Saturday, February 28, 2009

The road to Amazon.com is land-mined

Puffs of steam are coming out of my ears: I'm going to have a RANT today, so -- bear with me.

Good gods, they make it hard. I'm within eight seconds of saying, "stuff Kindle." And this, after I've blown off two days formatting documents to suit them.

What goes on --? Amazon.com just slammed the door in Keegan's face, is what's wrong.

In order to sell my books to Kindle readers -- and bear in mind, Amazon is out there, hyper-marketing their platform in order to command an ever-growing market share! -- I have to have the following:

American TIN number for tax purposes (done: got one).
American bank account access (done: no problem).
American mailing address (how the hell do they expect me to have this?)
American phone number (ditto).

To all intents and purposes, Amazon Kindle is open ONLY to American writers and authors ... at the same time as the American marketplace is 90% of everything, and Amazon is actively at war with all other ebook platforms, to command the lion's share of the market.

Does this sound kosher to you? Point one: non-American writers are being shut out of the market -- at the same time as Amazon.com makes a ton of money dumping cheap goods on the rest of the world (books for 10c, for instance!) ... and Point two: American readers are soon going to have vastly limited access to foreign works --

Foreign works which, for example, express the global point of view, the cosmopolitan concept of humanity, in which the thoughts, dreams and dreads of people living in -- oh, Paris, Rome, London, Tokyo, Beijing, the centers where culture was born many centuries before America was even dreamed of! -- are reckoned, in the wider scheme of the cosmos, to be just as important as those of people who are curiously gifted enough to live between the borders of Canada and Mexico.

Moreover, there is one additional thing that carbonizes my noodles:

The simple statement: "Non-Americans need not apply" is not posted until you get five layers deep into the publication process.

There is no easily accessible FAQ. There is a labyrinthine forum with all the welcoming characteristics of an asylum, filled with abusive inmates who seem to believe one has nothing better to do with one's time than to read "threads" which have run 11 months, and are now forty yards long -- filled with poison-pen retorts for non-Americans, blatantly WRONG answers, hapless misinformation, helpful responses to questions that were NOT ASKED, and --!!

The situation regarding Keegan on your Kindle right now is this: I'm going to try negotiating with family in the States, to use an acceptable address and phone number. If for any reason the other half of the family has a problem with this, you won't be reading Keegan on you Kindle. Before that happens, Amazon.com will have to come out of this self-imposed shell of isolation, drop the parochial behavior, join the global community (which it has ambitions to dominate) and play nice.

Till then, my Kindle ambitions are snookered. Which, as I said above, burns my noodles ... because Kindle is already a millions-strong marketplace. When people change over to Kindle they cease to buy paperbacks --

Meaning, there is a millions-strong sector of the reading community that's a dead zone for any writer or publisher who does not have a physical foothold, complete with phone number, between the borders of Mexico and Canada.

Now, Amazon has made squeaking noises about trying to get Kindle to work in Europe and Australia, but so far they haven't even been able to swing a reliable deal with wireless providers in the UK. Down here in Aus and NZ? Forget it. The infrastructure doesn't exist. Not going to happen.

Here's the bottom line: If Amazon wins the marketing battle (as it intends to), if Kindle becomes The Platform of the future ... if enormous numbers of readers change over and don't want paperbacks any longer ... and if only American writers and publishers are allowed to sell on Kindle ...

There's going to be a whole lot of professional writers, globally (myself being one of them) who will just jack it in and get a proper job. Literature itself will suffer, because the only people publishing on the massive platform will be a small nucleus of real professional writers who are just geographically lucky ... plus about fifty million semi-literate wannabe authors, none of whom would know good grammar if they tripped over it in the street, who are not just allowed to publish -- they're invited. They're exhorted. They're marketed alongside the giants of literature, as if they belong there; and why?

The privilege of geography. No matter that Amazon's marketplace is global and vast amounts of its profits are raked in from overseas customers.

You bet, I'm PO'd. Wasting my time (or, having my time wasted for me) tends to do that to me.

Now I have to take on the challenge of Smashwords. Go back and reformat all the documents over again. But at least Smashwords is playing nice -- I can put my books there. If you were asking me, Amazon could learn a thing or two from Smashwords.

Mark Coker's new company at the very least lives in the right century, with both feet planted firmly in the global community. Meanwhile, whoever designed and built the apology for the architecture supporting Kindle appears to live in some parochial cyber territory, temporally and psychologically analogous to the 1950s.

Message to Amazon.com: get real people. There's a world out here, and if you want to dump cheap goods into it for your own profit, you have to wake up to the fact the conduit must run both ways. Or are you actually trying to shut out the global voice, lock in the all-American point of view, raise a generation of Kindle-users who couldn't find Belgium on a map? This might result in a generation of more American Americans, but I ask you, does this kind of intellectual isolationism have any place in the twenty first century?

Okay: I'm done ranting for now.

Yeah, yeah ... I posted the next segment of Legends before I threw away the rest of my time. Find out what happens when Soran wakes up...

And people, email the Legends URL to your friends, please!!! At this point, according to Statcounter, I have loads of people coming in to collect only Chapter Ten, folks who have never touched down on Legends before -- which says clearly, the files are being emailed, not the URL. Remember, to make this work we need people on the page, taking advantage of the advertising: sending the files to your mate won't help! Thanks for your help here.

And, uh, I imagine I'll be in a better mood tomorrow! Meanwhile, the ebooks are available at PayLoads, and will be appearing at Smashwords when I've had the chance to thrash through the conversion process.

Ciao for,
ML

Friday, February 27, 2009

Patience, Keegan, patience! (My kingdom for a bloody ebook gizmo ... revisited)

Okay, Keegan, be patient. Hold your horses. It's already the end of February ... it's going to be 2010 before you can turn around and spit: you DON'T want to spend a grand on something that's going to be virtually obsolete before it's paid for itself --

Like an ebook screenreader (fingers itch to make grab for credit card and order something like Bebook or Omnia). Because look what's coming out next year:



It's called epaper. It's from a company called Plastic Logic, and get a load of this:

...and here's the a-b-c right off the company's own webpage:
"Our foray into the market will begin in the second half of 2009 with pilots, and trials with key partners. We expect to accelerate the momentum of our sales in 2010.

Differentiated by a stunning form factor (the size of 8.5 x 11-inch paper), the Plastic Logic reader features a big readable display. Yet it's thinner than a pad of paper, lighter than many business periodicals, and offers a high-quality reading experience - better than alternatives of paper or other electronic readers on the market today.

The Plastic Logic reader supports a full range of business document formats, such as Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint, and Adobe PDFs, as well as newspapers, periodicals and books. It has an easy gesture-based user interface and powerful software tools that will help business users to organize and manage their information. Users can connect to their information either wired or wirelessly and store thousands of documents on the device. The reader incorporates E Ink technology for great readability and features low power consumption and long battery life.

http://www.plasticlogic.com/product.html

How much the thing will cost is another question, of course. These guys have to know they're up against Kindle (about US$350) and what have you, so if the Plastic Logic thingamajig cost about US$550, that's about as high as they would dare go; you can get the iPhone from Walmart for about US$100 just now, and the Omnia is tickling US$200, reducing in price all the time.

Also, it's a new, proprietary technology: "Traditional displays consist of millions of transistors that are etched onto silicon using photolithographic techniques. Plastic Logic displays use polymer (plastic) transistors that are sprayed and painted onto a sheet of plastic and an E Ink sheet (the same technology used in the Kindle)."
http://www.examiner.com/x-1652-Gadgets-Examiner~y2009m2d26-Move-over-Kindle-a-plastic-ereader-is-coming

So long as they don't price it way out the consumer's reach ... and if they wise up and make them in colors instead of the funeral-shroud white plastic as the Henry Ford option ("You can have any color you like, as long as it's black") I, for one, will be at the head of the queue with the magic plastic in hand. I just want a black one.

In fact ... Nostrakeeganus, he going to make prediction. He see price war coming. He see big, big undercutting fight, where Plastic Logic tries to kill Kindle, and Kindle then Plastic Logic gang up and try to kill Sony, and then all three gang up on Apple and beat the iPhone's brains out.

Frankly ... I've waited this long to get an ebook reader, I can suffer a little longer. 2010 sounds just right as the Great Purchase Date; wt which point it'll be all about who's got the best price for the best service. But I have to admit --

The lure of having a full-sized screen is powerful. It also places formatting, nice design, illustration and all, squarely back into the hands of publishers, rather than having to drop out everything except the italic, boldface and justification! For instance, Legends might be ebooked complete with the full suite of artwork.

One wonders if the Plastic Logic device will offer a color display version?

Speaking of Legends, Chapter Ten concluded today ...

Cheers,
MK

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Writing and publishing for a technological explosion

Today I'm working on the files for the titles I want to send to Amazon Kindle by the end of the week. We're doing Nocturne and Twilight, The Deceivers, and two (or three) others where I'm not absolutely sure what they'll be. Could be White Rose, or Swordsman, or ... whatever. Depends what I feel like when I get down to the brass-tacks conversion work in the morning.

This morning, I blew off an hour (the only hour I had to invest in this ... work was calling. Loudly; demandingly) to figure out the process of how to get the book out of the DTP software (Serif) and into stripped HTML, without any loss of italics, chapter formatting, paragraph indents, and so on.

Done: process figured out. Now, I ought to be able to fix the other books in a couple of hours in the morning ... and, since they're digital, they ought to pop up in the Amazon engine more or less in real time. I hope. If so, we'll be having our Kindle launch at the weekend.

A couple of news items crossed my desk this morning, and for a change it's not bad news ... it's good. For a start, Amazon just announced that it intends to make its Kindle range available for smartphones:

Amazon has unveiled a new version of its Kindle reader, with a company spokesman having also announced that Amazon plans to offer Kindle books on cellphones.

This news countered Google's announcement that the 1.5 million public domain books available on its Google Book Search offering will soon be available (free, of course) via a new cellphone application.

I believe that cellphones will quickly outpace the dedicated e-book readers, including the Kindle, as the platform of choice for e-book readers. Leading the pack? The iPhone, ironically.

When asked by The New York Times a year ago about the quality of the Amazon Kindle, Apple CEO Steve Jobs famously said, that "it doesn't matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don't read anymore".

(It was an ironic statement, because one heard it by reading — all the more so for me, as I first read it on a Kindle.)

It's worth noting that Amazon.com sold more Kindles (at least 500,000) in its first year of sales than the number of iPods that Apple sold in its first year (378,000).

Apple may not understand the value of e-books, but iPhone users will embrace them anyway. The reason is simple: The iPhone has a decent sized, high-quality screen. And its user base includes millions of people who love to do everything on their iPhones, including reading, which they're already doing with online content.
http://reseller.co.nz/reseller.nsf/feat/936AAD17BF9EDEC0CC2575660012FD28

(Incidentally, the above article, on Reseller News, is extremely good. There's a lot in it for writers, publishers, readers and technologists to mull over. I urge you to read it: Here comes the e-book revolution)

Ebooks are almost certainly where the future is ... they cost a hell of a lot less; they weigh nothing; they save trees; they let writers say what they what they want to say, and say it FAST. Going through the channels of traditional publishing, what you write/say today won't be read/heard for YEARS. What you said in 2003 might no longer be relevant in 2005.

I've been saying this for eons, and it was great to see the point validated here:

The book publishing industry is one of the most backward, musty, obsolete businesses in our economy. While every other kind of information moves at the speed of light, the process of publishing a book is like something from the Middle Ages.

For authors, it can take months to even find a literary agent willing to represent their work. Then the agent takes months to find a publisher. Then it takes ages for the publishing company to get the book out there.

People are already circumventing all this by self-publishing. The self-publishing industry is the only area of paper-book publishing that's thriving right now. Soon enough, a huge number of authors are finally going to get fed up with the publishing industry and just self-publish electronically. They'll hire their own freelance editors and do the marketing themselves. The publication of a finished manuscript will take minutes, rather than months.

Old-school thinkers in the publishing industry will lament the slap-dash nature of self-published e-books, and sniff that books are no longer published with the quality and care that they used to achieve. (Never mind that book publishers abandoned high standards years ago in previous cost-cutting initiatives.) The world will pass them by as the book industry undergoes the same transition that happened with the media and blogs.
http://reseller.co.nz/reseller.nsf/feat/936AAD17BF9EDEC0CC2575660012FD28

There's actually more good news, if you "look past what's on the screen," or as they used to say, read between the lines.

View the industry, for a moment, from the perspective of the person (the buyer) who decides what books are going to make it into the physical, streetfront store:

Every month I meet with publishing reps who arrive with information sheets on all the books they’ll be releasing in the next month or two.

We go through them, one at a time, talking about what makes each of them “right” — or not — for our clientele. I look at the cover image, read the blurb , consider the title, the author, the price, the number of pages, whether or not it has a hard or soft cover, and how many other similar/better titles we may already have on the shelves. Then I listen to my gut. If it says okay, I think about how many copies we’re likely to sell and how long it could take to do so. I order anything from 0 to 10 copies; by far, the majority are refused.

But even to appear on the form means they have gone through the agony of being submitted to a publisher, assessed for the sales and marketing potential, been accepted, edited and printed. Thousands of manuscripts never make it that far. Publishers make mistakes, but their expertise offers some assurance that a book has a market. When it is presented to buyers , it has already succeeded way beyond anything the author could have dreamed .

The process of getting a book into the hands of a reader via the traditional method is so arduous that many writers consider self-publishing to be an easier route to literary glory. A few have done so successfully. It may be easier to get a book into print this way, but these writers face more obstacles to actually being read by anyone other than immediate family .
http://www.thetimes.co.za/PrintEdition/Lifestyle/Article.aspx?id=941494

Speaking as a writer, I don't want to deal with all that stuff anymore. I don't want to go through the years-long hunt for agents, and then the years-long period when the agent shops the book around and sends you bills for postage and phonecalls, and comes up dry at the end of a two year stretch.

There's a line that troubles me deeply in the above feature: Publishers make mistakes, but their expertise offers some assurance that a book has a market. And she says this literally cheek-by-jowl with the remark, by far, the majority are refused. (In other words, the store buyer doesn't reject authors and books ... s/he rejects publishers. Yeeeouch! That smarts.)

If the publishers were smart enough to know which books would bear fruit and which were dross ... why are the vast, vast majority dumped by the buyers at wide-spectrum book stores?

The reason is that everyone has a different perspective on what's good, what's great, what's commercial, and what's garbage. We're all human. We disagree. Frequently. This is what makes horse races.

But traditional publishing is an area in which one's subjectivity is going to come expensive, in the event that one is dead wrong. And this is what has happened to the publishing industry. They placed their faith in the few percent of writers who can sell millions; they pruned back the tens of thousands of writers who play to smaller audiences. This was done to maximize profits, but the net effect is that the human voice is getting strangled out of existence.

The solution? Digital publishing: ebooks. Anyone can publish a book, right NOW. And yes, I know that 99% of them will be the most unutterable rubbish! However, if only 1% of books published between now and 2100, using emerging "sunrise" technologies, were fine works...

That's 10,000 fine pieces of work in every million self-published. And the way POD is going, by 2012, that would represent a year's creativity. If half a percent are great, it's 5,000 new, fantastic books, per year. That's 100 great new books per week.

People might just start to read again, if they can get novels for a price they can afford ... save trees, and so forth. Or maybe the speculations I made the other day are closer to the truth:

What I'm saying is this: publishers -- whether New York or DIY -- shoot for the mass market. The big-time publishers have their market pegged: extremely literate people who demand high standards in their reading. But the mass of the public is increasingly illiterate; the readers who demand high standards, and have $40 to spend on a hardcover, are an ever-shrinking group, while the millions of readers who wouldn't know good grammar if it jumped up and bit them ... well, these people have pockets full of smartphones. And a lot of smartphones take SD cards. You can read stories on smartphones, kill time on the bus, train, plane, whatever.

Here's the bottom line: For every highly literate lady or gent with a credit card, standing in line for the hardcover of the New York Times bestseller, there could be a thousand, or ten thousand, semi-literate readers with smartphones, willing to pay $2, or $1, for an entertaining little read to pass the time on the commute.

Short version: there is an incredible fortune out there, reapable in the next few years ... and I have the sneakiest feeling that the writer's literary merit will be just about the last quality looked for by the mass of "common" readers who are, by the millions, daily, paying tiny fees for quick, cute reads.

Adult literacy is an increasingly lost cause, at the same time as the technology is racing to put video phones on our wrists, video wallpaper in our living rooms, and the electronic equivalent of the old "penny dreadful" in our laps, to while away that train ride, after we've all put the car up on blocks in a concerted effort to save the planet from our carbon emissions.
http://mel-keegan.blogspot.com/2009/02/literary-history-repeats-itself-for-2.html

There's a heck of a lot more to talk about (I wanted to tackle the question of competition ... how one survives in a world where 100 great new books are published every single week, year in, year out, via technological freedom), and also to read -- but I just ran out of time.

I'll give you a couple of links, and with a tad bit of luck I'll be able to pick up the thread of this tomorrow of the day after!

See these:
Book publishers, R.I.P.? In this bad economy, it's tougher than ever to sell books
and
Self-publishing is not a last resort for authors

...and like the man said in the movie, "I'll be back."

Oh -- the next segment of Legends is up: enjoy!

Cheers,
MK

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Gay book - making news for all the wrong reasons

In my rambling explorations of the Internet, I often stumble over curious things -- and here's one that's worth eight or ten ordinary ones: Plot thickens in case of 'censored' author, gay sheikh and a Booker prize-winner ...

It's a long an extraordinary story involving a gay novel (or at least a novel with a gay twist), the Muslim religion, a book festival in the Emirates, a major publisher, a Canadian Booker prize awardee, a torrent of misinformation, a storm of controversy, and a whole lot of people who wondered how the hell they got into this crapola.

Here's the short version -- insofar as there is anything vaguely approximating a short version! English journalist writes novel set in Middle East, featuring gay sheik with Brit boyfriend. Novel is published; novel is entered in the upcoming "first ever literary festival to be held in the Emirates" in Dubai, which kicks off on Friday. Why in the name of anybody's g/God(s) such a book would be entered in a book fair in a Muslim country beats the hell of of me, but it was and (surprise) it was tossed back by the fair organizers. A gay Sheik?! Can't happen legally, people. The whole concept questions the Muslim faith, and --

Bingo, right on cue, the book was kicked back. Now, was it banned? Author Geraldine Bedell maintains that it either is, was, or appeared to be banned at the time she spoke out about the situation ... and Canadian Booker-winner Margaret Atwood -- who whad been engaged to appear at the fair in Dubai, rightly went fairly ballistic. She's "a vice-president of the literary anti-censorship organisation PEN", and she canceled the appearance on principle...

So far, so good. Rumors flew about the book (The Gulf Between Us) having been censored by the authorities (where? in England?), and the whirlwind of misinformation shifted into high gear. The bottom line? The book wasn't banned -- not really, not technically, not in the actual meaning of the verb "to ban." Nor, apparently, was in censored.

In fact, the book was bumped from the festival in Dubai for many and varied reasons. Here's the bottom line: "The Guardian has seen an email from [festival director] Abulhoul, dated 19 September 2008, in which she says the novel was "extremely well written and should sell well" but continues: "However it is definitely not a book that we can launch at EAIFL for the following reasons: one of the Sheikhs is gay and has an English boyfriend; it talks about Islam and queries what is said; it is set in the Gulf and focuses on the Iraq war and could be a minefield for us."

Here's the whole sad story: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/feb/21/margaret-atwood-gulf-literary-festival ... and the more you read of it, and into it, the worse it gets.

Who's responsible for the mess? In Keegan's estimation it would have to be the pea-brain who tried to enter a book like The Gulf Between Us in a debut book festival in the Emirates! Good gods, get real, people. Could be a minefield?! Could be a bloody neutron bomb!

This is one of those times when I am so relieved to be able to publish privately and sell via something like Amazon, PayLoads, whatever. The crapola is amputated. People can either buy or not, as suits themselves, and this kind of three-ringed circus doesn't happen.

Speaking of publishing ...

The proof of Death's Head has just arrived from CreateSpace -- and once again they've done a marvelous job. The quality is superb. Equinox and Scorpio are on their way and should be here in a week or so. That leaves Stopover and Aphelion to be proofed.

However, we're going to hang onto the whole package and release the whole thing at Amazon, all of a piece. This should be in about three weeks, I think -- might be four, because ... if you've been reading this blog for a while, you know how long it takes for a book to percolate its way into the Amazon engine.

Incidentally, Amazon sales of the Keegan titles are very good since Christmas, but the Lulu.com sales are dropping off to match, which shows you where people's faith is: for whatever reason (and there is no watertight reason) they trust Amazon a whole lot more than they trust Lulu. That's good to know; unless you work for Lulu.com.

Meanwhile, Legends is rolling with a full head of steam now. I just uploaded a good-sized post, which commences Chapter Ten ... and also some new artwork.

Speaking of the art, the Legends portfolio is incredibly beautiful, and we're trying to get some items up to Zazzle in the neat future. For me, things are very busy with the Amazon Kindle and Smashwords files to be developed.

Kindle is easy -- but Smashwords is going to take a lot more work, so I might have to settle for a whole bunch of projects at Kindle, and work on the Smashwords upload separately.

I'll leave you with an image -- the header shot for Chapter Ten.


Kudos to Jade ... fantastic work. I can see this on a mouse pad...

Cheers,
MK

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mel at the Movies: talking dollars and sense

What a nice outcome at the Oscars! A sorta-kinda gay movie right there in the spotlight ... the award for Best Actor bestowed upon a performer in a gay role -- and richly deserved. Is the cinema-going public changing? Is there a shift in the mindset of your average popcorn-muncher in the fourth row?

Could be. Here's an interesting quote:

Jim Carey and Ewan McGregor play love interests in the upcoming movie I Love You Philip Morris which is based upon a real life incident about a man who falls in love with his cell mate while in jail and escapes four times in order to be with his lover. Some critics worry that the film will be a problematic sell given that it is an overtly gay love story. However, they do like the film.

Several straight actors have played gay, lesbian or trans characters over the last few decades without incident, and without any problem in their careers.


For Carey, this movie makes his first foray into doing so, but McGregor is an old hand at playing gay characters. Adding into that list are Tom Hanks, Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman, and a much longer list. The notion that audiences may not like a movie due to a gay, lesbian or trans story line may be old thinking. While Milk has not been a blockbusting success the same way, say, The Dark Knight has been, it certainly has achieved a certain amount of commercial success, and a great deal of critical acclaim.
http://lezgetreal.com/?p=922&cpage=1

From what I've learned about Philip Morris, I have a feeling the movie might be a tad bit too explicit for the average audience -- and this would explain the reticence of distributors to be involved. It costs a ton of money to strike the prints to get a movie out on the road; exhibitors have to believe they can break even or better.

Now, sometimes it's impossible to second-guess movies. Australia was initially supposed to rival Titanic, and then it was supposed to be the world's biggest ever flop, and now -- hey, it's showing critics and audiences alike that it has enough staying power to be out there earning, long after it was supposed to be getting stamped into the surfaces of a few million DVDs. However, it's not going to magically transform itself into a boxoffice success, though it might break even -- in which case, all the DVD dollars are frosting on the cake. And like The Man From Snowy River, his one will probably "go platinum" on disk.

Why? Well, because Australia cost the grand total of $130m to make, which is a fleabite these days, by comparison with the budgets of "big movies" like the Pirates of the Caribbean films. In the days of yore, it used to be that $1 in $3 of the boxoffice made its way home to the studio that put up the financing, so a movie that cost $130m to make would have to earn $390 to break even...

These days it's very, very different. To begin with, it's $1 in $5 of the boxoffice that dribbles back to the investor ... but increasingly, the studio, the distributor and even the exhibitor are all branches of the same company which, in any case, is owned by something like Gulf Western, Coca Cola, whatever.

So while various divisions of the company might be showing a loss, the parent "machine" that drives this multi-national juggernaut is sitting pretty ... and it gets better.

The DVD revenues associated with movies can, and do, outstrip their boxoffice potential. You have global boxoffice to think about; plus the network TV premier; cable TV; pay per view; the DVD release; the BlueRay release; the TV rerun(s); the Netflix subscription service; and whatever merchandizing you've been able to scare up along the way.

Any way you slice it, movies are huge business, even though box office figures the world over are far from attractive. There's a site which makes fascinating browsing: BoxOfficeMojo.com ... enter in, and prepared to be astounded.

Russel Crowe in A Good Year ... directed by Ridley Scott, himself a legend. Total boxoffice gross: just under $7.5m ... you're not reading that wrongly. Nor did I mistype it! $7,459,300.

Kathleen Turner in her absolute hay day in V.I. Warshawski -- if she can't put bums on seats, who can? $11,128,308.

Johnny Deep and Charlieze Thieron (and I wouldn't be in the slightest surprised if I don't know how to spell that!) ... same bums-on-seats remark. The Astronaut's Wife. $10, 672,566.

Let's face it: if only the top 2% of movies ever broke even, Hollywood would have collapsed by now! The truth? Boxoffice is only part of the picture, and not even a large part.

Australia is at just under $50m, and still earning at the boxoffice before they get stuck into all the rest. Hey guys ... it's not that bad, really.

Little is happening in this neck of the woods. The big news (and terms are relative!) is that I did two posts to Legends today, and here they are:

http://mel-keegan-legends.blogspot.com/2009/02/chapter-nine-conclusion.html
and
http://mel-keegan-legends.blogspot.com/2009/02/oracle-knows.html

I haven't been able to look at Digital Kosmos for a week, and in this week I'll have to make a decision: gee, do I get five titles up on Amazon Kindle, or do I post to the photo blog. Duh. I'll get back to DK when time permits. Till them -- bear with me, guys!

Ciao for now,
MK

Monday, February 23, 2009

To Keegan's amazement --

I'm impressed, and that's no exaggeration. In fact, the word is gobsmacked. I had an email, inviting me to follow a link and check something out: Aricia's Gay Book Shoppe.

Are you ready for this? Apparently it took about an hour to put this together, with about 130 hand-picked books, from mine to Josh Lanyon, Ann Rice, Storm, Constantine, Gordon Merrick and what I'd call a fairly an enormous range:



There's about fifteen pages like the above, complete with shopping cart, wish list, reviews, the works ... an hour's work? Like I said, I'm impressed. The only thing I'd want the store to do, that it doesn't do (yet?) is search. I think it's supposed to, but right now it doesn't, you have to page through it. (Gee, the hardship of having to click that Next >> button...)

Anyway -- there you have it. AG's very own bookstore, slapped together in sixty minutes.

Gobsmacked.

My own labors today have been less satisfying. I wasted a good hour, probably closer to two, trying to get Blogger to do what it's supposed to do. You know those posts that are collapsed, with 90% of the content "hidden" and a "read more..." button which expands the post out? It's supposed to be as easy as 1-2-3 at Blogger, but after a loooong time spent trying to get it to work I quit and spent the next few hours trying to catch up with myself.

That function just will -- not -- work, with is a major inconvenience. I'd been intended to hide the more sensual posts at Legends behind a caveat and a "read more" button, but someone smarter than me (or more code savvy) will have to figure this one out.

In the short term, I used the old, old old solution. Right before the steamy stuff got going, I put up this:


[Note: this chapter is about to fog up your reading glasses.
The following text involves sensuality of the male persuasion.
If you will be offended, simply refrain from scrolling down
past the illustration, and exit this page!]

...which is the caveat, plus one of the pieces of digital art which Jade produced a few weeks ago for the project. Good enough.

Incidentally, Chapter Nine is in full swing: I do believe this is the bit you've been waiting for! It'll run over the space of a few days ... and is worth waiting for.

The good news is that Legends is flying along now. I'm seeing traffic on the site that's surprising me, even though I'd had high hopes. If people will just get the message about supporting the project via the advertising, we're in business, big time.

Ciao for now,

MK

Sunday, February 22, 2009

On this particular Sunday

I'm not actually counting, you understand -- Blogger does that for me. This (drum roll, clash of cymbals) is Post Three Hundred. Really! Three hundred posts ... I've been online since June 20 last year, and this blog has become a serious work -- it really does grieve me to break it up into a couple or several projects, but what has to be, has to be.

Design work is underway in the background right now, and I've made the tough decision to float a blog specifically devoted to writing and publishing. All the old posts on the topic will be appearing there, as they're deleted out of the Google index (to prevent duplicate content penalties). And then the basic background babble of the Mel-o-sphere will be posted to a much more personal blog.

Right now, though, I'm thinking I'll leave the old blog online, with links pointing out to the new pages ... just in case Google ever takes the time and trouble to reconsider the "Kill Keegan" decision which was made four months ago in more rarefied atmosphere than is breathed by the likes of you and me!

Y'know, I would love to know what I did to make them zero me out. I'd almost pay money to know ... almost. Not quite. But you take my meaning.

Work goes on apace. The first titles will be appearing at Amazon Kindle in the coming week, and by the end of the week I hope to have the first titles at Smashwords, too. However --

We just saw the weather forecast, and we'll be back "in the forties" in a few days. Meaning, temperatures up to 110 degrees F will be fairly commonplace. Thank gods we have an a/c unit in the office now! It should make all the difference. There's about five weeks to go, in which the temperature can be utterly disgusting.

Legends has had loads of fresh visitors from http://webfictionguide.com/ ... and again, it's thanks to Aricia. I just don't have the time to do this work -- promotional activities. Wish I did. So, thanks AG: that was inspiration indeed. Incidentally, that's a hell of a good guide, highly recommended if you're looking for free online fiction in many genres.

Speaking of Legends, Chapter Nine's second segment is online:
http://mel-keegan-legends.blogspot.com/2009/02/chapter-nine-continued.html

...and we've added a column to the blog's sidebar. For the sake of interest, Let me paste it over right here:

Enjoy the novel ... download it, save it to whatever device you like to read on -- but don't send the files to your friends. Send them this url: http://mel-keegan-legends.blogspot.com/2009/01/1.html.

Remember, the only income MK earns from this novel is generated via the advertising on the site, so it doesn't work if you just email the files. Thanks for your help here. Tell your friends, because the more people are on this page (and reading this bit), the better chance Legends has to reimburse the author ... which will keep more coming along -- massive SF novels like Crystal Genesis and fantasies like Blood and Fire.

There's several ways you can support this project. Obviously, you can donate $1 with a click on the PayPal button below. You can also notice the Google ads, in the event that you're looking for something and Ma Goog can actually help -- it's far from impossible for The Goog to render assistance, and the author isn't left out of the commercial loop! Then, at the foot of this page you'll find some very good offers and deals on goods and services which we've test-driven thoroughly: no junk here; you might just find something you've been needing. Scroll down for a look.

Lastly, consider the Amazon connection. You might not realize this, but if you're shopping for anything -- music CDs, jumpdrive, camera, anything! -- if you enter Amazon from this page and strike out from there on your own, a small percentage of the shopping you were already intending to do comes to MK as a "referrer's fee." Next time you're shopping Amazon for anything, simply start from any button on this page, and you're automatically supporting this project! Easy.

I have a strong feeling that the Amazon connection could easily be the best way to get Legends (or for that matter, any digital novel) to be lucrative enough to be indispensable. Everyone shops Amazon sooner or later. DVDs, music, books, MP3 downloads, loads of stuff. Do you know, you can get your groceries on Amazon these days! Is that weird, or what? And you see how it works: start shopping on Legends, depart from the button you originally clicked, go get whatever you were wanting, but the referral fee goes to the originating click. Brilliant.

(The only thing I don't like about Amazon is the fact the cookie they set is only a 24 hour cookie. Meaning, if the customer doesn't close the deal inside that time -- the cookie expires and Amazon don't have to pay nobody nothing for the referral fee. Maybe they'll be changing this in future???)

So ends Sunday in Keegan Country ... and Post Three Hundred!

Cheers,
MK

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Blogger on the run

At last -- a few minutes to sit down and blog a little! It may be Saturday, but it's been busy in this neck of the woods. Work-wise, at least. I'd love to tell you I won the State lotto and have spent the day planning a trip to Europe, but there wouldn't be a word of truth in it.

Thanks to Aricia Gavriel for submitting Legends to one of the major online fiction directories. That was a great idea, and most kind, AG. I appreciate it. So let me give you a plug here: there have been some great posts on both of Aricia's blogs in the last week or two, including one that has me fascinated: The Thunder God commeth ... in 2011!

I had heard a rumor about a year ago that Marvel Comics was looking at (finally!) doing a movie version of The Mighty Thor, and it seems it's on -- they're casting it right now. I used to get this comic way back in the 1960s, when it was the princely sum of sixpence ... it stretched my infant imagination and no doubt helped to form it (warp it?) into the adult imagination which is behind NARC, Hellgate and so forth. So if you don't like Hellgate -- blame Stan Lee, who is at least part-way responsible!

I was also fascinated by John Barrowman and -- who? So that's Matt Smith! I confess, I never heard of Matt Smith before he was cast as the 11th Doctor. I'm trying not to say, "Goog golly, he looks awfully young to be the Doctor." I'm also trying not to say, "Good golly, Jack will eat this one alive. And come back for seconds." Anyway -- shoot over to Aricia's Album and check him out. There's another post in there, http://ariciasalbum.blogspot.com/2009/02/captain-jack-and-11-john-barrowman.html ... fascinating reading.

Little other than work is happening in my own life, and I won't drivel on here about that. I'll leave you with a couple of links, and a plea:

Come on, guys! Legends is FREE, for cripesakes. Tell your friends, get them onboard ... and for those of you who are visiting, and are wondering when the hell Soran and Faunos are going to get together, much less let it on (!) ... you need to be there now.

I did two posts to Legends today:
http://mel-keegan-legends.blogspot.com/2009/02/iridan-speaks.html
and
The Hand of Fate (part one)

...and the bit you've been waiting for is on.

I've also managed to get some fresh posts up to Digital Kosmos:
Strange life forms
Surf's up!
Days of steam remembered

...sorry to all concerned that I've been "down" for a few days with this project. WORK. However, I have great optimism that publishing in some form is actually beginning to bloom, and with luck I'll have more time to spend on projects in the near future.

On that note I'll leave you for now. I can't honestly say that anything is happening in the Mel-o-Sphere. The lull is actually nice; it just doesn't make for spectacular blogging.

Cheers,
MK

Friday, February 20, 2009

POD Publishing: the next generation

Just a quickie second post today. I'd like to pass along the url of a news story that's running right now on the Falls Church News Press:

Anything But Straight: The Future of Gay News

There's a few paragraphs in this story that I could have written myself! Some material pertains specifically to folks like myself, who're blogging in the interests of paying the bills one way or another -- and also, selling books. Do read the whole feature -- it's a quick read, and most interesting!

As a hook, let me give you this, and then exhort you read the rest:
...the continued improvement of E-book technology may save the GLBT publishing industry. On March 29, the legendary Oscar Wilde bookstore will close in Greenwich Village, citing economic trouble. This follows the demise of the famed bookstore Crossroads Market in Dallas.

With few venues to sell books and fewer publishers, it is a tough time for gay authors. While the major retailers have GLBT sections, rarely do these books receive prime shelf space. E-books may be a way to cut out the middleman, save on printing costs and let gay authors sell directly to the reading public.
http://www.fcnp.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4141:anything-but-straight-the-future-of-gay-news&catid=17:national-commentary&Itemid=79

It's interesting reading. Just yesterday I was talking about the impending ebook technology, and oddly enough, this afternoon I'll be working on documents intended for Kindle and Smashwords. The world seems to be shrinking!

See also:
http://mel-keegan.blogspot.com/2009/02/literary-history-repeats-itself-for-2.html
and
http://mel-keegan.blogspot.com/2009/02/my-kingdom-for-ebook-gizmo_20.html

Cheers,
MK

Blogger tantrums again

Blogger tantrums, indeed ... not Keegan having a tantrum, but the Blogger engine itself, in concert with none other than the star performer, Internet Explorer itself, which can be a real, genuine diva when she wants to be. Blogger and IE have just sung an aria that should win prizes.

Users who surf with Internet Explorer must have thought The World According to Mel had gone down yesterday. Opera, Firefox and Chrome displayed it perfectly, but there was something about one picture (a brochure shot of the iRex iLiad ebook reader) that must have been corrupt...

Did it crash the post and leave the blog behind, online and functional in IE?

Noooooo. It crashed the whole blog. If you tried to load The World According to Mel in IE, you got a strange little message, "Operation Aborted," and then the killer screen, "Windows cannot display the webpage."

O...kay. First thing I did was try the blog in the three other browsers I have, and whaddaya know? It worked. So it was just something about Internet Explorer jacking around when trying to handshake with Blogger. And so began a wonderful, 90-minute odyssey into the enthralling world of code.

I hate code. I seriously hate code. I tried everything you can imagine, and a lot you can't, and finally rebuilt he post paragraph by paragraph. It was fine (you guessed) until I got to the picture. Then, when the picture was pasted back in --

"Operation Aborted."

Which narrowed the whole thing down to one image. After that it was a simple chore to replace the picture, republish, and than go and sit in a corner gibbering for a few minutes. We call it recovery time.

Those who smoke probably chainsmoke; those who inhale coffee by the mugful are probably vibrating with a caffeine high. Since I neither smoke nor drink coffee (can't -- I get a reaction to it) I just recite a mantra of sorts...

There was a young William called Gates --
"Bill" to his billionaire mates --
The PC's inventor;
And THIS bold dissenter
Wonders how he'd like to swallow the bloody thing sideways for breakfast.
(And I know it doesn't rhyme; and the last line keeps changing. Anatomically.)

Well ... not really ... but I know you know what I mean.

Anyway: the blog is functional again, and/but keep this in mind:

If you're a blogger and your blog suddenly disables itself with Internet Explorer putting up a weird little message, "Operation Aborted," I'll give you 500:1 odds, you'll trace the problem to a corrupt image. Ditch it, import a fresh out, and ...

Your oars will be back in the water like magic.

Last note: Chapter Eight has concluded at Legends...

Now I'm going to go and have a nice cup of tea and drool in private for a while.

TTFN,
MK

My kingdom for an ebook gizmo

The most fabulously interesting thing that comes out of today is that Chapter Eight is up at Legends ... which shows you what a flat, impossible calm the day is! I wish I could give you a link to my recent posts at Digital Kosmos, but work has me nailed down ... haven't been able to post there in a couple of days. When I finally get the chance, I'll probably do several at once -- it could be the weekend before I get to it.

Right now, I'm looking at ebook readers, and the ebooks themselves. I'm actually wondering if I ought to get a mate in the US to get me a Kindle, even though the wireless subsciption service isn't available in Aus. The Kindle takes SDs cards, you see ... and it reads most ebooks, though they're still working on its ability to read PDFs. Rats. It's the Kindle's inability to read PDFs that stops me asking family in the States to just get one for me and mail it, because PDFs have the functionality I want in en ebook. TXT, RFT and DOC files just don't.

I spent a considerable time looking at the iLiad, though it's an enormous price -- over a thousand dollars, when mail ordered into this country, complete with the exchange rate, shipping and insurance. I was, and am, extremely tempted. Here, I'm going to defer to an expert and iLiad enthusiast with whom I've been corresponding, and who gave me the full report, plus permission to share it here.

I'm going to hand over to Val right here:

The ebook reader was a long/hard decision making for me - and generally I make those decisions quickly. I 'looked' (internet) for over a year and flip-flopped between the Iliad, Booken Cybook, Sony, a tablet notebook, and something else. Here are some of the things that I thought were important before I bought and what I think now:

  • screen size - I thought bigger was better and spend a lot of time comparing size x to y and trying to draw comparisons with physical books. What I found in reality was that the difference in screen size between the Iliad and the others probably was not as important as I thought it would be - but I have to be careful in saying that because the way that the reader zooms is really important. With pdfs on the iliad you can use the stylus to window a zoom level so you can get rid of all the margins. You can also put the pages on continuous flow (no annoying part pages but you do get the top/bottom margin) and rotate.

    screen quality/resolution - thought it was really important and still do! The Iliad screen is easier to read than many physical books. Really nice! One review (at RegHardware) suggested that the iLiad had a better screen resolution that some other devices.

    page turn speed - thought it was important and still do - the iliad is reasonable on this and some review I read before buying suggested that the IlIad was good on this point. A page of pdf text pages faster than a page of Mobipocket text. When reading with Mobipocket I kinda get used to requesting the next page a few seconds before I want it. If it took too long I'd get irritated fast.

    WiFi etc - thought it might be useful but have never used it and probably never will. I'll also probably never use it as an mp3 player.

    formats - I thought that PDF and Mobipocket would be enough but there are some books only available in other formats that I would have liked to have.

    Things I'd like to be different/am surprised by:

    there are too many buttons that can accidentally get pushed by a restless thumb etc - bloody annoying - why are they there - the stylus is perfectly fine for doing everything expect paging!

    the battery life is as promised by the manufacturer but I am still amazed by how short it is.

    DRM - I HATE DRM! I don't share files, music or books, if they are good enough to take up space on my hard drive then the musician/author deserves my support so they can make more of the stuff I want to read/listen to. Protected pdf (Digital Editions) does not work on the Iliad. Mobipocket is OK too (but watch out for how the retailer manages passwords etc and don't forget who you bought them from and don't change your email address - I have a couple of books that I cannot read although I have paid for them).

    I do worry about how robust it is and dropping it etc.

    In summary - I now prefer to read stuff on the Iliad than on physical book unless it is a very high quality physical book (and not too heavy either).



There you have it: the iLiad review you've been hunting all over the Internet for -- or, at least I was, being on the prowl, looking for the best gizmo for the best price. Thanks, Val! I appreciate the input, and I'll tell you -- if I had the grand going spare, I'd be mailordering the iLiad right now!

The Kindle is about half the price, as it would arrive in my hands from a mate in the States, but since the wireless network doesn't work here, and it doesn't read PDFs or Mobipocket, or LIT ... welllll, I'm still thinking about it. Thinking seriously -- thinking a lot! -- but still thinking.

There, I must stop and get some last-minute work done before knocking-off time.

Cheers,
MK

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Less advertising is a Very Good Thing

Just a "service message" here: regular readers will notice that the Infolinks advertising has been disabled ... it hasn't malfunctioned, it's been deleted! Anyone who is exploring the possibilities of earning a buck or two from their blogging will have been looking at systems like Infolinks, and I should say a few words about them right here before just turning them off!

Infolinks is extremely simple to set up, and you do indeed get clicks that earn a couple of pennies each. However, some readers find the ads intrusive (I do, myself). Even that wouldn't be so bad -- you could live with it -- if all clicks generated were earners. They're not. In the month of February (I just peeked at the stats) 80% of all clicks on these intrusive little ads earned zero, and that's untenable.

It's just ridiculous to have annoying little ads shoving themselves into readers' faces, and then returning zero when they're actually clicked (which ain't often enough to be significant, either). Nobody ever mentioned a word about zero-return ads: if they had, you guys wouldn't have had to look at them for the last couple of months. Put it another way: all this is doing is diminishing the "experience" of this blog while raking in money for Infolinks ... there's no trickle down.

And you don't have to look at them anymore: gone. Deleted. Out of there. Do I recommend Infolinks to folks who're looking to "monetize" their pages? No. Google Adsense is a very tough system to make work (put it like this: too few people click too few of the ads too little of the time to make it really worth the bother of having the damned ads there), but it's a lot less intrusive than the "in-text" advertising. So --

Gone. Back to the drawing board!

More later -- end of service message...

Ciao for now,
MK

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Literary history repeats itself ... for $2

We were looking at website stats and so forth this morning, and saw something wonderful. The Lords of Harbendane had popped up to an Amazon ranking of about 46,000, which is nothing short of amazing. Many thanks to everyone who's ordered this book -- and also to everyone who's over on Legends. I'm actually enjoying the digital fantasy novel immensely --

Speaking of which, Chapter Seven concluded today ... and of course, I'm way ahead of you guys in the text, so I'm into the steamy stuff -- which you'll be getting into in about three days. It's also hugely gratifying that emails have been bouncing all over the world ... readers are landing on Legends from Istanbul, Baghdad (!), eastern Europe, China, Russia, many parts of Aus, NZ, the UK and US. Which is exactly what I'd hoped for.

Also, early comments on the book are very good. I'm hearing words like "lush, exotic, compelling, fascinating." Always nice to see such adjectives. It's also very nice indeed to be shipping copies, either physical or electronic. As a writer, to me it's all about earning the money to pay expenses so that I can write again next week!

And I know, as I say that, the market is tougher than its ever been, and a lot of writers are taking a kicking, which is more than likely undeserved. I've fielded numerous questions on this blog, but one which has been popping up at least once a week since Christmas is, "How do I sell copies on Amazon?"

That's one hell of a tough question. I could write ten thousand words and not answer it fully. The answer-in-a-thimble is courage, ingenuity and energy ... and I know that's not what folks wanted to hear. Writers who are struggling to get sales moving need, desperately, to hear that there's a "magic bullet," a kind of cookbook recipe. Do A, B and C, and you'll get sales.

I wish it were true, but it isn't. A while ago I read a post on a blog called Publishing Basics. Let me share a little of it with you, and give you the link to go over there and read the rest:

More people today than ever before are becoming authors. Unfortunately, most of them fail in their quest for success. According to a Jenkins Group survey, seventy percent of books published in this country do not make a profit. The Book Industry Study Group (BISG) backs this up. Their statistics show that in 2004, over seventy-six percent of all titles sold fewer than 100 copies. Why are so many authors failing?

  • Uninformed authors approach the publishing process all wrong.
  • Even excellent, worthy books go unnoticed when the author isn’t industry-savvy.
  • Inexperienced authors quit promoting their books when the going gets tough.

It used to be that authors wrote books and publishers produced, promoted and distributed them. After participating in a few book signings, the author was free to go back to his home office and write his next bestseller. In order to be a successful author today, however, you must have a significant understanding of the publishing industry and be willing to establish a sense of intimacy with your book. It’s imperative that you become involved in the promotion of your book and, in some cases, the production process.

Technology has fueled dramatic changes in the publishing industry—and the news isn’t all bad. Hopeful authors are faced with greater challenges today, it’s true; but there are also more options and opportunities.

According to self-publishing guru, Dan Poynter, in 1970, there were only about 3,000 publishing companies. Today, there are somewhere around 85,000—many of them small/independent publishers who have established companies through which to produce their own books. There are still a significant number of new traditional royalty publishers emerging, as well. So why is it so difficult to land a publishing contract? In a word, competition.

Some years ago, I heard it said that over eighty percent of the public believe they have a book in them. With expanded publishing options, more and more of these people are actually writing their books. And millions of them are currently seeking publishers. Is there room in this industry for all hopeful authors? Probably not. But, according to R. R. Bowker, a whopping 291, 920 new books were published in 2006. And it’s pretty easy to predict which of these books will succeed and which of them won’t.
http://www.publishingbasics.com/2007/08/22/publishing%e2%80%94the-raw-truth/

That was published back in August of 2007 ... long before the Bing Crunch of last October and November. Patricia Fry, who wrote the post, is a writing and publishing specialist, not a stock market guru. She couldn't have foreseen what was going to happen more than a year after her post ... but let's put it this way: things have not gotten any easier.

The line between the writer, editor, publisher and entrepreneur is blurry even now, and has been getting blurrier in the last six months. The next couple of years will change so many things. There is also a kind of wildcard factor to think about, which I'm sure publishers have missed.

It's on the news frequently: people are increasingly illiterate. Even those who can read and write well enough to chat on Facebook and what have you, are not exactly what would have been deemed literate way back when. The fact is, a really badly written book is only obviously a stinker when it's read by someone who is literate. When it's read by someone who's skating around the fringes of sheer illiteracy -- or by someone who's reading English as a second or third language -- the shortcomings of the work are utterly transparent. All that comes through is the story (which is either interesting or boring) and the characters (who are either endearing or annoying), and the conclusion ... which either delivered the goods or left the reader saying, "Well, poop. After 350pp, I wanted something better, or different, than this load of twaddle.")

Now, I'm not using this as an excuse for the number of really horrible books that are published, POD, via Lulu and CreateSpace and so forth, every hour of every day.

What I'm saying is this: publishers -- whether New York or DIY -- shoot for the mass market. The big-time publishers have their market pegged: extremely literate people who demand high standards in their reading. But the mass of the public is increasingly illiterate; the readers who demand high standards, and have $40 to spend on a hardcover, are an ever-shrinking group, while the millions of readers who wouldn't know good grammar if it jumped up and bit them ... well, these people have pockets full of smartphones. And a lot of smartphones take SD cards. You can read stories on smartphones, kill time on the bus, train, plane, whatever.

Here's the bottom line: For every highly literate lady or gent with a credit card, standing in line for the hardcover of the New York Times bestseller, there could be a thousand, or ten thousand, semi-literate readers with smartphones, willing to pay $2, or $1, for an entertaining little read to pass the time on the commute.

Short version: there is an incredible fortune out there, reapable in the next few years ... and I have the sneakiest feeling that the writer's literary merit will be just about the last quality looked for by the mass of "common" readers who are, by the millions, daily, paying tiny fees for quick, cute reads.

Adult literacy is an increasingly lost cause, at the same time as the technology is racing to put video phones on our wrists, video wallpaper in our living rooms, and the electronic equivalent of the old "penny dreadful" in our laps, to while away that train ride, after we've all put the car up on blocks in a concerted effort to save the planet from our carbon emissions.



I have a feeling the age of the penny dreadful is returning. Rapidly. But they'll more than likely cost you $2.

Cheers,
MK

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

They love you, Philip Morris ... they just won't distribute you!

Some things never change, do they? Like the apparent belief that the US public isn't ready for a gay movie in the mainstream, even if it does star names like Ewan McGregor and Jim Carrey.

A news story landed on my desk yesterday -- mind you, it dates from the end of January, so it's a couple of weeks old already and one sincerely hopes that it's OBSOLETE by now!

The gist of the story was that I Love You Philip Morris hasn't secured a distributor for the continental US after Sundance. Which is just about enough to make you haul off and scream. Nostrakeeganus, he predicting that Philip Morris will do very nicely in Europe, including the UK, and maybe in Japan; but in the States, Canada, Australia...? Forget it. It'll be lucky to play the art houses here -- though it will probably do phenomenal business on DVD.



Well ... shoot. Makes you wonder if we're making any progress at all, what with this happening to Philip Morris, and the brewhaha over Internet filtering in this country, and the Prop 8 fiasco. *sigh* I have to admit, I was hoping (and actually believing) that Ewan McGregor and Jim Carrey could beat the system.

Back home in the Mel-o-Sphere, things are happening, albeit slowly. We're working up to the Kindle issues, and I'd like to do a press release: Keegan on your Phone. Look out for this in the next couple of weeks. Also, Legends is steaming along -- Chapter Seven is up today. And I'm delighted to report that the Digital Kosmos photoblog is doing fine, winning Google searches from every corner of the globe. There are times when the traffic on DK is double the number that touches down on this here blog --

Which leads me to the conclusion ... it's time to effectively shut this blog down and start another ... Google never did address the question of my page ranking. It's still utterly impossible for me to win a Google search in the USA, where 90% of anyone's visitors come from. I can win them in Nepal, and Cameroon, and Lithuania, but not in Los Angeles or New York or Chicago. I have almost 300 posts online at this time, of which about 20 are being accessed with any regularity. The rest are buried, and have been buried for about three months. Gak.

So: MK is about to concede! TKO to The Big G. Now, let's bounce back and see if we can get this show back up on its wheels and rolling, by floating a new blog, deleting this one from the Google index, and importing existing posts to the new template, where they will be spidered and indexed and ... visited. Which was the whole point of writing them.

Anyway -- that's the plan. You know me by now: I get there in the end, but things can (and do) tend to move sloooowly, or at least less quickly than I'd have liked.

Here's a nice piece of news, though: The Lords of Harbendane is selling well enough at Amazon for its rankings to be in the hundred-thousands already, and it's only been on sale about ten days. The actual Amazon rank is 191,965 -- in ten days, before the advertising has started!

The important thing there isn't the number, it's the time frame. All books start out with a page ranking over 2,000,000, and you climb if you can, and as you can, from there. The advertising is about to begin for The Lords of Harbendane, and you bet, I shall be watching the Amazon ranking.

More good news for folks who're looking at Create Space as a possible gateway to Amazon: they've redesigned their page -- it loads a hell of a lot faster. Also, they've tightened up their javascript, and the shopping cart is FIXED. It works, and it works fast ... so we're starting the NARC books on the long, hard road to Amazon. They'll be there in April or so.

I'll leave you with a couple of links:

Chapter Seven: The Prophecy is up at Legends,
and
Home Sweet Home was my post to Digital Kosmos today.

Ciao for now,
Mel

Monday, February 16, 2009

Gay movies, the Oscars, and ... who's on top?!

Flotsam and jetsam today ... the Mel-o-Sphere is a flat calm, which means a lot of work gets done but not much interesting crosses my desk!

One interesting item I've been looking at is the question of whether Milk can hope to get anywhere near the Oscar it richly deserves. It's not for me to say, of course ... I'm not a member of the AFI, and I'm in the wrong country to boot! But this is well worth a read:

Hollywood slowly opening door to gay drama:
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5h28VyE4y3OGVlxqM4SOlQ2DIrjCA

It would have been very nice indeed if Brokeback Mountain had won the Oscar ... but we all asked, at the time, if Hollywood was ready. And the fact is, it wasn't.

Not that Hollywood hasn't been pushed and shoved by the GLBTI community to get real, get a grip on the world at large and drop some of the prejudice: The Maltese Falcon dates from 1941! You might like to read this:

Hollywood's gay forays: http://theenvelope.latimes.com/entertainment/la-ca-gaybodies15-2009feb15,0,1244145.story#

There have been loads of gay movies. But how many of them have been great movies, as well as being gay? How many have been of the quality to get into the running for an Oscar?

From the perspective of a writer, I can tell you that the honor of even getting into the running is pretty darned high. Brokeback Mountain and Milk are a couple of ground breakers -- even if Milk gets beaten as Brokeback did. Hey, there's always next year ... and the inspiration for indie film makers to just keep on getting better, making better movies.

One day, one of these -- a gay indie -- will come out, uh, on top. And Keegan will be the first one to stand up and applaud!

Cheers,
MK

The future looks squeezy

Got something for you here ... as one science fiction writer to another reader. I talk muchly about the cars of the future, but somehow, I don't think the real future is going to turn out looking like NARC and Hellgate after all! Check this out:

The Future of Parking:



Now, I can just see Jarrat and Stone feeding themselves into and out of this ... I can really see Cronin and Ramos screeching across town in one of these ... not.

Oh, boy. Does the future really have to look like this?!

As a matter of fact, I blogged about this before Christmas. Remember this: The shape, color and texture of things to come ... in which we looked at the cars, clothes and cities you are I are very likely to be subjected to, should the genetic "tweaks" come along by 2050, which will allow us to live to 2150. The meaning of "kewl" appears to be changing. I don't know if it's for the better!

More later in the day. Just wanted to pass this along.

Ciao for now,
MK

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Big possibilities! Inspiration, anyone?

I had an interesting email this morning. "MK," he said, "do you know where you're going with the Legends novel, or are you doing this on the fly?"

It's not a bad question, but it does prompt me to wonder how much of the page people are reading! Because if you scroll down, the pedigree is Legends is given near the foot of the page, before the Research Tales.

On the speculation that many people haven't looked that far, let me quote the text here:

This story has its roots in the 1980s. About the time I signed with GMP, I was kicking around the idea for a massive novel -- the problem being, I had no time to develop it. At the time, one of my "literary friends" was Lane Ingram, who passed away some years ago. When Lane volunteered to develop the narrative from my storyline, I was surprised and very agreeable; and a version of it was circulated on a small scale, to a very appreciative audience!

Lane had no aspirations to be a professional novelist, which meant writing was fun, and remained fun, while I did battle with "style" and "technique." And then one day Lane was gone, without leaving much of anything to mark the place in the world which had once bee occupied by an individual who was large in every sense of the word.

Let's change that. I'm bringing LEGENDS "to the screen" in a form which preserves as much of Lane's input as I possibly can, while at the same time properly developing it, bringing it up to full professional standard ... cutting and trimming, correcting the errant, though enthusiastic, amateur ... polishing it to the professional sparkle you've come to expect from Mel Keegan.

LEGENDS will be Lane's memorial. Here's to you, kiddo, wherever you are: enjoy.

Lane Ingram passed away before GMP was sopped by by Prowler Press which was, in its turn, soaked in by Millivres and ... scrapped. Until the end, Lane hoped we could "do something" with this novel to get it into print.

I knew better, but I wasn't going to say so! Even the version which was developed all those years ago was way too big to be handled by any existing gay publisher. It was also way too steamy to be given an airing in that form. And, though I wasn't about to say it to Lane, it also needed a great deal of work done on it, to pull it up to the professional level.

The concept, story, characters, mythos, geography, research -- the bones of the piece were, and are, mine. Lane took them and put flesh on them, but the writing style was (and this is no mark against Lane!!) typical of the writer who has no professional aspirations. Lane was a focused on the "now" of the plot -- what was happening absolutely in the moment -- and on the characters. The original work is almost shorthand, brief to the point of sometimes falling back on the "sketch" from which it was constructed.

What am I doing with Legends, to bring it up to pro standard? Am I editing Lane?

It's more like trying to salvage the original spirit of the developmental work, and here and there hunting out a turn of phrase which was choice ... and building the novel up afresh from my old sketch -- which I still have! -- and the initial development of the piece.

To give you an idea of the process: currently I have about 25,000 words "on paper." There's something like 40% of this text online right now. Lane managed to pack the same material into about 5,000 words!

How in the world was that achieved?! Well, by dropping the backstory of two kingdoms, and omitting almost all of the descriptive passages which tell you what places and things look and sound like.

Why in the world was this done? Simple, guys. Lane had one real objective -- and I'm not going to knock it! The whole mission was to get Soran and Faunos together as fast as possible, and commence the steamy scenes ... and the steamier, the better!

Like I said, I ain't going to knock it! But when you haul a story out into the pro arena, and you don't want to be categorized as, published as, and shelved with, "erotica" ... you have to be careful what you say and how you say it. And how often you say it. And how soon you say it!

Don't get me wrong: there is NOTHING wrong with erotica. I've written tomes of it. Volumes. We all have. Some of us even have the guts to come out and admit it.

But as Legends continues, grows and matures, you'll soon begin to see the incredible depth, scope and potential of the work. There is so much in it that will be dismissed, if I don't trim it here and there, prune back the red-hot pages, and also properly develop the work.

Which leads inevitably to another extremely good question...

What's to become of all the sizzling scenes?! O...kay. Let me open the floor to questions here.

There's a couple of choices, and I don't at all mind inviting readers to decide how it goes. God knows, you guys are the ones I'm relying on to keep my bills paid, while I devote several hours per day to plowing through a gay fantasy novel that's more immense than you realise at this point!

I can prune the lot, cut it all back to MA15+ (ie., suitable for upload to an "open" blog) and call it good. I do intend to "hide" the more steamy scenes behind a little swatch of code that gives the first couple of paragraphs in, then warns that the rest of the post is a sizzler, and invites the reader to continue -- or not, if they prefer not to for whatever reason. Like, maybe the boss just stuck his head inro the office, and he has the nasty habit of standing at the water cooler behind your terminal, with his distance glasses perched on the end of his nose?!

The second thing I can do is to preserve Lane's original, sizzling scenes and package them as TXT files, add-ons, which you can download via a link on the MA15+ edited page that says, "Nice, but show me the sizzler!"

The third thing I can do is make the red-hot-chili-pepper version of the whole '"book" available as an ebook at the end of each segment --

Which reminds me to mention that Legends falls neatly into five parts, "Book One, "Book Two," and what have you -- but it is NOT a series. It's one novel. It's just one bloody great big novel.

So: let me know, guys. What's your fancy?!

For the moment, you might like to know that The Lords of Harbendane is enjoying very nice sales at Amazon and Payloads. I'm extremely gratified there. And Legends has made an excellent start, with a "core readership" of something like 125, after having been online for only about four days! Again, I'm very gratified. There's a lot more work to be done, but we're getting there.

For now, I want to "cheers" to Lane Ingram, who is probably laughing fit to break several ribs, in some dimension slightly "out of phase" with this one. All credit to you, kid: you did a good job, way back when, and the novel is polishing up a treat.

On that note, I'll leave you with a couple of links, as usual:

Chapter Six has commenced at Legends...
and
Relics of the hunt is my post at Digital Kosmos.

Ciao for now,
MK

Saturday, February 14, 2009

POD Publishing: why do it? And ... why not?

Writing has been likened to bashing your head against a wall -- with one exception: it's not so great when you stop. I guess this is because writing is in your blood, something you do because it's ... what you do; and the fact is, you'll do it whether anyone is reading what you write, or paying you, or not! Writing is a vocation, like religion, medicine, the law.

Publishing is a different can o' worms (or kettle of fish, if you prefer). Publishing is like jabbing yourself in the foot with a sharp stick. In terms of the pain and anguish you're inflicting upon your anatomy, it's about the same ... but it can actually do you more physical damage! Let's face it, if you give your head a good enough bash on the wall the first time out, you're going to knock yourself right out -- and I ought to know! I did this last week! (See also Gay novelist, battered and fried.) Technically, you could jab yourself with a sharp stick enough times to do a whole lot more damage --

Which is where the publishing analogy becomes utterly perfect. Publishers are gluttons for punishment, especially the self-marketing variety. They could stop anytime. But, do they? No. We go on, bashing our heads (and jabbing our feet) when we know that every single day we're going to be up against unutterable rubbish like this:

Six reasons that self-publishing is the scourge of the book world.

...and I cannot tell you the degree to which this article is wrong in its sweeping statements. The blood boils. Consider this:

1. No one vetts self-published books, allowing even the most puerile piles of crap to adopt the guise of polished, professional prose.

Point one: Mr. Tom Barlow, you must stop generalizing on this first line. All self-published works are not the same, and some are vetted to destruction point. Some will be proofread many more times, by more pairs of eyeballs, than could plausibly be assigned to them by "small" publishing houses who can't afford a large enough editorial staff to do a proper job. (Point two: drop the alliteration. It makes you sound like an over-inflated idiot.)

2. Self-publishing kills the drive for writers to improve their craft. The artificial, undeserved success they will achieve will trap them in mediocrity.

This is such utter piffle, I was speechless for a moment. Mr. Barlow, who told you this? You were sold a priceless line of BS. The drive to improve one's craft is born in a writer, and continues to flow in his or her veins irrespective of whether they're published (slim chance) or not.

Editors do little to inspire writers to improve, because the process of editing any but the bestselling author is so robotized, so impersonal. You mail your manuscript in; a year later you get the galleys back, and a few days to read through them. You have no real idea of what was done to the work, or why, you just check it for errors and mail it back as fast as humanly possible.

And what gremlin whispered into Tom Barlow's naive ear, that a self-publishing author of a "puerile pile of crap" is going to achieve any kind of success whatsoever? Does he think books sell themselves? Does he honestly believe readers will buy a book without having read at least 10% of it as a free download, seen the cover at full-size, and read numerous reviews, either online or in the print media?

Any copes sold, anywhere, any time, are the result of massive amounts of hard marketing work by the author, and before it could start, said author had to have a real, solid work to go out there and sell. The rubbish he's describing exists -- by the wagonload -- on Amazon, on Lulu, and "wherever books are sold." The point he's missing is this: "puerile piles of crap" DO NOT SELL COPIES. Their authors do not enjoy success, artificial or otherwise, and what traps them in mediocrity is their own -- mediocrity.

3. Self-publishing demeans the accomplishments of successful authors.

Wrong, Mr. Barlow, on so many levels, I barely know where to begin to take this to pieces. I was a highly successful niche author with a swag of fully professional credits. I was a very successful author with a swag of credits to my name -- until my publisher disappeared in a triple business merger which made the paperback list vanish into the mist. I was stranded without a publisher, and was far from alone in having a full-professional backlist, and a suitcase of current works which are better-edited and better-prepared than they have ever been -- and not a damned thing to do with them, unless they are issued POD. Several other writers were caught in the same business deal, and ten years on, we're all still picking ourselves up, driving forward, and making something positive of ourselves, our skills, and our intellectual properties.

What constitutes a "successful writer" in your canon, Mr. Barlow? A bestseller? They represent the top few percent of the writing community, and the rest of us look with skepticism upon them, sharing the serious suspicion that bestsellers are manufactured by hype and advertising. Some such books are "puerile piles of crap," while gems of literature are found languishing on the dung heaps of remainder tables.

If bestselling authors choose to poise on their soapboxes and view the rest of us with the lofty disdain Mr. Barlow intimates, when he states as a fact that the small victories we enjoy as the result of backbreaking hard work "demean the accomplishments" of million-copy sellers, then I have only one desire: to see a flock of pigeons fly over and, mistaking the figure on the soapbox for a statue, do their pigeon thing before they continue on their way.

There's more -- Barlow's driveling feature article goes on for some time -- but I'm done commenting, with one exception:

He can't count, either. His ridiculous piece is called Six reasons that self-publishing is the scourge of the book world. However, he rounds up on FIVE reasons, after having missed #3 completely and numbering his list 1,2,4,5,6.

With such great attention to detail, he should be an editor.

Okay --

Rant over for today.

But sometimes, really, somebody has to say something, or this kind of nonsense will take on the aspect of rational, reasonable journalism. Perish the thought.

I'll leave you with a couple of links here:

The Valentine's Day segment of LEGENDS is up;
and,
As through a glass... is my post to Digital Kosmos today.

Happy Valentines to all Aussies and Kiwis!

Cheers,
Mel

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday 13th in the Event Free Zone

Friday 13th. Really. We're a day ahead, on this side of the dateline, but if you check the calendar you'll see that, sure enough -- February has a Friday 13th in it. (It also has two R's, a fact which is overlooked by a great many people: Feb-you-airy. Cute.)

Well ... it's a flat-calm day in which the most riveting thing in the Mel-o-Sphere is the research work going on behind the scenes, setting us up for MK's debut on Kindle (which is, of course, Amazon's proprietorial ebook technology).


Now, Kindle is an interesting beast, for writers in CNA countries (Countries Not America), because the gadget only works in the continental USA. It doesn't even work in Alaska and Hawaii, as far as I know, because the wireless network which underpins it is only available in the continental USA.

So, for writers like myself, Kindle is something of a "pig in a poke" ... I've never seen one, nor held one; am unlikely to ever own one, because they don't work down here; yet from pigs -- in or out of pokes! -- come pork chops, bacon, triple-smoked ham, VOM pies, burgers, kabanas, sausages, burritos and chimichangas, polynesian pork and pineapple, and ... on on.

I'd be nuts to not take the Kindle option, just because the device won't work here, because 90% of my readers have always been in the States. So we're looking at the "how" of it (how you get books there as ebooks), and we'll be announcing in the next week or two that Keegan on Kindle is happening.

This is how it seems to work: we convert the basic documents to HTML (via something like Front Page?? This, I'll leave to Jade, and she's welcome to it) and upload them to Amazon. On the other end, they're then converted to the proprietorial file format (is it AMW?) which can only be read on registered Kindle machines. Then Amazon lists the books at $9.95, of which MK will get something like US$3.42, part of which will be kicked back to DreamCraft for their work, part of which will be invested in (more) advertising.

So if you're a Kindle user, look for Mel Keegan in the Amazon listings there very soon.

Little else is happening, so I'll pass you across to today's other posts:

The Legends installment for Friday 13th, concluding Chapter Five
and
Immersed in Shades of Blue, on Ditigal Kosmos

Cheers,
MK