I wanted to have a test run before going for the full book and it would be an understatement to say that I have learned a lot in the past few days.
Good news! “Five Stories: Track One” by Nick Falkner is now available for pre-order at Smashwords, iBooks store, and many other providers. The release date is the 18th of March, which will allow me to get a little more comfortable with the overall process.
You can go to either of the sites above and read the first story for free… although it would be nice if you pre-ordered, if I’m being honest. You even get enough of the second story that you might want to buy the book to finish it.
I’m very excited but I now know that I have to start the prep process for the novel this weekend if I’m going to have any chance of having it in stores for April 1st.
(I was planning to handle iBook store distribution myself but, right now, I’m letting Smashwords handle that on my behalf. The book I will probably do myself.)
One of the issues with an eBook is that there’s nothing to hand over at a book launch. People like physical things, even if they are big fans of the digital format. As you know, I’m a printmaker, and I decided that I could create something fun that would be a proxy for the book.
QR codes are those two dimensional black and white blocky things you see all over posters, bus-stops, and movie advertisements. (The QR stands for Quick Response, if you’re curious.) You can take information and put it into the QR code, then someone can scan it with a phone that understands the codes and see your message.
QR codes can also store URLs, the addresses that we use to locate things on the web. Of course, my eBooks will have URLs, one for the Apple store and one for Smashwords. This got me thinking; I could create a QR code that would take people to my book and I could print it out in a way that would allow me to sign and distribute them, just as you would for a first edition at a book launch.
Here’s my test run. I made up a goo.gl shortening link and I turned it into a QR code (there are many sites that will do this for you), leaving a big hole in the middle for me to be able to sign or personalise any of the prints that I see. QR codes can be set up to allow them to be very tolerant of missing parts of the puzzle and I wanted a big empty space in the middle to give me the freedom to make a simple print more interesting.
I decided to use a 29×29 grid and worked on lino, working in pencil to create the reversed image (relief printing is going to flip it!) and then cutting it out. Finally, I decided to print it at home using only hand pressure, Japanese paper and Gamblin black relief ink (one of my favourite inks). As a test, if the image can be scanned with the innate variability of my hand printing technique, then it will work really well when it goes into a lino press.
Here’s an animation of the process, a collection of photos that take you through the process to the end.
It takes about eight hours from start to finish to do this. I like to work slowly and take breaks to avoid over-cutting and I spend a lot of time at the start to make sure that what I have sketched is actually the correct image and is correctly flipped.
Here’s the final print, in all of its shaky glory. But it does scan and that means that, when I finally get the real URLs for my book, they should scan as well. And now I know that people at my book launch will have something that they can take away, if they want to buy something physical as well as digital.
Now I have my Australian Business Number, this whole project has moved from “cautious progress” to “go go go”. I want to test the production systems, without making a total mess of the novel, and I will be releasing a set of five short stories in the lead-up to the novel release.
For those of you who haven’t read any of my writing, this is a set of stories that touch on fantasy, science-fiction and, above all, the people (and others) in those situations.
Here’s the working cover art for the first version of “Five Stories”, revealing my ongoing minor obsession with London Underground. It will retail for 0.99 US and I hope that it will be available in the next couple of weeks. (Actual art may vary but this is the overall look and feel.)
Fingers crossed for a successful test of all of the production systems! If you read it, I hope that you enjoy it.
My amazing editor has given me some really useful things to think about. I’m happy to say that she did what I’d hoped for by identifying the places that I knew were weak but thought I’d got away with, and giving me some more things to think about. But it’s not major and the overall feedback is very positive.
I’m rewriting a little bit, then we go back into deep copy edit. But we are still on track for the launch!
The tax office have also provided me with the ability to run this as a business, in that my ABN has come through. I’ve never been so happy to see an 11 digit number…
I’ve always loved the music of Patti Smith and it was a pleasure to enjoy her books just as much. Her big hit, “Just Kids”, is a wonderful memoir of her early life. One of my favourite parts of the book is an account of a time that she and Robert Mapplethorpe (her then partner) were sitting around. I’ll let her tell it.
“We were walking toward the fountain, the epicenter of activity, when an older couple stopped and openly observed us. Robert enjoyed being noticed, and he affectionately squeezed my hand.
“Oh, take their picture,” said the woman to her bemused husband, “I think they’re artists.”
“Oh, go on,” he shrugged. “They’re just kids.”
And, of course, they were just kids but that simple classification is deceptive, because what the husband meant was “there’s nothing special about them in terms of being artists.” And that is both true and false, because there’s nothing more special about them for being just kids and there’s certainly nothing less special about them.
I like this story. The punchline, of course, is that two of New York’s better-known artists from that period were dismissed as not being interesting enough to photograph; they didn’t look artistic enough. But Patti Smith is a clever writer and the message goes beyond this.
It’s not just that she and Robert looked like two kids, it’s that you can’t always pick what an artist looks like, any more than you can tell where an artist will go based on what they’re doing when you meet them.
It’s that reminder that there are many more paths to being an artist than many people realise and that waiting for other people to recognise that won’t always happen.
Look in the mirror. That’s your audience. That’s the person who will help you identify your art. Other people may be able to help but they have to be artists too and they have to be honest, not caught up in the machinery of art or be fixated on gatekeeping. But it starts with you and you have to be prepared to observe things with an artist’s perception, revealing what others may not. It’s your perception that will drive your art.
I’ll leave you with another of my favourite quotes from Patti.
“I’m certain, as we filed down the great staircase, that I appeared the same as ever, a moping twelve years-old, all arms and legs. But secretly I knew I had been transformed, moved by the revelation that human beings create art, that to be an artist was to see what others could not.”