Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Blogging in the rain -- really!

Can't blog ... I'm too busy watching the rain. Not that you guys would call it rain, of course, but hey -- this is the first time WATER has dropped willy-nilly out of the sky, since something like October! So even though it hasn't rained much (most of the time you could count the splashes as they hit the pavers) you just had to stop and stare.

Of course, its all over now. The radar map shows blue skies behind the current overcast, and since the wind just got up these clouds will be gone before long.

But it was nice while it lasted:
There you are ... WET and everything. Water on the sidewalk. Clouds in the sky. Makes a difference, I'll tell you.

The rain is one of a couple of Significant Happenings in the last 24 hours. The second is that the proof copies of Equinox and Scorpio have arrived, and they are superb. CreateSpace has done a marvelous job, as usual. Now, we're waiting on the proofs for Stopover and Aphelion, and then -- the book launch at Amazon for the whole NARC series, all of a piece. For which, expect a newsletter...

Otherwise, it's work as usual. The Kindle situation remains in limbo ... I'm working on the reformatting for Smashwords, but it's going to be slow, due to the fact that I'm converting some very old, eccentric documents --

For example, Fortunes of War. This one was typed in Juniper Computing's Softword program (circa 1985), and SAVED TO TAPE. Much later, the tape-memory files were recalled, it was printed out, scanned in, run through OCR software and fed one page at a time into Lotus AMI Pro; the final edit was done, and hard copies were sent to GMP for publication in the early 1990s. The files were then stored on single density 3.5" floppy disks. These were, much later, read back into Lotus Word Pro and stored on an IEEE Firewire external harddrive that, at 30MB, looked incalculably vast when it was new. The "new" lotus files on the Firewire drive were of the LWF type ... which, thank gods, Serif PagePlus 10 reads extremely well. So, the DreamCraft version is in a Serif DTP format, a PPP document. For Lulu.com, this was published to PDF.

There is no simple .doc file ... nor has there ever been! ... for Fortunes of War. However, you can (!) select-all/copy a Serif PPP file to the clipboard, and dump it into Microsoft Word 2003 (not later versions; the more clever Microsquash gets, the less it shakes hands with other formats). Then, you save back the Word document -- not as a .doc, but as a Web Page Unfiltered. This gets rid of most of the passenger trash. Now, use Word to reopen the HTML file, and you're ready to run it through the process required by Smashwords to get rid of all remaining formatting.

Now, it's true that the new(er) books will be easy by comparison. But I have several golden oldies that are reader favorites from yonks ago. For instance, Fortunes is among my February bestsellers! Would you believe this? A book that's been out for over 15 years and has been through more editions (with more stupid covers designed by moronic artists) than you can shake a stick at, is still out there, selling so well --

Put it like this: if GMP were still handling this book, I'd have had to sell about 115 copies of this oldie in the month of February, to make the income it generated for me at Amazon (paperbacks), Payloadz (ebooks) and Lulu (hardcovers). I'm amazed, and pleased.

So -- yep, we're heading for Smashwords, one step at a time. In fact, after I finish this post I'm going to run one of the very new books through the conversion process, and with any luck, in a couple of days I might be able to run up a flag and tell you, you can get Dangerous Moonlight and The Lords of Harbendane for your iPhone, and as Mobi, readable on your Kindle.

Bear with me.

Speaking of all this stuff -- the Keegan sales figures were just tallied up for February, and I can tell you that we did more than double the business in Feb that we did in January. Nice, that. About 50% was ebooks, 45% paperbacks, 5% hardcovers. Of the ebooks, 75% were the regular PC/Mac version, 25% were specifically for the screenreaders, though I have no idea what kind ... the ones that can read a properly designed PDF, is all I know!

The book launch for The Lords of Harbendane obviously put that title out in front, with decent sales ... not brilliant, but in fact better than I'd secretly hoped for. Don't underestimate 1) the global recession, 2) the length of the unemployment lines, 3) the price of gas, and 4) the idiotic price of importing a Keegan into Aus and New Zealand --

It costs US$38.04 to buy The Lords of Harbendane in paperback and have it shipped via Amazon to Aus or NZ. Run the exchange rate (at .63c, as of this morning) and you get a price of A$60.38, ppd. That's two tanks of gas for a small car, or a week's groceries for a frugal couple.

So, if you drop out the "lost" Aussie and Kiwi readers, and factor in an adjustment percentage for the global recession etc., the fact is, Harbendane is doing very nicely. There was a time (2002/3) when DreamCraft would organize a book launch and we'd ship about 250 copies of the new title in THE FIRST WEEK. That doesn't happen these days, and I don't expect it to; but I have high hopes for the future, when advertising, technology and economic recovery have conspired to change the way things currently are. For the moment, I'm extremely pleased with sales -- and looking forward to seeing how the books' availability for iPhone and Kindle, via Smashwords, will add to the numbers.

Interest in the Legends digital novel project could be higher, I'll admit -- fact: a lot of people just don't have a use for electronic files, or else have no interest in a serial! However, the emerging book has a strong core of about 50 - 75 readers who swing by either every day or once a week ... not bad going for a project that only launched three weeks ago and has had very, very limited promotional exposure.

Right now, I'm looking out for listings, directories, where Legends can be, uh, listed. There are loads of them, but almost all have a downside. Either they're owned and operated by people who have a problem with gay fiction (and that's okay, because where a directory is a personal project, the list-mom/dad has the right to decide what gets into their list) or else the automated systems are so vast, one will vanish into the primordial ooze --

For example, www.blogcatalog.com is an amazing directory, but it's the size of the Death Star. Searchable -- yes; but the tag "gay" pulls up 42,884 items. "Fiction" pulls up 28,272 items. "Books" = 130,260. "Gay fiction" = 1,746 ... getting warmer, but at 10 results per search page, you're still looking at 174 pages -- and if it's anything like Google (and it is) people don't look past Page One.

Legends needs a lot more of a shove to get it properly launched. I had hoped, initially, that "viral marketing" would take over, that people would email people who emailed people ... with the URL. This happened for the first few days, tapered off and stopped. Now, you and I both know the readership is vastly bigger than this! But it seems one can't look for much in the way of user participation -- which is fair enough, too. (It's an experiment, and this is one of the facts that just fell out of the data.)

Statistically? About 500 "unique" visitors checked out Legends in the first week; about 50 of those are still reading; 20 more have come on board in the last couple of weeks. So you had about 10% of the check-out crowd (those who like to read; like fantasy; like Keegan; have the fascination and/or patience to stick around; and like ebooks) who became regulars, plus 10 new readers per week finding the book and becoming followers of this serial.

This is actually pretty good. If the numbers remain stable, it means 250+ regulars by the time the book is finished, and 500 new readers finding it, and grabbing the whole thing, during any one year. That's a reader base which is quite vigorous enough to support the advertising with the occasional shopping spree at Amazon which started out on the Legends page, and so on.

Speaking of Legends -- two posts are up today:
A Bargain by the Jackal Throne (conclusion)
The Oracle Speaks

And now, I'm going to spend a fascinating hour or so shoving Dangerous Moonlight headfirst through what Smashwords terms as the "meatgrinder." If everything comes up Keegan, I'll let you know tomorrow!


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