Anne Rice’s opinion on writing/getting published – The importance of having fresh ideas

I was watching Anne Rice’s video on writing which she put up a few years ago on YouTube

For those not familiar with Anne’s work, she is the writer behind Interview with a Vampire (arguably more famous in its movie form, starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise) and The Queen of the Damned.

Anne made vampires cool before Stephenie Meyer chimed in and ruined them for me.

Anne’s video basically boils down to this: If you want to be writer sit your ass down and write.

No surprise there. Seems to be general consensus about writing.

What was a bit strange to me, was hearing her say that publishing hasn’t changed since her day – that agents are still looking for fresh ideas.

It’s kind of obvious now that she mentions it, but got me wondering when was the last time that I saw a fresh idea.

When writers discuss the process of writing, fresh ideas rarely seem to be part of the topic.

While I agree that churning out the pages will eventually result in honed writing skills, I wonder if it will also result in fresh ideas.

 

Cost of self-publishing an ebook independently on Amazon

When I was mulling self-publishing a book on Amazon, I did quite a bit of research about the cost of self-publishing. I think it’d be helpful if I outlined the costs of producing a finished ebook to anyone interested in going down this dark and lonely path.

The first thing I’d like to put out there is that you could pay nothing and get self published. This is the dream that self publishing is selling.

However, I wouldn’t recommend it, at least if you’re using your own name to write. There is a time-quality-cost relationship, and you get to choose a combination of two – it’s a bit like project management. Personally, I wouldn’t want my name associated with something full of typos (Wouldn’t it be ironic if this post had a typo..)

So you’ve finished your novel/novella/epic/short story collection.

Pat yourself on the back, have a beer and take a seat.

Pick up a pen and a paper and write: I. WASTED. MY. TIME.

Just kidding (am I?)

No seriously.

Start by setting yourself a budget.

I’m assuming this is your first book,  and you should assume that you will not recoup this budget. Think of it as money that you’re going to burn. Also, since most transactions will be through paypal, keep in mind you’ll get no warmth from the combustion of your currency.

Now that you have a budget to squander, here’s a list of things you can spend your hard earned (or not so hard earned – looking at you, real estate agents) cash on:

Beta readers

Beta readers are nice semi-to-fully-literate men and women who will read your work and give you honest feedback. You could find some folks on goodread (on groups like this one) or other writing forums that’ll take a dive into your unedited book.

If you’re lucky you could even get more than two of them. At this stage,  I’d be looking at initial feedback about how engaging the characters, writing style and pace of your work are. If you’re not writing fiction, this step is a bit harder because you need to get some technical feedback.

You could also offer to be a beta reader for some authors who would return the favor to you. I found that a hard pill to swallow – I’m the writer, goddamn it. Why doesn’t everyone bow before me and worship me already?

This is the step where I learned that everyone and their frozen dinners are writers now, that there’s more writers than there are grains of sand in a desert and that (fortunately) most of them are realistically not going to get further than this step.

Take the feedback you get here very seriously though and use it to improve your writing.

Cost: 0$

Editing

After a few iterations with beta readers, you can start looking at hiring an actual editor. Here again, you could proof read your own work and call it a day. Amazon won’t mind.

However, if you want your work to be decent, I’d recommend hiring an editor.

The editor should first go through your book and come back with a developmental write-up. This is a short file that will contain the editor’s opinion on the story, characters and plot holes. This is done before editing so that you have a chance to change things before the editor goes through your work word by word.

After you’re done re-writing, the editor will proof-read your work and come back to you with an annotated file. You can then go through this file and accept or reject the changes.

The editor that I used for Death, Divinity and the Smiling Man is Nina from Champagne Editing. She’s kind, knowledgeable and affordable. I strongly recommend her.

The cost of the developmental write-up is 100$

The editing could range from proof-read copy editing at 0.008$/word to a more substantive edit of 0.12$/word

There’s a special editing for non-native English speakers too, at 0.2$/word

After this step, you’ll have a book that’s ready to be seen by the public.

Cost: 0$-500$

The book cover

The book cover is first thing that the users will see on the website. If it’s not done correctly, it’ll also be the last thing that they see.

With a copy of gimp and a few YouTube tutorials, you could make your own cover. I advise against skimping on this part of the process though. I designed and painted my own book cover and I think it came out well (Sarcasm?). However, you may want to hop on over to fiverr or freelancer and get a proper cover done. It’ll make a huge difference.

Shameless plug number 1: If you like my book cover, I can put something together for you for the price of a beer because I enjoy drawing.

Cost:0$-200$

Marketing

So you made it this far. Good job. You’re a self published author now, like hundreds of thousands of other shmucks out there. But seriously, good job. You don’t suck (?).

Once your book is available on the Kindle shop, you’ll want to share it on all your social network accounts, call your family, call your friends and basically annoy the living hell out of anyone with a bad enough sense to listen to you and hound them until they buy a copy.

You’ll then feel some restraint. Let go of that restraint and do it. You’ve earned it. While everyone else was out partying, you’ve been writing. While people were enjoying quality time with their loved ones, you’ve been writing. It hasn’t been an easy road for you.

Let Jehovah’s witnesses testify to your door knocking tenacity. Be as persistent as a gum on the bottom of running shoes.

The importance of hounding is that the more copies you sell in the first few days, the higher your book will climb on Amazon rankings list. On the Kindle store,  the frequency of sales matters more than anything else in how high the book gets ranked. The higher its rank, the better its visibility. I wouldn’t know for sure though. Haven’t sold that many copies, to be honest.

So post to reddit, writing forums, goodreads, your whatsapp chat, your landlord’s Facebook profile and your landlord’s mom’s Facebook profile (rest her soul). Make some noise.

Be sure to ask for reviews from the people who you know have read the book. Reviews do not affect sales directly but their presence will encourage the users to click on the preview button of the book.

Marketing is a broad topic, but if I’m assuming this is your first book then you shouldn’t worry about it too much beyond this. Your buyers will mostly be friends and family at this stage, followed by a few lucky sales here and there.

I’m going to mention though that working on your mailing list and building a platform is quite important.  More on this here

This is the part of the process where you would normally make some money back.

This is also the part where you get to writing again. This is what matters most, after all. When all is said and done, when all the bullshit decomposes, all that you’ll be left with is another blank screen that needs to be filled out with text.

But that’s what us authors like, isn’t it. Creating something where there was nothing.

So for the sake of closure, the cost of publishing something on Amazon is 0$ up until your soul.

Right then. Get back to work.

Shameless plug 2: Pick up a copy of Death, Divinity and the Smiling Man now. Your buy will convert a few calories that you were about to consume into alcohol fueled writing genius.

 

 

 

Death, Divinity and the Smiling Man

Death, Divinity and the Smiling Man, a novella that has gone in name from “The story of James”, to the “Book of James, to countless other variations, and from being written in the first person to being written in the 3rd person, has finally been published.

It’s a big deal to me because I happen to have written it.

I could go on about the pride that I feel at publishing this work but to be honest that’s not the best part. The best part is that the book is out there. It’s relieving, much like (and pardon the language) taking a giant dump. It felt like I was literarily constipated.

I spent the evening after publication with a grin on my face – there’s nothing quite like seeing a piece of you out in the world.

The book has receive favorable reviews by those that have read it, so that gives me hope.

I’ve also tried my hand at cover design. Aside from the papal colors, I think it turned out fine.

I encourage you to give this novella a read. It’s available on Kindle at the moment, but let me know if you prefer other distribution channels.

Click the image to go to the Amazon page
Click the image to go to the Amazon page

Did Saudi Arabia miscalculate its engagement in Yemen?

It seems that the civil war in Yemen has suddenly spun out of control and is well on its way towards becoming a genuine regional war. What started as a legitimate movement by the Houthis towards achieving basic rights such as representation and development for the regions in which they live has now put them on the warpath with a major regional power, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi bombing of Yemen comes at a time of change for the Wahhabi Kingdom.  Saudi Arabia, which ranks seventh from the bottom in human rights is a rigid system that is not used to change. With a new King on the throne, the oil prices plummeting, a Nuclear deal with Iran almost done and Iran claiming more clout by the day, the self-proclaimed defender of the Sunnis in the world has to step up its game to counter Iranian influence on its Southern border.

The war in Yemen before Saudi intervention was a one-sided affair of Houthis claiming one victory after the other, all the way to the presidential palace, facilitated by their alliance with Saleh, the ousted former Yemeni president who is eyeing a comeback. Saleh, who had been bankrolled by Saudi, was ousted during the Arab spring but still has influence in the Yemeni military. This resulted in Sanaa being taken by the Houthis with barely any fighting.

Seeing the enemy at its doorstep and with all the above factors aligned, Saudi decided to bomb the Houthis to prevent them from further solidifying their hold on the country.

Past experience with bombing of disorganized forces in Iraq and Syria has shown that this will not be enough to stop the Houthis.

In Syria, Bashar has been bombing the rebels for multiple years in the most inhumane way – without ground forces, the bombing runs are not enough to capture cities and towns.

Same with the US bombing of IS – the bombs slowed down the IS advance but it was the Kurdish fighters and the Iraq army (along with local militias) that managed to turn the tide eventually, at a heavy human cost.

Saudi has drawn a line in the sand with the bombs and is now invested in this war more directly than it has been in recent time, where most of its fighting was done by proxy.

If the next step is to enter Yemen on the ground, and by doing that Saudi will be giving all its regional enemies legitimate targets to shoot at – something that a lot of enemies have been longing for.

It is time for the Saudi army, who is one of the biggest defense spenders in the world over the past four years, to earn its spurs.

Will Saudi Arabia be able to prove that it is the defender of Sunni Islam both to its own people and to the world, or will Yemen be Saudi’s Vietnam in the same way that Yemen was Egypt’s Vietnam in the sixties?

Why have Digital branding’s KPIs stopped evolving?

Digital marketers face an uphill struggle while trying to prove the added value of digital ads (mostly banners in this case) for branding campaigns. The big question that advertisers face these days aside from how many people have seen my ad is has my ad campaign been successful.

To gauge the success of campaigns, we’re still looking at impressions, clicks and CTRs and trying to divine the behavior of humans based on that holy trinity of abstract data.

Without getting too philosophical, I think marketers would do well to read up on cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias.

It basically means that humans are looking to confirm their held beliefs, picking information that is suitable to what they believe in.

It is too inconvenient to reconsider our held beliefs, so we indulge in justifying them rather than thinking too much about things.

Someone clicked an ad for a shampoo? Well well well. Someone’s gonna buy a shampoo tonight.

Car campaign CTR is higher than the benchmark? My god someone call the car factory. We’re going to need a new batch of Veyrons to accommodate that CTR.

It’s the easy way out.

Agencies can be forgiven for not pushing for more in depth KPIs. Sometimes, when trying to look beyond the clicks and CTRs, the client’s reaction is that somehow these two metrics are not on par and all the mumble jumble data like time on site, viewability and reach on target audience are just ways to justify “bad campaigns”

To me, this all seems a little strange. It really makes me wonder how brands investing millions in ad spend still think it’s okay to measure a campaign success by a number of clicks, the cost per click (sometimes even over blind inventory and without any brand safety!) and the CTR.

Instead of clicks, why not time on site? Why not measure recency of visits, % of new visits to the site, the source of the traffic? Why not look at the incremental reach?

Why not look at the number of returning visits from the campaign traffic?

This is a ladder because images help get the point across.

There’s actually a whole science about setting realistic goals, about how goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-targeted (S.M.A.R.T )

First psychology and now management theory. I guess I had better stop now.

Viewability – The new best practise?

Every advertiser wants something different out of an ad campaign – Reach, Performance, Branding, Awareness, Return on investment.

The list of goals goes on and on too – primary KPIs, secondary KPIs, ROI estimates, CPA goals, iGRPs…

At the very least though, as a gateway to all these KPIs and goals, advertisers want their ad to be seen. They want to know that for the money they’ve invested has gone into media that delivered their message to a relevant audience- a relevant audience that saw the ad.

A large portion of online ads are never seen according to integral ad science. Whether it’s because of their placement at the bottom of a page where few users ever scroll or because they’re planted in some hidden iframe, there’s a lot of ad impressions that are worth absolutely nothing. Continue reading Viewability – The new best practise?

How to monetize a flash game

I’ve often wanted to try my hand at creating a 2d game so in my research (read counting the eggs before they hatch schizophrenic jumping around between hobbies) I’ve come across quite a few ways to monetize indie games. One day I hope to put these methods to the test but until then I’ll settle for sharing them.

So, here we go!

Kongregate (and other gaming portals)

Kongregate is one of the largest flash gaming sites. You may have wondered how it got so big and amassed such an immense number of games.

There’s two ways that I know of through which Kongregate acquires games.

The first is by just allowing indie developers to publish games on the site and offering them up to 50% of the ad earning on the page of the game (usually 25%). That usually ends up being a very meager sum of money unless your game really hits it off and you, Continue reading How to monetize a flash game