When the Writer Loses what Passes for her Mind

So I just woke up from this dream in which I was watching TV (the unlikelihood starts there) and it was a fashion show centered on these “green clothes designers” who were making brides’ dresses out of people’s trash.  I sort of endured the woman in a wedding dress made of “dried thrown away spaghetti” (Sounds awfully scratchy.)  And the dress of freeze-dried potato peels was kind of cute (you had to be there) but I woke up with a “right, that’s enough” at the wedding dress made of boil-in-the-bag-vegetables bags.  They hadn’t even turned it inside out.  Her veil, starting right at her forehead, was packages of boil-in-the-bag-snap peas, and the announcer was talking about the shadow and light of the design and the symbol of renewal and life from the pea pictures.

I say this as a way of pointing out that you probably shouldn’t listen to anything else I am about to say today, which is fine, since I think it’s one of those days when I’m going to get myself in trouble.

No, not politics. Or even society or aesthetics.

Well, maybe society and aesthetics, but only as a side blow.

The problem I see with trying to promote and sell our books, in a world gone mad.  (Maaaad.  Maaaad I tell you. They make veils out of peas packages!)

All of us saw a dramatic drop in sales this summer, and there’s unaccountable stuff too.  As in, no one knows how to account for what sells and what doesn’t.

So, how are we Human Wave and indie and mid list authors to promote our stuff? (In a world gone Maaaaaad.  Maaaaaaad.)

I don’t know.  I just took a promo workshop with Dean Wesley Smith, and I can see some things that will help… but they help by making the books more like traditional, which involves some expense on my part.  I can do that for some of the books (and am still debating whether to do it for Witchfinder.”  Yes, I know there are authors I can compare it too, like Diana Wynne Jones Crestomancy series, but guys, I’m talking about selling to the distributors, so it’s the old rules.  Is this a “big enough” book in the old terms for bookstores to order?  Now mind you, their ordering even a tenth of what I sell in traditional would be a lot of money (we’d never go hungry again!)

But it means, too, that my laydown is set at that level, and that might affect the Baen books.  And then my publisher kills me.  (Even if I don’t kill my career.)

Are stores still ordering to the net?  Indie stores?

Who the heck knows?

So, that’s not something I’m doing that for all the books (and I’m still teetering on the Witchfinder one.  I will 100% sure do it for Musketeer’s Confessor, because that series has fans.)

So – what to do, what to do?

Stand back.  The libertarian is going to suggest… banding together!

Honestly, I don’t know why I do this.  It’s sort of like half my books end up being about groups.  It worries me.  Maybe that early Marxist indoctrination twisted me beyond reclaiming?  What is wrong with me?

The idea goes something like this “There’s a bunch of human wave writers who read my blog.  If we could have a group site and then make brochures and split the cost of printing, and then whoever is going to a convention can take 100 brochures or so, and everyone gets advertising.”  The follow up “We can call ourselves The Human Wave Surfers.” is totally up to you to consider or not, when you realize that it comes from my mind and that I dreamed about dresses made of pea packages.

No, the problem is not web hosting.  Yes, we do own the human wave site.  We have more hosting capacity than we’re using.  The problem is ALWAYS time.

See right now I need to put up my back list as fast as humanly possible.  It SHOULD already be done and would be if it weren’t for the combination of illness and depression (and you know when you start in one, you don’t know which is driving the other.  No, it’s not clinical depression.  Yes, I know what that feels like and trust me, I’d run for treatment so fast I’d leave a trail.  It’s more this tired, beaten down “oh, what’s the use feeling.”  Which could be caused by real tiredness – I still do a lot, the issue is it becomes uncoordinated and a bit pointless and doesn’t drive towards an objective – or it could be caused by a series of upper respiratory infections.  Or yes.  Until I break one, I can’t tell you where the other is coming from.  I’m working on getting stuff done because that’s doable.)  And I need to do books for Baen.  That’s the priorities.  My own website needs to be redone, and then this blog needs to be moved – an endeavor interrupted by younger spawn being in classes and with a heavy load this semester.

But I could totally design a brochure.  One of my “my brain is dead” is designing stuff.  And if we use Human Wave Surfers, someone (note not pointing at self) could put up a site with snippets and pictures, and stuff.

And we could also, well, more pointedly help each other.  Cross links at the back of appropriate books.  “If you liked this book, you might also like other Human Wave Surfers.”

That sort of thing.  And I’m sure others of you (you’re even sicker than I am.  Sick, sick, sick) can come up with other group cross promotion endeavors at a low, low price.

Or I could be completely insane.  I mean, if I told my dreams to a psychiatrist the poor man would end up spending the rest of his life in therapy.

So, what do you think?  And do any of you have spare time to contribute to the cause?  The end of this is all of us crossing the country in a bus on the Human Wave Surfers Signing tours, wearing t-shirts that say “I’m in the Band.”

Watch and see – all that collectivism when I was young twisted me beyond belief, I tell you!

 

200 responses to “When the Writer Loses what Passes for her Mind

  1. Humans are social animals. It’s not the collectivism at a young age.

    • Agreed. Marxism isn’t about group forming; it is about being forced into groups by a higher authority that owns you.

      Democracy and republicanism is about forming into the groups you want to be in, because you want to be there. One of the things that struck de’Tocqueville on his trip through the early US was that there were groups for everything imaginable.

      Which suddenly begs the question, what happened to them all?

  2. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    I agree with emily. C. S. Lewis once said that he didn’t know if “cave” men carried clubs but he was sure that they *formed* clubs. [Wink]

  3. That “you might also like” page sounds like the page they used to put in the back of paperbacks with order info for other books from the publisher. I used to love those pages. I could never find the exact books in the store but it gave me authors to look for. I wish more publishers than Baen had a brand I could follow. The rest are corporate gruel. I’m on several publisher mailing lists and only Baen has a decent “what’s new this month” section even. How hard is it to send an email with your publishing schedule to people who WANT to send you money?

    • Eh. When Ill Met came out, it was not only left out of the distributor’s catalog but the person doing the announcements for the house in a little newsletter completely forgot it.

      • It’s all about the incompetence.

        • Yeah, but you know, then I was told the low sales meant my writing just didn’t sell. head>desk.
          Baen doesn’t do this EITHER. Draw One In The Dark, hardcover, had such a crappy cover it sold like a fifth of anything I’d sold up to that time. With any other publisher, I’d be done. Baen said “It was a crappy cover. We’re commissioning a new one for the paperback. And would you write a couple more books for us.”

          • Baen isn’t perfect. I can call to mind at least two recent policy decisionsot theirs that really torqued me off. But all else being equal they certainly do suck a whole lot less that the average feral publishing company.
            Notably their support of DRM free e-books, their hands on outreach to fans at cons, the Bar with all its cubbies, and most importantly their sheer genius in picking exactly the kind of authors I prefer to read.

    • I did the same thing with those old “suggested” pages. Found a lot of good authors too. Amazon sends me suggestions “based on my buying habits,” but those aren’t nearly as helpful. I’ve been much happier discovering new authors by hanging out here (Sabrina Chase, Peter Grant, Karen Myers, Kiti Lappi, etc.).

      Sarah, I know you occasionally publish a list of current publications from human wave authors. Have you ever considered a permanent bibliography? A web equivalent of your brochure? Maybe not here but over at Mad Genius Club? For those of us who no longer go to cons? Pretty please with sugar on top?

    • Well, Goodreads has its recommendations. Rating and reviewing a slew of books over there can only help.

      Other groups can also help. I review books on my LJ and then in the LJ community bookish as well.

      Word of mouth. That’s what booksellers really love.

  4. I run 2 paper.li papers:

    http://paper.li/ArcherGarrett/1372965040
    http://paper.li/ArcherGarrett/1372441403#

    I could start the Daily Wave: a daily aggregator that pulls posts from all of the Wavers blogs.

    It could also link to other wave related stuff on the sidebar.

    I can do this, like, today.

    Acotwf@gmail.com

    • Yes, please, and thank you?

      • I just need a list of blogs. Everybody can email me so they don’t get lost in the comments.

        • Good in principle, but many of us have reader-focused blogs, not writer-focused ones, and I’m not entirely sure what a reader-focused human wave blog looks like, other than “You’ll like my hero cuz…”

          • This blog…

            When it gets linked somewhere like Western Rifle Shooter’s Association or Total Survivalist Libertarian Rantfest or even Instapundit, most of those folks aren’t writers… or readers… yet…

            This blog has the regulars, but it is also witty and interesting enough for an outsider to stumble upon and enjoy.

            It’s a take it or leave it idea. All it will do is cost me time.

            • Site is up:

              http://paper.li/ArcherGarrett/1379780642

              I can’t assign a unique web address unless the site goes Pro and that costs $10/Month. Once Pro, I can also assign contributors. But that can be worried about later if this is something worth pursuing further.

              Mark:
              Is your rss: http://www.babytrollblog.com/feed/ ?
              You’re not showing up yet, maybe it’ll pick you up tomorrow.

              I added in Bayou Renaissance Man since I’m familiar with his site too.

              • Hah! Made me look! 🙂 I discovered that, rather than having to GOOSE the RSS, I had to set the darned thing up in the first place.Bad me. Must have been one of those things I never got a round tuit for when I moved from Expression Engine (and hosting) to WordPress last year.

                M

              • While it is obviously a rough draft of a site, it looks very good for the short amount of time you’ve had to put it together. 🙂

              • Tried to comment yesterday but for some reason WP announced that it can’t be posted. I do have a blog, although it’s more like a public diary right now, I have posted reference photos and my drawings, about my cats, washing rag rugs, about writing – but I do post if I change prices on my books, or publish something new. I think I will start with reviews at some point too.

          • Yes, the inevitable “Let me tell you about my character!”

  5. I’m just getting started but am very interested. Banding together for advertising sounds like a great idea.

    • Sarah would definitely be providing the slipstream. When Sarah plugged a bunch of our books one day, and Instapundit linked to the plug, my book got purchased with Sarah’s books and the Instawife’s according to Amazon. I got mentioned on a space policy blog the same weekend, but it was easy to see where a lot of the traffic came from, and it was from here. I would feel a strong need to contribute sweat equity, although I know nothing about web work.

      On a far more minor scale, is there a way we could do something along these lines on our Amazon author pages? We could have a human wave statement, and then list other human wave authors we like.

      I’m hoping to go to Capclave in October, and would take brochures, but October might be too soon.

  6. I’d gladly participate. In fact, this morning, I started going through my own blogroll, looking at blogs which have advertising, and trying figure out which ones I should buy ad space on to plug my novel, which should be coming out (fingers crossed) within the month. I have a small budget, but figure a few well-placed ads might give a small boost. Mostly looking, I think, at Project Wonderful blogs.

    A couple of thoughts occur, in no particular order…

    As, I presume, the biggest-seller among us, you would necessarily be providing slipstream drag for the rest of us to pull along behind. Which kind of makes you the leader-by-acclaim.

    I suggest that, whatever gets done (this may be obvious, so stop me if you’ve heard this before) should be done as best can be according to best practices, which these days seems to be HTML5, CSS3 and WordPress. Like I said, maybe obvious.

    While I agree that cooperation is not collectivism, I think that something like this could all too easily morph into socializing the benefits, but privatizing the work. I think that any author participating should do so at the cost of — for lack of a better term — sweat equity. You don’t get your stuff put in without you have skin in the game. How that works in practice, I have no clue, but some tasks occur — HTML coding, graphic illustration, photo manipulation, content writing, posting, schedule maintenance, link pruning, calendaring (regular post topics timed to the season), membership management, comment thread cop… Those are just a few tasks I know from maintaining my own and others’ sites are necessary, all without actually addressing the core function.

    M

    • BTW. As relates to internatl communications. My host (DreamHost) offers the feature of building private discussion lists. I know from experience, they can be inestimably handy — better than Facebook — for behind-the-scenes gettings on.

      M

    • “I think that something like this could all too easily morph into socializing the benefits, but privatizing the work.”

      *This!*

      This is what I was clumsily getting at in my comment. To make this an exchange of equals, those on the low end of sales and production would have to contribute sweat equity. Skill and commitment levels would be variable, and the jobs would suck up more time than people realize.

  7. So, Sarah — Are you saying we all need to become Surfer Chicks and Dudes?

    • I don’t know, Doug, but we could use that as a fundraiser – donate $10 US or we’ll send you a picture of [writer name] in a bikini. Or SPQR in a . . . ah no, no, I’m not even going that way

      • We’d have PETA and the decency police *both* after us that way!

      • SPQR in a toga. (Looks down) I have to lose mumble pounds before ANYONE sees me a in a bikini. But at the rate it’s going, I’ll be eighty, and who wants to see that. (No, don’t answer THAT.)

        • Eh, by the time you’re eighty, you won’t care what they think.

          There’s a video going ’round of a security guard at a hotel telling a little old man that he can’t come through the posh front desk area wearing just his swimming trunks. So he takes them off, and continues on to the elevators, while calling the young whippersnapper a thing or two. Moral of the story: don’t piss off people who don’t care anymore.

        • Wayne Blackburn

          I believe TXRed was implying blackmail, with a threat of, “Nice eyes you got there. Be a shame if someone made you claw them out.” I thought about giving an example, but thought better of it.

          • If you send $100, we won’t send a GIF of J-hn Sc-lzi waltzing in his Regency gown. And for $250, you get removed from the Pernicious Piscatorial Pun-a-thon mailing list.

            The choice is yours. Choose wisely.

            • What if we like puns?

              • Then you get drafted into the mailing list. Pour encourager les autres.

                • I like puns. I can’t make them in English, but I like reading and hearing them.

                  I saw that regency gown picture. I survived, have to admit I have no intention of trying to find it again. I think I saw a comment somewhere that the colors were all wrong to him, and with that I agree.

  8. It’s wouldn’t be a collective if it’s a guild. With apprentices, journeymen, and master craftsmen, voluntarily joining together to fight off the depredations of the King. There could be secret signs and signals carved into convention-show lobbies to show the initiates where the secret meetings were … okay, I’m not as loopy as Sarah, the secret signs would *not* involve frozen peas …

    Anyway.

    I would link other human wavers at the back of my books (images, blurbs, links), if they were aimed at a similar audience. And I’d mention them on my blog, if I didn’t neglect my blog. And I’d pimp them on twitter. If I twitted.

    But I’m at a stage where it wouldn’t be an even trade if someone better-selling were to return the favor, and I hate one-sided benefits like that.

  9. I think there was a discussion on MGC where I suggested a page of links to other Human Wave writer’s books that could be easily tacked on to the end of everyone’s eBooks. Possibly even links to buy them directly from the Kindle. (Affiliate links maybe?). They’d have to be swapped out with similar lists of links when being pubbed on other systems, but with a little collaborative effort, everyone can use the same file.

    • yes, but even among human wavers the target audience would differ hugely. I’d want my half-dozen readers to trust me to steer them to similar books. So I’d want discretion as to whose books to add, and an agreement that no one will take offense.

      • Yes, exactly. That’s essential.

        • Yes, but… It’s most efficient (and professional) if we can do a “You might also like…” link that points to the Human Wave site rather than a bunch of individual links which might become dead without warning.

          Let me suggest something like this… The HW site includes individual book pages maintained by individual authors. For anyone who wants to recommend books, there is also a “Recommended by…” page for a recommender where he can collect all the links pointing to the individual author’s book page(s).

          Example: Sarah has 10 individual book pages where she maintains whatever descriptions and links she wishes. I have a “Recommended by…” page, which includes “for fantasy books like my BOOK X which you might also like see…” and includes links to a selection of (in my opinion) appropriate Sarah book page links. If I have multiple genres/affiliation groupings I can spell it out here (or have multiple recommender pages).

          My back-matter can include a “If you liked this book…” section which, after puffing my own work, can point to “Other authors you might also like…” and a link to my “Recommended by…: page on the HW site.

          If you’re using WordPress, then HW members could get author access to their own individual book pages and their own recommender pages, and do their own maintenance. Admin simply consists of setting up new (empty) pages for each with access, upon request, and grouping them into appropriate menus.

          You could use the “Recommended by…” link to the HW site in your own blog posts, too.

    • It would have to be targeted, like high fantasy, fantasy, pnr, sf, etc.

      • We could pass around a large collection of links and blurbs, and the author could decide which ten (or however many) to include at the end of the book.

        • Have to learn how to make links in books. I haven’t gotten that quite down yet, but will do if I learn it. Although it’s possible I will need a newer computer first, I have a mac which runs Leopard because it’s too old for the newer systems, and I can’t use any newer programs with that which makes doing some things difficult. So, maybe sometime next year, I think I can afford a new one then (one problem being I have always used macs, so I’d prefer to stay with them as they are what I’m familiar with, but the damn things are sorta expensive. And my mac preference is, by the way, mostly due the accident that the first two I got, as hand downs from a friend, were macs).

    • I would do this– send me the links and I will add them at the end of my books and short story collections (even the poetry). Lately I am not selling much… but any bit will work…

  10. “What is wrong with me?”

    There is nothing wrong with you. Human beings are social beings. Being a libertarian does not, or should not anyway, mean being an island in the sea. It just means your social/group/cooperative choices are just that — voluntary choices made from free will. Cooperate indeed; it’s a human necessity! And as a reader, I would love such a “cooperative” effort — easier to find and try new stuff if all I have to do is click 🙂

    BTW, I’m really liking the book feature at PJ for that very reason.

    • Good point, BG. on the voluntary cooperation being consistent with libertarianism. To suggest otherwise would entail libertarians being anti-marriage. The essence of libertarian thought is not “independence” but absence of coercion. Cooperative efforts generally work best, in the long run, when persuasion rather than coercion is the binding. Enter freely and of your own free will.

      • yes, but I AM a curmudgeonly hermit!

        • And that is why we all love you so much. Cat-like people love those who want to be left alone, and actively seek them out.

          • Truth! 🙂

            • 😀 And then will pester them for attention and kitty treats just when the poor person would prefer to be left alone and do something?

              Hm, maybe throwing fist is not such a good threat after all, some cats do like fish.

              • And yes, I was once again trying to type over the cat who likes to lie between me and the keyboard.

                • Does your bite at your fingers too? Or do you have two that decide to have a wrestling fight in your lap while you are typing?
                  (Other reasons I cannot telecommute)

                  • She rarely bites, but if I push her off she will go and drop something from the bookshelves, or else go sit on the bed and complain loudly. For a long time. Occasionally both, one after the other, testing which will work. That lady is a very, very vocal one. So I usually do push her down only when I’m writing a story, not for something like a comment.

                    I’m kind of hoping that once I get her and the new cat, an old tom, used to each other they will get enough entertainment from each other that I will have some time for myself (right now the meetings are still supervised, and there is a door between them, open just a little so I can close it if either one starts to growl or yodel. Occasional growls still happen, but it’s not looking too bad anymore. Maybe by Christmas…)

                    • And she has been a lot worse when it comes to attention seeking during the about seven weeks the tom has been here. I guess she is feeling insecure knowing that there is this rival, uncouth barbarian, possibly a monster behind that closed door – and he has taken over half of her turf, too. Totally unacceptable.

                    • If she isn’t fixed just wait a little while and they will provide plenty of entertainment for each other. Don’t know if you will be any less unbothered though, if you think she’s vocal now…

                    • She is fixed. He isn’t, not yet, although I think I will have that taken care of. I’m a bit worried about marking, now that he will have to share a smallish apartment with an other cat, even if he is old enough that there should be at least no major case of raging hormones anymore. 🙂

                      And yep, I know about unfixed females and how they sound in heat, had to endure six months of that once, before that cat got fixed. Many years ago, but the memory is vivid.

  11. I doubt brochures are any part of the answer. People take and throw away without reading. To sell the product it has to be seen at least 7 different times. Somehow this psychologically validates the purchase– it’s real and not going away? I don’t know the answer. Pairing or otherwise piggybacking with other authors’ work seems a better choice– share the fan base.

    • Well — we have had brochures — actually a flier to Colorado Authors, and it worked very well. The thing was, it had codes to get a free story… the story was the real hook, I guess.

      • I like the free story notion, particularly as a reader. Gives me a reason to hang onto this piece o’ paper, a payoff for carrying it around the rest of the day. In context of the current discussion, maybe a code to a page with multiple shorts from multiple authors.

        Where possible I think the shorts would be most effective if they’re associated with an author’s ongoing work. Minor/new characters in an ongoing universe sort of thing.

        • Include a QR code for the link where they can enter the code (or include the code in the URL, if the system can work with that, YMMV), then they can immediately get their free ice cream and you now have a place in their virtual bookshelf. Instant gratification for the win!

          • (involuntary flinch from the mention of QR codes… forcing it down…) Yeah, that might work. Brochures and bookmarks wouldn’t be too hard to do, QR code points to the story, story has a link at both the beginning and the end that points to wherever we’re setting up the…

            what do we call a place where people go surfing? The beach, I guess?

            …beach, I guess, so that they can find everyone else’s stuff…

            • Why the flinch? I have very little background in mobile development and personally use a dumbphone; are there issues with QRs that I don’t know about?

              • No. Just that one of the Flying Island Press guys was really into it, but I didn’t think we were quite there yet. Having said that, this was a couple of years ago. And today, given the tighter integration between desktop and mobile browsers, it’s making more sense.

              • I know that I don’t have the ability to use QR codes. Unless I can, perhaps, throw them on my flatbed scanner and find some PC program to decode them. I have a super dumb (and very cheap) phone.

    • Wayne Blackburn

      The secret to brochures and flyers is high volume, low cost. Depending on the audience and the effectiveness of a brochure, you might get 10 purchases out of 1,000 brochures. Flyers rate about 1 in 1,000 (At least this was what I was taught in my abortive training to sell encyclopedias, mumble years ago). The cost of the brochures and flyers can be low enough that this is approximately a break-even, which doesn’t seem like a good trade, but with this kind of thing, you’ll get repeat purchases, plus more word-of-mouth exposure.

  12. Do we have anyone with brochure experience? Freebies to give out at Cons would be useful, but as we all start moving into print, and build up a sizable list, a catalogue that bookstores could order from would be useful as well.

    I foresee a kickstarter to cover printing costs.

  13. Christopher M. Chupik

    It’s not a collective if you choose to join. Organizations turn bad when they become “You must join us or we’ll make it impossible for you to succeed.”

  14. This sounds like a grand idea, a la the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. I especially like the brochures at cons plan. I’m not quite as keen on the “surfers” name, at least not for customer-facing stuff. We can call ourselves whatever we want internally 😉

    What I can offer…I have an “all you can eat” plan with my hosting service, HostingMatters, so I believe I can easily host another site. It looks like I can do all kinds of forum and mailing list plugins with that too. I can also register and maintain whatever web name we come up with. I am not a whiz with web design so you will probably want someone else to do that.

    Now. I am going to introduce an uncomfortable subject, but it needs talking about. Quality. No, Mrs. Bennet, not *that* kind. A collective endeavor is judged by all who contribute. We all subscribe to the Human Wave ethos; that’s not a problem. Some, however, may not be in a state of grace with regard to native artistic talent or funds to achieve more than a basic cover, or editing, or whatever. Having a successful, well-known person at the top of the list won’t be helpful long term if the rest comes to be viewed as Not Quite There Yet instead of Good Stuff, Different Authors. Understand I am thinking about long-term effects vs. temporary boosts.

    I’m not sure what the best way to address this would be, since I do NOT want this to become an exclusionary club replete with elbows and hurt feelings. Hopefully I have not stepped on any toes already. My intent is pure–we all want to do better. So, how can we help each other improve?

    • No, I know precisely what you mean…

      • A lot of that can be mitigated by a good-looking common WordPress theme. If the site looks professional, then weaker covers will have less of a “hurts overall brand” impact. The quality of the writing is more hidden at the brand level. To cover any “favortism” issues, allowing members to post book pages at all gives them some benefit, even if the books don’t end up being recommended by anyone else. [As long as they follow the last para of this comment.]

        Following my “Recommended by…” suggestion above, simply carrying book pages by authors is just a catalogue issue, and a certain unevenness might not be awful. When a recommender selects them as part of his recommendations, which is where the networking would really kick in, he can include a “don’t judge by this cover…” or other mitigating comment. If the work isn’t recommendable, it won’t be.

        The site owners/sponsors/hosts could do their own periodic overall recommendations for browsers who find the site in the normal way (not necessarily as part of someone’s back-matter).

        Which reminds me, all individual book pages should have, besides title, author, etc., info, a specific field: Why would you describe this as Human Wave? That might be the primary accept/reject criterion.

      • You could have a “rising stars” (or “building wave?”) section for those of us still in the new-and-somewhat-untried category. Once enough good reviews and word of mouth and sales accrue, we get bumped to the regular ranks. Just tossing out an idea.

    • Whaddya mean, not good enough??? Throws elbow.

      Phew, that’s out of my system.

      That’s the problem with trying to create a marketing brand from a diverse group of producers. If you don’t have a consistent quality, the brand awareness will sink to the lowest common denominator. So if you want to sell in the marketplace as a group, you’ll have to discriminate. I’d prefer deciding as an individual whose work to associate mine with. What would be nice is someplace where we can discuss craft, sharpen blurbs, and peek at each other’s work.

      Why not just regularly scheduled open threads, here, and at MGC if the proprietors don’t mind?

      • Wayne Blackburn

        I’d prefer deciding as an individual whose work to associate mine with.

        I think that would be amply covered by following Karen’s suggestion of having individual author’s pages, so that the author can make their own recommendations and organize their own content. This way, You could have your recommended reading list, and it would not be related in any way other than coincidental to anyone else’s. Plus, if one were to set it up this way, you could ALSO choose which recommendations by other people you show and which you don’t. This would be necessary if you have something that is recommended by a bunch of people. You don’t want two screens full of the blasted things, or it would be considered excessive. This could, of course, generate some butthurt if someone comes by your page and doesn’t see his recommendation of your book, but tough rocks.

        • This is important, because having the wrong readers being referred to your stuff can result in a bunch of bad reviews on Amazon.com.

          Because the Human Wave thing is covering a broad selection of genres we cannot just blanket recommend each other’s stuff _unless_ we are very careful in our labeling. “If you liked this weirdo YA SF/cyberpunk crossover, you might like Wagons to Oregon, a Romantic/Historical/Western” might not be a good idea.

          • I completely agree, but. I’m someone who much prefers SF to fantasy. However, there are fantasy series I like, including Sarah’s shifters, Harry Potter and a couple of others. Partly, it’s quality and the fact that, somehow, I don’t just wait for the deus ex machina to take care of everything (a real skill when writing fantasy); but, also, there’s the underlying heroism, a real battle between good and evil and other common threads that make them Human Wave fiction. I don’t read Westerns, but I’ve got Celia Hayes on my Kindle in TBR now. Some of us gravitated toward genre fiction long ago because that’s where the heroes are. If we did cross-promote outside of our niche, we would say it was on grounds of shared themes. As long as the labeling was clear, we wouldn’t drive readers crazy.

            • These.^^ I think cross-pollinating or no, a genre-key is essential, particularly in taking advantage of e-book features.

              I’ve got a book on my kindle by an author who seems to be writing in a different genre for each book, and his also-by’s have a short genre-key description by each book. As I read across all kinds of genres I’m willing to check his other work out, and not likely to be disappointed that he jumped genres.

              You could break your recommendations down. First, here’s a few specific books that are similar to this one. Then, here’s a few books and/or authors working in Human Wave with genre-keys or divisions.

              Readers are smart folk, as long as we give them enough information to make informed decisions they can hash out the details themselves.

      • Um… that could work, and an exchange if I ask for a book, and no assumption I’ll link it, but I MIGHT.

    • I think quality will sort itself. Either it will out, IWC, it was a good idea, or it won’t, IWC, it wasn’t. It may be that, with a little friendly competition, we could all up each other’s games, too.

      I’m actually more concerned about genre. Human Wave is pretty much a political stance. But…

      Take the spread between the shifter series and the Darkship series. I read both, but do they necessarily attract the same readership?

      Or, to go farther afield, take Emma Bull (to name someone OUTside the group), the difference between Bonedance, War for Oaks, Territory, Falcon, Finder, and Liavek.

      Now, make all those different ways of writing tribal lays and make them by diverse authors. Might not matter. But I suspect it will matter more than gradations of someone’s notion of quality.

      M

  15. Networking is imperative. No, wait–networking that can be transmuted into direct marketing is imperative. My cartooning adventures online over the last decade or so makes a good illustration: when I began, I had a GeoCities site–I was in a “city” and had maybe three or four visitors a day. Then I joined a network of webcomics. The idea was that we would share group promotion–a box that was essentially an ad, not random, but one that we took in turns each day. That day, we would experience a HUGE run of traffic, because we were essentially “king for a day” that day. We were literally everywhere during the run of that network promotion. And if people liked what they saw, we’d hold on to some of that traffic. Each shot at a “newsbox” day would be a shot at significant traffic building.

    This shared promotion worked extremely well. The big and popular sites got bigger and more popular, the OK sites grew, and only the hopeless floundered. The only trouble with the network was (at the time) for most of the members there was no good way to monetize all that traffic. Of course, now it’s a lot easier to get paid advertising on your blog, and besides, the idea is to grab eyes and try to sell books, right?

    Have to admit, that’s where I’m sort of lost personally these days. When I was a member of the network, I seemed to hit a ceiling of about 7000 readers per day. For daily webcomics, that’s just barely OK. At the moment, I’m not a member of anything or networked with anything in particular, and have had a period of inactivity that allowed all my old readers to wander off, so I’m back to square one.

    I’m not sure exactly how a shared promotion for networked writers would manifest itself. For cartoonists, slapping some colorful drawing in the box was enough to get attention.

    • Cover art and a link to a free story with further links to venders for the rest?

      I like the concept. The question is where to put those adverts? Make a new site or would this be something MGC would be interesting in having on their site?

      • Look up project wonderful.

        • I do (and have) bugged writers about taking advantage of Project Wonderful. It’s easy to use, as an ad seller and buyer. But I have to admit that I have no idea how effective it might be for writers.

          • FWIW, I hit on PW from having seen Sarah’s books on Day by Day.

            M

            • Project Wonderful as seen by a reader is essentially no different than any other ad network–it will be or will not be successful based on the ad you create, placement, etc.

              For those who don’t know Project Wonderful, the essential difference is that it is built for creatives with limited budgets. Instead of buying large, expensive blocks of ads at a set rate, you bid, and the bidding is relatively easy–and the advantage is often to the bidder, because you can often find great exposure for very little.

              Theoretically–as an extreme example–you could buy a few minutes of a $500 ad for ten cents. The highest layout required is $5–anytime you add funds to run ads, it needs to be at least $5, but if you’re also running ads you’ll have ad money going in and out. If you are making a profit on your ads, you can withdraw amounts of $10 or more (I think) at any time without penalty. There’s no huge lag time, as with other networks. It’s all very immediate.

              I don’t think what you clicked on at DbD was a PW ad, because Chris has links to Sarah’s books hardcoded directly *beneath* a Project Wonderful skyscraper.

          • Seemed to work well for DST. I haven’t done it for the other books because money has been… er… tight, but I probably should. I spent like $300 on adds for DST over a year, so it was pricey… but it seemed to work.

      • The way this particular network ran–keep in mind I’m not saying this network should be a model, necessarily–is that members essentially placed the network ad (we called it a “newsbox”) essentially wherever they felt it would fit. Its size was similar to a half-skyscraper–160 or 180 x 300 pixels, so it was hard to miss. Folks running a conventional blog would probably want to put something like that in their sidebar.

      • I suppose the art would have to remain an important component, even though you’re selling your writing. The cover art is representational of your writing, anyway, and it is art that gets people to click. Well, it’s 1 way to get people to click. 9.9 But even those little square sponsored related content ads that have started popping up all over the place rely on a striking image along with a quick description…that’s not unlike our old network ad, a colorful image (best WITHOUT logos or text) with the text being actual text directly below the ad. It does seem to work. Those related content ads keep drawing me to click them so bad that I’ve practically got to slap my hand away from the mouse. Maybe *that* should be the model. 🙂

  16. If I wasn’t such a slacker and a hardheaded SOB, the site I’ve been building could be totally modified to be used for this. However, since what should have been a 3 week project has turned into 6 months, I don’t think it would work.

  17. What we’re probably seeing is something akin to what happened to TV. Where before you had 3 networks (if you don’t count PBS, and the local UHF and Spanish channel), now you have hundreds of specialized channels. Before you only had a couple of one sized fits all new broadcasts, now you have everything from MSNBC to FOX to CSPAN … and the Home and Garden network, and ESPN, and Sy-Fi, ect, ect, ect. A channel for every taste.

    Of course it’s going to be painful and confusing. And the quality is going to be uneven, especially at first. Sometimes you’re going to get a Sharknado, but other times you’re going to get a Breaking Bad or Walking Dead.

    I guess what I’m saying is until the new way of doing things shakes out it’s all going to be a giant pain in the ass, but in the end there will probably be a niche not only for each sub-genre, but for each political/social inclination. Banding together is just part of establishing that niche. Even Libertarians, like a herd of cats, need a watering hole they can hang out at once in a while.

    And hang tough with the depression kiddo. Been there, done that, have a closet full of the T-shirts. Mine is still locked in a box in the basement of my mind, and if allow the door to that box to open even a crack it gets out and does nasty things.

    I found the trick for me is to remember that clinical depression is mostly the result of bad brain chemistry. It doesn’t make the feelings go away or invalidate them, but it does help to put it into context. Like a bad trip or a psychic invader trying to take over my head, thinking thoughts that aren’t mine, I can deal with my depression as something separate, alien, from the actual “me”. It helps to compartmentalize it, stand against it instead of giving in to it. That trick finally allowed me to beat it down and shove it in its box. It also finally allowed me to write the small amount I have. Kinda late in life, but better late than never.

    • I call this “compensating” — I know my perceptions are skewed, so I compensate. BUT getting sick causes a certain amount of weirdness, and if I don’t notice I’m sick… (Oh, truly, this happens.) Well.

    • I have a similar approach. My main problem is the SAD, but especially before I got official confirmation that I really had it – it started in my early 20’s, and that was when the idea that people could really be affected by lack of light to the point where it was not just something they could ‘snap out of’ if they really wanted was a very new one, and it took until the late 90’s before I got an official diagnosis although I suspected it myself for several years before (and kept getting the response ‘it’s very rare’, said kind of slow, and the seemingly forgotten, from doctors when I suggested that :)) – well, anyway, it was a lot easier to deal with after I knew it was not a character fault, but something I really could not just will away, no matter how hard I tried. And there were times when it did lead to some level of actual depression, maybe because I felt very much like a failure, especially around the time I finally was forced to admit I would not be able to finish my university studies.

      But when I think of it as something like, well, maybe like a busted knee, especially a knee that got ruined in an accident that was not my fault, but just something that could have happened to anybody… yes, that does make it hell of a lot easier to deal with it. And to find out how to work around it and with it, instead of just trying to push through by sheer will, which is not something that works any better than trying to run with a ruined knee would. But maybe you can still use a bicycle, and you can definitely still use a car, and even if you can’t run you can still get there by walking too if you not in that much of a hurry.

  18. If I might humbly interject, what other established writers are doing Human Wave type work? My understanding (please kick me if I’m wrong, I’m new to this party) is that the ideal of Human Wave concerns a movement. A concept about how to handle stories in SF/F and maybe beyond. If you (we) want to move it beyond a small group I would think it needs connections to current/future/ongoing works by non-affiliated writers.

    What I mean: if we had a list of writers or books that fit the HW notion, then connected persons (like our host) could contact them for guest posts, review blurbs, cross-linking, etc. And those most intimately involved in the specific HW website could post or host reviews of non-affiliated writers/books that conform (or closely so) to the concept. In this way we broaden the reach of HW and also spread the foundation wider.

    The affiliated writers would be those who benefited from “recommends,” and have a presence on the group website and etc. But the readers have greater opportunity to grasp the idea and more reasons to follow that idea back to new/unexplored writers.

    Let’s be honest, if my writing ever gels and I publish something my recommendations about “Big Writer” aren’t going to amount to much. However, “Big Writer’s” connection, even tangentially, to Human Wave could bring folks to my neighborhood and his.

    Random thoughts, please feel free to poke large holes in my assumptions.

    • There are tons of people who do Human wave — currently a lot of Baen writers…

      • Yeah, what I’m wondering is, are any of them identified as Human Wave by the readership? Or self-identifying as such? I may be off-base here, but wouldn’t broadening the awareness of HW among the readership help bring that readership around for a visit to the rest?

        For my part, as a reader I’ve only ever heard HW referenced here and websites associated with you. Is it showing up where I’m not looking?

        That’s where I was thinking about cross-posts and interviews and reviews of non-affiliated (with this specific project) authors, and such. Mark HW out as a clear concept in the readership and (hopefully) reap the benefits.

        • Does anyone use it as a tag for their books?

        • Nah — it’s a very new movement. There will be an anthology, and some manifestos….

        • Just a reminder — at all steps of the way, take a step back and view the affair as a reader, not a seller. The World’s Greatest Sales Plan often fails for neglect of that fundamental consideration.

          Start with the question of what, as a reader and potential buyer of the written word, catches your attention and persuades you consider parting with your precious coin (and even more precious reading time) — then find out how as a seller of Stuff To Read you can take the back way to that point.

          As the adage goes, the best way to catch squirrels is to climb a tree and act like a nut.

  19. That actually sounds like fun– my problem is health stuff, which is one of the main reasons I went indie (my promotion skills are on the bottom of my list sigh)… And yes, libertarians are social too. Sometimes a group effort of like-minded people can accomplish more than one. It depends on what the group effort is (is…) and what the goal is (is…) 😉 This is not Marxism btw because we still gain from our own efforts (writing, etc) and do not share the profit as a group. We are lending a hand to each other and giving each other a boost. Much, much different. (btw Marxism is less a boost and more making us the same –think of crabs in a pot, pulling each other down)

  20. Fortunately, in the People’s Republic of Colorado, one is free to set up workers’ soviets… 🙂

    Or you could call it a corporation. And appoint yourself CEO.

    Best of luck, and glad to see some things are happening.

  21. William O. B'Livion

    There’s a difference between a pack and a herd.

  22. I don’t have time today to go through the comments. BUT I have been trying to do this in my own small quiet way all summer, and I plan to continue. Here’s what I’ve been doing: reviewing Indie authors (human wave, by choice) Fridays on my blog. I’ve been interviewing Indie authors, cover designers, and others, on my blog at Amazing Stories Magazine. I shall start up a new interview series there again soon. I have no idea how much this helps, but if we all start chipping a bit in together, it ought to snowball? Anyway, will read more comments tomorrow. Today, I work!

  23. So, we have several different ideas here. To rephrase the ones I’ve caught:

    1. A Human Wave Wiki, so we actually know who’s interested/related, with
    1a. Author pages
    1a1. bio
    1a2. bibliography
    1a3. RSS to authorblog?
    1a4. Author recommends pages
    1b. Genre listing pages
    1b1. breakdown by author
    1b2. live links to amazon, b&n, kobo, smashwords, baen
    1c. Free short story / preview section (see brochure)

    2. “If you liked this book, you’ll like” back matter,
    2a. Sorted by genre, with live links
    2a1. Either done by each author for what they recommend
    2a2. Or as an updated mailing every [interval], already formatted to easily add on the back of your epub/mobi/docx/etc and upload changes to ebook/POD book
    2b. as a human wave site mention with link to the site.

    3. “Catch the Human Wave!” Brochures
    3a. With listing by genre
    3b. with free story link to encourage hanging onto brochure
    3b1. with “if you liked this, you’ll like” back matter at the end of the free story
    3b2. with link to human wave website at the end of the free story
    3c. With eye-catching cover art, in awesomely cheesy pulp style
    3d. Willing volunteers to put out at cons, coffee shops, and ???

    4. “Catch the Human Wave” ads
    4a. Project Wonderful?
    4b. Linking back to well-set-up Human Wave web site.
    4b1. will need to be fully fleshed out and optimized to attract and retain the precious few click-throughs.

    What did I miss?

    • 2a2. THIS. We need an e-mail list.

      For an example of back matter, I’ve been using David Farland’s suggestions from a post of his called “Teaching your Fans to Shout”. http://www.davidfarland.com/writing_tips/?a=86

      And, slightly off topic, I need a writing buddy rival to kick me in the keister to get stuff done faster.

    • Never think of them as “precious few” click-thrus (I’m not hectoring you about this, but this gives me an opportunity to expand on this point). Click-thrus are technically limitless. It’s a matter of getting in front of eyes. And while you want to keep eyes on your site, trying to contain them in your site by brute force (being skimpy on out-links) is self-defeating behavior.

      There’s been some hand-wringing about group-efforts versus libertarian principles. Don’t worry about it, you’re overthinking things. The sort of hive you want to worry about as a libertarian is the attempt to *force* equal outcomes. There’s nothing about networking or linksharing that forces anything, because the user of the site still makes the ultimate decision. The internet is more akin to taking part in a big festival. You each get a booth, it’s what you do with that booth that matters.

      • Ah, I am unclear.

        I view click-throughs as few and also as precious, as the methods for getting first-time viewers to a site are time-consuming, expensive, and very low-return, even after we target potentially-rich markets, compared to the current pool of fans we have who will come back for more books or try another author because they saw them on MGC or ATH. (Hey, those of you who’ve tried Peter’s books! Thank you! And those of you who buy Our Esteemed Hostess’s books and encourage her to keep writing! You rock!) This isn’t a problem unique to the internet; good stores work hard to keep repeat customers, as finding and getting new people in the door is very hard & expensive.

        I have no desire to keep customers on the human wave website – in fact, it would delight me if they poked at two things, and then left straight for [retailer]’s buy button. I have every desire to keep them on the website long enough to be interested, as opposed to wandering off because the site looks ameteur, half-built, or user-unfriendly.

        • Well, I just mean that sometimes this stuff is counter-intuitive. We do want to people to spend a lot of time on our site–I just mean that the psychology is such that a closed site makes them feel like a prisoner. Tell them they are free to go, and they are more likely to stay. 😉

          • Yep! And the written word is open to much interpretation, fraught with connotations far different from their archaic or current denotations… much less British english vs. American english.

            Herding people, herding cats… not so different… (People do ask for things instead of biting my ankles to get my attention after losing a toy under the furniture, though.)

          • Wayne Blackburn

            Sure. The implication is that it should keep them coming back, not keep them from leaving (Hotel Website California, anyone?).

            • You can check out any time you like……? [wide-eyed look]

              • no, they tried that. It was called frames, and it was an abomination.

                These days they’re much more subtle about it, and call ’em cookies. The dark side has lots of them, and excellent tracking of your every movement…

    • If someone can provide the hosting and platform, I will quite happily build the wiki. I was the primary instigator in the creation of Howard Tayler’s Ovalkwiki, and did most of the structural design and style guide. The graphic work was someone else; I don’t have the chops for that yet. I’d love to build the HW wiki as well. Ovalkwiki uses a paid wiki platform, but there are free ones available. I just need to know what stack I’m working with.

      • FWIW, I have a hosting agreement (DreamHost) that lets me set up as many domains as I like. I have available on what they call one-click install both Word Press (they do excellent maintenance, despite their claim of YOYO) and MediaWiki, as well as a bunch of other stuff. I’m contemplating doing a lot of what’s being discussed here today on my own bat, so adding a bunch of friends into the mix doesn’t seem to be too much more of a hassle.

        M

    • Dot — I’m moving in with you and Peter. I’ll do the cat box and cook low carb meals if you keep me organized. (Dan might have to come with. I can’t sleep without him!)

      • Compared to my day job, this level of organizing is like doodling on the margins of meeting notes for me – an absentminded and fun way to pass the time.

        Unfortunately, the day job (which just gave me a raise, yay) is so mind-consuming I only recover enough to do this every other to every third weekend. Which may be part of why Calmer Half is furiously planning to deliver enough books and income to replace my income and insurance. When I was out of work I organized a photographer’s schedule, mail, errands, business contacts, potential projects, and tax info just to amuse myself and not be bored. He wants that for the housework and projects help, the marketing and sales, and all the things we should be doing as a small publisher. If I were out of work, I’d probably pounce on a project like this one with a gleeful “Wheeeee! Fun!”

        Heck, I’d probably see if we could park an RV near your house for a couple weeks, and run a giant booksale through Amazon of all your used books, because I haven’t used them as a used-book reseller, and am interested in the logistics from that end. (Including the FBA program – I’m curious if that’s a viable method for selling signed editions by author.)

        Unfortunately, I’m just reflexively organizing and trying to stay distant right now, because I know that tomorrow I will walk back into work, and my brain will be running full-time just on logistics, flow, and leading my peoples. Yaaargh. I feel like Charlie in Flowers for Algernon on these weekends where I recover from burnout!

    • I like the idea of a Wiki, as opposed to a Blog, since blogs imply a sort of chronological order while a wiki organizes things by topic.

  24. Right.

    First point, Jonah Goldberg said something yesterday in his G-File about the need in a republic for associations. Which is what we’re really talking about here. And while it is necessary and appropriate to nominate Sarah as President, this is something that we as individual participants in this community can come together and do without adding to her workload / headaches / to-do list.

    In fact, the whole purpose of this is to make things easier for her (and other authors) by spreading some of the work of promotion across a number of people, right? And possibly the formatting / posting of stuff?

    Which brings me to point two: putting stuff up there for sale and whatnot. If anyone needs a hand with that, I’ve become a fair hand at e-publishing and formatting of various kinds of publications while I and some friends were putting together an e-book only short story magazine called FlagShip. Which no one here has probably ever heard of. We got no traction, mostly because all of us sucked at promotion. And we didn’t have what anyone could call a business plan. BUT we could put together a good looking product. If anyone wants to take a look, the last issue we did (FlagShip is on hiatus now) is available for free at http://flyingislandpress.com/flagship/2013/02/28/flagship-volume-3-issue-1/.

    I did the story selection, created the covers with stock art we got from dreamstime, and put the thing together for each of our issues. So, all of it is pretty much my fault. But the point of it is that if anyone needs help creating epubs and mobi and other ebook files, click on my pic, and you’ll get my e-mail and skype info.

    Point three: I’m all for doing interviews and whatnot, had a blast when I was doing a weekly podcast (also on hiatus), and I’d be happy to help set something like that up. And then it’s a question of starting to find places to push make possible customers aware of our offerings.I like the PW thoughts,

    And we can try leveraging things like the goodreads group we have going on, and push into other areas.

  25. Another suggestion–what about a shared fiction blog of some type to highlight various writing? I’m thinking, for example, of a *paranormal* blog that’s run to show off excerpts, short stories, microfiction, etc…this would require some work and maintenance by somebody, but it would show readers/customers what they want to see, and may be more of a direct link to selling books than blogs. Don’t forget, many readers really aren’t interested in the inside baseball that goes on in many writing blogs.

    At the other end of inside baseball writing blogs, I see the Big Presentation of My Book pages–very splashily done, with a big dramatic logo and a smaller logo informing me that this book is part of the Foomer Stompin Whompin Hooha series, even though I’ve never heard of Foomer Stompin Whompin Hooha. And there’s no link that will tell me what Foomer Stompin Whompin Hooha *is*. But there’s a video! That I don’t want to click. I’m not sure how much good those things do. As a *reader*, I’d like to see a website about the books themselves–some easy-to-understand guidance to, you know, what it’s about.

    • Seconded on the Big Presentation of My Books bit. I’ve gone looking for information on a given author or series multiple times only to wind up at a website that seems to do its best to obfuscate the details. Series order, content, genre, or all at the same time…hidden from the casual (sometimes not so casual) search.

      From a customer service perspective these sites fail miserably. If you’re turning your ‘walk-in’ customers away because they don’t know enough to suss out the secrets, you’re failing.

    • I like this. For one big splendid example, the shared world of Elf Blood and friends is *crying* out for a scandal sheet newspaper, with columns from all the different story lines. E.g. “Gruesome Discovery at High Elven Party!” and so on. If we had an aggregated site, we could have all sorts of suitable journalistic content. In my trilogy, there are these agglomerated space station news journals called “circulars” and I had pondered doing an online version myself. The ConVent series could have con reports. The Hunter books could have a police blotter. And so on…

      The main draw would be to existing fans, though, who would be curious about various in-world Secrets Revealed. What would be the draw for new vict–I mean, new readers?

      • With these I think you’re drawing in readers of one ‘world’ and letting them get a taste of multiple other worlds for a small time-commitment. Somebody following everything written by author A finds themselves at the aggregate website and wanders into the ‘Con Reports’ and over to the ‘Police Blotter’ and can’t leave without a gander at the ‘Circulars.’ Any of those shorts or teasers catch their fancy and “Oh look! Here’s a direct link to purchase!”

        As a voracious reader always looking for new content to consume, these sorts of quick looks inside a larger world are far more effective than a blurb at whetting interest. I don’t want to get caught in the beginning of a series that’s not going to hold me and it’s hard to spend full money on a novel-length piece without having a good idea what I’m getting into.

        As a fledgling writer I’m working up shorts and back stories as a way of working on craft, and a mechanism to build flesh on the characters for my own use. I’ve been pondering for some time how to use these to build interest in the novel-to-be. I invest in characters as a reader, so I want to give my characterizations due consideration without slogging my novel in characterization run rampant. So I’ve thought these ‘bio’ stories might morph into stand-alone shorts that give a taste of writing and world.

        • A blurb and a website that draws you into a book series–that’s not an either/or. The blurb is helpful for the very new newbie, and the *very* short blurb on Twitter (hopefully getting your friends/fans to massively retweet) will direct visitors to your website–step-by-step, reel them in: short blurb, it’s more than the expected, draw back the curtain, show them the new world, etc…

          Social media gives us more opportunities to market sans money. That networking thing I mentioned–keep in mind, I’m talking about the days before anything like the social interaction we’ve got now. When this network employed a shared as space, Google was still a college experiment, and the getting your site listed on reigning search king Yahoo! was a major pain in the patootie–because Yahoo! promoted the pre-Google theory that “less is more”, and internet users would *appreciate* being herded sheep-like to only a very small special websites hand-picked by Yahoo! employees. Calling that a “search” now seems ludicrous, but this is a sign that opportunities have *expanded*, even if the field *seems* that much more crowded.

        • The police blotter method is a quick, easy (hah!) and amusing (hopefully) way of introducing potential readers to character and tone of a series. A sucker reader can scan enough material in a short enough time to make a reasonable guess as to whether the stories would be worth their money and time.

          An additional format might be the series Wiki — fills in background and provides flavour while allowing the author to mine their background work. Consider how much interest has been generated for such material about Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.

          For fliers/brochures, if the price of card stock and cutting is not a deterrent, why not swipe copy the Collector Trading Card format? Either done by author, series, characters or other tag this would be a means of reducing the glance & drop factor common to most crap handouts at cons.

          Finally, there is the method pioneered by Baen: free CD-ROMs offering samplers of HW writers, including an explanation of what HW is and links to sites for sending crackdealers authors money for more of their crack stories.

          • I’m particularly taken by the trading card idea*. Could have different cards circulating at an event, sparking the must collect gene in a few folks. And containing links to different stories/authors/worlds but all hosted on the larger site to facilitate the cross-pollination. This calls up the need for talented visual artists, but might be sold to them as another mechanism for advertising their artwork?

            *I like all of the ideas, trading cards just struck a spark because I knew several obsessive types in my earlier days.

      • Why, oh why can I see these scandal sheets / circulars being a unique and eye-catching form of a “brochure” at cons?

        • Oh, man, that sounds AWESOME!

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Eric Flint had a comment about cons and marketing. IIRC he felt that cons were that great for marketing your work because the con-going folks are a faction of the potential buyers of your work. IMO we shouldn’t ignore cons for marketing, but we need to remember the non-con-going market.

        • Trading cards and brochures–keep in mind, that’s a lot of work and money, and (somebody’s got to be a wet blanket) a big disappointment if it doesn’t make a ripple. Uncomfortable as I am being the voice of reason, there’s a lot of stuff you can do before going to the printers. 🙂

          • I have the cheap and dirty kind of trading cards. I make up business cards with the covers of my books (and yes, some people collect them). I’ve already paid for the art, and doing the business cards (color on one side, black and white on the back for my site address, etc) can be quite inexpensive. (as in 500 cards for $25) I haven’t gone to cons since I started doing this, but that was the idea. Right now I carry a set with me in my wallet and hand them out to the unwitting folk who cross my path and express even mild interest in my books (the tellers at my bank are charmingly interested in my career, and are almost as delighted when I bring in a royalty check as I am…) The company I’ve used, gotprint.net, does all kinds of bulk printing for cheap, and has a handy (if quirky) online setup tool.

            Also, I planned the layout on the back of the cards so there is enough room for a sticker where I can print a free book code from my online store. More ideas to consider…

          • I’d say, rather, there’s a lot of stuff you have to do before going to the printers. The web site has to be laid out, put up, crosslinked, beta tested, improved, and approved by parties uninvolved as good and useful and motivating / enabling the casual browser to go buy.

            After all, if you don’t have the means to get your money out of their wallet and into your hand where it belongs, what the point in the ad?

      • Actually fake newspapers are, I understand easy to print and the novelty might attract some readers.

  26. Sarah, half a year ago you had mentioned doing a translation of foreign news as an alternate news source, and the main question was how to decide what was saleable and how to bill for it. I niggled at the idea and came up with the idea of solicityg news items from the small local papers and presenting them in a web- or app-form for an E-reader or Ipad or whatever device.
    Payment from the readers would be a subscription: prepaid like a paper or magazine subscription (or a trac-phone), where you can look at the headline, and a quick blurb on the article or column, for free. If you open the article to read, you are deducted an announced amount from your pre-paid subscription. Anyone can come and read the headlines and squibs, just like a newspaper box, but to get inside for the juicy bits you have to pay.
    (Community calendars, church schedules, and proceedings of the various city councils would be free to entice walk-in traffic).
    My view was that the subscription would pay for the operation of the site, but the papers would want to be paid for their articles they provide, so let them sell advertisements down the side of the screen of each article they provide, and charge the papers selling the ads a percent of their ad revenue. This might bring in some profit. (this means they get to sell their ads twice and can actually track the number of eyes that have seen them.)

    If you wanted to set up a Human Wave literary magazine on this concept you would have a main page with “This Edition’s” headlines, articles, columns, editorials, perorations, readings, audio files, original art….and whatever else, with a squib to describe and a price to buy. Charge a quarterly or yearly fee, prepaid to the reader (unused up to a certain amount refundable after a set period), and the providers of content (you-all) get to sell books, articles, suggestion for other books, original art, or blog-sites on the side of the article itself.

    This will need, among other things, someone who can do the technical stuff (set up billing and the site and switching content), someone who can act as general editor to solicit and accept work, and someone to audit the books regularly and make sure that the tally is correct for everyone.

    The operation of the site would be paid for by subscriptions, the content would be paid for by the sales each author generates by advertising on the sides of the articles.

    So, as an example: A new writer named Kornbluth has a couple of books out there that he wants to get some movement on, they are good books, but no one can find them to buy them. So, he provides a short story or a representative slice of one of them, and offers it for publication in this literary online mag. He is told by the editor-like person, “sure it has few spelling errors and is not openly treyf, give us a description and a title and we will put it up in this subscription.” He is also told that he can put up an ad for the other books he’s got in a side-bar ad. If he can’t title or elevator pitch his book well, maybe the editor sort of person gives him a hand, especially if it is well written. His title on the main page would include how many hits he has gotten while it has been up.
    Maybe the other authors in this and previous editions can “like” it. Maybe the readers who paid for it can “like” it.
    It is taken down when the next edition comes out.

    Author Kornbluth get exposure, gets an idea that his stuff can be sold, and he gets to advertise his other work. If the proceeds get above self-sustaining levels maybe he gets a percentage of the revenue, based on the percentage of his sales.
    Maybe old articles are sold at a lower cost from a linked pate, like day-old bread, but may pay a better percentage to the author.

    I’d write more but I’m at ~700 words.

    SO, TL;DR

    Set up an online subscription literary mag.
    Make it prepaid, and charge only articles or stories bought.
    Author gets paid in opportunity to advertise works.
    Maybe if it is successful there is money from subscriptions to the authors.

    • The Audible model might be convertible here: set a subscription fee which grants one or more (depending on subscription level) “free” story downloads each month/issue with credits accruing up to a set level (e.g., six credits in the bank and any additional are overflow and lost.) It could even be possible to charge multiple credits for longer stories or discount them for a serialized story.

      As an example, you buy a subscription granting six credits per “issue”, which amount allows you to download six short stories or three novellas or two novels or one novel and one novella and one short. Any unused credits go into your reserve which can accumulate (say) six months worth of issues. Back issues remain available and an interested buyer can purchase extra credits if they don’t want to wait for them to accumulate. Stories from back issues can be collected by author and re-issued in anthology/omnibus as “The Collected Adventures Of Three-Legged Pete, Pirate Cat Scourge of the Spaceways, Volume Two: Have Litterbox, Will Travel.”

      • Main thing would be to get some sort of sorting or presentation site. The main trouble with, say. Smashwords is that as a reader it is hard to sort the gold from the dross when you are faced with 579+ pages of Science Fiction. A brand or site that says “this stuff/these authors may not be to your taste but it is not boring or self-destructive navel-gazing with obligatory personal issues” would be nice, and if it can get some sort of linking support from outside it would increase exposure. And it could link by author to Smashword anyway.
        I like the ala carte approach because I hate having to shell out good money for one decent article and also get a bunch of stuff I can’t read. Then again if no one buys short story there might be a reason and the author might want to look into that. I like linking to online vendors also so the authors get to sell their full-length books.

  27. Haven’t done much with it recently, but here’s the site (and materials) I started to set up a year or so ago…

    https://sites.google.com/site/humanwavesf/

    Some of the links might be useful, at least.

  28. Hm, wedding dressed made out of veggie bags doesn’t actually sound all that far off, I have seen pictures of dresses made out of old plastic bags and other such trash, although I think they were at least washed.

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  30. Zaklog the Great

    It sounds like what you’re facing here is basically a problem of marketing. I’d like to suggest checking out the advice at http://www.WizardAcademy.org and http://www.MondayMorningMemo.com . The guy is an advertising exec. with an . . . unusual take on the field. In fact, he’s sometimes as good for writing advice as for business advice. You might find something useful (or at least amusing and thought-provoking) there.

    The school is in Austin. I’ve been there several times for short classes. It’s a very interesting place.