Friday, November 26, 2010

I'm a finalist!

An excerpt from my short story Angel is one of the four finalists in Gary Ponzo's November Strong Scenes contest.

You can vote on the best scene. Go to the website, read all four short entries, and then vote for your favorite.

Not to sway your vote, but my scene is option C. ;)

Better hurry though, there are only 2 days left to vote.

You can read the entire Angel story in my short story anthology Dead Dwarves, Dirty Deeds.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dead Dwarves Don't Dance now available!

My first full length novel, Dead Dwarves Don't Dance, is now available for only $2.99!

It's an action-packed, hard-boiled science fiction novel of redemption and revenge.

Noose, a genetically engineered dwarf mercenary, is caught in an explosive terrorist attack on a neohuman dance club in Atlanta. Stumbling alone and injured out of the flaming carnage, he embarks on a relentless and violent pursuit of the perpetrators, determined to exact his own brand of 22nd-century vengeance.
The year is 2134. The nations of previous centuries are gone, consumed by the United Globe government. Citizens are confined to vast metroplexes while the rest of Earth is restored to wilderness.
Neohumans are grown in vats, each type genetically engineered to serve humanity – flawless pleasers for gratification and ecstasy, hulking goons for war and violence, accidental psykers wreaking havoc, and more of any shape and size imaginable.
Across the squalid underbelly of the Regional Atlanta Metroplex, through the desert wasteland of the not-so-pristine wilderness, and to the peerless towers of elite society, Noose’s brutal quest for vengeance leaves a wake of destruction and death.
Click here to buy it!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Writing update and Facebook/Twitter

I finally finished the final draft of Dead Dwarves Don't Dance! No time to convert it tonight, as I have friends coming over for board games. However, I'll convert it to Kindle and upload it to Amazon tomorrow. The book should start showing up for purchase by Tuesday!

You can also now follow me on:
Derek's Facebook page
Derek's Twitter

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Editing costs

Joel Palmer is my editor. I heartily recommend him if you need editing services. And, I definitely advise you to get professional editing on your ebooks. It only makes the book better.
My editing costs are listed below:
15,000 words
Total editing costs: $112.50
Editing cost per word: $0.0075
That’s less than 1 cent per word edited. Joel said that the manuscript was very clean and required very little time to edit. I would say this is the best cost you could hope for and you need to make a lot of effort to clean it up before handing off to your editor.
Dead Dwarves Don’t’ Dance
78,000 words
Total editing costs: $1077.50
Editing cost per word: $0.0138
Barely more than 1 cent per word. Still very reasonable, although the total hit for a full length novel is not a small sum of money.

After Joel edited the first 10,000 words, he told me that he was spending more time on the novel than on the short stories. He asked if I wanted him to lighten his edit pass to lower the cost. I thought this was very professional. I told him to maintain his depth of editing, because I liked the results. I just had to increase my editing budget. I’ll have to sell more books to break even, but I don’t want to skimp.
So, I’d say that $0.0075 per word for editing is the low end that you’ll be able to find. Unless you really like the editor’s results, I wouldn’t pay more than 2 cents per word.
Unfortunately, you won’t know the per word editing cost until the editor actually edits some of your work. Many editors provide a free edit sample on your work.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The cover art process

I contracted Igor Kieryluk to do the color cover art for my full-length novel Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance. Igor is a very professional artist and is very easy to work with. He charged me $400 for the finished piece, which I found to be very, very reasonable for the quality he produced.
Here is the process that I went through with Igor to get the finished cover art.

Agree on a price. At Igor’s request, I also drafted up an artist’s agreement so that he could keep it for his tax records. This agreement included the delivery date, licensing and use, price, basic description, and other details about the cover art.

I sent Igor my ideas for the cover. Here is what I sent:

Here’s the cover image I’m thinking about. I'm very open to any suggestions you might have to improve the cover design.

Background: Futuristic, cyberpunkish city skyline with a looming skyscraper (the Peerless Tower) that is far taller than any others. Some blimps and skycars flying over the city, neon signs, video signs, etc., whatever you think looks good.

Foreground: a tough, stocky, beardless, genetically engineered dwarf assassin in an overcoat and Fedora (or some other cool hat), smoking a short cigar, with a heavy pistol in his right hand. Despite being only 4.5 feet (1.4 meters) tall, he should look imposing/threatening.

Mid ground: The dwarf should be shadowing a trio of terrorists through the streets.

     A hulking genetically engineered thug, white hair, older, but still dangerous (over 2 meters tall).

     A very skinny, drug-addicted woman with no ears (they were cut off long ago), she also has neon rings implanted in her eyes. She was genetically engineered as a pleasure slave, but has become a mercenary/terrorist and is suffering from complications of her genetic engineering, including insanity and physical health problems.

     A rugged, muscular man.

I’ll need space at the top and/or bottom for the title and author name.

Igor sent me the following mockup for review. This image was for composition only.

I provided a bunch of feedback for this image, including the following:

The foreground character is a bit plain, with all that coat. I asked Igor to pull the gun out and break up all that coat.

Add a subdermal glowprint to the foreground character's neck.

Make the foreground character stockier, wider.

Make the three midground characters look like they are on the run.

Change club name to Stiltzkin's.

Igor sent the following revision.

I provided the following feedback:

The foreground character still looks too tall. Make him shorter.

Add a few bystanders on the overpass.

Igor sent the following interim image.

I asked that he add a police skycar.

Igor sent the following final image.

And there you have it. Igor was very amenable to all my requests. The final cover art is great!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Monday, November 8, 2010

Writing/Editing update

Joel my editor has edited the first 52 chapters of Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance. The cost so far is about $885. Hopefully, I’ll be able to resolve his edits this week, and get the book published next week.

(UPDATE: Joel sent me the final edited chapters last night. Only thing left for me to do is resolve all his edits. I'm running about 15 minutes per chapter, so I've got about 14 hours more work to do. Looks like Dead Dwarves Don't Dance will be published next week!)
I’ve also been working on advertising banners. I’ve created 22 of them so far. I’ll post about them after I publish the novel.
Over the weekend, I also wrote Format Your eBook for Kindle, a new ebook based on my Step-by-by step Kindle ebook HTML formatting instructions blog post. I’ll be posting this up on Amazon soon.

And, finally, I recently started looking for an agent for my YA fantasy novel. If anyone knows of an agent looking for new authors, please let me know.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

How I found my cover artists

Here’s how I searched for cover artists for my two ebooks:
1.       I visited the Wizards of the Coast website and went through their wallpaper art galleries. For each piece of art (from Magic, D&D, or whatever) that I liked, I noted the artists name. WotC won’t give away contact information for their artists, so I searched for the artists online.
2.       I visited and searched for art. Again, I collected contact information for each artist.
3.       I went to a Barnes & Noble store and perused the books for cover art that I liked. I noted the artist name and then searched for them online.
I sent email to each of the artists, asking if they were available for commission work.
Here are the artists who responded and the fees that they charge for color cover art:
$400 Igor Kieryluk
$500-$1000 Les Peterson
$1500-$2000 Steve Argyle (for ecover)
$2000-$3000 Eric Deschamps
$2500-$4500 Stephan Martiniere
$3000 Raymond Swanland
$3000 Daniel Horne (website gone)
$3500 Dan Dos Santos
$5000 Todd Lockwood
Just like many other self-publishers, I don’t have thousands of dollars to pay for cover art. Happily, I found Igor Kieryluk who charges only $400 and I like his style more than many of the others. I also found Les Peterson, who actually lowers his price for debut authors. Both Igor and Les are great to work with and I emphatically recommend them to anyone who needs artwork.

I have heard that other authors have found cover artists who charge below $100. However, I think those are mostly photomanipulation artists. I prefer non-photo covers for my books. But, if you want to save even more money on your cover, you should look into photo artists.

If anyone has any artists of any stripe who they would like to recommend, please add them to the comments below.

UPDATE: Here's another artist recommendation from Tara Maya's comment:

I found the art for the cover of Tomorrow We Dance on Deviant Art. Because I knew I couldn't afford to commission a piece, I cheated and looked for a piece that was already done which perfectly captured the character and mood of the story. Then I made the artist an offer.

Because she was so approachable, next time I *may* commission a piece from her. (She is amenable.) You can see the cover on my site, or on Amazon. (Note: the story is included in the anthology Conmergence, so if you've already bought that one, you don't need Tomorrow We Dance. But if $2.99 is too much, Tomorrow We Dance is only .99.)

Here's her contact info:



Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Formatting for B&N Nook – Ouch! This is painful

Over the past couple days, I’ve been trying to get Dead Dwarves, Dirty Deeds up on Nook.
First, I had to contend with Barnes and Noble hiding the Nook self-publishing system. I couldn’t remember what it was called, but the B&N Nook web pages don’t mention anything about publishing anywhere! At least Amazon puts a link on the Kindle Store pages that says: “Publish on Kindle”. On their Nook pages, B&N provides absolutely no way to find out how to publish on Nook. Ouch! I guess they don’t want more authors to publish.
However, I endeavored to persevere. I searched on Bing for Nook publishing and finally learned that their publishing method is called pubit! So, I go back to and look under all the Nook menus, but to no avail. There is no link to pubit! anywhere that I can find.
So, I use the B& search function for pubit. It gives me the Complete Works of Shakespeare. Sigh.
They sure are making this difficult for people to find out what is going on with publishing on Nook.
Finally, I search Bing again and find some article that gives me a link to the pubit! Home page. To save anyone else the headaches this caused me, here is the super secret hidden link that B&N doesn’t want you to find:
So, I create an account, which isn’t too hard and bookmark the My Titles page.
The next time I go to the page, it takes me back to the pubit! Home page. However, there is no Sign-in option. Only a Create a pubit! account and Sign-out options. How the heck do I sign back in to the site?
If I click Sign-out it takes me to the Sign in page.
Anyway, now I’ve created an account and figured out how to get back into that account. Next up, create a title.
The process to set up titles is pretty easy: title, cover, author, publisher, categories, description, etc. All of this is easy.
Until you get to formatting your ebook.
B&N uses the .epub system for their ebooks, and if you search their help you can find info on this open source, industry standard for publishing ebooks. Well, it’s actually composed of 3 open standards: OPS, OPF, and OCF. Don’t concern yourself with what these acronyms mean. It’s all garbleydegook.
B&N gives you an 11-page PDF, PubIt! ePub Formatting Guide.
Surprisingly, this PDF does not give you any specifics on how to format your ebook. It doesn’t tell you how to do the table of contents, or insert a page break, or center text, or insert line breaks. It doesn’t give any examples of how to duplicate how that Nook page looks.
Instead, it tells you about the file requirements and meta data needed for Nook ebooks, plus SIX pages of basic Latin Unicode characters. What?
This PDF tells you a bunch of annoying things about the annoying .epub format. Basically, it’s about 10 times more difficult to do things for Nook than it is to do the same things for Kindle. The PDF doesn’t tell you the correct names of files, uses unnecessary terms, and is generally a poor instruction guide.
It took me about an hour to figure how to format things the way I wanted in Kindle. It took me about an hour to find instructions on how to format for Nook! More ouch.
Nook really needs to hire some good technical writers, web designers, and marketing folks. They are making it way too hard to publish on Nook.
When I figure out how to format for Nook, I’ll post instructions. I do not expect to be in a good mood at that time. ;)

Monday, November 1, 2010

October sales numbers

I published my first ebook, the short story trilogy Dead Dwarves, Dirty Deeds, to Amazon on September 30, 2010. I sold 2 copies in September. In October, I sold an additional 13 copies.

Even with such low sales, I did get into the top 1.1% of book rankings with a rank of #8,627. Here are my rankings for the month of October:

Each of the sudden cliffs is a book sale. The three jumps on the right are each one book sold. It’s pretty interesting that selling one book will jump my rank from #129,557 to #29,131.
I must admit to being disappointed by these numbers. I was hoping to sell 30 copies in the first month. Part of this can be explained by my minimal marketing effort. I did no advertising and minimal marketing. I posted on JA Konrath’s blog, Kindle Boards, and the Amazon DTP forums. Not very much, I agree.
My original plan was to release the short stories as a test. I wanted to see how the ebook did with little or no marketing effort. I think this prooves that you can’t just put a book up and not market it.  The good news is that there is room for improvement. ;)
What is the lesson to learn here? Work harder to get on review and interview blogs.
So, if any of you know of a blog that I should be contacting about the impending release of my novel, please let me know in the comments below!