Wednesday, April 29, 2009

That bloody pulp mill project is back!

The Gunns pulp mill project is rearing its haggish head again. Click on this to see the campaign ad full-sized and readable:

for more info, or to be involved, go here:

Saturday, April 25, 2009

gay ebooks: adventures in bookseller country

I have my bookseller's hat on today. I won't morph back into a writer for at least another week. This week, and for the next 4-6 days (in a lull from work), I'm a bookseller. And the challenge is ...

How the blithering heck do you draw readers' attention to new formats for old titles?

It's dead easy to draw their attention to books that are new; but unless you're a hack producing a brand spanking new 35,000 word shortie very month, your basic list won't change appreciably over six months. What's changing is the formats in which books are available, and the venues they're available from.

And readers don't seem to notice.

So here's the experiment: a bloody great icon that actually SHOUTS a fair bit. Check this out:

Amazing what you can do in 84k, isn't it? Anyway, this whopping great attention-grabber is getting pasted to the browser pages for each of the books as they appear at Smashwords and Kindle -- I'll get around to Mobipocket later. Just don't have the time to get to it right now.

And when you "click here to buy..." you're teleported to a new page in my bookstore with this header -- which again is shouting, deliberately:

Interestingly, I've had readers in Finland, new Zealand and Japan who downloaded all of LEGENDS to their iPhone. That was amazing and gratifying --

Speaking of LEGENDS: it's being hammered into shape right now. Proofread (at last!) and formatted. It'll be on its way to market in about ten days, I do believe. It wasn't until I'd assembled the whole thing into one file to export it to the DTP program that I realized how long it was. According to Microsquash, it runs close to 94,000 words. Which is a lot longer than I thought it was.

Anyway, today I'm a bookseller, and while I've got this particular hat on, I guess I can talk a little bit about the new bookstore which is being designed right now. It's going to be very slick indeed ... SQL and Joomla and Apache whatever, and so forth. I've been looking at designs, and was a little bit drawn to this one:

That one is a template from a company called vjtemplates ( -- and they have some great templates, but they all suffer from the same problem: they're "off the shelf." Nothing exactly fits what I want and need, at the same time as being fairly expensive (A$125 or so). The above template is not bad, but I find it too bright, too "in your face" for my own tastes. Which isn't to say it's not a great design -- it is. It's just not for me.

So there's nothing for it: the new bookstore is going to get done from scratch. DreamCraft to the rescue. Joomla, SQL, Apache and ... ummmmm. Right. It's also going to get a new domain to live on (or does one live IN a domain?)

This is where I am today. The bookseller has taken over, and I admit, I remain uneasy about the situation with Amazon. I went to the Big A t'other day and searched on "gay romance." I paged down through 200 books, and not a single Keegan title was anywhere in the list. Meaning, if you don't know who Keegan is, you won't be finding me at Amazon by browsing!

Lately, I've been spending a few hours here and there analysing traffic stats (Statcounter is marvelous for this), working out where readers and coming from, how the find me, what course they navigate around the sites and blogs, and what they buy in the end. It's actually extremely interesting.

Here's the info that fell out of the data: over 90% of all my sales are "driven" from my own pages. Not Amazon, not Kindle, not nuthin'. Almost all sales are coming from my own pages.

Okay, then. That's the ball I need to take up and run with. It was suggested to me a looong time ago that Amazon was a great place to be in, because people would find you by browsing. But I don't think the pundits who say this know too much about how "adult content" books are squirrelled away into the darker, dustier corners of the search engine! Thanks to the balls-up of a couple of weeks ago, everyone knows that something is not quite right at the Big A.

Since then, I've been working on a way to ... well, not to "beat the system," but to make the system work FOR me, instead of against me. I mentioned on Live Journal a little while ago that I had a Bright Idea --

It looks even brighter now than it did then, guys. Seriously, stay tuned. It'll take a wee while, because it's a lot more complex than I'd imagined, but I'm into something good here.

Gotta go back to work now, so --

Ciao for now,

Friday, April 24, 2009

Keegan's Week: "proper" gay books. Uh huh.

I fielded a weird question the other day -- and the worst part of it was, the person was absolutely serious, and intended at least half of it as a sincere compliment. "Your work is so wonderfully written," she said, "why don't you write proper books?"

And I went blank. Utterly. For about ten seconds. You might have thought I was having a "senior moment," but in fact the processor was whirring, trying to make sense if the question, only to land back at the hurdle --

What the bloody hell is a "proper" book?

Of course, what she meant was, why don't I write heterosexual books? Or, to slightly rephrase the question so it'll make sense to the rest of us, "Your work is so wonderfully written, why do you write gay books instead of proper ones?"

Deep breath, now. Be calm. Count to ten. In Klingon.

Well ... who in the [expletive deleted] says that gay books aren't proper books? The next thing these people will be saying is, John Barrowman isn't a "proper" singer or actor. And Tchaikovsky wasn't a "proper" composer, and T.E. Lawrence wasn't a "proper" army officer, and Nijinsky wasn't a "proper" dancer. Or that gay people are not "proper" people. And I'm Not. Going. To. Go. There. Period.

Be happy: have a nice day, yes?

In fact, the properness of gay books is increasing greatly -- not exponentially, but nicely. It turns out that 10% of the male half of the population is gay anyway; and about another 15% on the male side of the fence is ac/dc by inclination, which makes 25% of the part of the population that shaves and dreams of power tools would enjoy a gay narrative ... and about 25% of folks on the female side of the fence like to read gay books, for boatloads of reasons. Some are themselves gay; some are straight enough to fancy the hell out of beautiful guys; some get a kick out of the homoerotic; some love a romance but don't like guy/gal romance, because it almost always seems like the gal is getting s/exploited. Some are "modern age" enough to see as far as the romance, and genuinely don't believe gender matters.

That's 25% of the population as a whole, folks.

So, for every million literate people who read, there's 250,000 who would enjoy a gay book, in the highly unlikely event they were ever in a position to see one, and have the opportunity to actuallt buy it.

That's eight times the population of Fairbanks, Alaska. It's about equivalent to the entire population of South Australia that lives outside the metropolitan area. It's about 8.5% of the entire population of New Zealand (I think; if I'm wrong on this one, it won't be by much -- and feel free to give me a kick).

In a country like Australia with something like 20 - 24 million souls, depending on who you talk to, and who's being counted into the complement, you probably have something in the order of about 16 million literate adults, and about 12 million who actually read --

So, three million Aussies would enjoy a gay narrative, if they were allowed to make the reading choice, at the store, or wherever they get their books.

But if you walk into a bookstore down here and look for gay books, you'll soon start to wonder if anyone's publishing them at all. And the reason is that every bookstore down here is an outlet for a chain. It's B&N, it Dymocks, it's A&N, it's the book department in Kmart or WalMart or Target or Myer, or whatever.

No gay books. Why? Because gay books do not sell enough copies, per title, to attract the attention of the distributor. Each individual title might sell 400 right across this country, IF they were shelved with the generosity or impunity with which het books are shelved. But they're not shelved with such catholic generosity...

Why? Many reasons. Management is terribly aware of minors and the elderly, who form a significant part of their customer base; they're equally aware of the religious minority, for whom the "god" books are shelved alongside yoga, holistic food and Relaxation for Uptight Dummies.

Not wanting to offend anyone, Management literally hides the gay books: top shelves, bottom shelves, dark corners, out of reach, out of sight. And -- what a surprise! -- the books sell poorly.

Gay books are seldom advertised on magazine pages or in windows where the average reader would see them. Same reason for not putting a nice, big ad in the window down at Dymocks. And as per magazine advertising --

Do you know what an ad in a major literary magazine costs?!! An ad to run in one issue would put about $2 on the checkout price of each copy of a gay title! Not going to happen, people. (Few mainstream, print media book reviewers will review a gay book ... saaaame reason. Minors, the elderly, and the God Squad.)

So ... gay books don't sell bigtime, and another reason for this is that they're double-marginalized. They're already in the "gay" category at any online bookstore. Then, they're ... what? Gay-SF, or gay-fantasy, or thriller, or western, or historical, or romance, or erotica, or ...

Uh huh. Double-marginalized. So you have someone saying, "Gee, I'd love a new gay book, but I don't want SF, and I've read enough breeches-rippers (the gay equivalent of the bodice-ripper) to last me a lifetime. Uh ... I don't like westerns. I'm not in the mood for a murder mystery..."

Double jeopardy. The gay writer has two hurdles to get over, not one, and if each hurdle is a "filter," then gay books get filtered twice, before any sale is made.

Meaning, a hell of a lot of gay books are sold, but not that many of any individual title.

Another thing that's killing gay book sales, at least in this country, is that books are so expensive. Small printruns make for expensive books, and few people can afford to buy many, when the damned things are $32 and upwards. A lot of readers are landing at the book exchanges, where you can trade something you've read and pay $2 to the store, and get something you haven't read before --

Guess what doesn't often get traded? Right. Gay books are seldom traded (for which the reasons are many), so you probably won't be able to pick up a new one at the book exchange ... and even if you could, the publisher and the writer wouldn't know a thing about it.

Here is where it gets mildly interesting. A few years ago, when readers were still in the habit of sending a few words of feedback, I used to hear that someone had picked up one of my books at a book exchange in, say, Madrid or Munich or Manchester -- Europe, where gay books are treated with a lot more generosity by booksellers. Secondhand dealers in Europe will trade in gay books, where many (most?) of our local dealers are still not quite "there" yet -- inordinately concerned about the minors and elders and religious bods ... which is no bad, thing, in reality. Taking care of kids, and not giving cardiac episodes to others is a laudable goal in itself.

Fact is, the Internet is a far better place to do business. The people who find you deliberately came a-hunting. One seldom has to deal with folks who arrived on a gay page by accident.

There's also a "book swap" subculture out there, where books are changing hands in every direction...

And a writer has to wonder how many sales he or she has actually achieved. Say, 5,000 or 10,000 when the book was new (depending on the printrun -- and they're all over the place, there's no "norm"), plus an extra 1,000 or 2,000 per reprint ... and then, the swaps, the trades, the book exchanges -- for decades.

So, actual "sales" might be way ahead of anything the publisher knows about. Think about that. Nice. I mean, we don't earn royalties on the swaps and trades, but it's so nice to know that new people are buying the old books.

The last thing that makes it tough for gay writers is the sheer volume of the competition. It's astonishing. There are so many gay titles being published these days -- it's a a lit-fest. Heaven on a stick for anyone who has an ebook reader gizmo -- most of these books are available digitally, thank heavens. Makes them reachable for Aussies and Kiwis, because there's no shipping to pay. Postage across the Pacific. Yee-ouch!

Speaking of ebooks and gizmos, I'm still looking for just the right deal on a bit of hardware to do the job, and my hunt has brought me to this quarry:

The Acer Aspire One netbook. It's at least as functional as even the most advanced dedicated ebook reader, with a color crystal brite screen, and a keyboard that some reviewers say is a joy to use ... and it's less than half the price of a good, dedicated ebook reader. On sale, you can get the thing for A$350, which is just about right for my budget. So my fingers are itching to reach for the credit cards... 8" screen, weighs under a kilo, like handling a hardcover book. Boots up in 8 seconds, loads a browser in another 10, wireless, 2 card readers, 3 USB ports and VGA out. And you have GOT to like that. Yes, I know, the battery life is about 2.5 hours, running the browser and modem with the screen at 60% brightness. Now, turn the screen down to 30% and run just the Mobipocket reader on the local system -- no connectivity, no graphics. Ebook reader. Check. Should go about 4 hours between recharges, even with the silly little 3-cell battery that ships with the machine; and that'll do fine.

Still on the subject of ebooks -- I've been busy in the last week, making more available at Smashwords:

$10.95, for iPhone, Mobipocket, Palm Pilot, and more...

$10.95, for iPhone, Mobipocket, Palm Pilot, and more..., there you are. Proper books for your proper ebook reader. Proper gay books, at that. Somebody try telling John Barrowman that he isn't a "proper singer," and his albums are not "proper" albums, because when he sings a lovesong, he's singing about a guy he adores not a gal. I'm not saying JB would bestow a black eye; but if he did, I do believe Scott and Mel would be standing there shaking hands, patting backs and saying, "Well done, mate."

I mean -- seriously!


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Gay ebooks galore ... and loving it!

New titles at Smashwords -- if you've been hankering after your favorite Keegans in a format to suit your iPhone, you've come to the right place!

US$10.95 for iPhone, Palm Pilot, Kindle, Mobi and more!

US$10.95 for iPhone, Palm Pilot, Kindle, Mobi and more!

The intention is to have 12 or so titles at Smashwords by the end of April ... and then, a major newsletter. I the same time frame, there NARC and HELLGATE series will be going up to Kindle, and the whole shebang will be online at Mobipocket. Then --

We'll be launching a new bookstore. This is the exciting part, and I don't want to say too much about it at this point, because it's very, VERY complicated. But I will add this: it's the most exciting thing that's happened in a rather long time.

Oh -- there are five Keegans at Smashwords now (a good glbt book haul for your smartphone), and the next titles planned to go up are Aquamarine; Fortunes of War; The Deceivers; Storm Tide; Windrage; Tiger, Tiger; The Winds of Chance ... and then I'll catch my breath.

Seriously -- it's easy. This generation of the "Meatgrinder" is like clockwork. Books slide into the Smashwords catalog without a hiccup -- it's easier than Mobi, and I thought that was simple.

One more thing that should be of interest to both writers and readers:

Jim and Tim Hutchinson have a fine idea: One Chapter Challenge, wherein authors park an attractive sample of their work on a new website that's being robustly marketed. For writers, this looks like an excellent opportunity. For readers too -- the theory is, you'll get saddled with a lot less dross if you can read a swatch of the book before you lay down your plastic! Most writers are offering a chapter or five online on their webpages ... but in its infinite wisdom, Amazon has no such facility. You have to buy "cold." Bad idea, that. So I was in at One Chapter Challenge with The Swordsman, Nocturne and Twilight, and am wishing the brothers Hutchinson all the best in the project. It deserves to succeed. How about a little support, guys? Check it out!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Gay vampires on the phone!

On your phone, specifically. On your iPhone, that is. And not any old gay vampires ... Mel Keegan's, uh, gay vampires.

In fact, NOCTURNE and TWILIGHT are at Smashwords as of this writing, which means these books are now available for Palm Pilot, Sony Reader, any device that can work with the Mobi Reader app, and of course -- Stanza, which your iPhone is going to love.

Gay vampires on your phone. Seriously!

This is something I have come to envy keenly: folks who have an ebook reader. I don't have one, because you could buy a used car for the price of the dadblasted things, in this country. I'm starting to look at a thingamajig called a netbook. They're about A$600 here, and all I want the thing to do is display ebooks and maybe YouTube videos, and possibly play music.

And if there were any remotest chance of getting gay vampires on said device --!

Anyway, if you're into the ebooks for iPhone, this one is for you:

US$10.95 for iPhone, Palm Pilot, Kindle, Mobi and more!

US$10.95 for iPhone, Palm Pilot, Kindle, Mobi and more!

So there you are -- and just to make sure the pea-brained Googlebot can make heads and tails of this page, I'm going to say it a couple more times (the next part is for pea-brained spiders, not humans, so feel free to ignore the following) ... gay vampire ebooks for your iPhone! Yes, at last, gay books in ebook format, featuring romance, adventure and vampires ... gay style, the way Keegan readers like it best!

There. All done!

Independent publishing -- and bookselling -- rock!

I'm still on the subject of Amazon censorship -- last time, honest engine! -- and I'd like to give you something to think on.

Thanks to Vashtan at Live Journal for this:

And to pique your interest -- so that you buzz off over there and read the rest! -- here's a couple of choice paragraphs:

Amazon’s "Glitch" Myth Debunked
by Francine Saint Marie

I am the author of the LAMBDA Notable Book, The Secret Keeping [], as well as The Secret Trilogy [], Girl Trouble [] and several other popular LGBT paperbacks sold on

All of my novels have been aggressively censored by Amazon since (at least) January of 2008, when they were first released as Kindle editions and promptly rigged in the Kindle store so as not to register any sales ranks and bestselling categories, or to show up properly in Amazon search results. I have also experienced mysterious "sourcing fees" applied by Amazon to the list prices of my LGBT paperbacks, as well as the deletion of five-star customer reviews of them, the removal of their "in stock" status, and a host of other handicapping techniques which are still in effect today.

Since the first quarter of 2008 to the date hereof, I (and my team) have, in vain, relentlessly pursued Amazon about their insidious censorship of my titles. Through telephone calls, e-mails and forum posts, we have repeatedly demanded that they cease and desist burying my novels in their browse tree and otherwise hindering my sales. We have also urged them to provide all authors with "equal access" to their site features and a "level playing field" upon which to compete. As Amazon can confirm, the cry "missing sales ranks" and "discrimination" was Team Saint Marie’s mantra in 2008, and it was even the title of a widely read "thread" we posted in the Kindle publishers’ forum, which Amazon hastily deleted. Indeed, "missing sales ranks" and "discrimination" was the subject of many circular (and recorded) phone conversations with Amazon’s representatives, not to mention an awesome number of e-mails!

-----end of quote!

Now, please! Go and read the rest ... and maybe Keegan won't be sounding so paranoid.

You know me: I'm a LOUD supporter of indie anything, being it writing, publishing, film making, bookselling, the works. Indie Rules. Indie is best -- globalize the "power," beat monopolization. In my world view, it's all about human rights, of which gay rights is a crucial (in fact, watershed) subcategory.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Couple of URLs for you!

A brief update on Amazon apologizes profusely ... hands up, anyone who believes any of this ...

If you think I'm just being paranoid, you have GOT to see these:

Woah. Paranoia is the least of it, guys! "...they aim to be nothing less than the sole provider of media on the planet." Eeep.


Swordsman for visually impaired readers ... the proof arrives!

And then the doorbell rang, and it was the Aussie Post courier. With a box ... a bookbox, specifically. I've been waiting for this since before Easter (the four-day long weekend always busts up the mails), and at last, here it is ... the large print edition of The Swordsman, intended for visually impaired readers:

I have to say, this is absolutely beautiful. It's one of my mother's gifts for Mother's Day (in a few weeks), but I'll be delighted to work with this format and issue most or all of the Keegans -- stand by for a special page.

This is also my first experiment with the "publisher grade paper" which is now an option at ... and again, I'm impressed. It's a beautiful job. The paper is top-notch: whiter and smoother than the regular paper, and yet a lot more opaque, so there's no strike through. Lovely. The only downside is that the book is very slightly smaller than the fill-sized US trade size (6" x 9"). This is fine by me -- it's still larger in both axes than the old GMP editions. And, being large print, it's over 600pp ... which is impressive.


I just went over to Lulu and gave the book the "nudge" to the public list, and you can now order this item:

Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.

The Swordsman, large print edition, 609pp. US$23.95.

In the coming weeks, I'll be getting together a good list for visually impaired glbt readers, and then we'll do a press release and a newsletter. If you're "blind and gay," or are supportive of someone who is ... and if you could spread the word ... this would be marvelous, and Keegan thanks you.

Cheers (again),

The Swordsman ... on your iPhone!

At last, some great news! If you've been following this saga, you're probably aware that the last time (which was the first time) we tried to get onto Smashwords, we had upload problems. The great news? Fixed. Mark Coker recently announced a new Meatgrinder -- which is the Smashwords proprietorial document converter -- and it functions like clockwork. You upload a .doc file, and nominate the file formats you prefer. Wait a few minutes (long enough to go get a coffee or tea), and when you return to the computer ... done.

The really good news is that you can now get The Swordsman formatted specifically for any Mobi Reader, Kindle (Mobi again), your Phone (Stanza), your Palm Pilot, your Sony reader ... and of course if you can an iLiad or a netbook, you can still get the PDFs to fit from my bookstore, plus the Kindle download from the Kindle store, the paperback from Amazon, and the hardcover from Lulu.

I'd say I've got this one covered. Next?!

Well ... The Deceivers appeared in the Amazon engine a few days ago, and The Lords of Harbendane is at Mobi, plus Dangerous Moonlight was formatted specifically for Smashwords, at the time we had upload woes. So I think I'll start with these three, plus maybe two more, and then -- a newsletter.

Keegan is smiling this morning.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Amazon apologizes profusely ... hands up, anyone who believes any of this

Today, from

Amazon calls mistake 'embarrassing and ham-fisted' has offered a response to the AmazonFail fiasco.

Because there's so much attention to this, I'll offer spokesman Drew Herdener's comments unfiltered:

This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.
It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles – in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search.

Many books have now been fixed and we're in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.


Former Amazonian Mike Daisey offers some insight.

"After hearing from people on the inside at Amazon, I am convinced it was in fact, a 'glitch,'" he says on his Web site. "Well, more like user error--some idiot editing code for one of the many international versions of Amazon mixed up the difference between 'adult' and 'erotic' and 'sexuality.' All the sites are tied together, so editing one affected all for blacklisting, and ta-da, you get the situation."

According to Daisey's inside sources, "A guy from Amazon France got confused on how he was editing the site, and mixed up 'adult,' which is the term they use for porn, with stuff like 'erotic' and 'sexuality.' That browse node editor is universal, so by doing that there he affected ALL of Amazon."

[end of quote]

We have a term for this.

We call it damage control.

You blame a human, who can be fired ... this is sooooo convenient. I'd say it's far too convenient. It's the backdoor route onto the fire escape you leave yourself when you're going to try to censor anything to do with human sexuality, in the event you get caught.

They got caught and roasted, and they fled for the fire escape.

What really needles me is that people are genuinely going to believe it. I'm not usually into conspiracy theory, but to me this just looks blatant. Put it this way: I'm far from convinced. It'll take years of loyalty to the GLBT community before Amazon will woo me back into the truth faith worship of the 1,000lb gorilla.

I'm old enough by now to be a lot more suspicious. What I can see is that the attempt at censorship was made -- and didn't work; it was a ham-fisted attempt, along exactly the same lines as those navigated by Kevin bloody Rudd in his vain and moronic attempts to enforce Internet censorship on Australia. Amazon was caught red-handed, and had been "canny" enough to leave themselves an escape chute.

They're out and free today, having learned the hard way that K.Rudd-style Censorship doesn't work; therefore, switch to Plan B, which is "swift, slick damage control ... and whole new generation of brilliant, subtle code that'll sneak through the desired results in 2010 or '11.

Put it this way, guys: I'll believe it's NOT happening when we reach 2012 and it hasn't happened. In the meantime -- seriously! -- having seem the writing very clearly on the wall, I'm already exploring other avenues which will either not involve Amazon, or, if they do, they'll use the Big A merely as a checkout and drop-shipping service.

I don't have the trust today that I had back in March. Do I sound cynical? Well ... I guess I am. 25 years in this game has made me fairly cynical -- though I prefer the word pragmatical.

Got to get to work now...

UPDATED on April 16 with a couple of backlinks:

If you think I'm just being paranoid, you have GOT to see these:

Woah. Paranoia is the least of it, guys.

Ciao for now,

Monday, April 13, 2009

Amazon headhunting in the GLBT community ...!

Hi, guys ... I'm back, and with something significant to say. The "bad news" is breaking across the GLBT writing community right now ...

Amazon under fire for perceived anti-gay policy

Here's an outtake in a thimble, to give you the gist:

The number one word being used over and over on Twitter at this moment is "AmazonFail."


Users are angry about a perceived anti-gay policy that removes lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender books from appearing in sales rankings.

Author Mark Probst writes on his blog that two days ago, "mysteriously, the sales rankings disappeared from two newly-released high profile gay romance books: 'Transgressions' by Erastes and 'False Colors' by Alex Beecroft. Everybody was perplexed. Was it a glitch of some sort? The very next day HUNDREDS of gay and lesbian books simultaneously lost their sales rankings, including my book 'The Filly.'"

Probst eventually got a response from Advantage member services, he says.

In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude "adult" material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.

Hence, if you have further questions, kindly write back to us.

Best regards,

Ashlyn DMember Advantage

In other words, what about the children? Protect the children. Get gay content out of any area of the net that minors could possibly access.

Uh huh. Fair enough. I suppose. But it's going to be a long, slow clean-up for the Big A, because protecting kids also means shielding them from violence, coarse language and heterosexual pornowhatsessz. Massive amounts of Amazon will have to VANISH, pronto, for Amazon to be able to support its claim that glbt writers are not being discriminated against. It ain't just glbt writers who're going to get slapped. Normal Mailer, Harold Robbins, Jilly Cooper, Ann Rice ... all vanishing into the A-search bye and bye...

In fact, the new Amazon censorship is a lot of "same old, same old." Google is very discriminatory too; in fact, discrimination against glbt writers is so common on the web, one learns to live and deal with it. (Example: I've heard of e-zines that sell ad space, and "guarantee" a review of any book for which advertising is bought ... but they don't review glbt titles, even though they'll take the advertising dollar. The scene goes downhill from there,
with glbt-friendly pages and blogs now getting paid out less than a penny for clicks on their Google Ads, though they used to earn up to 75c for a click on the same ad, before company policy changed.)

Amazon's policy shift is subtle ... they seem to be reading tags. If your book is user-tagged "gay," you lose your page rankings ... if your books are not tagged, you keep your rankings.

Say, what?!

My books still have their rankings (!) because I never bothered to go in and tag them for Amazon search ... I know they're called "user tags," but it's the writers and publishers who are far, far more likely to add the tags, not customers. (A customer bookmarks the page where the book lives -- why would they want to run around tagging books, when they've already found the damned book?!) I've been advised (!) to get in there and tag my books for Amazon Search. Uh huh. So, writers and publishers tag their books to make them visible and searchable ... hence, it's dead easy for Amazon to figure out whose page rankings to yank!

They haven't yanked my sales rankings (yet??) because I don't carry the tags. Never bothered to go and do it, because at least 70% of all my sales are driven via my own bookstore, which lives here:

Meanwhile, however ... something else is happening at Amazon, which has nothing to do with tags (I'm untagged) or sales ranking (rankings are still there), and for the life of me I can't figure it out. My Amazon sales are down 80% this month, so far. My sales switched off, as if someone had killed the power, at the end of March. I did great in February and March (actually super-great in March), and then very poorly indeed so far in April ... with the sales rankings still "on" and attached. Go figure

Fortunately Keegan ain't Amazon-centric; they can't hurt me very much. And I know this is going to sound self-centered, so let me hint, here and now before I say it -- behind the scenes, I'm thinking long and hard, and coming up with a way to turn this whole lousy situation not only to my own advantage, but to the advantage of all glbt writers. I think I have a terrific idea, but I need to thrash it out, think it through, research the costs involved, before I share it publicly. However -- hang on, because the light I'm seeing at the end of the tunnel is NOT the train; and it's a nice, bright light ... bear with me a while.

As I said, fortunately (for me; and I'm not being selfish here) Amazon/Kindle only ever accounted for about 30% of my sales overall, so I still have 3 out of 4 of my oars in the water. But I know that other writers absolutely rely on Amazon, and they're in dire straits.

My titles are also retailed via Payloadz, and 70% of all sales are driven via my own bookstore -- so, the violent drop in Amazon sales might smart, but it's not going to kill me stone dead. Other writers are not so lucky -- and I'm not talking, here, about self-publishers!

Most of the writers with whom I'm in touch (about a dozen full-professional) are publishing with
print-media companies in the US; a few are with ebook publishers. Amazon sales are a huge part of the income they get from writing. And this discrimination is going to hurt them badly. As I just said in a comment on the previous post, it's enough to make you weep tears of blood.

Now, as you probably know, my publisher went defunct about eight years ago, leaving me with a big backlist and two thumbs to twiddle! I got busy and have marketed my old stuff while writing new. Amazon was very kind to me, sales-wise, till the end of March '09. I still have no idea of what happened then; however, I'd only gotten around to putting 12 books there, out of 27 on my list -- and as for Kindle, there's only 6 there. So their ability to hurt me is limited.

The number of other venues for selling books online is growing all the time -- Smashwords comes to mind. (Speaking of which, Mark Coker tells me they just went online with a new "meatgrinder," which is their industrial strength, wide-scale document converter. You upload a .doc file or an .rtf, and tell it what formats to spit out. It does the whole thing. Should be easy ... we had problems with it last month, but I'm 95% sure it was all about time-out woes. Will be taking another crack at it shortly, and with luck it'll work just fine.)

Amazon doesn't have a monopoly -- it's important to realize this. I also acknowledge that they're the "1000lb gorilla" in this neck of the woods. For some weird reason, READERS trust Amazon over Lulu or anyone else. This is where Amazon can really hurt writers. Customers trust Amazon, and are more likely to buy a book from them than, for instance, or, or whatever.

The trick will be to find a way to get around the discrimination ... without taking on Amazon in a stand-up fight. Because one does not trade blows with King Kong and expect to come out of it with one's nose in the same place where nature intended. Picture Daffy Duck with his bear on top of his head.

Our mission (and we'd better damned choose to accept it!) is to either persuade readers that it's safe, and good, to buy books elsewhere ... or, to find other ways to bend the existing Amazon model (discriminatory tactics and all) to our advantage.

Stay tuned.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

From the depths of the Easter long weekend

'Tis a season of chocolate rabbits and eggs you could never make an omelet with; days prompting that old classic joke about "Save me a hot cross bun, I'll be back on Monday." A four-day weekend where the country is closed, Thursday to Tuesday, and if you happen to have forgotten to get a printer cartridge or a spindle of DVD blanks, tough luck.

It's Easter. That time of picnic horse races and the aroma of Aztec mild hallucinogens wafting out of the malls, and blazing-eyed zealots actually, physically, in reality, having themselves nailed (with real nails and real hammers) to big wooden crosses on the beach in major cities, while the crowd looks on in aghast awe, wondering at their sanity, and perhaps asking themselves the inevitable question. Think about it. Or, don't. It's a subject that'll cost you sleep.

Anyway --

Keegan is still alive, still working! Just not blogging here as much as I used to -- Google having buried me in the page rankings! In fact --

I've been blogging elsewhere in the last week:

I've been contributing to this blog, which lives over at ... and it's a lot of fun, actually. It's interesting to quantify the subjects of writing, editing, publishing. It's also a great blog, and growing like a mushroom. From here on, when readers ask questions about the trade of the writer, editor, publisher, this is where I'll be answering them -- I'll just post briefly here and give the link.

And I've been on Digital Kosmos too:

The dome of the sky

Focus and contrast: red hot pokers imitate art

Cafe culture goes way upmarket

In the time warp ... Adelaide, of course!

Fossils, front and center!

Reflections teasing eyes and brain

...and in the background I'm working on the ebook/paperback version of the first of the LEGENDS novels; and if I can ever get a spare afternoon or two, I'll be rereading the Hellgate novels, ready to start writing. I hope to get a start in May. If I get get a start then, and nothing too bad happens, I can be done by Christmas -- both books. Personally, I can't wait to have them finished. This project has been "on" for about 20 years, at least for me. I wrote the first version of The Rabelais Alliance in 1989, about the same time as Ice, Wind and Fire came out with GMP. Naturally, I had high hopes of being able to sell a gay SF series to them ... and/but the rest is history. Rabelais has a longer pedigree than the British Royal Family, and having the whole story told will be a dream come true.

Little else is happening in the Mel-o-Sphere. Life is mostly about work, right now. Family is okay, if you stretch a point. Some are limping around waiting to heal, some are being deployed in the military, some are waiting for eye surgery! Me? Oh, surviving. Wishing I could crack some code and crank up sales, so I could tell the day job to go buzz off (and that's a euphemism).

Look for updates, tweaks, additions and rebuilds in the main website in the next few weeks, too. The work has been mapped and planned, just has to be done. I think LEGENDS goes to press first, and then the website gets its work next. April or May.

In short, life is a yawn, so --

Ciao for now,

Monday, April 6, 2009

Gay book covers and the "wow" factor

Being gobmacked is coming more and more naturally to me; it happens quite often. I just got the first mockup design from DreamCraft, for the cover that's about to be slapped on the paperback of Legends. Get a load of this:

Click on the sample to see the image at 800 pixels wide ... woah.

This is the "rough" which is done at 100dpi, where elements are pushed around, recolored, resized, swapped over, dropped completely ... fonts get changed, colors are corrected. ((n other words, the final printed cover could be very different, but this gives us a starting place.)

This is the first generation of the "rough," and I'm (yet again) struck speechless.

I'm TRYING to take a day off today, but it's not happening. Too many problems -- it would be afternoon before I even got out of here, and the sky seems to want to drop weird little globules of water. I'd been thinking ... a long hike in one of the national parks. Scott Creek or whatever. Not going happen today -- try again next week.

So, in the background here, the first book of Legends is being reassembled, turning from a blog to a manuscript. It's literally being copied and pasted out of Blogger into Word. This is a little weird and wonderful ... first time I've done a novel this way.

I'm also being asked by several younger writers if I would produce something -- book or blog -- like a "hand holding" exercise, where I talk folks through the process, from the initial stages of getting a book onto paper, right through to marketing the finished book. Sure -- but not on this blog! Google has me dead and buried. With page rankings set to "0" ... well, the only people inside the USA (and that's 90% of one's audience!) who can find anything I write on this page are folks who already know it's here. Shades of Pirates of the Caribbean.

So -- sure, I can do this, and I'll float an appropriate blog, perhaps as early as this afternoon (since my day off ain't gonna be happenin' ... again).

Ciao for now,

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Here ends the first book of the Fall of the Atlantean Empire

Good news from the Mel-o-Sphere: LEGENDS is complete, up to the "End of Book One" marker, which is where I'm going onto hiatus with it, in order to turn my attention to Hellgate.

Rather than string it out into next week, I put the last half dozen posts up at the same time:
65. The Winds of Chance (part one)
66. The Winds of Chance (part two)
67. The Winds of Chance (part three)
68. The Winds of Chance (part four)
69. The Winds of Chance (part five)
70. The Oracle Dreams
71. Afterword
72. The art gallery

Please do note the art gallery on the tag-end of that list! A couple of new pieces have been done recently, and one of them blows me away. Click on this piece to see it at full size -- the shrunk-to-fit version pasted in by Blogger doesn't do it justice ... this piece has the quality of classical art, and I'm still in the "wow" stage:

The feedback on the format in which this novel was published as been varied indeed:

  • 25% of people were blissfully happy to swing by every day or few days, and get a free hit.

  • 25% of readers said, "I can't read this in bits -- tell me when it's finished, I'll download it all together."

  • 10% of readers said, "I can't read this much on screen. Tell me when a paperback comes out, I'd be happy to buy it."

  • 10% said, "I don't have the time to deal with little bits of reading. I want a properly formatted ebook, even if you charge for it."

  • 15% of readers said, "I like the concept of a free serial novel, but I don't care for fantasy. Tell me when you bring out an SF or thriller novel."

  • 10% of readers said, "I like ebooks, but I can't stand serials (I hate cliffhangers). Tell me when the whole thing's finished.

  • 5% of readers said, "I like fantasy, and serials are okay. but I like my gay fantasy red-hot sexy. Can I get an uncut version of Legends? Would be happy to pay for an ebook.
This seems to cover everything, and leaves everyone happy.

It's great to have some firm data. So we're doing a newsletter this afternoon, informing people that (drum roll)... the first book of the trilogy is finished (download it all of a piece, if this is what you needed); and a properly structured ebook is being prepared; there can also be a Legends Uncut version, for those who wanted this; and a stunning cover is being put around this novel; it'll be available as a paperback in a few weeks.

I might vanish for a couple of days now ... I have the priceless opportunity to take a couple off, and I think I'm going to grab the opportunity. Might pack the HELLGATE books, start reading them while I kick back and unwind.

Reading the whole thing properly is the first thing I must do ... these characters have to "talk" to me in their own unique voices. Mick Vidal doesn't sound like Harry Shapiro, who doesn't sound like Neil Travers, who doesn't sound like Barb Jazinsky. And so on. These characters are never far from "in my head," but I need to really, seriously get back into their world. Then, two BIG books by Christmas, and the series is finished. Woah.

Hence -- a couple of days off while I have the chance!

Ciao for now,

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Updates from the Mel-o-Sphere

Not much doing in the Mel-o-sphere lately, but other blogs have been updated, and rather than repeat the whole lot here, let me give you the links:

This will bring you up to date with LEGENDS:
54. Zeheft is Burning (part one)
55. Zeheft is Burning (part two)
56. Zeheft is Burning (part three)
57. The Tomb of Knowledge (part one)
58. The Tomb of Knowledge (part two)
59. The Tomb of Knowledge (part three)
60. Red Sails (part one)
61. Red Sails (part two)
62. Red Sails (part three)
63. Red Sails (part four)
64. Red Sails (part five)

I finally found a spare few minutes to post to DIGITAL KOSMOS:
Reflections teasing eyes and brain
(Will be posting more very soon; work is about to hit a lull ... if it didn't, I'd be out there looking for a high building with some inviting-looking concrete at the bottom.)

And I've been over Live Journal...
Cool way to spend a morning
Good gods, they want HOW MUCH to ship it???
Google Book Search is OFF, thank gods
King Kong 5, Keegan 0

I also stumbled into something fairly interesting -- or at least potentially interesting for folks who're promoting their self-administered backlists, or who are with publishers who expect you to go out and promote your own books. Visit this: ... and/but be prepared to do a lot of reading. It's all free, meaning there's an epic to read in the form of PDFs.

My kingdom for a netbook or something similar. I long for the old days when you kicked back on the couch with a cup of tea and a cat and a book.

Lastly, many thanks to AG for running a news item on one of her blogs:
Blind and gay ... looking for a good read? At last, a Large Print Edition of Mel Keegan!
...thanks, kiddo. It all helps!

Ciao for now,