Working the Day Away

It took me a little longer than I thought it would to dig out the appropriate Echoes file.

I’ve been through a few computers in the last three years. I back up everything – only had one or two slips lately – (knock on wood) but the end result is I often have multiple copies of everything. Considering how long it took me to properly format Echoes the first go-round (and how many versions I have just to fiddle with), selecting the right one was a bit of a challenge.

But it’s set, and now I’m trying to put the finishing touches on it in Calibre. It would be nice if Echoes decided to give me a break this time around and just behave itself, but things never quite work out that way. I’ll probably be tinkering for another two hours at least. Meh.

Coffee recommendation: McDonald’s hazelnut iced coffee. Picked some up last night with dinner (what? I was hungry and it was cheap) with the intention of saving it for this morning. Which I managed to do. Go me.

Hmm. Echoes actually looks pretty decent thus far as I flip through it in the Kindle app.

I can’t say it hasn’t been a bit of a professional disappointment. It’s a good story. I love my happy-go-lucky zombie survivalists, but Echoes was a more “serious” work, I guess, and I think it’s the best-written of the three novels (well, two novels and one novella) I have out at the moment. I never in a million years thought Grave New World would take off the way it did. It was “my silly zombie story” that I threw up there as an experiment and it ended up paying my rent.

I guess the zombie craze was strong, or something. It must have been; there’s been virtually no crossover between GNW and Echoes readers (a few folks who really liked one or the other made the jump, but they’re very different genres. I respect that.). So Echoes, really, is my effort to break into the space opera genre, which I do love.

Hmm. Well, Echoes looks great on the Kindle app. The next step will be viewing it on an actual Kindle, and then the Kindle previewer on Amazon. And then of course it will take a while to be uploaded to Amazon, but maybe by Monday or Tuesday…

Then rinse and repeat with the B&N version.

Aw, aren’t ebooks fun?


New Echoes Cover

No, I have not managed to upload it properly yet. The computer I wrote and published Echoes on is long gone; yes, I have a backup, but I’m chest-deep in projects and haven’t managed to pull the file from the external drive yet. This weekend for sure.

In the meantime, enjoy Steven‘s beautiful new cover art!

Things like this make me realize I don’t have an iota of graphic design skill.

I think this is actually the first of my books where you can see a character face. Vibeke is on DBG, but you see her back. So…there’s Kate Hawkins.

Top lesson in self-publishing? (Besides “Don’t make changes after your editor’s been through it.”) Get a real cover artist. It makes all the difference.

On Covers

What do you do for the book that won’t sell?

Echoes has a lot going for it. I think it’s actually the best of the three books I have out, but sales have never been all that strong. I’m going to try some different things with it in the coming year, just to see if I can bump up its sale rate a little bit, and step one was a new cover.

When I published Echoes and GNW (I think they were about three weeks apart?) I was flat broke and had no money for cover art. I did have an old copy of Photoshop and some classes under my belt, along with some photo manipulation skillz left over from a previous magazine gig. My covers weren’t great, but they were serviceable. When GNW took off, I promptly hired a real cover artist, Steven Novak, and he gave it a new look. Steven also did the DBG cover.

I left Echoes alone. Maybe not the best thing I could have done for it, but sales were so meh anyway, I found it hard to justify sinking money into it. But while updating my Facebook page, the Echoes cover looked so…sad…next to the GNW/DBG covers that I emailed Steven to inquire about a redesign.

The bottom line is that I think Echoes is a good story. Despite its poor sales, it’s been extremely well-reviewed, and if I can give it a chance to shine, well, I should do that.

Steven out-did himself on this one. He listened to my vague ideas of what I was going for and knocked together a beautiful cover for Echoes. I’m going to have to dig up the original file to add the cover to, so that will be tomorrow’s task, along with re-upping to B&N and Amazon. I’ll also upload the cover to the site tomorrow.

Now all three of my books have proper covers. I’d squee, but that would be undignified.

Oh, all right.


Growth of the Indie Market

I recently read a New York Times article about purchasing reviews. It’s an interesting piece, and I recommend it for writers in general. The article largely discusses purchasing reviews in connection with indie writers, but a small publishing house I worked with a few years ago did the same thing. While I don’t like the idea of buying reviews, whether they’re good or bad, the guy profiled in the article apparently managed to turn it into a lucrative business; in this economy I have to tip my hat to him for that.

What really caught my attention was Bowker’s estimate that 300,000 titles were self-published “last year” (I’m guessing that means 2011) in print or digital form. They also say that there could be 600,000 self-published books in 2015.

Six hundred thousand.

Folks, that is a gigantic number. It’s enough to make me pause and wonder if there will be room for me.

The article and my recent efforts to step up my marketing have left me to reconsidering what remains of my 2012 writing goals. After a rewarding but grueling year, writing-wise — I had independent projects up the wazoo, plus DBG being a problem child — I was all ready to kick off my shoes and just take it easy for the rest of the year. I figured I’d work on some short stories, but definitely put off the big stuff for 2013.

Now…now I think there’s not a moment to lose. A writer’s greatest strength is her backlist. I’ve got to get cracking on that. Right now, there’s three books with my moniker on them floating around in cyberspace. The big sellers, not surprisingly, are the zombies, because zombies are hot right now and I do think there’s a niche for a snarky female lead.

So I’m retooling my writing schedule through the end of 2012 in an effort to build up a little more momentum. I’m looking at a sci-fi novella for starters, along with several zombie short stories to feature on this site…

Meanwhile, Echoes is in its second day of free promotion and is #27 on the Kindle Science Fiction list. I have no idea why they’re lumping it in with the paid list, but…they are:

Paid or not, it feels pretty dang good to see it on any list. I don’t think that feeling ever goes away. 🙂

Joining Pinterest, Leaving Select

I finally joined Pinterest today. You can find me under S.P. Blackmore if you’re curious to see my pinning habits. So far I’ve got inspiring words and pictures I think are pretty. Pinterest gave me some people to follow…people who like food…so I’ve been staring at food for five minutes. Blegh. I’m also trying to get back into Twitter, which is an important marketing tool (and also a great way to find other writers and their blog posts…you wouldn’t believe how many hours I’ve killed reading during the last few days).

Anyway, on to the main subject of the night: After a lot of thought, I’ve decided to pull Echoes from the KDP Select program.

It’s been in the program all year. This isn’t a knock on Select; I know it works for some authors, but it never quite panned out for Echoes. Meanwhile, my zombie sales have been creeping up slowly but surely on B&N, and I’ve received some emails from Nook readers wondering when Echoes would be available for them.

Now…if Echoes sold like gangbusters on Amazon, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but honestly it’s just looking like lost income at this point, as KDP Select books can only be available on Amazon. Thus, when the book is cycled out of the program, I’ll put it back up on B&N. Look for it around September 14.

In the meantime, to take advantage of my remaining promotional days, Echoes will be available for free on Amazon from September 1 through September 3.

I like KDP Select as a concept, and I think authors with more titles may be able to get better results from it than I have. I considered tossing GNW into Select, but it’s still selling too well on B&N to warrant pulling it just to experiment. Still, I could see myself trying it again with a couple of books once I’ve built up more of a backlist.

The building of that backlist is my next big project. Originally, I intended to take the rest of the year off, as far as my own novels go; I figured I’d pick at some short stories, but that was it. Now…well, now I’m not so sure. I have a feeling time is of the essence here…

The Last Word

The whole Galen Situation made me nervous, so I went to the family lawyer for some counsel.

[heavily paraphrased]

SUZ: Hi, Dad. Has Mom explained my problem?

DAD: Well, you sound better than you did. So what’s the problem with this book?

SUZ: Uh, my main character has the same name as an author.

DAD: Huh. So?

SUZ: Um…is he gonna sue me?

DAD: Is the character named Dan Brown, and does he look like Tom Hanks and solve riddles posed by Da Vinci?

SUZ: ….not really.

DAD: Are you using it as a marketing tool? The name, I mean.

SUZ: No. The book is barely moving.

DAD: I think you’re okay. It’s coincidental. If you named him Stephen King and he was a writer…that might be one thing. It’s the really big names you have to worry about.

SUZ: So he won’t sue me?

DAD: Maybe if you make millions.

SUZ: I had nightmares about it last night.

DAD: *facepalm* Really, you don’t need to worry. I remember a case years ago…

I’m off to craft a letter for a gig, so I will leave you all with this cute picture of Juno.

Cute bird

I would rather cuddle than mug, actually


There is nothing quite like realizing the lead male in your sci-fi novella shares a name with a freaking author.

Yep. There’s a Galen Beckett, Author, floating around out there. Found out by accident, glancing at a forum where someone asked about a book written by him.

“Are you kidding me?” I asked aloud, once I realized they weren’t talking about my Galen (I got so excited for a minute!).

Naturally, this makes me a little nervous. Galen was originally a filler name that ended up sticking, because after 52,000 words…well, you try changing a name after 52,000 words. The character went through a bunch of different last names before I settled on “Beckett,” because the thing had a nice, Earthen ring to it, but still sounded suitably “sci-fi.” I was pretty sure I googled it…but maybe that was one of the prior last names I used. Or maybe I just checked Kate Hawkins.

This is probably going to lead to an insatiable urge to search every damned name I use, but I’m trying to resist. The way I see it, there’s almost seven billion people on the planet. Someone is going to have the same name. Look at poor Michael Bolton from Office Space. Or anyone named John Hartnell or William Braine (I don’t recommend googling those names unless you’re really into mummies). Think of all the poor souls named Justin Beiber or Michael Jordan out there.

If the subject continues to haunt me, I may go into the manuscript and change his last name again and re-upload it. In the meantime, ain’t life serendipitous?


Steve Jobs and Me

We all have those days. You know, the one where you leave your password list at home and wind up locked out of your own blog, but really, it’s just as well, because you have a frillion things to do and blogging is just too enticing a distraction.

(To be fair, my “day” lasted a good week and a half, during which time my phone also decided to have a midlife crisis, and I had the Worst Tension Headache of All Time, but what can you do.)

Echoes is up on Amazon and Barnes & Noble for the princely sum of $2.99. At present, I’m trying to figure out a gadget or a widget that will let me put an ad on this blog…meanwhile, I’m turning the AdSense advertising off, since it just seems wrong to advertise my book and have ads.

I’ve seen conflicting reports on the best way to price ebooks. I believe they should be cheaper than paper versions because there’s no paper involved, and I know that’s becoming more and more expensive (I bore witness to the declining grades of paper we used at the magazines). There are some that say newbie authors shouldn’t price over 99 cents…I’m torn on that. If that’s what the market will bear, well, so be it; however, I feel that writers need to value their work. Echoes is still much cheaper than any paperback you’d pick up in a bookstore, and at this point it’s cheaper than a latte at Starbucks. With that said, if dropping prices will gain me readers, I may try it.

This seems as good a time as any to talk about Steve Jobs.

Continue reading


Finished That Zombie Story, which as of now is Gray New World, unless I can think up something else. It clocks in at something like 37,000 words, which is 7,000 over my target, but a lot less than my usual overages. I may yet trim some of it out.

Besides editing and trimming, it also needs a suitable last sentence (haven’t figured that out), and I’m not sure whether it warrants an epilogue yet.

Did some substantial reworking of the Echoes cover. Will slap it up tomorrow. I feel like I’ve had a monthlong crash course in Photoshop, but things finally started coming back to me. I even figured out how to make a proper nebula.