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Saturday, March 18, 2017

This Week at a Publishing Startup: Decisions

This week in a #publishing startup: a week of decisions. Doing the calculations, I found out that to make the potentially 480pg illustrated 8x10 hardcover Series 2 "The Owl from Oblivion" economically feasible to sell, I would have to have a 5000 book print run with 1900 books being received by people contributing $60 to my planned Kickstarter. That's a big #Kickstarter. I'm sure the book will be worth it but communicating that to a prospective donor in a way that will motivate enough people to go that far will be an immense marketing problem. It won't be the biggest book Kickstarter ever, so that will be good. Anyway that's a marketing problem that will have to be solved in the future. The decision this week is who is going to print this book and how would I receive the books. The interesting thing is that China is gone as a possible printer. China printers do not want to risk the Trump irrational response so they have chosen not to play. They have raised shipping costs and printing costs to high levels to cover the perceived risk. Here's irony for you: "The US is too risky a country to be a good customer." One went so far as to think it was okay just to dump an ocean shipping container on my doorstep. Ha ha ha, too funny. So I confined my search to North American offset book printers and finally found two that offered economically viable prices. They both seem to be very good printers that will do a very high quality print job, which is important since many pages are illustrated. This search was very hard. Most American presses print books at outrageous prices, especially a fine color collectable book like this one will be. They like to print cheaply made books on crappy paper in black and white.  I guess that's what the masses still want to buy. Read and discard, not keep as a treasured item. When you are starting a company in a place with some of the highest real estate prices in the world, receiving 12 42"x42" pallets weighing 1750lbs each is no easy matter. But I believe I have that problem solved. The hardest problem though will be to convince you to show up to the Kickstarter and convince you to donate and receive this beautiful book as a gift.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Plans for the Final Release of The Owl from Oblivion

The plans for the final "The Owl from Oblivion" book seems to be cementing around a large 8x10 (children's picture book size) book with illustrations throughout. The book is not a children's picture book but an in depth novel that will be in somewhat of a #literary #fiction style with detailed characterizations. The novel will be long. The list price for bookstores will be $30.99 I think. What I wonder is if people will pay $30.99 for the novel. With the book being large, illustrated format, it needs that price. The book will be printed on heavy glossy paper on an offset press, not a POD self-publishing press. So it should look great! The final two professional edits and the initial 4000 book printrun will be paid for by a Kickstarter. For a $55 donation, people will get a signed copy of the final book. I'll need 1900 people to donate to the Kickstarter. I think that is going to be really tough to achieve. Hopefully, as the Kickstarter gets closer, I can motivate people to sign up. The prequel, "The Sophistan Children of Earth" will follow after "The Owl from Oblivion" launch. I think it will be in the same 8x10 format, but we'll have to see how "The Owl from Oblivion" does. Feel free to comment and tell me what you think of these plans.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The State of the World of Children of Sophista

Hi there,
It's been a long time since I have made a blog post and I just want to say my efforts to become a publisher, write, and illustrate books is still an active project. I have been suffering under a remodel which will give me much needed modern office space for the birthing of my book creation efforts. I've had to do a great deal of design work on this remodel and manage the day to day work on it. It has been a major source of stress since I have had to do some structural, electrical, and networking design as well as aesthetic design. As my company evolves, it's use of the space will evolve and planning for all possible eventualities is quite taxing. Working in this environment of sequential tasking and precise yet evolving timetables (I cannot control the schedule of the people doing the work) basically destroys the parallel/creative environment. I have done a good bit of writing but not nearly as much as I would have accomplished in an undistracted environment I can totally control. 

By the end of January, I will have enough money to do the first professional edit of the "Sophistan Children of Earth". This book will an enormous advance in writing depth as it will be my first book written completely in a literary fiction style (#scifi, #fantasy, #magic subcategories). What that means is that you will get to know the characters as if they are your close, personal friends. What it doesn't mean is a fast paced, plot driven book. For that style of writing, I would suggest the publisher Baen.  

I know that changing to this style of writing will not be popular with some people, especially those who want a very fast read. If you are looking for an extended experience with the characters as if you are there with them, this book will be for you. If you like seeing kids who feel they are trapped into a particular fate, seeing them contemplate, then try to bend their fate to something they like better, then you will like this book. 

When I say professional edit of this book, I don't mean an English major who has put out their shingle but someone who has had significant industry experience and will understand this writing form. For me, it is not just a cleaning up of the book, but an in-depth course in writing in this style. The editors I use are usually pretty good about getting to the heart of the matter and giving excellent advice. The net result is not just a significantly improved book, but a significantly improved author.

"The Owl from Oblivion" has had one professional edit and those changes have been incorporated into the book. I put out a limited run of that book to get feedback and see the thoughts of people who have read it. The book needs some tweaking to bring it line with the "Sophistan Children of Earth" and stylistically a little more orientation toward the #literary #fiction style. Following that, it will need two more professional edits before it can be released for general consumption. I will need to do a Kickstarter or other crowdsource funding effort to raise the money for those two edits. The real pot of gold will be if I can, in a separate campaign, raise the money to do an initial print run of the title. This book will serve as the bootstrap for the publishing company. These books are written to be as independent as possible so that either book can be read first. "The Owl from Oblivion" represents the furtherest extent of the timeline so far and the "Sophistan Children of Earth" represents the beginning of the timeline or one of the prequels to "The Owl from Oblivion". There will be several prequels which occur between the "Sophistan Children of Earth" and "The Owl from Oblivion". If you have read the first four books of my original series, those books vaguely serve as the outline for the new books. The new books contain lots more material and are not plot driven like the original books were. 

At the beginning of the year, I will get started again on my two other projects: illustrations I create myself for the books and a new website for the publishing company. I have the beginnings of the site located here:

This site is far from complete and some pages are just template pages. But there is enough there to get a little glimpse into things to come. When completed, the site will have complete information about the books, a private discussion area for people who signup on the site, and an ecommerce area for individual readers to purchase books, posters, and possibly T-shirts from the publishing company. I also plan a private site for bookstores to electronically submit payment for books they have sold. Books for the bookstores will be orderable through the standard channels.  All this will require a lot of work and in some sense, I am probably getting ahead of myself telling you these plans. To my current readers, all I can say is bear with me and give me your support, and you will receive books that are far better than my previous books and likely unlike anything you have read before. 

One last note: You may see me post stuff about #gifted kids and adults. These postings do not imply that you must be #gifted to read these books. However, metaphorically, these books do contain some situations similar to what some gifted kids (and possibly their parents) may face. These kids (and adults sometimes) have difficulties navigating through the social eddies of society and it is always nice for them to see someone they can identify with in fiction---a source of comfort if you will. From time to time, I may point out the similarities. Like any #scifi author, I may also point out some new scientific developments which allude to a possible scenario in which parts of the story/technology could be transformed from fiction into fact. And of course, there are many situations, such as #bullying which certainly have relevance to today's society.  

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Anashivalia Illustration for "Sophistan Children of Earth"

Here is the Anashivalia (the fairy queen) for the back cover ‪#‎illustration‬ of the "Sophistan Children of Earth". My plans say that in the back cover illustration, 7 year old Stefan will be sitting at her feet reaching up for the wand and crying. We'll have to see how things develop. I'll probably take a break and get back to writing on the book. The book is a ‪#‎scifi‬/‪#‎fantasy‬ written in a ‪#‎literary‬ ‪#‎fiction‬ style. It will be my first attempt to write in that style. I always like big challenges. Like trying to #illustrate the characters in my books.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Launching Children of Sophista Publishing Company

Launching a new #publishing company, even if you want to just publish books you have written, is a very difficult affair. Isn't that self-publishing? Well, not really.

In self-publishing, you use a number of vendors of over-priced services to create your book and make your book visible to the world. The services that you use have no interest in your success. They want large amounts of money upfront because they don't expect to see you around for very long. Mostly it's an ego game between ego's and ego strokers. You are promised mass exposure. You are promised the mythical "distribution". Amazon will promise to put your book on your their site (10,000 books below the top listings). 

Some people have found a way to make a bit of money doing the self-publishing dance. My favorite is the author that claims they left traditional publishing to make a fortune in self-publishing. That's a cool way to do it. The author lets the traditional publishing pay to promote them a bit to get some limited name recognition. Then you self-publish and claim you did it all. You claim the publisher never did anything for you. The secret story behind that is that most readers reached by the traditional publisher never said a word and probably never bought a book. That's the way advertising works. Mostly the publisher spends lots of money and sees no results. But do that for a decade or two and people will recognizes their brand. The cumulative years of hard work advertising, finding the channels that work, and then not only targeting those channels but pressing the flesh with those that influence those channels finally pays off. So if you are a traditionally published writer gone independent, whether or not you want to admit it, the PR helped you start above zero. It tagged you as someone worth reading---that and lots of blogs where you tell people that you built your following from zero using your impressive skills.

Another way to make some money self-publishing is to learn to avoid the ripoff services and to practice writing a lot. Eventually a lot of small sales can add up to a meaningful amount of money. Practicing by writing large quantities can improve your writing enough to where people want to read you. The weight of your enormous volume of written material promotes add credence that you might be someone worth reading. If you get skillful at gaming the Amazon sales system, you can almost make a living, if you call that living.

Or you can publish your stuff for real. It just requires lots of time and money. More than you can possibly imagine, if you are just starting out. One of the expenses you will likely pay first is learning how to write. It is possible that you were born with most of the talent of a good writer. But not likely. You go to school or you pay someone really good to repeatedly edit your stuff. In some ways, it is about the same price. Then you can play the crap-shoot  agent, publisher game and perhaps get your stuff out there. It probably won't sell initially and the publisher will likely pocket most of the money on your early novels. Everything, but the quality of your writing will be beyond your control.

Or you can take control, become the real publisher, and be a real publisher of your books (and possibly other people's books if you get good enough). You can let humiliation shape your career. Of all the businesses you could choose to go into, publishing is one the crapiest legitimate businesses. Any bozo can be taught like a monkey how to program and can make more money. Come to Silicon Valley and you can learn how much money it is really possible to make (you can also learn how outrageously expensive the cost of living can be). Write earnestly for years and get professionals, not writer friends, to edit your writing repeatedly ($$$). Learn (and continue to learn everyday) the nuts and bolts of the of the publishing industry (most of it involves raising large sums of money and losing large sums of money when you screw-up and you will screw-up).  Learn about logistics, crowdsource funding, and about how the bookstore/publisher relationship was forged during the Great Depression (starvation economics). Learn how to sell (a product which is less appealing than a fancy cup of coffee).

I, having been forged in Silicon Valley, where long death marches on projects with low probabilities of success are the status quo, have chosen the "become a publisher route" as my impossible challenge. In choosing this route, I have had to think about things in a strategic way which the writer side of me finds very uncomfortable. I've spent about 8 years writing. Though I meant to sell books, I have given away huge volumes of actual print books. And I have received considerable feedback. I have been screwed by countless self-publishing service companies, promoters... I have called up my scientific side to analyze the bleak economics of publishing to find out how people really make money in this business. And now I have a strategy. For one thing, pure science fiction has very few readers and the publishing business only makes meaningful money in large volumes of low margin items. Think about that for a minute. For anyone wondering what all that means, I suggest reading the blog of the founder of Baen, a successful science fiction publisher. If you think about the implications of what he actually says, it's pretty depressing. I tend to write stuff with lots of embedded philosophy, so it is even more so.

What I am doing is this: I am taking my genre novels (science fiction/fantasy) and rewriting them into a #literary #fiction style. Rather than laying out a cool plot with lots of deep philosophical thoughts and saying "Look at my cool book", I am rewriting them into a character focussed novel, where the characters' lives, personalities, and thoughts play a very important role. I also illustrate these new novels myself, not with with wonderfully expansive gee-whizz, detail scifi drawings but with simple #illustrations involving the characters that highlight an emotion of the character described in the book (I'm not good enough to do gee-whiz scifi-scapes anyway). I am set up to write, illustrate, and layout for publication, print books.  I have done the basic initial financial plumbing for a business.

I have two books in the pipe right now: "Sophistan Children of Earth" and "The Owl from Oblivion". Currently, a version of "The Owl from Oblivion" has been self-published. This version has one professional edit. I need to raise money to get it at least two more edits. Before publishing, I usually do three professional edits but "The Owl from Oblivion" is such a different book that has such a strong emotional impact, I decided to put out an early version to get a little feedback and understand how it affects people. Now I would like to take what I have learned in addition to folding in changes inflicted on the series by the "Sophistan Children of Earth" #book, and put the changes into "The Owl from Oblivion", increasing its impact even more. There are two more pools of money I will need to raise: a pool to do a mass offset printing run of the book to get it down to the price bookstores like and another pool to plumb the business for orders from and promotions directly to bookstores. There is software that basically links me as a publisher in the book ordering network, manages the inventory and logistics of the books, and keeps track of who needs to pay, etc.

#Bookstores not #Amazon are a central part of my new strategy. Why? It's simple: I am writing deeply thoughtful, long books which a reader will want to spend a long time with. They are not fast reads. No one can tell if they want to read such a book from a quick read of a blurb on an Amazon page. They need to pick up the book and flip through it to get to know it. This will not be a cheap Kindle read but a hardcover. Before someone forks out a larger amount of money, I think they should get to know the book first, like a friend. 

Maybe this will be a challenge I can meet and maybe it won't. All I can do is give it my best effort and learn from my mistakes. In the process, maybe I will make books that readers will remember for the rest of their lives. If you want to contribute, look for my #crowdsource campaigns, contribute, and win some neat #rewards!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Updated Cover for the "Sophistan Children of Earth"

I thought I was done with the cover I illustrated for my new book but I couldn't resist messing around with it. So now I have added a bit of "sparkle" to it.

#illustration #scifi #fantasy #HarryPotter #magic #literary #fiction #gifted