The Price is Right

Yesterday, I talked about the PR aspect of self-publishing. One other approach I am taking, which is less self-promotion and more a marketing strategy, is to give the book away for free for the first few days.

My reasoning is twofold. First, most of the first people to download the book will be friends and family. I don’t want them to have to pay for the book. Secondly, because Amazon still counts free downloads in its ranking, giving the book away for free might help it rise in the Amazon sci-fi ranks and bring more attention.

That’s my thinking anyway. So if you want to take advantage of the free period, it will be three days, from August 4th until August 6th. 

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Look at Me: Or How I Learned to Stop Hiding and Self-Promote

Like many writers, I am a bit of an introvert and often self-conscious about my work.  This makes self-publishing a bit problematic. For all the control self-publishing gives an author, it also requires them to do all the PR work themselves, which obviously can make or break a book’s success.

Added to the fact that free time is rare (and writers normally want to spend any free time they get writing) and the self-promotional aspect can become more discouraging than a first draft.

I’ve been trying to find some balance between self-promotion, writing, and everything else I have to do in the world. I have not succeeded, but I think I’ve made a good attempt at it.

I’ve decided to narrow my self-promotion to five fronts:

  1. This blog. A good place to post excerpts and extra info about the Mesh universe as each part is released. In the last month it has received over 400 views from eight different countries. 
  2. Twitter. I originally tried to use this just to follow other indie writers, but I’ve managed to get a following of almost 450. Still not sure if it will be any use in terms of selling the book.
  3. Facebook. Mainly, I didn’t want to make my personal page a defacto advertising page for the book, so I set up a separate page just for the book series. 
  4. Writer Forums. Lurking a bit on some writer forums with an eye to shout out about my book once it’s out. This is more a place to get marketing ideas from other writers. 
  5. Word of Mouth. This one’s out of my control, but it’s probably the most effective of all of them. So here’s hoping.

Part One comes out August 4th. 

One More Week

In one week, on August 4th, I will be releasing Part One of the Mesh series, The Pioneers. It will be available through Amazon’s Kindle program only, at first. Though you don’t need a Kindle to read it, just the free Kindle App. 

Since the release date is getting near, I thought it might be a good time to thank a few people that helped get me to this point.

First and foremost, my wife. She has read several versions of the story, starting before we even got married (and she still married me, so that should be a good sign). More importantly, she had the patience with me while I continued working at this writing thing even when we had more immediate concerns: a wedding, a baby, a house, another baby. 

I also want to thank my brother-in-law for reading through several versions of Mesh and giving useful story and character feedback (as he’s done with many of my stories in the past).

Rebecca, for going through the entire manuscript line by line and fixing all of my issues, grammatical, structural, and otherwise.

Jen, for being a Beta reader for the first three parts of Mesh and taking the time to give me notes on the plot, characters, and dialogue.

The talented Ken for creating such an eye-catching cover (and several other options that were equally appealing. Tough to chose just one).

And, of course, the many other writers that have inspired me along the way. 

Hopefully, the story doesn’t let any of you down. 

Multiple Perspectives

If you scroll down to previous posts from the last month, you’ll see that I have written four “Character Mini-Bios.” The reason for these are twofold. 1) I don’t know what else to put up on the blog. 2) My book is written from the perspectives of these characters.

Some have asked why I wrote from so many different points of view– didn’t it get confusing to write, isn’t it confusing to read? The answers are yes and no. It was often confusing to write, especially since the writing was spread out over several years. To focus, I wrote each character separately. Then went back and fine tuned the transitions to get the style and flow to match. I don’t think it will be confusing to read because audiences are used to this type of storytelling. Lots of novels, especially older ones, tell stories from multiple points of view and I think it is often more engaging. 

I didn’t originally want to go this route, however. I was going to tell the entire story from young Dez’s POV and write it as a YA (because everyone loves YA, doncha know. All the cool kids are doing it). But Dez’s experiences were limited. So I needed to see Simi’s side of things, but then the story was unbalanced, so I wanted to add Zahir’s view. And then I realized that the underside of society was no being represented, and that’s how Cyril got his POV added. 

I think writing in this manner keeps the story moving at a decent clip, since you don’t get bogged down with one plot line. And I like how the story lines can cross and intertwine and separate again. 

Hopefully, the audience will agree. We’ll find out starting August 4th when the book is released. 

Musically speaking

A couple of posts back I discussed literature that helped guide/inspire me through writing Mesh. These writings were essential in getting me in the right mindset for approaching my story. But once I started writing, I still needed help focusing on my task.

With two boys under the age of four, a house needing lots of TLC, a full time job, and an assortment of other issues, it is easy for me to get distracted. What helped most to focus me while writing was music. Writing in silence or with the TV on in the background proved counterproductive, but specific types of music seemed to help.

Now most writers use music, so this is nothing new. Everyone has there favorite type for writing. For me, it was mainly soundtracks. Anything by John Williams, Hans Zimmer’s Batman and True Romance music, James Horner’s Star Trek 2 (and Krull) soundtracks, and even some Danny Elfman. Music with lyrics often proved as distracting as TV, with a few exceptions. Old standards, done by Count Basie, Sinatra, Martin, Durante, and Sam Cooke kept me going often. Also, for whatever reasons, any song by U2 and any cover by Scala and Kolacny Brothers (you probably heard their Creep cover in the Social Network Trailer) seemed to serve the same function as soundtrack music for me. 

Thank God for Itunes. 

Character Mini-Bio

Zahir Bard never wanted the spotlight. As the son of a well-known politician, and the husband of an ambassador’s daughter, he found the spotlight constantly followed him anyway.   

When the largest national governments joined in a loose alliance––the United Earth Administration––Zahir’s level-headedness was key in stewarding its success. For four decades, he never made a grab for power in the UEA, often lobbying to get friends and allies into ever higher positions instead. 

His reward: a quiet retirement, far from Earth, with his wife and children. So he thought.

A new space station, political pressure, and rumors of secession, pull Zahir back into service and out to the frontier. In his new role, he hopes to calm the conspirators, control Simi Duan, and groom his son to be the next successful Bard politician.

A few of my favorite things…

So as I prepare for the release of the first part of Mesh, I thought some people might be interested in my influences/process (and I have no real ideas what else to put on this blog that wouldn’t be too spammy or self-absorbed). 

I’ve always wanted to write a space opera and tried writing two different ones as a screenwriter. One was pretty well received and was briefly ranked first on a screenwriting forum site. But neither took off and they were really very adolescent now that I re-read them. 

With Mesh, I wanted to be a little more disciplined in writing this one. So to guide me through my many sticking points, I went down to my basement library and re-read sections of relevant books to help me through.

For structure and multiple perspectives, I re-read all of Mario Puzo’s Godfather. He breaks the novel into “Books” that all fit into a larger story. And he artfully balances the views of different characters. I hope I can be even a tenth as successful at it.

For balancing science with plot, I re-read the first third of Jurassic Park and Greg Bear’s Eon. 

For pacing, I re-read a few parts of DaVinci Code. My plot has no connection to his, and I like to think I do more with the character development, but who can deny the addictive pace of that book.

For tone, I re-read all of Rendezvous with Rama, the first half of 2001: A Space Odyssey and all of Ringworld. I also looked at parts of Kevin J. Anderson’s Saga of the Seven Suns.

Finally, I tried (for the umpteenth time) to read Asimov’s Foundation because it seems like a book that should influence me, but for the umpteenth time I couldn’t stick with it. Too dry. So I guess, in a way, it influenced me on how not to write my book. 

 

Space Opera

Most the time I refer to my writing as science fiction, but, as I approach publishing Mesh, I realize that to be totally accurate, I should go with the “space opera” label. Space Opera means many things to people, some see it as a pejorative term (similar to how the term “melodrama” is often considered, but would you consider Douglas Sirk’s melodrama to be weak films?) while others see it as just a finer point on the science fiction label. 

I think space opera should be characterized as a separate genre than science fiction, not a subset of it. And it should not be considered a weaker entry than straight sci-fi either. Just different.

Science Fiction, to me, implies some exploration on how science, either real or theorized, affects society, characters, etc. Jurassic Park, Frankenstein, 2001, are good science fiction examples to me. With space opera, you’re looking more at characters and broad themes, and the science takes a backseat (or is ignored all together). Look at the Star Wars films. These are considered science fiction, but there is no attempt at explaining hyperdrive or their gravity system or why every alien has evolved to be basically a human body with a weird head. Star Trek has done a good job walking the line between science and elaborate drama, with DS9 leaning toward the space opera while ST:TNG factoring in a little more science. 

For me, I try to incorporate a little science into my story, but I realize I am not an astrophysicist, and I’m not going to pretend to be. Some of the science aspects wouldn’t hold up under close scrutiny (or any scrutiny), but the purpose of my story is not to look at how technology has affected humanity, but how population expansion and colonization, in general, has fractured and changed society. I chose to use four main perspectives to facilitate this goal. When you read part one, you will get the perspective from a corporate leader, a politician, a middle class family, and a criminal. I won’t use this format for each part, but I felt it was important for the first. 

So there. 

KDP

Some people have asked why I’m going Kindle Direct Publishing, so I figured post the answer. It fit with both my schedule and impatience. I spent a few months doing the agent thing (sent it out to 12, got six partials, four passes, and two no responses). And the idea that Tor, Daw, and Baen might make me wait 6 months to two years for a response seemed ridiculous. 

I like that KDP gives some much control and a large percentage. I don’t like doing self-promotion. Like most writers, I’m a bit introverted and the idea of running around the internet shouting into the void about my book is against my nature, but I’ll do a little of it.

I haven’t published on KDP yet, so we’ll see if it’s worth it. I’ll update my thoughts after the first 90 days.