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The write-finer monologues So what's up man? Cooling, man. Chillin' chillin'? Yo you know I had to call, you know why right? To reprise the opening lines from the Wu-Tang Clan's classic track 'Protect Ya Neck'? Well, yes, but also to see how the writing's going. Are you doing it? The big push to finish Raven's Blood? I'm doing my best. Which is... what? Three chapters since...

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The big push Last week I talked about writing a polished (or at least satisfactory) foundation draft, which obviously takes longer than a rougher first draft. In saying all that, I wasn't trying to say that one approach is better than the other; it's all about what works for you as a writer. Write fast, write slow; it takes as long as it takes, and what matters is how happy you...

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First versus foundation (steel cage grudge match) There's been a pretty excellent blog post making the rounds lately. No, not one of mine, he chuckled... oh, no-one suggested it was one of mine? Oh. Okay. That's fine. No, no, just something in my eye. No, it's the very smart 'How not to write a novel' essay over at the Momentum Books blog. Go read it if you haven't already. I'll wait. I have fulfilled pretty...

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Everything I did wrong and more besides Lots of talk about how much money people can make - or not make - from independent e-publishing lately. Author Hugh Howey launched a site called Author Earnings, which uses some maybe-representative-maybe-not data to create complicated reports suggesting that self-publishers can make pots and pots of money. But in the same time period I've read a bunch of blog posts by...

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Wiggle my wordle (Alternative linkbait title: Try this one weird trick for finding repetition in your writing!) So I've had a long and kinda irritating day, and all I really want to do is drink Scotch and grumble, but I don't because I've got a work ethic and I owe you folks a blog post. And I don't want to drink because I have a platelet donation tomorrow. ...okay, fine, I don't...

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Month of maps – The Obituarist

1

Category : maps, obituarist

Having put up my cruddy Word-drawn map of Crosswater last week to deafening acclaim – I must be deaf as I didn’t hear anything – I’d like to follow up with my map of Port Virtue, the seedy seaside city that is the setting of The Obituarist. It’s equally cruddy, but I think it shows how different stories have very different priorities, and how place can work very differently.

And now, through the magic of <insert text box>, I give you:

Port Virtue

What the hell kind of map is this? I mean, last week’s attempt was a bit rubbish, but it least it had some proper features like rivers. This is just some words and an arrow pointing north – might as well be a mind map!

Well, yes – and it nearly was a mind map, but that started getting messy.

Tone first, geography second

When I looked back through The Obituarist to make this map – because I’d never drawn or envisioned one while writing it – I discovered that there was only one statement about a physical direction in the entire book. (Someone says ‘west side’ towards the end of the novella.) And yet Port Virtue is clear in my head – a run-down faded city of harsh lights, broken concrete and crappy nightlife – and readers have said to me that it’s been vivid for them as well. But all of that comes out through tone and from individual scenes, rather than how those scenes and places sit alongside each other.

Not every story needs a map, and not every map needs to show physical things. This diagram shows me tone more than anything else – there’s the boring part of town, a shitty part, a wet part where people probably get drowned, a relatively nice parts my stories will probably never visit and so on. Even though I have a rough direction marker, thanks to that one bit of dialogue, the important thing is seeing that if Kendall goes back to the crappy part (and he will) then it gets even crappy further out; if he stays at home he’ll get bored; if he goes into the middle of town there are cops on his arse again. That’s what I need and that’s what I think my readers want, more than a sense that Kendall can see the Brick House from his balcony.

1208 - Obituarist-ol - newPiecing things together

As I said, I made this map after the fact (specifically I made it last night), and most of that work was trying to work out where various locations fit into my… let’s call it a ‘tonal gradient’ because it makes me sound clever. That’s an interesting experience – like trying to puzzle out directions that I’d forgotten I’d written, possibly due to drunkenness at some point.

It’s like – okay, D-Block’s hideout is on the waterfront, that’s obvious. But the Brick House is in the shitty industrial part of town, and that turned out to be on the other side of the city. The biker lab must also be over there, because it’s crappy as fuck – but it’s in an old housing district, so it’s probably near a residential area, and probably the boring part rather than the nicer part. Where should I put the storage place? Waterfront sounds good.

It’s part detective work, part jigsaw puzzle, part throwing shit to see where it sticks – and it’s kind of fun. If your story is done and you never created a map for it, there can be value in going back to it and working out where everything goes, whether physically or conceptually. It can help you see connections that hadn’t occurred to you, suggest ideas for further events and even encourage dreams where the old Clint Eastwood biker guy has brunch with Benny Boorns.

Um. Yeah.

No districts, no place names, no fiddle-dee-dee

The Obituarist is around 22 000 words long. I ain’t got time to be naming things! I can’t indulge my little fetish for portmanteaus; place names chew up wordcount every time they appear. Ditto descriptions of places as discrete units, or attempts to flesh out the context of the snippets of space I have for setting scenes. No, no time for that; just tone and purpose, that’s all there’s room for.

You write to fill the space you want; you edit down to fill the space you need. And if something isn’t actually useful in the story – a description, a place name, a WELCOME TO SHITSVILLE ACRES PLEASE COME AGAIN street sign – then cut that crap out. Or don’t write it in the first place.

A shame. Shitsville Acres is really quite lovely in the spring.

Room to expand

Like most modern cities, I figure Port Virtue doesn’t have a wall around it or a distinct start and finish. One moment you’re driving down a rutted highway, then you pass some crappy houses and burned-out trucks, and a couple of minutes later you’re being carjacked in a traffic jam and wishing you’d gone to Zurich for your holiday. Cities are smears on the landscape, and a lack of a formal boundary helps give that sense of reality to your place.

It also gives room to add more detail as ideas and stories demand. The cliffs and the Jericho estate come from the semi-sequel short story ‘Inbox Zero’ - completely free to download, if you haven’t already – and I figure that the Jericho Bible printing factory is somewhere along the waterfront. And out further west, we see a few hints of what’s coming in The Obituarist II: Electric Boogaloo, which I’ll be working on as soon as I finish with Raven’s Blood. Who is Old Man Northanger and why does he have a zoo and a scrap yard out in the boondocks? You’ll find out soon enough – and learn the terrible secret of what lurks in the boring part of town!

Well, maybe. Still working that part out. And it’s probably not that terrible a secret. Not unless the next story involves Scooby Doo.

…I’m not ruling that out.

Two different cities, two different maps, two (or more) different purposes for those maps. I think that’s kind of cool.

I hope some of y’all agree. Speak up if you do. Or don’t.

Dramatic licentiousness

1

Category : genre, obituarist, writing

So ‘Inbox Zero’ was released into the wilds last Sunday and since then has racked up a measly 20 downloads. That’s not as many as I would like, given that it’s a free story and that I’ve sold more than 100 copies of The Obituarist and if you LOVED me you’d READ it and DISSEMINATE it and I wouldn’t have to BEG you to do YOUR PART in making this RELATIONSHIP work.

But I’m not going to get into that. Readers will find it, in their own time and own way, without any whining on my part. I’ve moved on.

Instead, I would like to talk a bit tonight about what ‘Inbox Zero’ might (or might not) mean for the ongoing development of the Obituarist concept. Because as a result of this story, I find myself starting to think of Kendall Barber as someone who has… adventures.

And I don’t really want that. Or at least, I don’t want to acknowledge it.

But to make sense of this, let’s first talk about dramatic license.

What do we mean by ‘dramatic license’? I think that, in simplest terms, it’s about choosing the interesting over the realistic; it’s making a decision that the world of the story would be better served by not making it line up with the world of the reader. That’s not the same thing as just including things in the story that don’t exist in reality, like dragons or faster-than-light travel; you can have those things and still write a story that cleaves to reality – it’s just a reality with extra stuff in it.

No, dramatic license is about making choices about how the elements of the story (real or imaginary, and let’s face it, they’re all imaginary) behave and develop, and why they go in that direction. To make the facts serve the story, rather than have the story serve the facts. Or at the very least, making up your own facts to replace the inconvenient ones of reality.

Some genre fiction is pretty forgiving to dramatic license, especially fantasy and science fiction. Crime fiction is much less so, because the best crime stories give the impression that they could have really happened, and hewing as close as possible to the real helps immeasurably with that. (Horror stories swap between realism and unrealism depending on what makes a story scarier or more emotionally unsettling, which is why horror is so much fun to write.)

Sometimes license is about physics and medical procedures and the physical doodads of a story, but more often it’s about character – about the decisions and actions characters take and the way the world reacts to those. On that  character level, dramatic license usually boils down to ‘things don’t change’ – because logical consequences aren’t always the consequences you want to explore, and a bad guy that followed all the pointers on those interminable ‘If I Was an Evil Overlord’ lists would bring your story to an early, not-very enjoyable halt. Vampires stay hidden behind the scenes despite investigators learning of their existence. The Dark Lord overlooks that one thing that allows a plucky young adventurer to find his weakness and cast him down. A superhero’s amazing inventions don’t transform the world, and he doesn’t have brain damage or post-traumatic stress disorder despite being punched in the skull by Bane every couple of days.

(You can write a cool story exploring what happens when you don’t take those dramatic liberties, of course. But those stories tend to deconstruct their genres, rather than celebrating them, and sometimes you want to read Justice League (Morrison-era, obviously) rather than Watchmen.)

So to bring this back to The Obituarist, I’ve set up a base in the novella that Kendall Barber is not a detective, and that he doesn’t go around solving crimes all the time – his job is unusual but mundane, his life deliberately ordinary, and when a crime falls into his lap he reluctantly gets involved mostly due to poor decision-making. That’s the setup for a stand-alone crime story, something with boundaries – you pass through, go out the other side and get back to reality.

But now here’s ‘Inbox Zero’, another situation where Kendall gets involved with a crime. I’m also planning a proper sequel, a longer story where – you guessed it – Kendall gets involved with a crime. There’ll probably be 2-4 more stories, long and short, in which our regular guy has to play Sherlock Holmes.

And the logical, real-world effect of this would be that the character does start to think of himself as a detective, as do the people around him, and that he attracts attention due to that; that his world and his personality change to reflect what he does. Which would mean that I wouldn’t be able to write the stories that I want to write – i.e. ones without that change.

So can I fall back on dramatic license and handwave away that logical development in tone and character while staying in the grounded genre of crime fiction?

I sure as hell can, ‘cos I’m gonna play the Murder, She Wrote defence.

How many crimes does your average homicide detective solve in a lifetime? Ten, fifteen, maybe more, maybe less, maybe depends what you mean by ‘solved’, and all that over the course of a 20-30 year career. Jessica Fletcher, a retired teacher turned crime writer, solved 268 murders in 12 years – and no-one said shit about it. No-one went ‘holy crap, that’s impossible’; no-one went ‘holy crap, she must be a serial killer’; the FBI didn’t hire her or lock her up. Within the confines of the narrative, no-one pointed out the sheer crazy fucking impossibility of Jessica Fletcher, and dealing with 268 murders didn’t drive her to drink, heroin or Chippendale shagging.

That’s the big dramatic conceit of ongoing crime fiction – that you can right a wrong and not be changed by it, and not have the world see you differently. That you can do it again, and again, and still be who you were at the start.

And that suits me fine at this point. Don’t get me wrong, I have changes and consequences in mind for Kendall Barber; I have shit planned that will turn you white. But I want to keep him in the Jessica Fletcher zone while I do so, and have him say ‘I’m just an IT undertaker, not a detective’ and not have anyone in the story – and hopefully none of you – call bullshit on him (or me).

Come on. You let Angel of Death Fletcher get away with it, and she’s seen more bodies than Larry Flynt.

After all of that waffle about what I want to do with my writing, let’s flip it around – what should you do with yours?

Well, whatever you want. Duh.

If you want to do painstaking research and hew as close to the real as possible, with little or no bending of physics, psychology or logic, then that’s great – many awesome books do exactly that, and their grounding in reality makes them feel genuine and engaging. And if you don’t want to do any of that, if you want to do whatever makes sense for your story even if it doesn’t outside its pages, then that’s fine too, and more than fine. Because being a writer is a license to make shit up in service to the narrative, and you’re the one who gets to decide when to keep it real and when to dump logic and realism in a sack and set them on fire.

Write what you know, sure – use the real world as your foundation and your font of ideas. Keep your readers engaged with tiny details, make them feel that your world and characters are genuine and not just amorphous blobs.

But stories have their own logic. Drama has its own needs. Characters will do as they must, even if it only makes sense to them (and you). And when the needs of the narrative demand that rivers flow upstream from the sea, then turn your boat around and paddle up a waterfall.

Because if you do it well, if you write it powerfully, your readers will pick up their oars and row right behind you. Reality be damned.

The Obituarist – Inbox Zero

Category : ebooks, obituarist

One short story this month wasn’t enough.

Two short stories this month wasn’t enough.

No, this is a THREE-STORY MONTH – and what better way to hit the trifecta than with a sequel to The Obituarist?

‘Inbox Zero’ is a short story set a while after The Obituarist, in which social media undertaker Kendall Barber is working for a new client, a publisher of customised Bibles. When settling accounts for his recently deceased client, Kendall comes across a Deathswitch email – a message the dead man wanted sent to his family after he passed away. What’s in the email – and why is Kendall’s client so eager to see it?

‘Inbox Zero’ is available for download right now at Smashwords, and it’s completely free – which, unfortunately, means I can’t offer it through Amazon. But it’s available in Kindle-friendly MOBI format, as well as EPUB and PDF, and I’ll be offering a slightly nicer PDF through my Downloads page a bit later in the week (once I find the time to put one together). It should also propagate out to other stores, such as Barnes & Noble and the iBookstore, over the next few weeks.

For those readers who’ve been clamouring over the last few months for an Obituarist sequel, ‘Inbox Zero’ is not it. I mean, it is a sequel, but it’s not the sequel; Obituarist 2 (Electric Boogaloo) is on my to-do list and will probably come out in about six months. This story is more of a quick diversion, a stand-alone story that doesn’t require you to have read The Obituarist already (although it couldn’t hurt) and that will hopefully tide you over until the real deal is ready.

A key element of this story is Deathswitch, a real service that lets you set up an email to be sent after your death. The folks there were kind enough to read my first draft and check the accuracy of the piece, which was very kind of them. As part of my research I set up an account for myself, then failed to respond to my emails, and soon got my email to notify me that I was dead. That was… well, a little odd, but I do whatever is necessary for the verisimilitude of my work.

Because this story is free, I highly recommend sharing the absolute shit out of it. Email it to everyone you know! Put it on torrent sites! Read it aloud on public transport! If it can find some readers and drive them back to The Obituarist, I’ll be happy. Heck, I’ll be happy even if it doesn’t. I have lots to be happy about. Although if you want to make me extra happy, you could leave a comment to tell me you liked the story. And/or a review on Smashwords.

And with that, I’m done with short fiction for a bit. Time to get my head back into YA fantasy and Raven’s Blood.

(And maybe Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Just a little.)

Little print shop of horrors

4

Category : obituarist

BEHOLD THE TERROR I FOUND ‘PON MY DOORSTEP YESTERDAY!

NOW BEHOLD IT IN REGULAR PHOTO-VISION!

Yes, the super-limited print run (ie I could only afford to print ten) of The Obituarist arrived yesterday from Blurb, and a lovely little set of books it is too. I’m really happy with the way it came out – the cover looks good in print and the book came to a short-but-not-too-short 100 pages, perfect for pocket storage and convenient reading.

Would I recommend Blurb to others? Yes, definitely, although you’ll need to fine-tune your book files and be prepared to fiddle around for longer than you’d like with their software. But nothing good in this world comes without a bit of effort, and it was worth it in the end.

So now I have ten copies of my little book! One goes on the shelf for reference, and I think two more have already been earmarked for friends, leaving seven to take around some local bookshops to see if they’ll accept it on consignment. If you’d like to trouser one of them first, shoot me a line or leave a comment. I think I’m selling them for, umm… $15? $13? Still not sure how much I should charge, but that’s about the right level to make a sensible profit on them. Anyway, hit me up if you’re interested.

If I sell all of them, I may look at doing another short run – or a small run of Hotel Flamingo, which people still ask about. On that note, the giveaway of that and Godheads ends this weekend, so if you know someone who might like them, send them here to find the details.

And with that short post, I must away – N. and I are going to Fiji tomorrow night, and we have to tidy and pack! This means no blog posts for two weeks; please, try to control your misery. Eventually I will return with holiday snaps and more book talk.

Until then, I’ll be drunk on a beach somewhere with Irish people. Pray for me.

The other Obituarist

Category : obituarist, writers

Hey guys! Let’s talk about The Obituarist! You know, that ebook about the obituary writer who teams up with a slightly-mad WWII veteran and goes around interviewing his old squadmates just before they all conveniently wind up dead!

…wait, what?

A few weeks after publishing The Obituarist, I got a heads-up from someone – sorry, I’ve forgotten who, but you know who you are – that someone else has just published a ebook with the exact same name via the same channels!

What are the odds? I mean, seriously, what are the odds? Does anyone have some data on that?

Of course I went and checked the book out, in case it was some strange Nigerian-scam copy of mine or something. But it wasn’t. Instead, in a bizarre case of parallel evolution, author Paul Waters and I had both picked the same slightly archaic old term to use as the title of our novellas. And frankly, he’d used it more properly, whereas I’d made up a whole new meaning to suit my idea.

So what to do? Just ignore it? Well, that seemed a bit rude, so I sent Paul an email to say hello. In it, I said:

This isn’t a ‘cease or desist’ or any nonsense like that; it’s a good title and there’s plenty of room for people to use it. And, to be honest, you use it more accurately than I do; I kept the term but changed the meaning to suit my own purposes.

I’m just writing because it’s a funny coincidence and I thought you might be amused too. If I get any customers who buy my book by mistake instead of yours, I’ll point them back at you; I hope you’ll do the same for me.

He came back with:

I admit that I was gutted to see your title after I published mine. Though as you say, and I hope you’re right, it’s a good title. And your story is definitely different.

I’m looking at it as a funny coincidence too.

And since then we’ve been having a bit of a chat about epublishing and writing and the cor-blimey-strike-a-light-it’s-a-funny-old-world of it all. Culminating in today, when he’s written a blog post about the whole thing, and I’m doing the same. Because recursion is awesome.

I like Paul; he’s charming and pleasant and he appears to be some kind of pirate DJ donkey from his blog avatar, which I cannot help but admire. So if you get a chance, go check out his Obituarist at Smashwords or Amazon; it’s a short tongue-in-cheek thriller packed with shaggy dog stories in the best British tradition. And honour obliges me to note that his book is 24 cents cheaper than mine (although mine is longer).

So we’ve gone from a world short of obituarists to one crammed with them, but that’s okay. It’s not like there are a shortage of books from different authors with the same titles, as this LibraryThing article can attest. (And a quick Amazon check shows plenty of other books called Raven’s Blood and Arcadia, but such is life.) I think we can live with the occasional moment of confusion.

And hey, at least I know what not to call the next book in order to stay on Paul’s good side, because in his email he also said:

Blackwatertown is the title of a longer book I’m still trying to get published via more traditional routes. Please don’t tell me you have one with the same name up your sleeve.

And I could only reply with the truth:

As it happens I lived for a time in a town called Blackwater – but I was about one year old at the time, so I have no plans to write about that!

100% true.

Of course, Townwaterblack is still unclaimed…

Dead reckoning

7

Category : ebooks, obituarist, publishing

It’s been a long and very busy May for me, what with a new book to sell and promote, and… wait, what? It’s already June? Like nearly two weeks into June? Well, shit. That just shows how deep in the self-publishing K-hole I’ve been these last 5-6 weeks.

‘Self-publishing K-hole’, by the way, is a phrase you will never see used in Amazon’s publicity for KDP Select.

Anyway, it’s been close to six weeks since The Obituarist came out, and I’ve tried to abide by my promise not to talk incessantly about it here and become a boring spammy snake-oil merchant. But I also promised, back when I started this blog, to be as open as possible about the process of not just writing but creating, promoting and selling my ebooks, in the hope that any data I can share might help someone else with their own efforts.

So it’s in that spirit of sharing, rather than shilling, that I’m here to pick apart the numbers of how The Obituarist is going so far, where it might go next, what conclusions we might draw from the ebb and flow of sales and whether I’m ever going to make enough money from it to justify writing the sequel I’ve already started plotting out.

(If that sounds boring, you have my permission to skip this weekend’s update. There’ll be new flash fiction later in the week – come back for that, it should be fun!)

As of today, I have sold 94 copies of The Obituarist, netting me a pre-tax royalty of something like $160. It’s hard to know exactly how much, because Smashwords and Amazon both work in US dollars (or in pounds for the three copies that sold through Amazon UK). Let’s assume that the currency conversion and the 5% that the IRS will retain more or less cancel each other out and stick with $160 for argument’s sake.

In case you’re wondering, THIS IS GREAT.

94 copies in about five weeks? I’m really goddamn happy about that! That’s more than double the number of copies of Godheads I’ve sold in a year, and not that much less than what I’ve sold of Hotel Flamingo in 18 months. And $160 is about a dollar more than what I’ve made from Flamingo‘s sales to date (thanks to dropping the price to 99c back in January). Right now this means that I’ve made a little more than half my expenses back, and I can assume that if I sell another 90 books I’ll be in the black and can start writing the sequel everyone keeps asking about.

It has a badger in it.

Of course, this is the initial sales point, and it’ll either slow down markedly or dramatically surge as I become SUPER FAMOUS WRITING DUDE. Which is more likely? Well, let’s look at the Amazon sales graph.

First thought – man, Amazon sales rankings make no fucking sense. They measure something like books sold in a specific period of time as compared to other books in the same category, which leads to things like The Obituarist having its highest ranking (about #22 000) the day after it was published, because it had sold half-a-dozen copies overnight, but being 50 000 spots lower a month later after selling a bunch more copies. I get the concept, but it’s weird.

Second thought – I can map the spikes and jumps to specific times I’ve promoted or talked about the book. For instance, the big jump on May 23 is when I was on Byte Into It to talk about the concept and the book. That gigantic jump – from #200 000 to #63 000 – is only four sales, but that’s just Amazon weirdness. So what I should do is confirm what gets the attention for those spikes and keep doing it, and I’ll talk about that below.

Third thought – I haven’t sold a single copy yet this month. Which isn’t good. For all that I get more money from Smashword sales, Amazon sales rankings are really important because they can increase a book’s visibility and improve the chances that someone discovers the book on their own rather than because I’m pushing it on them. So I need to turn this around soon.

And speaking of Smashwords, here’s a set of graphs from them:

Do they line up with the Amazon graph? Hmm. Kinda. You see some spikes and peaks in the same areas – like, obviously, the launch day – but not in others. That Byte Into It spike isn’t there, for instance – well, it might be, but it’s a sale of one copy if it is. Does that mean people who hear/read about the book are more likely to head to Amazon? Probably, and that’s something to take into account.

The next thing to note is how page views translate into sales and samples – or how they don’t. Again, lots of spikes at the start of the process, and lots of downloads to match, but later the page views fall faster and further than the downloads. This might mean people check it out when it hits the SW front page right after launch while not buying it; it might mean later interest comes from a smaller group of non-browsing customers who want this specific book; hell, it might mean that all the data-mining bots swarmed on it to gather data right away and now only boring humans care. There’s information there, but it’s hard to translate.

The good news is that I’m still selling copies on Smashwords in June while Amazon is quiet. The bad news is that I’ve sold like three copies – and yes, that’s better than zero, but I’m not setting fire to my underwear with joy about the difference.

In any event, it’s clear that May was an excellent month for me, but also that it was a launch month when the book’s visibility was high and when I was all over the internet talking about it. The last week has seen less of that and more of me talking about it in real space, such as at the EWF and Continuum, and that’s not been as effective. That’s not surprising – the best way to sell a book you find on the internet is to market and promote it on the internet. And I don’t regret that period, because it’s been good to tell people about it face-to-face – and, indeed, to talk to people full stop. People are cool.

But if I’m going to stop that slow spiral down to the bottom, I need to pull out a few more stops. And I have some ideas about what to do next.

Exciting new forms

The Obituarist is an ebook not because DIGITAL RULES DEADTREE DROOLS but because it’s hard to make a print novella commercially viable – but not impossible. I picked up a couple of discount vouchers for custom-publishing outfit Blurb during the EWF and I’m looking into the costs and possibilities of doing a small print run of physical copies. The tricky part will be working out whether the return will be worth the cost – not just of printing the book but of distributing it to customers and to local bookstores – and how much I’d need to charge to get that return. But it’s definitely something worth trying, even if in the end I only print 50 books; if nothing else I can give them away as Christmas presents to people I want to make feel guilty for not buying it already.

But that’s not all! I’m in discussion with awesome voice actor (and BFF) Ben McKenzie about doing an audiobook version! Ben actually read the first chapter aloud to the very, very small audience we had for our reading session at Continuum yesterday and he sounded amazing. We’re working out the costs, practical difficulties and potential for distribution and hopefully can come up with a plan in the next week or two. Believe me, when it comes together, I’ll be on here talking the hell out of it. You won’t miss out on Ben’s melodious voice and the charming, almost-but-not-quite-British inflection he brings to my book where people say ‘fuck’ a lot.

Make Goodreads my bitch

Goodreads is shaping up as one of the most important social media sites for books and readers, and I want to explore it much further to see what I can get out of it – and, just as important, what I can bring to it to make it more worthwhile for its users.

Obviously The Obituarist already has a page on the site, and people have been leaving reviews and putting it on their to-read lists, which is great – but I need to see what else I can do. One option is advertising; Goodreads has a number of pay-per-click advertising packages for authors. I will admit that I rarely – okay, pretty much never – bother clicking on ads on the site (or indeed many others), but that doesn’t mean that others don’t or that those ads can’t be useful as well as annoying. So I’m going to check those out and maybe give them a limited try to see how it all works.

Goodreads also has a large number of discussion groups dedicated to crime, ebooks, Australian fiction and more, and I’m going to start checking those out and maybe joining a few. However, I’m not going to just join and then dump a HEY DOODZ BUY MY BOOK IT’S GREAT SEE YA post, because that’s just spammy bullshit. The thing I keep telling people who ask about ebook promotion – other than that they should really ask someone more qualified – is that it’s about being genuine and about being honestly interested in your book, your genre, your themes and your readers (or at least how they engage with those things). So joining those Goodreads groups – and for that matter similar groups elsewhere – needs to be a genuine attempt to be part of those communities. Which can be time-consuming, but it can also be rewarding, and not just in the Amazon-sales-spike fashion.

And hey, if you are on Goodreads and have read or are thinking of reading The Obituarist, it’d be pretty goddamn sweet if you could add it to your list or leave a review. Every bit helps. If you’re super keen you could recommend it to others, too, but obviously I’d never ask that of you. NEVER.

More interviews

The thing I’ve gleaned from the graphs above is that the most effective things I’ve done are the various interviews I’ve done about the book on other people’s blogs and on RRR. And that’s not surprising, because interviews and discussions are a chance to not sell the book but to talk about its themes and ideas, the whole digital afterlife concept, my take on Chandlerian crime and other topics – in other words, a chance to talk about and be enthusiastic about writing rather than just this one thing I’ve written. Enthusiasm is infectious, after all, and interviews are a chance to share the love without being a (say it with me) boring spammy snake-oil merchant. They’re also just plain fun to do.

I’ve had a ball doing the ones from last month, and I’m hoping more opportunities come up soon, especially with crime-focused blogs/podcasts or those based outside Australia. I’m working on that, but if you have such a blog, podcast or platform and would be interested in having me pop in for a while to rabbit on about death and Facebook, give me a holler.

Hang on, let me check the wordcount on this post OH HOLY FUCK.

Man, I could go on about this, but if you’ve stuck around for the last 1900 words then I don’t want to punish you by making you endure a thousand more. Let’s bring it back to the core concept – I’ve sold some books, I’m really happy, but I’m going to try to sell more without being any more boring about it than I am already.

Jesus, I could have just said that two hours ago and then gone to bed. The long weekend has left me verbose; we should all be grateful that the day job usually leaves me too exhausted to do much more than type a few paragraphs and dump in a LOLcat.

If any of this has been useful to you, I am a) shocked and b) glad. And if you think my ideas have gaps or holes, or that I really should learn to edit them down, then speak up! Please, help turn this blog’s comment function into more than a spam-trap and leave me your thoughts.

SO DELICIOUS

On the radio-oh-oh

1

Category : appearances, obituarist

Hello my little droogies,

Just a couple of quick things tonight, as it’s been a hectic week that’s heading into a hectic weekend.

First, as threatened, I popped up on 3RRR’s Byte Into It program last night to talk about The Obituarist and the ‘social media undertaker’ concept – which, as it turns out, is more properly called the ‘digital afterlife industry’. Who knew? It was really fun appearing on the show and talking about those ideas and what I was trying to look at with the novella, and I’m really grateful to Sarah and the BII team for giving me the opportunity.

The show went out last night and is now available to download here. I come in at about the 15 minute mark, making inappropriate comments about Scientology and sounding like I’ve swallowed the microphone. But check out the whole program if possible – it’s well worth a listen!

Secondly, I just got home from the gala opening of the Emerging Writers’ Festival, which was terrific! I got to hang out with my friend Ben, catch up with a variety of people I knew either in person or online – it’s great to finally put names and voices to email addresses – and enjoy an evening of comedy, poetry and speeches about the Festival.

I still have to get my butt into gear to book the panels I want to attend over the weekend, but I have been doing my best to help organise the online Rabbit Hole team. We have a Facebook group and nearly 20 eager and slightly nervous participants ready to do their best to write 30 000 words over a weekend. I’m trying to keep them motivated and focused with encouragement, blog posts and occasional prizes, but in the end they’re going to do the work and I’ll be very proud of them.

In fact, I’m kinda thinking about joining them, if only to lead by example. I know people are clamouring for a second Obituarist story, and that’ll probably happen at some point, but if I go down the Rabbit Hole I’d like to try something different again and to finally get into a genre I’ve read but never written – high fantasy.

Specifically, high fantasy about D&D Batman fighting ringwraiths in pseudo-Elizabethan-London.

GIVE ME ALL YOUR MONEY NOW.

 

He’s everywhere, he’s everywhere

Category : appearances, linkage, obituarist

On Sunday I said that I wouldn’t spend so much time talking here about The Obituarist, and by God I meant it.

So instead, I’m gonna talk about all the other places where I have been (or will be) talking about The Obituarist.

IT’S A RULES-LEGAL LOOPHOLE DAMNIT

…man, I have really got to get out of this sudden all-caps habit.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been doing this week:

Can I just say that this whole interview thing is AWESOME FUN? Because it is. It’s like getting drunk and talking about writing except that you’re sober (bad) and no-one interrupts you (good!).

I should have a couple of more interviews coming up in the next couple of weeks; I’ll keep you posted as they come together. One that I’m UNBELIEVABLY EXCITED  about isn’t in print – I should (fingers crossed) be on 3RRR Radio’s Byte Into It program on May the 23rd. How incredibly fucking cool is that! I promise to talk excitedly and largely incoherently about social media and identity theft and not spend too much time plugging my book.

And lest we forget, the other major activity on the horizon is the Emerging Writers’ Festival, and my involvement as the coach/cheerleader/chief bully for the online team at the Rabbit Hole writing boot camp event. I’m getting my ducks in a row for that and will be writing more on the topic this coming weekend.

(I also hope to get a slot at the EWF Open Mic on the 3rd of June to do a quick reading from The Obituarist, but that’s first-in-best-dressed and I can’t promise I’ll get in. But show up anyway, just in case!)

So yeah. May. It’s been a pretty AMAZEBALLS month, and shows no signs of letting up soon.

Five days later

Category : obituarist

So it’s been a pretty exhausting week, guys. I don’t know whether it’s my workload at the day job, the usual mild case of seasonal affective disorder I get during the Melbourne winter, or the effort of publishing and promoting a new novella that’s done it, but I’m plumb tuckered out.

…yeah. Let’s be honest, it’s mostly that last one.

The Obituarist has been out in the wild for five days, and I’m pretty damn happy with how things are going. I’ve sold 30 copies so far through Amazon and Smashwords, which is a pretty good launch. More importantly, the feedback I’m getting from readers is uniformly positive – people are reading it and they are liking it a hell of a lot. Two thumbs up.

For my part, the last few days have been all about the book pimping. I’ve sent out emails and free copies, contacted readers and writers, updated the cover art (now much more effective in greyscale) and tweeted like my life depended on it. Which, hmm, could be an interesting plot point for a future sequel to the novella.

That’s been the other recurring theme in the feedback – readers want to see more of Kendall Barber and his adventures. Well, I’ve got the ideas, I just need to justify the work – if I sell enough copies, a sequel could be on the cards. Ah, who am I kidding – I’ve already plotted out half the book! It has [CENSORED] and [CENSORED] and Kendall is hired to [CENSORED] but has his [CENSORED] [CENSORED] in the process. It’s a pretty hardcore scene, that one!

Anyway, book promotion. I’ve been pretty lackadaisical with this in the past, and the sales of Hotel Flamingo and Godheads are testimony to that. I had a bit of a psychological hangup with those books, because they were largely written years before they were published – in my head they were old news, and promoting them seemed too much like reading the same edition of the newspaper over and over again, trapped in some kind of bookpimp Groundhog Day.

But not this time – this is all new and I am charged up! To the point where I know it’s going to be tiring and eventually irritating to my regular readers to see me constantly flogging the bloody book. So I’m not going to make any more posts like this one – when I talk about The Obituarist here again it’ll be to discuss ideas, process, new developments and stuff that’s actually interesting, rather than just snake oil.

That said, if I can squeeze in a little more snake oil (tastes great, less filling!), I just need to reiterate that I need your help if the book is going to succeed. Recommend it to your friends, family and colleagues (if you think they’d like it) and on any online forums you frequent. Leave reviews at Amazon, Smashwords or Goodreads, or better yet all three. Tell me about places that I can send review copies, or other crime writers that might like to check it out. And above all else, talk about it on social media, The Obituarist’s natural habitat.

Pimp me. Pimp my book.

Okay, you know what? I’m retiring the word ‘pimp’ now as well.

So. Let’s move on.

Next week – something different! I don’t know what! Blogging without a net or pants!

Now on sale – The Obituarist

Category : obituarist

Friends, fans, old readers and new, the 1st of May 2012 is a pretty big day for me.

Because today I’m pleased beyond all measure to announce that my new e-novella, The Obituarist, is not only finished but published and available to purchase!

Kendall Barber calls himself an obituarist – a social media undertaker who settles accounts for the dead. If you need your loved one’s Facebook account closed down or one last tweet to be made, he’ll take care of it, while also making sure that identity thieves can’t access forgotten personal data. It’s his way of making amends for his past, a path that has seen him return to the seedy city of Port Virtue after years in exile.

But now his past is reaching out to catch up with him, just as he gets in over his head with a beautiful new client whose dead brother may have been murdered – if he’s even dead at all. If Kendall doesn’t play his cards right, he could wind up just as deceased as the usual subjects of his work.

On the other hand, Kendall may know more about what cards to play than anyone else realises…

It’s been six months since I announced the concept and started work on this book, two months since I rolled up my sleeves and started it in earnest. It’s been drafted and redrafted, edited and altered, changed and changed back again and now it’s as ready as it’ll ever be.

And I have to say that I had an absolute ball writing this book. Once I really got into it it was a hoot to sit down every night and lay down another chapter of weird crime antics, chase scenes, thoughts about death and identity and occasional jokes. That joy is a bit unusual for me – too often I find writing a chore – and I really hope this isn’t the last time I feel it. Or the last time I write about these characters.

I’d like to thank my wife Nichole for her thoughts and support, my Alpha Readers (Cam Rogers, Josh Kinal and Lyndal McIlwaine) for their feedback and suggestions, Fiona Regan for editing the manuscript and Carla McKee for her great cover. And I’d like to thank you guys, my readers, for responding positively to the idea and telling me you wanted to see more. Here it is – hope you like it.

The Obituarist can be purchased as a $2.99 ebook from the following sites:

  • The Amazon Kindle Store has the Kindle version
  • Smashwords has ePub, Kindle, PDF, HTML and Word versions
  • Other sites (Barnes and Noble, iBooks etc) will have it eventually, and I’ll update as the links go live

All sites should have a sample of the novella that you can read for free.

As part of the launch, I’ve also made some changes to this site, specifically breaking out my ebooks into their own separate pages – so if you want to tell your friends about The Obituarist, link to this page right here. (I’ve also made new pages for Hotel Flamingo and Godheads if you want to spread the love.)

And speaking of telling your friends…

Folks, if you want to help me get the word out about The Obituarist, that would be fantastic. Amazing. Vitally necessary, in fact. I’m going to do everything I can to promote the book, but I need all the help I can get and you can provide some with very little effort. Here’s what you can do:

  • Buy it. Buy it from whatever site and in whatever format you prefer. Even if you’re not really into crime stories, it’s still worth picking it up – it’s offbeat enough that I think anyone who likes my other work will dig this too.
  • Read it right away. You know how sometimes you buy an ebook and it languishes unread for ages? Jump in and read this one as soon as possible, so that you can then…
  • Talk about it. Recommend it to your friends, family or anyone that might like it. Mention it on social media. Tweet that you’re halfway through it. Show people the cover on Facebook. Mention it at work when someone asks what you’re reading. Use jungle drums, anything.
  • Write a review. Give it some love on Amazon, Smashwords, Goodreads, any other review site you frequent. Give it stars if that’s a thing, but if you can write a few words about it that would be much better. And be honest – I’d rather see a genuine 3-star review than a fake 5-star review. Mind you, I’d especially rather see genuine 5-star reviews if they’re available.
  • Pass on the signal. I’ll be promoting this as best I can wherever I can – Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, anywhere else. If you see any of that promotion, pass it along – retweet it, link it, like it, +1 it or whatever. And if you see other people talking about the book, throw up a flag for that too, if only so that I hear about it.
  • Give me a soapbox. If you’re got a blog, a column, a podcast or some other project of your own, I would love to be on it and have a chance to talk about the novella. I can talk about other stuff too – I’m a charming guest and I bring enough beer for everyone. Try me!

Above all else, tell me what you think of it. I want to hear if you liked it and what you liked about it, and whether you’d be interested in reading a sequel. Because I have ideas for more stories about Kendall and Port Virtue, but if no-one wants to read them then I’ll put them aside and work on something else. And I also want to hear from you if you didn’t like The Obituarist, because I’d like to know why and I’d like the next book to be better.

I always want the next book to be better. That’s how I know I’m not dead yet.

Alright, that’s enough out of me. Time to get off the stage and let the book do the talking for a while.

Happy May 1st, gang. Here’s hoping it’s a good month.