Posts tagged ebook
So after thinking about it for a while, brainstorming it, plotting out a bit of the storyline, and generally doing all the things I do beforelaunching a new project, I’ve officially put fingers to keyboard on the new series today. For those that missed my earlier posts on the subject, I have a theory: I think that ebooks are a beautiful medium for telling short, episodic stories. The concept is that each story is self contained as a single plot, but is connected to the other stories in the series, much like a set of TV episodes are connected. And since TV is woefully short on good science fiction right now, I thought I’d write some good episodic SF to pick up the slack and test my theory at the same time.
I’m only 1800 words into the story so far, but the day is still young. I expect to be about twice that far in by the end of the day (cross fingers). Which should put me about a fifth of the way into the first story, I think. I’m not really sure how long these stories are going to be, and I’m not locking myself into any specific length, but I am guessing this first one at least will be somewhere around twenty thousand words, give or take a few thousand. I expect the stories will generally fall around 10-25k words, in the novelette to novella range.
Now, I don’t know if episodes would work with longer chunks. I think writing gets more difficult and complex at an almost geometric rate as the work gets longer. More moving parts means more places things can go wrong. Or maybe it’s just that my natural storytelling length is shorter, who knows? =) But I think episodic content begs for rapid releases. No one wants to wait six months for the answer to the questions posed in the last episode of a TV show, and I think we’ll see a similar annoyance with long waits in episodic writing. Serialized stories worked in the pulp era because they were released rapidly, so I believe that will be essential today as well.
Back to work!
The interwebs are abuzz these past weeks with news about Amanda Hocking. From unpublished author in April 2010, she now has nine (going on ten) books self published, sold 100k books in December, 450k books in January, and goodness only know how many in February – probably a lot more than January, because the mainstream news media got hold of her then, giving her a lot more exposure. Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s an amazing success story, and I wish her the absolute best. I hope she keeps writing, too, because I’ve read two of her books now and enjoyed both of them (Hollowland more than Switched).
But a lot of people seem to be latching on to her as the sign of everything to come – “see, this is why you should publish independently!” Well, no, no more than you can use Stephen King as an example of why you should publish with mainstream/legacy publishing.
In any system, there will be outliers whose success greatly outstrips that of most other folks. It just happens – no one really understands the process. That’s not a good indication of the norm, though. Amanda actually blogged about this a little bit – she’s got a good head on her shoulders. I hope she remembers that the writing is the important part though, and keeps putting out good work book after book. This sort of early/fast fame is problematic for many artists.
So if Ms. Hocking’s success does NOT mean that the average indie will be able to sell 400k books a month soon, what does it mean?
Still playing with the art some. I rough-drafted a new layout, which I think might have more energy. Also tried tweaking the colors again. Just brainstorming various ideas. These new ones are just mock-ups – I haven’t scaled everything perfectly yet or redone the fonts. But they’re decent concepts, I think. Like these better? Or the original one?
Second draft of the cover art for By Darkness Revealed. Next version will see a few tweaks, but the art is almost there, I think. I’m pretty pleased with the overall effect, to be honest – simple whitespace, iconic imagery, bold and easy to read fonts. This is for the ebook cover – the print version will use similar art and layout, obviously with spine and back cover material as well – and the monster wraps around the spine onto the back, for the print version.
The image, of course, is the big nastie that Ryan has to face as part of the story. Or a stylized version of it, anyway. In By Darkness Revealed, Ryan Blackwell is a new student at the private military college Northshield University. Ryan has some past experience with magic, but what he runs into during his first months at the University challenge his skills and his willpower to their utmost. Because the campus holds an ancient secret, and something sinister stirs in the darkness…
It’s really nice to see things coming together. So, what do you think of the art? I’ve got similar art lined up for the next two stories, with a stylized image for the focus of each.
I’ve been thinking more about the episodic novelette idea. I’m really fond of the concept, and thinking I’d like to do something science fiction with it. Why SF? Well, my other series is contemporary fantasy. So breaking up the work a bit sounds more fun.
But it’s also because there’s really not a lot of serial science fiction available out there right now. For years, we’ve had either Star Trek or Stargate or Babylon 5 or Battlestar Galactica or a host of other shows. And we’re really in something of a lull for SF serial TV right now. I know there’s a market for that sort of fiction (even if it has been mostly filled by video, in the past). Why not write it now? More >
A number of things have converged in my mind, of late.
There’s been a renewal in the short fiction world, for one. People are selling shorts – and doing decently with them! – for the first time in quite a while. Dean Wesley Smith points out how it’s possible to set up a solid residual income selling short stories as ebooks. Joe Konrath was blogging the other day about a novelist friend he convinced to write his first short story, publish to Kindle, and he’s already in the top 500 ebooks for a 6600 wd story selling at $2.99. That means he’s getting a ton of readers. Lot of other folks are hopping on, writing from true short length through novella/short novel length. More >
Ryan Blackwell is the protag in By Darkness Revealed. He’s also the viewpoint character for “Cat Fight”, a short story which will be appearing in the not-too-distant future in an anthology. With one short novel just about done, and a short story as well, my mind has naturally been shifting toward what else to do with him?
Well, as far back as November I was already planning to write more novels. The 40-50k word novel seems to fit his stories well so far. Short – fast – episodic content. Lots of hard-hitting magical action packed into short spaces. I started the second novel late last year, and I’ve picked it up again this week to finish it. But I’ve also been looking at the short story I wrote, liking the look of it, and realizing the shorts are just another good way to mix it up with this character.
So I put in 2000 words tonight on another short story, this one set between two novels (“Cat Fight” is set after the second novel). When done, I’ll have a novel – short story – novel – short story tempo that should work pretty well. I’ve already got the rough idea in my head for novel #3, in fact. And with the speed I can get short stories out and printed, this short should release almost the same time as By Darkness Revealed. Nothing like getting a couple of complementary works up right on top of each other.
This sort of serialized fiction is something I’ve thought about a lot. I still have some regular, full length novels I want to do, including getting back to the science fiction trilogy I’ve started. But I think serials have a lot of promise in the ebook world. They’re pretty fast to write. They promise good, reliable, fun reads. And they can be priced at a level that makes them an easy purchase (Darkness and other short novels will start off at $2.99 for ebook formats; the short stories will be 99 cents when I release them as singles).
I’ve got a new concept for a serialized work that I’ve been tinkering with in my subconscious for a couple of months now. It’s an extension of the same sort of idea. I’ll go into more detail about my thoughts for that – a real serial fiction, not just a string of related novels and shorts – in my next post.
A writing update!
So, after taking a little time off from writing in January, I got back to work again. I’ve temporarily set aside Accord of Honor – no worries, it’s still coming. But I wrote a short novel last November that, on first read, was in pretty good shape. So I’ve been hammering that into publishable condition. I should be completing the semi-final revision today, after which it will go to beta readers. Then last touch ups, and off to press.
I plan to have it available from ebookstores everywhere by the end of this month.
The novel follows the early adventures of Ryan Blackwell, a college student attending Northshield University, in Vermont. Ryan can use magic, and those skills plunge him into a deadly series of encounters shortly after arriving on the campus. As his understanding of magic increases, so too does the danger.
The book is about 45,000 words long, a short novel. I have plans for a series of adventures based on these characters. The second is already started – I’m about 10k words in – and I’ll be finishing that along with Accord once I have Darkness done.
In other news, I’ve gotten four short stories completed so far this year. One, I already mentioned here, got me into a writing workshop last month. That one’s been tweaked and is going out for submissions. Another (a Ryan Blackwell short) will be published later this year in a SF&F anthology – working to get the Darkness novel out before the anthology is released is part of why I shifted focus. And the others will be put out in ebook form shortly – an Accord prequel story, and a short about another character I created many years ago, who I may bring back for a longer work sometime soon.
So it’s been a busy twelve days! The progress has been excellent, and I’m looking forward to moving ahead with increasing energy. Lots to do, lots of stories to tell.
According to a Huffington Post article, Barnes & Nobles has just announced that they are now selling more ebooks than print books from their website. B&N apparently sold over one million ebooks on Christmas day alone. Also, both B&N.com and Amazon have announced that the Nook and Kindle (respectively) are now their best-selling items ever, outselling even the last Harry Potter novel.
I said earlier in the year that holiday sales of ereaders was going to cause massive acceleration in ebook sales early this year, and it looks like that’s already proving true. Really, we’re seeing this happen faster than anyone had predicted. It’s simply amazing. I look at my little Kindle there, and I know that I have access to just about any book I want, whenever I want it. Just crazy. But fun. Looking forward to seeing some of my stuff up there too, this year!
So Derek Canyon was talking in his blog about his marketing efforts, and folks were brainstorming about marketing in the comments. I mentioned “why not have indie authors exchange chapters of their books, put them in the end of each others’ ebook releases?” It seemed a sound idea. Still does, really. Suddenly their book is a marketing vessel for yours, and yours is for theirs. It costs the writer nothing – and it adds bonus content to the book which might attract other readers.
Next thing I know, Derek is posting about that idea, and an expansion on that idea. Sure, he says, we can trade chapters (I really like the idea, Derek, and I’m game – let me get this thing ready to roll out, and you’re on). It’d be a great way to get the word out about other good books. Hey, big publishers do this all the time, in print where it costs them money. They wouldn’t do it if it didn’t make them money.
But then he adds more ideas. What about an anthology of short stories written by a bunch of people who have books up via self-pub? Maybe it could be offered for free, as a loss leader (with blurbs about their other books, of course!). Or perhaps it could be offered at a low price like $2.99, as a charity book for some cause everyone agreed on. Marketing and philanthropy at the same time. Love the idea. I’m all for using writing as a tool to help others – one of my personal motives in writing near-future science fiction is to hopefully help rekindle a sense of wonder about space, and to encourage folks to dream about getting there – not someday in the far future, but soon. Tomorrow. So I think opportunities to use writing talent to help humanity in some way are great things.
I’m also really encouraged by what I’m starting to see coalesce “out there” in the cloud of writers starting this journey. We’ve got a lot of bright people with some good books, talented writers with lots of ideas – not just for stories, but for how to get them out there, how to use them in new ways, how to do exciting things. I see a future in that. I’m not sure just what it is yet, or what it will be. But there’s something powerful involved when a bunch of bright people start working together on the future. What a great time to be writing!