I can’t quite believe that there’s only one week left to go until the book officially launches. I’ve loaded up the Twitter feed with messages that link extracts from the book to the number of days left until the launch. (It surprised me that this was relatively easy to do. I use numbers a lot, it appears.) Just in case any of you are sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for the delivery, the @velourfuture account will tweet as midnight passes in various places as this is when distribution should immediately and seamlessly unlock.
I’m starting to get excited and nervous, in a roughly equal balance. Fortunately, researching my Hugo nominations is taking up what little spare time I have in between a very busy working week, taking my mind off things.
The first three months of this year have probably been the busiest of my life but also some of the most interesting. I suspect that this is the usual trade-off.
Some of my friends have started asking how they can help with the novel and its launch. As I’m self-publishing and lurking in the indie sector, some of these questions are directed at non-traditional publishing.
But my answers apply to how you can help any author, focused on those who have eBook publishing. (Other authors, I would love additional comments if you felt like it.) Ultimately, if you want the author to keep writing, she or he has to feel that it is worthwhile to keep writing, which may or may not include making enough money. How can we keep an author writing?
Buy the author’s books. That’s a fairly obvious way to show support for an author. It’s not compulsory and we all know that money is tight these days but sales translate into direct feedback to the author that the work is appealing to people.
Tell other people about the book, if you like it. Word of mouth is a very powerful tool. There are millions of books being published every year and finding the ones that you might want to read can be hard. Personal recommendations help a lot here.
Write a review on the site you bought it from. Websites such as Amazon and iBooks have a required number of reviews before they’ll display meaningful data. Their display algorithms often favour books with higher ratings. If you think a book is good, take the time to rate it and write a short review. That will keep helping the author for some time to come.
(As a note, please think carefully before leaving a negative review. If a work is unreadable because of editing mistakes, is blatant plagiarism, or is so bad that it gives you hives, then a negative review may be fair. If you just didn’t like it, maybe it’s just not to your taste. That may not be review-worthy. But, hey, it’s up to you.)
Rate it and write a review on Goodreads (or similar). The review aggregators span all of the distributors and have a lot of influence. A good review and rating here will bring more people to the author. This transcends the more closed communities of distribution channels.
Buy from the back catalogue. One of the advantages of eBooks is that back catalogue (older books) may still be available and, if you like something, you can fill up your bookshelf from work that the author previously released. Take advantage of the persistence of e-materials!
Keep track of the author’s public presence. Many authors will do signings, speaking events, or have extensive on-line presences. Going to those events, participating in message boards, dropping a line that says “I liked this”: all of these are great ways to show support and to achieve your aim, which is to keep the author writing!
I’m very lucky to have had so many people show me support so far, in buying “Five Stories” and in the growing pre-orders for “Kereves Dere”. But there are many authors out there and they need to know that what they are writing is something that you want to read.
Yesterday was a blur of production but the novel is slowly starting to appear in the various stores for pre-order. Apple’s distribution model is slightly unpredictable in terms of what is visible where during this phase. As a result, I’m not advertising the pre-order locations yet but there will be a “Kereves Dere” page for this blog that will show you where you can get it!
I’m delighted that the sample appears to finish on a cliff-hanger. Let’s hope that people can’t then resist buying the book.
I had some problems with the Sony LRF format on Smashwords but it’s a legacy format and I’ve decided to drop it, as I have no detailed debugging instructions beyond “it doesn’t convert to LRF”. Sorry, people with legacy Sony devices but it’s not too bad, you’ll still be able to get it as a PDF from Smashwords!
I’ve reached that tricky point where everything has to be submitted and…
I have to confess that I’m a little scared.
I’m about to say “Yes, this book is good enough to sell to people.” Now, I’m not asking for your life’s savings with a list price of USD 2.99 but that’s not the point. What I want is to produce something that surprises people with how good it is, that has interesting and enjoyable writing, and that has high production values for a self-published work.
It is intimidating. Yet it has to happen. Fortunately, I have help in quelling my fears.
One of the features of the book is a wonderful character named Bosco. He is, among many other things, a French survivor of exile and the decimation of the French Foreign Legion at Kereves Dere, on the Gallipoli peninsular during the First World War. The book links him with all of the events and people to ground the reader, to bring them into the emotional landscape, and to engage them with the narrative.
He is wonderfully loyal and brave. He is, very much, the voice in my head that tells me to dare and to be bold. Right now, I have him in my ear.
“This book, it is good, patron?”
“I like to think so, Bosco.”
“And what of other people? What do they think?”
“They think it’s pretty good, too. Even after re-readings.”
“Then it must go out. It is either ready now or it never will be. You will never let it be ready.”
“But, of course, Bosco. Out it must go. You are very wise.”
“Wisdom is the memory of all of the mistakes that did not kill us, Monsieur. This book will not kill you, I think. Release it!”
How can I argue with that? Onwards! To production!
What have I learned about eBook production? I’ve learned that superscripts such as the ‘th’ in 18th transform differently depending upon which eBook format you target. MOBI seems to be produced without any trouble but the baseline gets messed up in EPUB and it’s a manual (not entertaining) task to manually edit the EPUB in Sigil to replace the rather bizarre span information with simple ‘sup’ tags. (Please ignore this paragraph if it makes no sense.)
In other news, I’ve learned that a 15-gun salute is awarded to three star generals and vice admirals. I’ve also learned that if the birthdays of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh happen to be on the same day, then some poor soldiers in the Tower of London have to fire a combined 124 gun salute. I have no idea if that is going to be useful one day but it’s too late, I already know it.
If you’re ever in London on a Saturday that is the 10th of June and also the official Queen’s birthday, wear earplugs.
If you liked the short stories, you’ll love the book!
(If you liked the short stories, please consider leaving a positive review as there are numerical thresholds to pass before ratings will be displayed. Thank you!)
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.
I’m very pleased to have been able to be part of the Little Rundle Street Art Project for 2016.
My work “Legends for Explorers in Uncharted Territories” is a mixed-media digital/linocut/monoprint/photography composite. All the quadrants are 15cmx15cm.
Statement: Love is a collaborative creative activity; we build a map beyond ourselves, with each participant’s perceptions rewriting the terrain and legends.
Details of the work:
The original linocut, terrain with a blank legend, was inspired by a visit to the Medici household in Florence. The great map room is full of documents that show perceptions of the world, represented as maps, including some highly racist references to the more southern aspects of Africa. As Korzybski noted “the map is not the territory” and this separation between the representative and actual, geographical and the geopolitical, was brought home to me, standing in this grand room where the very powerful once sought to contain a view of the globe.
I used a blended roll to achieve the rainbow colouration, as a recognition of the many forms of love, but also to subvert the traditional colouring of maps. Any two-dimensional map can be displayed with only four colours, without any two adjacent sections having the same colour, but I chose to use more to remind myself that love is not about the minimum required, it is about beauty and that is often gloriously multi-coloured.
The text was cut as a separate plate and, over time as I printed with it, developed a character of its own that I did not erase, forming a monoprint that I then printed in isolation. The four panels are formed from the original printed work, with an early text overlay, and then digital composition of the elements. The black and white terrain is a high-contrast digital photograph of the cleaned plate, reversed.
The words “Our Love” by themselves are, in the digital version, on a transparent background. This was a deliberate decision, to add to the first work where love is a lens through which a terrain is viewed, to show how self-contained the shared perception of love can be, where it can be applied over wherever you find yourselves.
Any recollection of love, whether happy or sad, is deeply personal and yet it must be affected by the actions and thoughts of others. A single map does not show us the true territory through which this love travelled, but it can give us an idea of the shape, the highs and the lows, and whether this journey is over or ongoing.
I hope that you enjoy the work. Thank you for coming to view it.
The programme for Adelaide’s queer arts festival, Feast, has been released, and it’s worth taking a look to see what’s on this year. The festival is held in Light Square from 10 to 25 November.
Most of the names I recognise are local performers. Of those, I can unhesitatingly recommend Libby O’Donovan. She has a huge voice, solid song-writing skills and a sassy-yet-vulnerable persona. What more could one want from a cabaret singer? She’s performing her show, Some of My Best Friends Are Single, for one night only. (Note that I’m posting this only after I’ve secured my own ticket.)
Jamie Jewell is back with a new show, Last Days on Earth. Jewell did a superb comic turn in La Chêvre Noir last year – even his knees were hilarious – but disappointed recently in the showtune melodrama, The Lonely Man, despite singing his heart out. Last Days on Earth is described as a “cosmic caper”, so let’s hope this is Jewell in better form.
Young performer Annie Seigmann is back. Last year she managed an irreverent, feel-good performance of her own songs even on a slow Tuesday night. She’ll have her work cut out again this time, as she’s been given the 11 am slot for Picnic in the Park. Another repeat show is New Coat of Paint: The Songs of Tom Waits, which I recall as being perfectly entertaining at the time but not actually memorable.
Feast Comedy Gayla should be worth a look. It will feature short taster performances from five comedians, including the acerbic, fishnet-wearing Hans. I usually find these compendium shows to be good value, as if any one performer is disappointing, there’s always another one on in a minute. Even better for the budget-conscious are the visual arts exhibitions, which are free. Last year they were held in shipping containers in Light Square, with a few works from each artist.
Otherwise, well, there’s lots. Cabaret, music, films, comedy, drag, and community events. Bowling, bingo, and the release of a pig by an animal liberation group (what?). The burlesque boom is well represented, so let’s hope some of that is less dull that what I sat through during the Fringe. Boyleqsue and Ambrosia do boylesque, Shaken and Stirred do “grrrlesque”, Trixie and Monkey do striptease acrobatics and Bad Barber Shop Burlesque involves man-eating plants.
Yes, that’s rainbow triffid burlesque. This intrepid reviewer may have to report back later.