Priest Forces My Hand

The first hint of trouble came from a friend who had read and liked my vampire novels.  He sent an e-mail with a link to the website of the movie, Priest, and asked me if it sounded familiar.   The tone of the e-mail indicated he already knew the answer.

Three of the main components of that movie trailer are in my novel: walled cities, vampire armies and warrior priests.  Aside from that my novel is very different, but I know people will draw parallels between the two.

I admit vampire armies is not that original an idea.  I mean, if you make two vampires and they make two vampires and so on it’s pretty obvious that eventually humans will have to wall off their cities and fight swarms of vampires.

As for my protagonist belonging to a quasi-religious order–well priests have been fighting demons for centuries, and Hollywood has exploited that idea many times.

So I had to decide: slink away with my Priest-like vampire novel or go for it.  Then it occurred to me that this is a marketing dream.  When people ask what my novel is about, I can say that it’s Priest meets the Battle for Helms Deep from Lord of the Rings.

Okay, some of you won’t have a clue what I’m talking about, but the fans who would buy this type of novel will know exactly what I mean.

I can’t wait to see Priest, because I’m pretty sure that the movie’s high-tech take on vampire fighting is very different from my post-apocalyptic novel, where gunpowder is so scarce that people carry swords and cross bows as supplementary weapons, and gasoline engines are a thing of the distant past.

I’m also betting that I have the better story, but I’m judging the trailer so that may not be fair.

So here’s the plan: run my novel to my editor (God help me) and hire a cover artist.  This novel has already been through several readers, so hopefully Fogel won’t totally gut me.  By the release date of Priest, May 13th, I intend to launch my novel on Amazon.

It’s going to be a tight deadline, especially since the Toronto Marathon is on May 15th and I’m training five evenings a week, but it’s exciting.

White Metal

My short story, White Metal, took the cover of the Storyteller Magazine’s fall 2006 edition, but this is not that cover.  Because I can’t get the rights to the cover from Storyteller, even though it’s gone out of business, I had to do up my own cover.  It’s actually better.

I now have all six of the Sioux Rock Falls stories up on Amazon.  I’m working on two more shorts and I’ll launch the whole series as anthology in a couple of weeks.  What do you think of the title: Reckless in Sioux Rock?

Are Science Fiction Writers and Fans Technophobic?

I love the Ad-astra SF convention because it’s mostly about writers and readers.  While Darth Vader does wander around and the costumes are fantastic, the emphasis and debates center around SF novels and their evolution.

So one would expect that science fiction authors and readers would be the first ones to embrace new technology.  I assumed that SF people would be on the cutting edge of exploiting new gadgets, especially related to reading and writing.

Instead, I was surprised this weekend when I found that there was hardly a mention of e-books.  When they did come up, heads shook and people spoke of upheaval.  Readers and writers expressed concern about who would be the gatekeepers in this new universe if the publishers couldn’t keep the riff-raff out of print.  Others talked about the smell and feel of paper books, even when I pointed out that they were probably talking about the scent of printing chemicals and binding glue, and in the case of their old paperback collections, mildew and mold.

I went to the only panel dedicated to e-books and found a nearly empty room.  Of the five panelists scheduled to speak, only two had turned up.  The audience consisted of four of us, with a fifth coming late.

Now the 10:00 am Sunday morning time slot probably didn’t help; there’s quite a bit more partying on Saturday night at an SF convention than most people ever imagined.  The Chizine party rocked, and not just because they provided lots of free beer and wine.   I’m guessing that some people weren’t up and running Sunday morning with their usual vigor.

But still, when you think that Amanda Hocking has sold a couple of million SF e-books in the last year, you would think everyone at the convention would at least know her name, but I was stunned to find that many of those avid readers had never heard of her because they don’t buy e-books and they don’t follow that market.

We had a great panel in spite of the low turn out, and it was clear by the end of the hour that we were all die-hard converts to e-books, including author Dave Duncan, whose wily agent, Richard Curtis, jumped early and fast into the e-book market and has all of Duncan’s back list out there and selling.  Ryan McFadden, who converts Chizine’s published novels into e-book format, did a great job as the unexpected moderator.

Now my generalization about the technophobia must be taken with a grain of salt since it’s based totally on anecdotal evidence.  Science fiction master Robert J. Sawyer was doing readings from an e-reader ten years ago, and he’s one of the earliest adopters I know of that technology.

But I’m a bit concerned now.  I’m on a panel about e-books this coming June at the Bloody Words mystery convention in Victoria.  I’m looking forward to the conference, but I have to wonder if I’ll show up for the panel and find an empty room.  Will I be abandoned by my fellow panelists and speaking with a tiny audience?  I’d love to speak to a full room, but it would be rather disappointing if I discovered that mystery writers and readers are more interested in e-books than science fiction fans.

At Ad Astra with the Stop Watch Gang

The Stop Watch Gang is a writers group that has already generated a lot of great published short stories.  I had a few beers with them last night at the Ad Astra SF convention and went to their reading , and I gotta say there’s a lot of talent in that group.

I’m betting there will be published novels from these writers in the near future.

But speaking of published: the second story I ever had published, Beer Truck, is now available for Kindle.  Take it for a spin, but keep in mind that the story is about people doing very dumb things, taking chances so huge that a Darwin Award is but one slippery grip away.  Don’t try this at home.

Railroaded with a New Cover

Railroaded tied for second in the 2005 Great Canadian story contest.  How three judges tied for their second place vote I’m not really sure, but hey, I’ll take it.

Why yellow for the titles?  Well red doesn’t reduce well to an Amazon thumbnail, so reading even the big title was a challenge.

I’m going out on a limb here, but I bet you’ll find that titles and author names in future books are going to get bigger and fatter as designers are ordered to create titles that look good both as full size and as thumbnails.

The title in red will be available for the Sony soon as e-pub, thanks to the open source software called Calibre.  On my Sony the red looks just fine, but hey, it’s being displayed full screen and gray scale.  I wonder what it looks like on a color Nook?

I promise to get that how-to menu item up there next week.  But for now: enjoy Railroaded.

Will Authors Start Using the F-word to Generate Buzz?

For Marketing.  It seems the Charlie Sheen school of publicity has hit the indie publishing scene in a big way.  Author Jacqueline Howett took great exception to book blogger Big Al’s review of her indie novel.  Big Al’s crime?  He complained that the typos and grammar errors made the novel unreadable, although he apparently read all the way through and said that the story was actually good.

Keep in mind that this critique came from a man who reviews indie-published e-books as a preference, so he’s probably seen some typos and grammar errors in the past.  Even Amanda Hocking admits that she needs better editors, which is one of the reasons she signed that seven-figure deal with St. Martins.

But Howett’s response was scripted out of a road rage incident with a drunk driver.  She says Big Al didn’t download the re-formatted novel AS SHE ORDERED!  Wow! Who orders around a reviewer who does this job for free?

But the crazy part is that big Al wasn’t complaining about the formatting, but the grammar and the sentence structure.  He gave examples that she didn’t refute; in fact, she claimed there was nothing wrong with her writing.

Now here’s the scary part: after this exchange began her sales spiked.  I guess people were curious to see the train wreck.  I wonder if it was intentional that she dropped the f-bomb in the comments of Big Al’s blog after that.  Twice she stated, “F–k You!” in response to comments.

I checked her Amazon ranking and it’s actually at 41,000.  Way down from the top 1000, yes, but higher than it apparently deserves.  Given the multiple bad reviews, I’m guessing it should be down around the 100,000 level.

So I have to decide: would I go rude and ballistic to make a name for myself?  No.  I just can’t do it.  I was raised to be polite and respectful–especially to people who are doing me a favor.  I’d rather be known as courteous by a few than as an asshole by many.  Oops.  That just slipped out.

 

Burning Moose

I’ve gone nuclear on my Microsoft Word document; I’ve loaded Mobipocket creator to the PC side of my MAC, since Mobi doesn’t make a MAC version.  Finally, I photoshopped  the spiffy new cover you see on the left.

Yup, I’m finally ready to re-launch my Sioux Rock Falls Short Story, Burning Moose.  This was the first of a series of stories that appeared in Storyteller Magazine between 2002 and 2006.

Yes, re-launch.  It’s been up there on Kindle for months, but friends and fellow authors who purchased it warned me that despite my best efforts, the formatting was corrupted.  There were no paragraph indents at all, which is really challenging when reading fiction.

This week I’m going to put up a detailed how-to menu item for those who want to e-publish well-formatted shorts or novels.  This may sound dull, but in the very crowded indie e-publishing industry, authors will need to stand out from the junk.  Just like with submissions to agents and publishers, the first thing that can get you tossed in the trash is a sloppily formatted story.

I certainly don’t want to lose sales because a reader checked out a sample on Kindle and then didn’t purchase my story because the formatting looked amateurish.

So enjoy the story!  Coming next: Railroaded, Beer Truck, Jumpin Jack, Fire Retardant and White Metal–the whole Sioux Rock Falls series.  I’m already working on a fake Sioux Rock Falls website, complete with ads for the True North Cafe, the Spin Cycle launderette and Elite Bar and Grill.

This is going to be fun!

Trouble at the Airport with the other Michael McPherson

The customs officer looked up and shrugged.  No, really, he truly looked apologetic.  “I’m sorry,” he said, “But I have to send you to immigration.  There’s a Michael McPherson with the same birth date wanted by the US police.”  He wouldn’t elaborate.

The last thing I wanted after a cramped plane flight was to line up at immigration in order to get back into my own country, and luckily I was pushed to the front of the line by the security guard because of my Canadian passport.  Membership has its privileges.

The immigration officer was just as baffled and called his manager, who stated that it was a long shot hit.  They let me go.  That was my first clue that there are just too many Michael McPhersons.

But it gets weirder.  I decided to go with Michael A. McPherson as my author name, but yesterday I read his obituary.  For the family’s sake I won’t link to it, but safe to say he’s African-American and from the south.  He was pretty close to my age too.  Eerie.

Another Google  result turned up a university professor named Michael S. McPherson, which is too close in the search to Michael A. McPherson, and because he has several published books it could cause a little confusion.

So how about M.A. McPherson?  Just forget the first name.  Then I discovered that there’s a poet, again of African-American heritage, who goes by Kuwme M. A. McPherson.  That’s going to cause a lot of confusion, because I’m definitely not a poet.  Even my mother laughed out loud at one of my poems.  It wasn’t meant to be funny.

So I’ve decided to re-brand as Michael Andre McPherson, using the full middle name.  A quick check of my birth certificate and passport show that I don’t need to worry about the accent over the last “e” in Andre, although I was taught to use it as a kid.

And since I’m re-branding: notice I’ve changed the name of the blog?  That’s where I’m going.  No more blind submissions to busy agents.  I’ll stand or fall on my e-book sales.  Besides, I really like the domain name.

Who Would Walk Away From a Seven Figure Book Deal?

Not Amanda Hocking.

Less than a week after Barry Eilser walked away from a $500,000 dollar contract with St Martin’s Press so that he could self-publish his next novel, Amanda Hocking, the self-publishing star who has sold over 2 million copies of her e-books, has signed a seven figure deal with St. Martin’s for her next four novels.

It will be fascinating to watch Eisler’s and Hocking’s careers to see which route will be more successful in the long run.  I know it’s not a very scientific study since Eisler writes thrillers and Hocking writes teen paranormal romances.  As the recent Twilight saga proves, that’s a very hot market.

I’m ready for the purists to roar in outrage that she has gone over to the dark side, but I’m with her when she says that she wants her novels to be available in every Walmart, Target and airport book kiosk.

Wide print distribution is one thing the traditional publishers can still give an author, although I am doubtful about how important that will be ten years from now.  Prominent placement on the front of Amazon’s website may be the ticket in 2021.  But right now, this year, wide print distribution is still the fast lane to big bucks.

A band was once accused of selling out to the big record labels. (The Offspring?  Green Day? I can’t remember) One of the band members replied to the journalist, “Dude!  That was always the plan.”  So I don’t judge Amanda Hocking for inking this deal.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still believe that self-publishing is the way to go for most authors since we won’t all be internet superstars.  That’s why I love self-publishing: the mid-list author can finally earn a living again.

But if I was offered a seven-figure book deal?  In the bank–as bloody fast as I can arrange the funds transfer.  It’s like winning the book lottery!

So who would walk away from a seven-figure book deal?  Not me, baby.

Front Matter, Back Matter, Meta Data?

So I’m working my way through the Smashwords Style Guide, and I’m surprised to discover that they want me to put a long warning about copyright infringement at the beginning of my e-books.

I’m reminded of the FBI warning at the beginning of video movies, the ones I used to fast-forward through before DVDs came along and made that impossible.  I’ve often wondered how many movie pirates read that warning and said, “Oh no!  Better not copy or sell this.  That’s against the law.”

So I put all this extended copyright stuff at the front of my short story, Fire Retardant, and all I’ve accomplished is cluttering up the story preview–you know, the sample the buyer can check out before they take the 99 cent plunge.  Potential purchasers spend more time reading a copyright notice than my brilliant words.  That’s gonna change.

A quick survey of other e-books on my Sony proves that even Random House puts this stuff at the back, but I’m wondering if there’s even a better way: how about in the meta-data?  I’m going to check out the mobi e-pub software and see if I can stick this into the meta data when I generate the stories in Kindle format.  I would still put a copyright date with my name at the beginning, but not a long notice.

I’m guessing that the whole concept of putting copyright at the front began because in print books the first page is on the right anyway, so you might as well stick all that copyright notice stuff on the left side.  But in e-books that makes it the first page, which is probably why most publishers are switching it to the last page.

Makes sense to me.  Hey Smashwords!  You guys getting this?