Monday, January 30, 2012

Digital Book World Conference 2012

I'll be blunt; it's a good thing I didn't go to the DBW conference last week. With some of the sheer stupidity being spouted, I would have thrown my drink in someone's face (best-case scenario), or I would have decked someone and spent the night in jail for assault and battery (worst -case scenario).

Needless to say, I kept my eye on the Twitter feeds and other folks blogs for news all week. Here's some of the highlights.

Best Original Tweet Award goes to : "Heard at : Self publishing costs publishers $100 million in opportunity”

Best Response to Best Original Tweet? : "LOL self-pub is the new piracy!"

These publishers HAD the opportunity; they rejected the opportunity. If you reject the opportunity (And I do mean literally reject it. Would you like to see my files?), that's your own damn fault, publishers! 'Cause guess what? I've discovered there is a market for zomromcom (that's zombie romantic comedy for the uninitiated). May the zombie hamsters eat you for lunch!

Here's some links to blogs reviewing DBW12:

Social Times talks about the panel on Strategies for Social Engagement.
Bookmasters has links to several bits of news that came out of DBW12.
Bob Mayer and Jenn Talty have DBW Day 1 and DBW Day 2 to review.

And if all this short-sightedness just pisses you off, like it did me, go read Bob's take on why vampires and zombies are illogical and stupid. Oh, and why they shouldn't glitter either. I write this stuff, and I still found Bob funny as hell.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Songs I've Been Listening to a Lot Lately

Publishers can't understand why writers like me are leaving them in droves. Seriously, folks, What Have You Done for Me Lately?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Budweiser Super Bowl Commercials: Part III

For when you're tired of the bad calls and the instant replays:

Friday, January 27, 2012

Budweiser Super Bowl Commercials, Part II

I know I've posted this one before, but it 'bares' repeating as the second funniest Budweiser commercial.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Budweiser: The Extra Point

For Tess St. John, a replay of my favorite Super Bowl commercial of all time:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Force Is With You

After yesterday's post, you knew I HAD to post the original.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Dogs Strike Back

Normally I don't post on Tuesday, but remember last year's VW Superbowl ad? Here's a sneak preview of this year's!

(Special thanks to Jesse Petersen of Married with Zombies fame for the link!)

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Apple De-Evolution

Apple made their announcement Thursday regarding their dedication to education, and to that end, their creation of iBook Author. Lots of folks have commented much more thoroughly on the subject of Apple's asinine End User License Agreement, especially over at The Passive Voice.

Yet, someone I know, who's normally a very savvy businessperson, said, "I don't understand the big deal. Apple created iBook Author. They should get to say how it's used."

Um, no. Let me put this more simply.

Let's say you are a carpenter. You build birdhouses for a living. In fact, you have a reputation making the coolest birdhouses ever.

You need a new drill. Black & Decker** comes along and says, "Hey! We'll give you a drill for free. But you must sell your birdhouses through us, and only us, and we get 30% of the retail price you charge. The only way you don't have to pay us is if you give away your birdhouses for free."

Or you can pay Craftsman $100 for a new drill, and sell your birdhouses at all the cute, little boutiques, all the garden centers, and the flea market down the street for whatever agreement you make with each retail store.

In the long run, which way expands your distribution channel? Which way gives more people the opportunity to see and buy your birdhouses? Which way will make you more money?

Get the difference, now?

** No offense to the good folks at Black & Decker. They make fine tools, and to the best of my knowledge, their legal department has a clue.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Soundtrack for Blood Magick

I'm one of those people who listens to music while writing. Sometimes, I simply need sound to create a particular mood. Mozart for emotion and introspection. Madonna or Prince for a really hot sex scene. G'n'R or Aerosmith for action.

Over the last eight years, I've put together a specific playlist for each novel I've written. Here's the soundtrack I put together for Blood Magick (Bloodlines #1):

Man, I Feel Like a Woman by Shania Twain
Who Do You Think You Are by Spice Girls
Angel by Sarah McLachlan
How Soon Is Now? by Love Spit Love
Defying Gravity by Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenowyth
Transylvanian Concubine by Rasputina
Sooner or Later by Madonna
The Continental by Prince & the New Power Generation
Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones
Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen
Breathe (2 AM) by Anna Nalick
7 by Prince & the New Power Generation
Love Song for a Vampire by Annie Lennox
Say You'll Be There by Spice Girls

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Status Update - January 2012

As I said earlier this month, I saw a spike in sales right around Thanksgiving and another spike over the Yule/Christmas-/Hannukah/Kwanzaa/New Year holidays. Other than that, December was a dead month (probably because all of you were at the mall, shopping).

On the plus side, I FINALLY got Zombie Wedding uploaded on December 30th.

Anyway, here's the sales numbers for December:

Creating a Business Plan for the Indie Writer - 3
Blood Magick - 3
Seasons of Magick: Spring - 3
Seasons of Magick: Summer/Die for Me - 4
Zombie Love - 5
Zombie Wedding - 2

Total for December = 20

The year end totals for 2011:

Creating a Business Plan for the Indie Writer - 4 sales, 42 given away
Blood Magick - 37
Seasons of Magick: Spring - 82
Seasons of Magick: Summer/Die for Me - 24
Zombie Love - 32
Zombie Wedding - 2

Totals for 2011 = 181 sales, 42 give aways

These posts give you an idea of what to expect as far as first-year sales for an unknown writer with no previous traditional publishing experience and/or reputation. Of course, your mileage may vary.

Okay, my loyal readers, please let me know in comments if this statistical crap really interests you. Otherwise, I'll just start posting more cute beagle and Lady Gaga videos. . .

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

More Thoughts on Covers

Yesterday, Tess St. John and Savannah Rose had some interesting thought on covers in the comments. Like half-naked guys, yea or nay?

So I'm going to ask the rest of my audience the same thing I asked them:

1) Do different styles of cover in a series drive you crazy as a reader?

2) How do you feel when a book you previously bought is issued with a new title and/or cover?

This very discussion has been an ongoing topic between me, DH, my marketing guru and my cover artist. Particularly over the cover of Seasons of Magick: Summer (aka Die for Me).

Seasons of Magick: Spring is my best-selling title, though Zombie Love is catching up for other marketing reasons. When I released Summer on October 11, 2011, the sales were so-so. After much deliberation, we experimented with a new cover and a new title, which was released November 11, 2011. Sales started sliding south. Over the last three weeks, Die for Me was my only fiction title NOT SELLING AT ALL.

I took a hard, hard look. There was nothing to connect Spring with Die for Me. From the way readers are gobbling up the Bloodlines series, I know they love related books. So I decided to go back to the original title and cover. A few sales was better than no sales, right? The reversion to the old title and cover was implemented Sunday while I watched the Texans-Ravens game (gotta love multi-tasking).

I decided to leave the Seasons of Magick series alone. Write Autumn and Winter, and stick with the original cover concepts. I love the grimoire/tarot look. But I do understand that this is a business, and I have to take readers reactions into consideration. In the end though, I wonder how much a cover really means?

Thoughts? Opinions?

[Edit to add: Apparently this subject hasn't just been on my mind. Joel Friedlander has a pretty good write-up over at The Book Designer on the dangers of symbolism when you're the author.]

Monday, January 16, 2012

Discussion on Covers, Continued...

Last week, I wrote a post about Revising a Cover. Romantic Suspense author, Tess St. John and I got into a discussion through the comments--until the Blogger comments barfed on me. We continued the talk by e-mail, and she gave me permission to repost some of her thoughts.

Tess: You can't please everyone, so you gotta please yourself!

Suzan: It's not necessarily a question of pleasing people. There's someone of mutual acquaintance who HATES the cover of Zombie Love, but it's my most effective one. On the other hand, I don't want to confuse the readers about which books are part of the same series.

Tess: Well, I never thought I would put pictures on my books, because honestly I don't like pictures of people on books (I want the image I imagine), but I did my research and found that most readers do like pictures of people on the covers...not that it's necessarily helped my readership, but I have gotten compliments.

Suzan: But you write romantic suspense and historical romance. I think your target audience, which is largely women, expect people on the cover to feel a connection. On the other hand, I write urban fantasy. If I put anything remotely similar to the proverbial "clinch" on the cover, I'll chase away the male portion of my audience. The only reason I brought up the need for consistency was because I had confused a reader with the disimilarity between the covers of Blood Magick and Zombie Love.

Tess: I know what you mean...trying to have a similar look with the books for the same series is a good idea essential. But I LOVE the cover for ZOMBIE LOVE. I didn't get it until I read the book (it's supposed to be her nanites, right?)

Suzan: LOL Yeah, that was the intent. It surprises me how many people don't recognize the bio-hazard symbol. I mean, it's in your doctor's office for cryin' out loud! But mainly I used it because so many zombie stories start with a virus out of control, like World War Z or Zombieland. Even the game Halo uses it, even though their zombies are caused by an alien lifeform. If someone gets the contrast between a neon green bio-hazard sign and a hot pink Cupid, then they'll probably get my writing.  (I think.)

Tess: For what it's worth, the people who say your writing sucks big hairy balls have no idea what they're talking about!

Suzan: LOL Most of those folks aren't my target audience anyway. What can I say? I provoke very strong reactions in people.

Tess: Your writing is funny and fresh (the ideas and concepts). The strong reactions means you have a strong voice (at least that's what I'm told because I have many with the same reactions). I'll take a strong definable voice any day! And it's the readers who like your stuff that you're trying to keep! Can't dwell on the others!

Suzan: Damn, girl. Now you're making me blush, but thanks for the compliments.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Revising a Cover

After much deliberation, I sent the cover for Blood Magick to my cover guru to re-do the title and other text to match the rest of the Bloodlines series. I'd already made the decision, and Sierra had already returned revised cover, but a Facebook question from a reader confirmed what I already suspected.

There needs to be a consistency in look when it comes to a series. I've found that I can switch between first person and third person narratives without much flak (but then, people either love my writing or think it sucks big, ugly, hairy balls).

I'm also in the process of changing the subtitles and text on the product descriptions. Even though every retail site where I've uploaded my books asks if this particular book is part of a series, which series, and the number order it comes in, none of that information shows up on the sale page. NONE.

Um, so what's the point of asking me, the writer, if you're not going to tell the customer?

Gets a little frustrating sometimes, but I'm slowly figuring things out.

So what does this mean for the Seasons of Magick series? It depends on how sales go the rest of January. So far, sales since November 11 (the date the new cover and title went up) haven't justified the change. In fact, sales have tanked dramatically compared to the sales for the Bloodlines series and Seasons of Magick: Spring. Despite the "boring" covers, the Spring and Summer were clearly linked. Also, Spring is still my best-selling fiction title, though the Bloodlines series has been gaining over the last of December/first week of January.

E-books are such a new frontier than experimentation is needed. And frankly, what works for me may not work for you, and vice versa.

In the meantime, all I can do is study the data and continue writing.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Latest Industry News

Barnes and Noble didn't renew leases for several stores at the end of 2011. While many folks panic over the news, B&N's decision makes sense, especially in areas were the real estate prices are excessive like the Georgetown store in D.C. B&N needs to diversify and cut some overhead in order to compete with Amazon.

In the meantime, the B&N board is also examining the possibility of spinning the Nook division into its own company. Again, panic has insued in investors, but separating the e-device/book part of the business from the rest of the retail giant gives the Nook side a fighting chance, instead of getting dragged under by the rest of the company. The move would also allow B&N to obtain capital through loans and/or additional investors to improve the software of the web interface. The lack of ease in the search and recommendation capabilities of B&N's website has been a major complaint with consumers.

And if your NYT subscription is about to expire, sign up for the e-version and get a Nook SImple Touch for free.

On the other side of the pasture, Amazon has responded to their customers' complaints and added a page count feature for their e-books so you know whether you're buying a short story or a novel. About frickin' time!

Things have been relatively quiet as folks recover from the December holiday crazies, but there should be some interesting things coming out of the Digital Book Conference in a few weeks.

Happy Writing!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Songs I've Been Listening to a Lot Lately

Cee-Lo Green channeling his inner Elton John makes me want to tell the people who didn't believe there was a market for my books, "Forget You!"

Thursday, January 5, 2012

How to Tell a Story - Raiding the Lost Ark

Jamie Davdar has created a wonderful 'filmumentary' about Raiders of the Lost Ark. He's put together the film itself, interviews, rare footage of the crew's time spent in Hawaii and Tunisia, and screen tests of the other actors in considerstion for the parts.

Not only does Jamie's film show how the movie was conceived and produced, it shows the storytelling skills that need to go into any tale.

@jamieswb Raiding the Lost Ark: A Filmumentary - Part 1 from jambe davdar on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

"Neil Gaiman's trash can."

My standard answer sounds flippant, doesn't it? Sarcastic. Maybe even rude. It's because I HATE that question. That question is a cop-out.

You want the truth? As Jack Nicholson said in A Few Good Men, you can't handle the truth. The truth is that most people avoid the real question. How can you NOT have ideas?

How can you read a book or watch a movie and not wonder what happens after 'The End'? Did Rick and Capt. Renault join the French Legion to fight the Nazis? Did Potter ever give back the $8000 that Uncle Billy accidentally handed to him on Christmas Eve? What did Scarlet do after Rhett walked out on her?

If you can't sit there at the end of Star Wars: A New Hope and wonder what happens to Luke Skywalker next, then why the hell did you go see The Empire Strikes Back?

Here's an exercise for you. Step outside your front door. Or if you're at work, peek around your cubicle walls.

Outside my front door, there's three houses on the other side of the street. My neighbor directly across from us works second shift. The couple to the right of him both lost their jobs and had to abandon their house. The lady on the left works from home.

What if the first gentlemen actually works for the CIA? Maybe he's trying to prevent an terrorist attack on the Houston Ship Channel.

Did the second couple really lose their jobs? Maybe there's something buried in their back yard. Something ancient and dead that tried to possess their youngest child.

What if the last lady is in the Witness Protection Program? Or is hiding her son from her ex who's in the Mob?

Take what you've got in front of you and spin it into something. You never know what great idea may come out of an supposedly idle thought.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Versatile Blogger Recommended Blogs, Part 2

2012 feels so fresh and new, doesn't it?

Here's some of my favorite blogs that you should check out this year. Some I peek at when I need a break and some when I need to think outside the box.

Angie's Desk by Angela Benedetti
Angie writes gay romance and erotica for Torquere Press, but in her blog, she also cover social justice and equal rights.

Lakeshore by Jay Lake
Sci-fi author Jay Lake talks about life, his daughter who's the same age as GK, and the struggles of fighting cancer for the last three years. DH and I both read Jay's blog because DH was in Jay's shoes seventeen years ago.

Musetracks by Jennifer Bray-Weber, Marie-Claude Bourque, Candace Wall and Stacey Purcell
I don't read Musetracks because I know two of the gals personally or because of their great programs, like Agent Shop. I eagerly await Jenn's Wednesday Writing Prompt. Beefcake. Yum!

Neil Gaiman's Journal by Neil Gaiman
It's Neil "F***ing" Gaiman! What more do you need to know? Seriously, though, Neil promotes a lot of causes in his blog that I support, like the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and Kickstarter.

Nina Cordoba by Nina Cordoba
I've known Nina for almost seven years. Trust me, her real life is so funny, no one would believe it.

Professor Beej by B.J. Keeton
Beej really is an English professor who analyzes pop culture. He's also the only person I know more obsessed with Star Wars than GK.

Alice's Bucket List by Alice Pyne
Alice is a sixteen-year-old woman, who lives in England and faces terminal leukemia. She's braver and smarter and far more articulate than most adults I've encountered in my life.

The Girl with the Shakespeare Tattoo by Joni Rodgers
Joni is a writer who happens to be a cancer survivor. She beat the odds to become a NYT Bestselling author. I cannot gripe about anything in my life after all Joni's accomplished with hers.