished novel up. And so it goes.]

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Getting ready for NaNoWriMo

So I decided to do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) again this year. Nanowrimo is a trip into insanity--what?! no?!--where writers try to write a fifty thousand word novel (first draft) in the space of thirty days.

[To learn more about National Novel Writing Month, check out the Nanowrimo website.]

This will be my sixth attempt to accomplish this task. This attempt will be the first time that I have tried to do it without those pesky college classes also being involved. Maybe the sixth time will be the charm. (Yes, I have five unfinished novels and a pile of term papers to show for the previous attempts.)

I thought about not doing Nanowrimo this year, and devote my time to writing short erotica stories instead--but considering that I really need to build up my stock as a writer and need to diversify, I just as well do it. Besides, with the Christmas season approaching and the fact that nothing that I put this quarter is going to affect this year's income, this is as good as any time to work on an urban fantasy novel.

So how am I getting ready? I am thinking about the setting that I plan on using for my story (think James Bond meets Harry Potter), and listening to James Bond soundtracks. And yes, this is more preparation than I have ever done for the Nanowrimo.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Back to the past

Mitt Romney wants us to go back to the good old days.
One thing I have noticed about people is that they really want to go back to the good old days when America was king of the hill.

And this includes Mitt Romney, who as President Barack Obama noted, "Governor, when it comes to our foreign policy you seem to want the policies of the 1980s, just like you want to import the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s." And then there was the Navy and military comment where Romney complained about the number of Navy ships we have, as well as our low number of airplanes--obviously the numbers are the only thing that matters to Romney, not the fact that current technology can blow anything from 1916 and 1947 right out of the water. As Obama noted, "We also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military has changed."

So what does this have to do with writing, besides the fact that the Republicans are most likely to make my bread and butter writing illegal (because no one should be reading erotica)--well, it reminds me of something else.

There are a whole bunch of people who seem to think that the writing business is still the same writing business of the 1950s. I am amazed at the number of blogs and articles that I read that are focused on finding an agent or getting a legacy publishing contract.

We have moved away from paper publishing and legacy publishing. Today, writing has changed. Today, writers are writing ebooks, and are successfully making livings while being self-published.

Yet we are still getting writing advice that sounds more suitable for the 1950s. And trust me, I am going to scream the next time someone suggests that I send something to a legacy publisher...because I could get an advance on my royalities.

I have actually consider digging through some old writing magazines and books, and talking about how the advice does not necessarily hold true today; this is provided that people quit repeating the same advice on the internet (unlikely, right?).

But I am not sure that anyone would read such a series...because it involves dealing with things as they are in the present, and how they might change in the future. We are not supposed to embrace change. We are supposed to be putting the genie back into the bottle--because everything was so much better in the good old days.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The biggest hazard to my writing business

Twice in this past month, I have been reminded that the biggest hazard to my business as a writer is myself. To be more precise, it is my mental programming that is the problem. And it is something that I really need to remember.

What brought on the reminder that I have some shoddy mental programming (think mental virus and malware) was the fact that I have spiraled down into two very bad mental modes in the last thirty days--mental modes that have taken me over a week apiece to crawl out of. And both were brought on by stray comments by people who, well, really do not understand the current state of my business. (In fact, I am sure that neither one knows a damn thing about my business.)

The first mental mode was a nice deep depression. The second mode, well, I am going to use the term "violence and suicide" to describe it--it is something that I think my relatives will instantly understand because we all have it to varying degrees.

Both modes were brought about because someone made a random comment about the fact that perhaps because of the lack of income I am making as a writer that perhaps I should be looking for a regular job.

Now, my lack of income as a writer can be explained away by the fact that my business basically restarted just a year ago. While I have been freelancing off and on since 1984, I didn't start self-publishing (ebooks) until just a year ago. Yes, by that mark, my business is just a year old. And most of that first year, I was still attending the University of Colorado at business was more of a back burner thing than it was a front line priority.

But the important part, which is being overlooked, is that it is doing better than I have ever done as a writer previous to this point. I am actually selling ebooks--not at a quick pace, but enourgh that I can see that what I need the most is more stock to sell.

And more stock to sell is exactly what I would lose if I throw in the towel at this point in time. Oh, I can still hack out the occasional short story, but what I really need is a novel or two, and some other major projects. Because all I currently have up are articles and short stories--I do not have anything longer than that.

Now, my regular readers know the reason why I will not be able to get anything longer up--the only work that I have experience in is restaurant and retail work--twenty years worth (oh, and a college newspaper job--but I did not major in journalism). The type of work that I am qualified for tends to be you are overworked and underpaid, and on call 24/7. Basically, they work you until you are too exhausted to do anything up, and ensure that you have to work until the day you die. (And they say that slavery is a thing of the past.)

I know logically that I am better off just taking the next few months to work on bigger projects (in fact, my production schedule is completely full until February...if not later). But emotionally, my mental programming says that I should listen to the bad advice and go back to flipping burgers...because short term money issues trump all long term plans, no matter how sound the long term plans are.

And I know that I am prone to walking away from my writing even in the best of times. Before I got into restaurant management, I had actually started to get hand-written rejection slips. The professional writers in the room will know what that means--I managed to convince some editors that I was going to be a real writer some day.

What did I do? Oh, I quit writing for several years. It was only after spending some time as a restaurant manager that I picked up the pen again. And one could argue that I stepped away from my writing again while I was in college. My venturing into ebooks was caused by the fact that I lost my college newspaper job, and my school schedule was not conductive to burger flipping, plus the fact that one of my friends was doing good in a market that I have been doing in print since 1984.

So I know that I have to be cautious about my own mental state. Especially now that my business has started to actually work for me. At the moment, provided that nothing major goes wrong, such as ebooks becoming illegal or something like that, my writing income will be better than any of my previous years...and that is even if I do not write another word. This is not the time that I should be thinking about stepping away from the table--at this point in time, I should be rolling up my sleeves for a major campaign.

We will see if my mental programming allows me to do so or not. At this point in time, I am not making any sudden bets. But then again, I am aware of my little mental programming problem...and knowing is half the battle, right?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Are you ready for Xmas?

Kitty is not yet ready for Xmas.
A friend of mine posted on Facebook that she just saw Christmas lights being put up at her local shopping mall (guess Halloween and Thanksgiving got cancelled). And while it makes me freak out, years of management tells me that it makes sense from the viewpoint of the shopping mall.

First, Halloween and Thanksgiving are not big retail holidays.

Second, this year has really sucked been slow for retail stores.

Third, most retail stores depend upon Christmas to put themselves in the black for the year. (Yes, your average retail store in mostly in the red for most of the year--it brings a whole new level of meaning to the term "black friday.")

Now, as writers, one would think that we would be above such things. No. No. No.

Today on Smashwords, I was reading Mark Coker's suggestions for when to get stuff into the system if we want to have our ebooks available in various outlets (Apple, etc.). And honestly, I thought he was being optimistic (his estimate assumes that everything goes correctly--I have been having lag times under another pen-name for Apple and Barnes & Noble to get my stuff into their systems).

Coming from the print market as I do, where you submitted your stuff like nine months before the holiday, I came up with my own deadline for the material that I want in the sytem before the Christmas shopping rush.

That deadline? Oh, it is Halloween. I figure that given the amount of stuff outside of my control that the only way that I can be sure that my stuff is up for sale by the start of the Christmas rush (which having done retail means the day after Thanksgiving) is to get it in before the end of the month.

I figure that anything that I do after the end of October may or may not get into the distribution network. And besides, I plan on doing the NaNoWriMo again this year, so that is additional reason for me to aim for Halloween as my Xmas deadline.

Not that I depend upon the Christmas rush to make my is just that some extra sales would be nice to have, given the fact that I am about to have student loan payments about to start being due.