I have been such a busy little bee over the last 24 hours, abandoning exercise and grocery buying obligations, eating poorly, not leaving my pajamas. How is that any different than normal, you ask? Well, I've been GETTIN SHIT DONE, man! At least in the publishing sense. Dirty dishes, hungry kids, and body odor are nothing in the face of monumentally overdue indie-pub spring cleaning and a rare hypomanic spell that somehow gives me the power to work nearly 17 hours straight without a drop of caffeine.
I think it all started when I opted to take another month-long hiatus from Facebook, which is something I think I will be doing quarterly from now on, because there is some kind of magic involved when I leave that place and devote that reclaimed time to my work, as well as interacting more on Twitter. I become magically more productive and for whatever reason, I sold more books in one day yesterday than I had the entire month previous. What mad sorcery is this?!
Anyway, for the last six months or so, I've been procrastinating on all my miscellaneous indie publishing chores. My little online marketplace had become downright stale and was due for a major sprucing up. Front matter was out of date, books needed prepping for wide distribution, there are a few covers (and one title) I've been fundamentally unhappy with, etc. So here's what I've been doing, all in list form. I'll start with the most important thing:
1. "Dust" Gets a Makeover
It's been five years since I completed the story (though four years since its first publication), and in that time, "Dust" has been my most widely downloaded and read title. It's the story that has garnered the most reader mail, and the one I think people most clamor about making into a novel or a movie. When it was a regular Kindle freebie, it also brought the awesome Vincent Hobbes into my life, and from there STRINGS and THE LAST SUPPER came into existence. And from those things birthed KUDZU, which gave way to my recent signing with an agent. You see where I'm going with this? If life really is a twisted and complex domino run, Dust is the first one that tipped. So this story is very very special to me. While I failed to expand it into a novel, I did give it a new cover and 6000 more words (which would effectively make it a novelette). The plot is the same, but I think the story itself is richer, and it scratches a lot of itches I've always had about the original story. I hope it does the same for all of you, too.
I replaced the existing product with the new book file and I informed Amazon customer service of the change, in the hopes that they would push that updated file out to the thousands of people who already own it. Unfortunately, they informed me that this is not possible, because the update was not to fix quality issues and formatting errors. To that end, I will be running a freebie promotion on it this weekend, July 25th and 26th. Also, Amazon provided me with a number that current owners can call that will allow them to receive the updated book: U.S. and Canada: 1-866-216-1072
This is ultimately the best I can do in this situation until Amazon automates this process, which they say they are currently working on doing. Note: the original version will remain in the At the End of Things collection.
2. Phantasmic Flashes becomes The Four Phantasms
It's a minor change to a flash fiction collection that doesn't get all that much play, but it was important to me to make the change, because I'm not sure it was a very accessible and searchable title. I'm all about revising history lately, it seems. Well, that's one particular beauty of author publication. I can change shit whenever I want! There aren't any amendments to the actual stories, but I'm hoping the refreshed title will help it reach more people, because I really am proud of these little babies.
3. Distribution Wider Than My Ass.
Draft2Digital. They are an alternative to Smashwords in that they convert your ebooks and distribute them out to other sales channels, like Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, etc. Only, their user interface is better in several ways. There is no pesky style guide to follow. They can generate front matter, teasers, table of contents, and other things in your books automatically. They also pay monthly, claim to have faster sales reporting, AND they do CreateSpace distribution! Essentially they're everything I've been looking for in an ebook distribution service. I have pre-loaded my currently available Kindle books onto D2D, and expect to start releasing them in August. The first and largest batch containing Wicked Brew, Dust, Agnes Winters, Vermin, and Four Phantasms will go out on August 4th. Then I have two othes on the 5th and 6th. Colt Coltrane and the Lotus Killer will go out on the 15th. Consumption, because it's newest, won't be freed from Amazon's clutches until October 3rd.
4. I'm Not Just Hip. I'm PAYhip!
Also starting next month, I will be embarking on something COMPLETELY different: direct sales. If you look at the top menu bar of my site, you'll see a Buy My Stories link. Right now, there is only one story up there, but once distribution goes wide, you'll see a whole lot more. I have always wanted to offer this option to people, but the available tools were a little unrefined, and I had no urge to build an e-commerce site. Over time, enterprising individuals have devised solutions to make direct ebook sales a lot easier. Ganxy is one option, but I found their platform to be half-baked to downright clunky. Payhip seems to be the best I have encountered to date. The interface is slick as hell and very clean. Also, unlike other services I've seen, every time you purchase a book direct from me, the monies are deposited immediately to my PayPal account. I don't have to wait a month or more for a deposit, and the 5% cut these guys take off the top is more than fair. While I plan to distribute my current Kindle offerings through Draft2Digital, I will be offering a lot more on my Payhip site. All my individual shorts will be available there for folks who want just to pick and choose the stories they want, and I plan to make some other special bundles as well as release other exclusive content there that you won't be able to get anywhere else. EPUB, MOBI and PDF file formats will also be available.
5. And if All that's Not Enough . . . A New Novel!
After signing with my agent, the impetus to get the next suspense book off the ground became a lot stronger. To that end, I'm nurturing a little seedling of a novel called "A Marriage of Convenience," which I can only say right now is like American Beauty meets Vertigo. It's in the very early stages (only about 5000 words in so far), but I'm liking where it's heading, particularly because the framework I've built around the story leaves room for a series that I'm tentatively calling The Hartnell Files. We have a weary Ohio sheriff from a rural county (local trivia -- it's roughly based on the Piqua area) named Tom Hartnell, a former Chicago cop with a story of his own. He moved to the country to escape the craziness of the city, but as we'll see in this book and each one that follows, the weird and awful tendencies of human nature have followed him. While he's not actively solving the cases, he gets to bear witness to several bizarre confessions in his tiny interrogation room, and they will tie in somehow to his overall character arc. We'll learn more and more about Hartnell as we go, and he'll provide a sense of companionship for the reader, which is important. So he's basically the "hero" even though he's more of a passive observer. At least for now.