"I cannot live without books: but fewer will suffice where amusement, and not use, is the only future object." -- Thomas Jefferson

Monday, May 26, 2014

Balticon 2014: Why is Romance 53% of the Market?

Panelists: Reesa Herberth, L. Jagi Lamplighter, P.J. Schnyder, Stephanie Burke

The short answer to the panel's question is: Romance readers buy 2-3 dozen stories a month versus other genre readers who may buy 1-2 stories a year.

The modified short answer is: a romance story is about 'the relationship' and a romance story has a guaranteed outcome - a happy ending. Readers consume romance stories like a drug to experience the "high" of a happy ending. The 'romance' is the plot.

Long answer: The panel of romance writers write in various 'Romance' genres where the romance occurs in various settings like: sci-fi, western, mystery, fantasy, paranormal, suspense, and more.

Romance stories are also categorized by 'Heat Level.' Some romance stories have no 'sex', some have 'sweet, innocent, sensual contact', some have light to heavy sex, but if the sex is categorized outside of these labels it may be labeled erotica. All publishers have their own definitions of 'Heat Level' and readers learn to trust publishers' categorizations.

If the story contains a romance but the romance does not drive the plot, then it is not a romance.

The panelists advised writers to build up a backlog of romance stories set in various sub-genres or different settings to prepare for the ebb and flow of what is popular. Zombies, Magical stories, and Dystopias are beginning to lose their appeal. In a nutshell, the market for these types of stories is getting saturated. So, what will be the next popular sub-genre?

You are writing for a market of competing desires: the desires of the readers, the desires of the editors and the desires of writers which are always in a state of flux. Each group is seeking something familiar or something new.

Some Marketing Romance Tips:
  • Use social media.
  • Use teaser quotes in social, print and electronic media.
  • Use Google hangout for interviews or parties.
  • Use taglines to help the reader determine if it will fit their needs. For example, highlight unusual aspects that may make the romance unique.
Author, Stephanie Burke made an interesting observation -- movie producers and publishers often look at the 'stories' being used in popular video games for inspiration for new stories.

Burke also noted, if you can be a diversified writer and have a strong voice, publishers may advise you of upcoming markets.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Balticon 2014: Steps to Successful Self-Publishing

Panel members: Alessia Brio, Lauren Harris, Brand Gambin, Brian Rathbone

Quick breakdown of steps:
  • Write a good novel.
  • Share it with Beta Readers.
  • Get the final draft edited.
  • Get good cover art.
  • Select publishing method -- ebook, audiobook, print-on-demand
  • Be prepared to pay for some services.
  • Market your novel.
  • Start work on your next novel.
Write a good novel
Some panelists said just write your story ideas down first without regard to grammar. Others said they take care as they write.

Share it with Beta Readers/Get the final draft edited/Get good cover art
Network, go to writing forums or other social media to find possible beta readers, editors and book cover artists. Once you have selected a cover, have the artist create it in various versions for the web, for ebook publishing and print.

Try to get your cover art in vector graphics because it is easier to resize.

One author gets a painter to create his covers. He uses the image for various forms of publication and then frames the painting to hang on his wall.

Select your publishing method
Will need to get over the learning curve regarding formatting your book for publication. Read the specs for the publishing outlet you select. One caution, graphics can make it hard to format your novel for ebook publication due to software limitations. Plus, graphics can increase the file size of your novel and therefore increase your costs for distribution.

Many authors also published audiobooks of their novels not only for promotional use but as another revenue stream.

Be repared to pay for some services/Market your novel.
During the publishing process, you may need to seek professional services like editing, cover art, audiobook recordings or production of book trailers. Again, balance your expenses with potential revenues and your time investment. Watch your pennies.

Know your audience, find your audience. Create a mailing list. Engage with your readers. Have a website. Go to where your audience goes like science fiction, romance or western conventions but again, balance your marketing time with your writing time -- you are a writer.

Write your next novel
While you market your previous novels.

Balticon 2014: Quick Notes on Q&A with Dr. Vinton Cerf re: Google and the Internet

Dr. Vinton Cerf gave an overview of what the future holds for the internet and Google.

I have listed some comments below:

Look at the future of O3B Satellites.

Google had the idea to use balloons to over wifi service globally.

Telecomm industry uses the scarcity business model and makes inflated claims about negative effects of net neutrality. Hidden behind the Telecomm industry's words is an "anti-competitive behavior."

Google wants the internet to remain a place where innovation can occur. If the Telecomm industry charges for adequate bandwidth for users to function, it will stifle creativity.

Is the internet a public utility or a common carrier?

Cerf suggests that we need specific internet legislation introduced by Congress to clarify this question. The FCC can interpret existing legislation but can not legislate.

After the NASA revelations, Google now encrypts its traffic.

While Google does accumulate search words and gmail text, they do not share this data with others.

Google has not had a major data breach like many other companies.

Google continues to innovate.

Not being a technical person, I can not adequately restate many of the comments made..

Balticon 2014: Promoting Your Book(s)

Was late for this panel, so I missed the introductions.

Came in at "post-it notes" are great promotional items.

The talk was focused on buying supplies of novelty items printed with your name, logo, book title and website. Some authors like magnets, buttons,souvenir cups. Others liked ink pens that also functioned as stylus but they were pricey.

All the panel members agreed. If you are self-published author or even a traditionally published author, "You Are A Business." So, you have to think like a business person and learn to make good business decisions. For example, it is important to get out and met your fans or potential fans, so many go to conventions but which one will work for you? Given that time is finite, you have to be selective about how you balance your marketing time with your writing time. Because first and foremost you are a writer.

Some of the panel members liked podcasting. They all recommend a well-designed website and a blog. But, you do not necessarily have to blog everyday; once a month works fine.

Other panel members have created TV commercials, movie-production quality book trailers and video blogs. Again, time and money spent needs to be considered in regards to potential return on investment.

Much of the discussion focused on book trailers. The emphasis was on the complexity of creating a book trailer. While it may take a day to shoot, it could take weeks in post production to perfect the final product.

Others suggested sending your work to professionals to get a book trailer made. Some suggested just making a video blog post and sending it along with your book to reviewers because reviewers like videos.

One panelist held a Facebook Party and it exceeded all his expectations and included lots of surprises like other authors who wanted to be guests at the party. Another panelist suggested a Twitter Party where you use hashtags and track them. But, above all else, interact with your audience or potential audiences.

Some cautions about using social media: If you tweet, don't just tweet about your book, interact with others; and watch what you tweet because you can't take it back once you hit the send button.

A final suggestion was try to get your work included in anthologies either in print, or ebooks or in audiobooks.

What did not work for some panelists were: print ads, google ad words, or printed t-shirts.

Conclusion: "You can not be an introvert", if you have chosen to be an author.

Balticon 2014: Using Social Science in Speculative Fiction

Got up early for a panel discussion on the use of Social Science in Speculative Fiction.

T. Jackson King, an anthropologist (tjacksonking.weebly.com) and Barry Nove (barrynove.us), a social worker led the discussion.

I loved their ideas like:

  • Read the articles and research from the field of anthropology to get ideas for building "new" worlds based on existing but little known cultures like various sects of Tamil's Hindu communities and learn how they perceive the world and some of their rituals.

  • Social work uses the scientific findings from all fields of research and in that research you can find alternative perspectives on everyday life.

By reading the works from these fields you can get ideas that add depth and dimension to your characters.

Barry Nove said as a social worker you interact with a wide diversity of people from different religions and ethnic groups and they vary in their social behavior. For example, strict Jews do not allow women to be in a room alone with a man, so the door must be kept open. So, when conducting an interview with a woman from a strict Jewish faith, she may get up and open the door without explanation or apparent reason.

Some religions would be offended if you offered to shake a woman's hand. Some ethnic groups have food taboos.

But, Nove also said that in life and in writing, "Conflict is essential." He said it may not always be wise to "rescue" someone because the outcome could produce worse results than intended. Each person has a good side and a bad side. Conflict and destruction may produce new, evolutionary outcomes.

What we perceive as normal today may not have been "normal" in the past nor in the future.

Nove, also a genealogist, suggested researching family histories, not just yours but those of others for ideas.

As an idea for other characters, Nove suggested that you include hidden minorities.

Nove and King agree that diversity among characters will attract a wider readership. Include people with disabilities, various ethnic characters, etc. Or to turn this idea around, write your novel for specific audiences like the LBGT community, for example.

King suggested get out of your comfort zone, travel and talk to people from other cultures.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Balticon 2014: A Conversation with Author Michael D. Ambrosio

At Balticon 2014, in the Dealers Room, I met author, Michael D. Ambrosio and he had stories to tell (glowball9961@yahoo.com) and (www.fracturedtime.com).

After we had talked for awhile, I asked him what made him write his first novel, Fractured Time. He said that while he was stationed in Iraq, he lamented the lack of Science Fiction reading materials. A friend suggested, he write a novel to fill the void. So, he did.

Once Ambrosio started writing, he continued adding novels to his various series, Fractured Time Triology and Space Frontiers as well as other novels. Along the way, he got an education in publishing and much more.

What is impressive about Ambrosio's career is all the opportunities he has seized or created for himself by just following an idea.

Because he attends several Science Fiction conventions a year, he contacts local radio stations and has been a guest on various shows and podcasts to talk about his novels and science fiction. He is also a screenwriter and has created screenplays for movies and TV shows based on his novels. Agents have expressed interest in several of his novels but one thing or another stymied those efforts illustrating the haphazard nature of the movie industry.

Also, Ambrosio likes to use small publishers. He publishes with several small publishers hoping that each publisher will market his novels to different niche markets and more.

He has made his own commercials and wrote a screenplay at the request of an actress he met at a convention.

He learned public speaking on the fly while serving as a member on several panels.

As our conversation ended, I told him, "You have another book to write...your adventures in publishing."

Balticon 2014: Pricing eBooks and Why Free is not Always Better

Saturday, 5/24/14

Having a complimentary breakfast at Embassy Suites, the overflow hotel, before I catch a shuttle to Hunt Valley for "Pricing eBooks..." program.

Hope to catch:

The Heinlein Awards for Geoffrey Landis.
Author Branding Across Platforms and Media
The Art Show and the Dealers Room

The Dealers Room is where vendors are setup at tables to sell their wares, featuring anything from games, to comics, to used and new books, costumes, jewelry and much more.

Pricing eBooks....

A four member panel with moderator began the discussion. Sue Bayman is a poet and first time novelist. Kelly Harmon has written several books. Michael R. Underwood works for AngryRobots.com and is a published author and Collin Earl and Chris ? are both authors and run Silverstone Books.

The basic answer to the question "Is offering your ebook for free, a good idea?", is no with exceptions. As the ebook market matures, offering free books to gain an audience is not always the best route for an author.

A series of books seems to be the best route for authors to make money and earn a reputation in the publishing business. So, if you write a series, maybe offering the first in the series for free is a good idea to attract a readership.

Or, if you are a novelist who is offering a standalone ebook, offering it for free for a short period of time as a promotion may be a good idea.

One drawback to offering your novel for free is that people who may not like your genre may download it for free and then provide a poor review.

With ebooks, publishers and self-publishers can offer a novel at different prices over time.

But, if you are self-published you are the marketeer as well. Consider pricing your novel based on size, production time, entertainment value and market comparables.

The most important thing to remember is you are in this for the long haul. Your novel may not sell well immediately but keep writing and producing novels. Keep networking and looking for marketing opportunities. For example:

Send your novel to netgalley for review.
Build a mailing list for those who may want review copies.
Build up awareness prior to the release of your novel.


Tech issues have plagued this trip. Can not recharge my minipad, so can not blog on-site; have limited use of hotel computer and more.


On to the Art Show--

I appreciate talent. While I am not creative, I recognize artists who have the "creative eye", the ability make something "new", in a new format, a new perspective and more. The piece evokes a mood.

In the art show, there are jewelry displays featuring necklaces, earrings, bracelets, pins, and rings. Some were along the costume jewelry line, others were very artistic using beaded materials, metals like copper, stone, and found pieces in elaborate or simple designs.

There were Barbie dolls in fairy costumes, wire sculptures, and painted gourds as holiday ornaments as well as paintings in oil, watercolor, and more.

The paintings features images from nature and lots of fantasy figures and scenes. There were portraits and nudes, dragons and cats, and scenes from an artist's favorite story.

On the the Dealers Room --

Here you find lots of jewelry, leather and clothes designers as well as authors with their inventory of books and used book sellers. The best thing was the books for me. Being able to hold a book and flip through the pages is an irreplaceable feeling. Ebooks just don't do it for me.

But, in the used book stalls you will find the older authors like Frank Herbert, Frederick Pohl, Douglas Adams, William Gibson, Roger Zelazny, Jack L. Chalker, Jerry Pournelle, Harlan Ellison and more.

A Balticon Blog 2014

Friday 23, 2014

Late lunch in the Hunt Valley Grill with a Maryland Crab Cake sandwich and Malibu "something", a drink with rum and pink grapefruit drink. All very good.

I was hungry that is why the food came first.

At my first glance at the program, there is Guest of Honor, Brandon Sanderson, along with many Goh's like Ghost of Honor, Robert Jordan, a well-known Sci-fi writer who passed away in 2007. I was surprised by the Artist Guest of Honor, Halo Jankowski, he specializes in Tattoo art.

Ok, what is Balticon, it is the Baltimore Science Fiction Society's annual convention where science fiction fans and others come to appreciate all aspects of science fiction from writing and publishing, to artwork and costume construction, to movies and movie making, to songs and so much more.

Oh, just the highlights that caught my eye and my tastes. They are playing the Wizard of Oz and old Bewitched TV shows as well as Iron Man, Frozen, Gravity, Soylent Green, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and much more.

A lot of new writers are displaying their published books like Grig Larson's Trolley and Space B!tch, and Jhada R. Addams's Devil's Gambit.

Part of the registration package included a huge paperback by GOH Brandon Sanderson's The Way of  Kings.

I like science fiction but I come from the days of Issac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Ursula Le Guin, Spider Robinson, Orson Scott Card, Ray Bradbury, and so many more. I do not recognize a single name here but I hope to get introduced to some new great writers.

Tech issue, the minute I landed at BWI, I have had innumerable tech issues, now in the hotel grill, on the hotel internet, I am getting warning messages "can not save." But, after each message, if I try at least three time, it finally saves. Later, the connection kept dropping. So frustrating.

Just now reviewing the program events and there are many programs I am interested in and many I probably won't make because you just can't do it all.

Sampling of programs....

A Virtual Tour of the Universe
Space Weapons
42 Reasons Why You Should Write for Young Adults

More to come.