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Reflections On The Release Of Hidden Power

Well, I admit that I pushed myself a little bit harder than I probably should have, but I’ve managed to get Charlotte Powers 3: Hidden Power released before flitting away to Japan (and with, oh, at least two days to spare). I did consider skipping a proof in order to release it even earlier, but decided against it—I only picked up one actual error on that last round but it was a doozy (‘baseball leg’ instead of ‘baseball bat’, I would have been horribly embarrassed to let that one through), so I’m glad I gritted my teeth and just did it. Cover graphic and link? Yes, I think so:

After actually publishing something I usually feel a combination of satisfaction and emptiness, and this time is no exception. I really do put everything I have into my books, no corners cut however tempting it might be to do so—that final proof is a good example, how much did it improve the book, really? By one percent? Less? It’s the law of diminishing returns, the first edit might give a twenty percent improvement to the book, the next ten percent, then five, then three, then two, then one, but even that one percent improvement, catching another error, tightening up those final few sentences that are just a little loose, killing that ‘she said’ which isn’t really necessary, adding that single line of description that really sets the tone of a scene, all of these things really are just so important to me. Little details. Little details are important. After the last proof I did on the book my feeling was that doing another could possibly catch another error or two, would maybe turn up a few sentences that could be better, but in terms of story and polish, I was (and am) happy. I think part of being not just a writer but an author—and in a certain sense a publisher—is learning when to say ‘this is as good as I can reasonably expect to make it; it’s time to cut the cord’. That’s probably the single most important skill I’ve developed through this whole indie author adventure; learning to finish things, really finish them, not just outlining and writing a first draft that I come back to every so often mostly because I want to read that scene I’m particularly fond of, but focused crafting of not just a story but a book.

Anyway, I hope people like this one. The ending is even more difficult than Power Play’s (which was pretty bad, in that sense), but it’s all going somewhere. I’m not just throwing these things together, I have a definite end in mind and know just what has to happen to reach that end. So after Hidden Power there are going to be two more books, Rising Power and then Power Overwhelming, and that’ll be the end of Charlotte’s story. For better or worse. After that, I don’t know. I have other projects and other series but I don’t want to let go of Charlotte’s world just yet; there are stories still to tell.

Anyway, for now I’m happy with where I am. I was especially happy at the response to my pre-release announcements—that there was any response at all was amazing. It wasn’t so long ago that I was just writing entirely for myself, making these little stories for no grander reason than my own amusement, and now here I am, slowly but surely getting my books into the hands of people who actually want to read them—who look forward to the next in the series enough to say ‘yay!’ or ‘hurry up!’ when I announce it’s coming. These sorts of things might seem minor but they really do mean a lot to me, and I’m grateful to all my readers. The simple truth is that this wouldn’t be nearly as fun without you.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2011 in Of Writing

 

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Amazon Exclusivity: Well, Maybe

It would seem to be an easy question to answer; would I, in exchange for several juicy benefits, give Amazon exclusive rights to distribute my book? Given that I don’t use Smashwords due to quality control issues and given also that every major distributor except Amazon hates us dirty foreigners/indies/dirty foreign indies all to heck, why wouldn’t I go with Amazon exclusivity?

Well, for one, because exclusivity often leads to complications. In a certain sense it’s a bet; Amazon is currently the biggest name in e-book distribution, but will that continue? What if something changes? What if the KDP terms are altered (pray I do not alter them further), what if royalties are cut in half? I don’t personally see Amazon coming out behind in any e-retail fight, but who knows what the future holds—and what they might decide to do should they achieve that elusive monopoly. I have a certain amount of trust in Amazon (or, to be more specific, in Amazon’s business sense; they know not to mess with a good, profitable thing), but things could always change.

Right now I certainly can’t say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to exclusivity because this is all still very much speculation based on rumour, although it’s a pretty solid one as far as rumours go. I don’t know the details of the contract involved or what Amazon might offer, and so a lot of questions are raised. Would this exclusivity be for a set length of time, or could one ‘opt out’ with a certain amount of notice? What, exactly, are they offering—the ability to make your books free whenever you want (attractive), the option to make a product page for your books before they’re released and take pre-orders (very attractive)? What if (as is rumoured) some manner of special promotional options were included (extremely attractive)? Does exclusivity extend only to other retailers, or would it prohibit selling through my website—or even giving away books for free? What if I offered ePub versions of my books through my website as a free download with a donate button nearby (as I have tentative plans to do), would that conflict with ‘exclusivity’? What if a situation came up like I had earlier this year, with Power Play not being available to buy (for two freaking months), would I be allowed to offer it as a free download, as I did then?

Lots of questions, but of course no answers. As mentioned, this is all based on speculation which is in turn based on rumour. Pointless? Well, I believe it’s good to start thinking about these things early. It’d be a big decision to make, perhaps one of the biggest as an indie author; do I want to trust Amazon to be my sole distributor?

As things stand I think my answer could be ‘yes’, but it really does depend on the terms of the exclusivity contract and the bonuses offered. With that said I feel that the benefits for myself could easily (and heavily) outweigh any negative points. There’s another aspect to this too, one I mentioned right at the start; as things stand, Amazon really is the only major distributor that does us indies any favours at all—from the ease of use and openness of KDP to the mysterious Amazon algorithms working in our favour (without ‘also boughts’ I doubt I’d have even the few sales I enjoy), there is the sense that they have a certain amount of respect for us (or at least for the money we bring in). I do feel an odd sort of loyalty to The Mighty Zon for that; for the opportunities Amazon has given me.

Although with that said if this does all come to be and I am faced with this choice, my decision will be based on reason rather than emotion. I’ll read the contract, consider the benefits, consult with my learned peers, think things over, and only THEN will I click “YES YES TAKE MY INDIE SOUL GIVE ME THE SHINY TOYS YES”.

As a final thought, pairing this rumour with ANOTHER rumour, that Amazon may allow formats other than Mobi (most importantly ePub) to be sold through the Kindle store, well … that would make things look even more attractive. In any case it looks like 2012 is going to be a very interesting year. Very interesting indeed.

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2011 in Of Writing

 

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Good, Good, Good

I had rather a pleasant time this evening fiddling around on TVTropes, making/updating pages for a few of my books. Apparently it’s fine to make a page for your own work just as long as you don’t get possessive, which won’t be a problem for me at all. The toughest part was getting over the slightly cringy ‘ooh troping my own work feels a bit off’ factor, which to be honest is still there a little. But anyway, I think it’s good to have a starting point at least, so that perhaps sometime in the future others may add to the pages.

Aside from that, Power Play (along with the first Miya Black and Resonance books, just for fun) is still available free here:

Secret GET!

I’ve already had a few downloads and donations, which is really just … it’s lovely, is what it is. My fans are, like, the BEST fans. Eventually I think this is the direction I’ll go in, offer all of my books on a ‘pay if you feel like it’ basis. Amazon.com is great for distribution (well, when it works), but it’d be nice to do things my own way. The biggest downside is that Amazon’s magic syncing thing won’t work, and you can’t read the books on the cloud reader.

This song just came on, I must have listened to this about a hundred times and watched the video at least a dozen, it still always makes me smile:

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2011 in Of Writing

 

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Book Release; Publishing Gets Easier; Covers Covers Covers

Today I had exactly one thing on my ‘to-do’ list, and that one thing was check the time/date stamps on Power Play. Turns out a couple of them were wonky! Mostly due to little changes in the editing process, and my forgetting that a regular entry timestamp is for when it was ‘published’ and a LUS entry is for when it’s started. As I’ve said previously, this is a tiny, tiny thing that most likely 99% of people wouldn’t even THINK to think about, but it matters to me. So, a few minor corrections and adjustments, an updated NCX file, and everything’s all neat and nice. September 1st release? Yes, I think so. What could be a better start to the month than a fresh new book release?

It’s interesting (to me, probably not to anyone else) how publishing gets easier as you go along. I fretted and dithered for ages over hitting ‘publish’ on my first few books, and even as recently as Imogen Shroud I spent an hour just flicking through the e-book certain that there were mistakes or that I’d accidentally put a picture of a dead rat between chapters three and four or something. But with Miya Black III I barely worried at all, and thinking about hitting publish on Power Play I’m not a bit nervous–it’s another thing that needs to be done, I’m happy and excited (and relieved) to be able to put it out, but the actual act of publishing has become normal to me. I am choosing to think of this as a Good Thing.

Anyway, as a reward for finishing Power Play today I just faffed around writing notes for Codename: Fantasy Losers, and mucking around with the cover:


“Although it started out rather bright and chirpy, we can see how the cover became ‘grungier’ with each iteration.”

Larger version of the current ‘final’ cover (although the book’s title will almost certainly be changed and I’ll probably muck around with it a bit more):

I also played around with an idea for the book–it’s kind of a fantasy RPG thing the details of which I haven’t quite worked out, I have a few potential plotlines and pages of ideas and quite a few characters but I haven’t yet found the heart of the story. It’s not really a parody, more of an underdog sports story than anything–but anyway, one idea I had was to give each character their own ‘stat card’, a little like you might find in an RPG wargame or similar. The moment I stumbled upon the idea of using ‘parody alignments’ a whole bunch of things suddenly came together and several characters immediately established themselves in my mind, it was rather exciting as you can no doubt imagine–anyway, I’m not sure if I’ll include these cards in the finished book but in any case they’re kind of fun:


“Lawful Squeeful” is my new favourite parody alignment, usurping “Lawful Angry” and just beating “Chaotic Bored”.

So it turned out that my day off was actually quite productive, albeit in a fairly directionless sort of way. Next up? At this point I’m not sure. I think I’ll just potter around for a few days until something takes hold of me.

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2011 in Of Writing

 

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Pricing Error In Your Favour

So I’ve made kind of a big decision re: pricing. Previously, I was going by the 99 cent first-in-series $2.99 subsequent-book model, but lately I’ve been thinking, why? And I couldn’t come up with an answer to that. There’s the theory that if someone liked your first book then they’ll pay a little more for others, but I don’t know … it’s logical and I think maybe it works in practise, but do I actually care if I get two dollars or thirty-five cents? Not really! Besides which, especially with the Miya Black books, I wrote the first couple years ago and they don’t represent me at my best–I’m proud of them, don’t get me wrong, but I can almost chart my progress as a writer as I go through them–here’s where I figured out how to pace a book, here’s where I figured out how to better make plot serve story. Around book four the quality increases, and with book five I feel I wrote something really pretty excellent, but who’s going to know that unless people read the earlier ones?

So yes. Back to the point. All of my books are now 99 cents, regardless of length or position-in-series. This will continue until such time as I discover a good reason to increase the price.

(Secret Bonus Reason: When I was young I loved books but they were so expensive. I know there’s not a lot of difference between 99 cents and $2.99, but I can remember a time when two dollars was all the money in the world.)

Oh yes, I’m also going to release books three, four and five of Miya Black this year, pretty much as quickly as I can. Why not? Why not get them out there? They’re already written, they’re just sitting around, there’s no reason not to push them into the world.

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2011 in Of Writing

 

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Japanese On The Kindle Part III: Tentative Success

After some fiddling and faddling and a touch of faffery, I’ve figured out what I was doing wrong re: displaying Japanese text on the Kindle. It’s really basic. It’s embarrassing to even admit, but here we go:

I forgot the UTF-8 meta tag.

I know! That’s a ridiculous thing to forget! But I’m sharing my error here so that others looking for guides on formatting HTML with Japanese text for the Kindle might learn from my silliness. So here we go:

A VERY BRIEF GUIDE TO FORMATTING JAPANESE HTML FOR THE KINDLE

1 – Don’t forget to add the proper UTF-8 meta tag like a big fule.
2 – THAT IS LITERALLY IT.

As long as your html file is in correct UTF-8 format (by which I mean you’ve got something very similar to <meta http-equiv=”Content-Type” content=”text/html; charset=utf-8″ /> in your header and you haven’t saved it as shift-jis or something), the Kindle will display your mobi file without a word of complaint–and it looks brilliant, too. I’m sure you’ll agree that this is very exciting.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2011 in Of Writing

 

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Japanese On The Kindle Part II: A New Hope?

I’m allowing myself to get a little bit excited, because it seems that Japanese actually CAN be displayed on the Kindle. I’m still looking into encoding issues (I thought I’d tried everything but apparently not!) but my idea for bilingual ‘learning stories’ might work after all–fun, easy to read short stories of around two thousand words, first in English then in Japanese, with vocabulary and learning notes at the back. There’s nothing like this out there, and I think the idea could really take off with both Japanese students of English and with people learning Japanese–it can be really difficult finding reading material if you’re a beginner, or even intermediate student of the language. I’ve heard that ‘cell phone novels’ have been increasing in popularity in Japan recently, ‘amateurs’ writing and distributing stories cheaply. Certainly parallels there with the international indie authors community πŸ™‚

Now I just have to figure out where Amazon’s hidden the relevant information I need on formatting Japanese HTML for the Kindle. UTF8 would seem obvious but I’m certain I tried that last time and it didn’t work. Oh well, seems like I’ve got some experimentation ahead of me.

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2011 in Of Writing

 

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