There are a lot of similarities between the marketing of an eBook, and the marketing of an audiobook, particularly if that audiobook is done as a digital download. There are also huge differences. Nearly everyone reads. They might not do it by choice, but you just can’t get through life without it. Listening to audiobooks is an acquired taste – an experience many have blockages against – prejudices preventing them from giving it a fair chance. I wrote recently about not making smaller boxes out of those you already have for marketing. Audiobooks are already constrained by their own box. There are fewer listeners than readers, though the audience is growing slowly.
There are fewer large, commercial review outlets for audio. The old-school audiobook community is a very literary community. While there are big markets for genre audio, the real attention goes to celebrity and award-winning narrators, NYC commercial authors, and publishers with deep pockets. Advertising, banquets, even a simple nomination for an award that is supposed to be for the best in the field – cost a lot of money. It’s an infrastructure built through the old publishing industry, where audio was expensive, very few titles were commercial enough to make it through the studio, and for those that were deeply involved, there was money enough to sustain all of the above. There still is – at the top – but the business is expanding, and if those of us doing audio at a lower financial level are going to compete, we’re going to have to have a bigger boat, and we’ll have to build it ourselves. Anyone know how to measure in cubits?
There is good news. New review sites have cropped up. There is a site – The Audiobook Jukebox – that aggregates reviews from other sites, and from blogs, and they index them for easy access. ACX – the program that has made audio possible for so many that it was not possible for before – has made the acquisition of review copies easy, and they actively encourage promotion through social media, blogging, networking, and other means, and they are knowledgeable, incredibly helpful folks.
That said, don’t put down your tools. We still need that boat and it has to be one big mother ICEBREAKER of a boat. We have serious walls to break down, and it isn’t going to happen overnight. I’m going to start with just a couple of points and see if we can work up some discussion.
1) Unless you have Deep pockets, do not concentrate your efforts on the old-school marketing techniques for audio. It’s a tough sell, even if you get yourself involved, and it’s unlikely you will overcome the “editors choices” and sponsored titles unless you are independently wealthy.
2) Do not separate your audiobook marketing from your eBook and print book marketing. Amazon has a new program called whispersync. While there are still pricing issues with this, encourage people to pick up the audio AND the eBook when you can.
3) Don’t be in too much of a hurry. Study your book. Figure out who would sound best doing it. Research voice talent and cast the best possible voice. This is critical. As a publisher, I made a few bad mistakes early on, and those books have suffered. Don’t skimp on editing. Listen to your book if possible yourself, and if not, find someone else with the time to do it. Test your voice talent across the range of characters. When you offer a sample to be auditioned, try to include as much diversity in that sample as possible.
4) Include your audio – and if possible your narrator – in marketing material. Talk about the experience of the audiobook while you are marketing. interview the narrator if you get a chance. In other words, network.
The old world of audio treated narrators the same way tie-in and licensed novel markets treat authors. You do the work, they pat you on the back, and you move on to the next project. The new paradigm calls for teamwork; it’s now possible for authors and narrators to share the risk, and the possible success, of a project. For that to happen, you also have to share the marketing…it’s likely that if they are not a major voice talent, the narrator will have a smaller fan base – but listen up. THEIR fan base all listens to audiobooks. The odds are only a small percentage of an author’s fan base does the same. Work together. Be creative. Try to do interviews, and always – ALWAYS include the synopsis, the audio sample, and (broken record again) one-click-to-buy link.
I open this to the floor but here is what I’m looking for. What are good ways to get more people to listen to audiobooks? Where can we turn to market that is not being covered now? What is the key to building the new audiobook infrastructure – not trying to retool the small, stuffy box that surrounds audio now, but to build something big – new – part of the digital revolution? More to follow shortly, upcoming video marketing tactics from https://themarketingheaven.com/shop/youtube-likes/ will enlighten you on some contemporary means of advertising anything these days with the luxury of video.
Next post will be a report on how some eBook promotions we have tried, and are trying, stack up – and why. You will notice that I have included two one-click-to-buy linked images in this post. The first, Aliens in the Backyard, is currently our best-selling audio title at Crossroad Press. This title will is narrated by Kevin Pierce, and will also be featured in that next post, so stay tuned. Trish & Rob MacGregor have written a number of very cool books, fiction and non fiction, and run a blog where they talk about Synchronicity. The second book – INTERMUSINGS – is a collection of stories that I’ve written over the years in collaboration with others. My co-creators include Brian Hopkins, Patricia Lee Macomber, John B. Rosenman, Rich Rowand, Stephen Mark Rainey & Brett Alexander Savory. The narrator – Mr. John Lee – is a world class talent and one of my all-time favorite narrators. His rendering of the story in this collection “The Purloined Prose” is worth the price of the book.
These stories represent decades of collaboration between author David Niall Wilson and a wide array of talented authors. All have been professionally published – some have been reprinted and collected. All are the result of two muses meeting on paper. Meet a modern day Don Quixote, fighting Y2K bug nightmares, and striving to save the woman of his dreams. Learn how Edgar Allen Poe might have found his tales. Face off on a lonely mountaintop with Lovecraftian nightmares. Join a young man in a ghostly race to save a relative from cancer. Follow a cross-wired detective in his hunt for a lycanthropic killer bent on ending every serial killer she encounters. See what might happen when two minds fall into “balance”.
What if Dr. Watson was the client…and someone who was dead – was not quite there? Visit a science-fiction future where artists capture images in crystals. What if government control over sex and reproduction got out of control? Listen as a piano man drops back into the nightmares of his past. Finally – a sailor on his way home finds a place even farther away than he ever dreamed.
These are the tales of Intermusings – previously published as Joined at the Muse. This new audio edition includes an Introduction by David Niall Wilson on the art of collaboration, and a sneak preview of the first chapter of the collaborative novel Hallowed Ground by Steven Savile & David Niall Wilson.
- Introduction by David Niall Wilson
- “A Poem of Adrian, Gray” – with Brian A. Hopkins
- “The Purloined Prose” – with Patricia Lee Macomber
- “A Wreath of Clouds” – with Stephen Mark Rainey
- “Moon Like a Gambler’s Face” – with Ricard Rowand
- “La Belle Dame, Sans Merci” – with Brian A. Hopkins
- “La Belle Dame, Sans Regret” – with Brian A. Hopkins
- “Ribbons of Darkness Over Me” – with Brett A. Savory
- “Death Did Not Become Him” – with Patricia Lee Macomber
- “Within an Image, Dancing” – with John B. Rosenman
- “Virtue’s Mask” – with Brian A. Hopkins
- “Sing a Song of Sixth Sense” – with Patricia Lee Macomber
- “Deliver Us From Meeble” – with Brian Keene
ALIENS IN THE BACKYARD:
In the early morning hours of March 28, 2011, Charles and Helene Fontaine experienced something that shattered their beliefs about the nature of reality.
One evening in 1981, Connie J Cannon was on I-75 with her young son, en route to their new home in Florida, when they suddenly found themselves on a military base, with a man in uniform holding a gun to her head as three Grays stood nearby.
In 1979, Diane Fine was on her way from upstate New York to Vermont to see an obstetrics specialist for her high risk pregnancy, and experienced two hours of missing time. When she was finally examined at the clinic, she was told wasn’t pregnant.
In 1970, pilot Bruce Gernon was chased by something through the Bermuda Triangle and he has been talking about it ever since – to UFO Hunters, the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, the History Channel, the Sci-Fi channel, and all their foreign counterparts.
These individuals have never met. But they share something significant. In 2003, a Roper Organization survey revealed that 33 million Americans may be abductees. Aliens in the Backyard is their story.
Up front, again, this is me talking. I’ve been doing this a long time. I currently run a successful publishing house. I interface with, follow, and pay attention to hundreds of writers daily. It’s just what I think…
I don’t care what people tell you about Social Media Marketing. I don’d care if perky, smiling, very friendly online folks tell you they can get you X,000 of followers, friends, compatriots, groupies, etc…that you should do events, online blitzes, or any number of other things sure to turn you into the next Internet sensation. Most of that is crap. I’d go as far as about 95 percent. Marketing, like anything else, is work – and many times it’s hit and miss.
Yes, you should have a Facebook Page, particularly if you have time to use it (Not your personal profile, but an author’s page where you talk about your books, writing, and things you believe would interest fans).
No, you should not have a new page for every book, or probably even every series. You have a set number of people who see your marketing posts on Facebook. You have another group (probably with some cross-over) on your personal profile. Most of them won’t mind if you talk about your new book. Most of them will mind if you endlessly post links to it with no new content. If you take the “social” out of social media it’s nothing but an irritating spam-screen of dreck, and it will be duly ignored.
No you should not create an online “event” every time you launch a new book. The only people who will see your event launch notice are the same people who would see a thoughtful post on the new book with a link if you just put it on your author’s page. The more events you have, the smaller the box of folks who will agree to be irritated by it. Marketing is already hated in most cases. Fans seek out the new work on their own. Marketing is for people who are not yet fans, and pissing either group off is not the way to build your presence.
The key to successful Internet marketing has a couple of words associated with it. REACH and DRAW. The biggest key to marketing anything is to widen your reach. A thousand “likes” on your posts on Facebook aren’t half the use to you that 200 shares are. Those people sharing have different boxes that they play in, and if they share your posts, a lot of people who have never heard of you might see them. For this you need DRAW. You need interesting content- not too long – with the proper one-click-to-buy link in it. It needs to look interesting enough to stop a scrolling mouse. It needs to look worth the few seconds that clicking it entail, and once the person has clicked, it needs to very efficiently sell them your book.
To recap. Poke holes in your box and work from the inside out. Do not pummel your ‘friends’ with endless marketing posts. Do not make tiny boxes within your bigger box. The same is true on Twitter. Using some app that draws in smaller groups to talk is a good way to focus on a topic, but it’s not a good way to market…the only people likely to use that app and take the time already want your book. That is “maintaining” your box. If you want it to be bigger, you have to find ways to reach new faces – real faces. Those perky smiley helpful people will not do this for you. Mostly they will get you thousands of other hopeful authors looking at your posts wondering why you don’t buy their books – and a lot of fake people who never existed stroking your ego as your numbers skyrocket. Marketing – like writing – is work. There are no shortcuts.
And of course, a steady stream of new work. Write. ALWAYS have something new to talk about. Never sit back and spend hours selling the one book you already wrote. Keeping your name relevant, your work consistent in quality and output…these help build what – eventually – will be your fandom. If you need it by tomorrow, you are probably out of luck.
Let me preface this by saying I’m not a guru. I’m an author with around 30 years experience in and around publishing. I own one of the fastest growing and closest-to-the-cutting-edge publishing houses going. I pay attention, and I have thoughts. I can back my thoughts up with observation, experience, and common sense…but take all that with a grain of salt. What worked yesterday might not today, what works today could shift tomorrow with the release of some new tool…
1. Visibility is the key. By this I do not mean visibility to other authors, to your circle of friends, but visibility to people who have never heard of you and who are actual potential buyers for books. The key to building a readership and expanding it into crazy numbers is finding your way out of all the little ponds that try to entice you in to “share and market” and cutting to the surface of the bigger pond. If your book can be made visible to a very large number of prospective buyers, sales will rise.
2. Marketing services that do not provide hard numbers on what their service has done in the past for actual sales of books are shaky at best, and likely to be avoided. If you are offered marketing that promises more “friends” – “followers” – stat-counter hits on your website, etc., but no evidence of sales, move on. It is now an industry unto itself, this building of inconsequential numbers – half of whom don’t even represent real people, and the other half of whom are others trying to get the same group to buy their book. Invest your time and money wisely when marketing.
3. One-click-to-buy. (You will see clever examples at the top and bottom of this post) This is crucial in today’s market, and particularly for eBooks. There are millions of eBooks out there, many by talented, successful, famous people. You have to win your sales from the same pool of buyers as all the rest. If your book appears anywhere that there are potential buyers, make sure you come as close to one-click-to-buy as is humanly possible. People will not remember and search you later, they will move on. Take them to a product page. If you hand out cards, flyers, take out print magazine ads – include a QR code they can scan with their phone camera and buy. Miss no opportunity for a cover image with a one-click-to-buy link.
4. Do not get caught up in the madness of “shrinking boxes”. Example. You have a personal Facebook account, and a second “Fan” page where you promote your writing. Each of these has a set number of “viewers” – your ‘friends,” and those who ‘like” your fan page. I won’t get into the questionable value of marketing again and again to your friends, but I will say this. The two pages are enough. If you create “events” or ‘groups’ or a new page for every new book you ‘launch’ with a special launch party, those are smaller boxes carved from the same people you are already marketing to. You can ride the shaky ship on your Fan page of paying FB to ‘promote’ it, but experience has shown that mostly this gets you onto pages that are not even real people, or onto the timelines of people who scream “why did you post your spam on my timeline!!!?” when it was actually FB who did it. Promote your books on a single fan page. Announce events there too. Don’t invite your boxes to be annoyed with you or carve their numbers down to smaller, and smaller groups. Announce and promote on your fan page and actively encourage those who see the posts to share them on THEIR timelines, which actually engages their Box of ‘friends’ and legitimizes the contact by becoming more credible. You want to grow the number of people seeing your links, not shrink it.
5. Cover art. It is important that the cover of your eBook look as slick and professional as possible. Never sacrifice cool for efficiency. The title, and your name, should be visible at the size of a postage stamp. Clever fonts, really busy art images, things that a small circle find cool and the rest of the world will be offended by – avoid. At all costs. You want people to see – know what it is – be attracted. Do not buy into the notion that putting a fancy new cover on your book will sell more copies of the book. If your book has no visibility, and you change your cover, but you do nothing to change the visibility – no one is going to see the new cover and it isn’t going to matter at all. It’s important to HAVE a good cover, but as marketing tool cover art is secondary at best.
6. PR Services or “experts” – see tip #2. Do not shovel money into the pockets of self-appointed gurus. If they have built a huge following on Social Media, ask them to give you a percentage of those contacts that are actually readers buying books. Ask for a percentage that is just other authors buying in and hoping for sales. Ask for proof that you at least have real potential, with their help, to sell enough books to cover the cost of their service. The waters are full of sharks, but they are also filled with leeches. In the old publishing model, most of the money went to the publisher, then a percentage went to the agent, and the smallest amount went to the author. In the new model, people are trying to divvy up that old publisher’s cut and leave authors frustrated, poor, and yet hopeful enough to buy into the next scheme. Pick and choose very wisely when determining how to market.
7. Not everyone is a marketer, charismatic, popular, a good editor, etc. Don’t let others, whose skillsets and resources are very different from your own tell you you have to do everything yourself. Writers should be writing. If you spend more time fretting over and trying to push your books than you do writing the next one, then you are in danger of not being a writer at all, but being swept up in the new sea of people who want desperately to be writers but have no time to create anything. Publishers like mine are out there – places where a lot of the burden can be shared – where things like formatting, cover art, etc. are not words to tear your hear out over…and where all your money doesn’t funnel into other people’s pockets.
8. If you publish first in print-particularly with a smaller publisher – and that publisher does not a: do their own eBooks – b: distribute those eBooks widely – c: offer you the lion’s share of the royalties on those eBooks, don’t let them have the rights. If they farm it out to yet another publisher, and then split that diminished return with you – also not a great idea. Not every publisher is experienced enough to do anything useful with your digital rights. It’s not the same game – don’t let the fact a publisher has been making pretty books for years fool you into thinking that means they automatically know how to handle your eBook, or that you should let them. Ask questions. Get a good royalty rate. Check your options. Chances are if you have the skills and resources, you can make more headway controlling your own eBooks. There are levels of distribution, levels of compensation – and levels of professionalism. Just be careful. I’m an author – I built my company to be one I wouldn’t mind working with. I hate all the same things you do. (Yep, that’s a small plug – sue me, my blog).
9. Don’t rush out to give your books away. Yes, there are huge success stories for people who have done this. There are programs, like Amazon’s KDP program, that when used correctly and with a little luck can spur real success. For every book given away that actually improves an author’s situation, there are 10,000 given away that don’t matter a hoot. The pyramid is always there. Famous or highly visible people giving something away will give more than the next tier. Moderately successful people giving something away can make a splash and occasionally even launch into that upper tier. A book from someone no one has ever heard of, not promoted ahead of time properly, won’t give away many copies – and of those it does, won’t help spur sales. The thing that makes free books work the BEST is quality. If you can give away 10,000 books – and the book is read by 2k of those and not forgotten, and it’s really good – and those 2k people mention this, or even 100 of them stop by to review it- you might have something. If it’s riddled with typos, dashed off and forgettable – it will be forgotten. Not everything that has worked for others is going to work for you – same goes for your books themselves. Copy-catting is never-even on the best day-going to give you anything but a shadow of the success of the person you are copy-catting. Write your best book, and if an opportunity to give copies of it away smartly presents – go for it. Don’t make this you marketing “rule” though, or even if you do get fans, they’ll wait for all the books to go free.
10. Write. You have to keep writing. You have to provide new things, and keep the words flowing. If you market the same book for a year, people are going to be so tired of it they will phase you out, and you’ll never even get them to look when you finally have something new. Write what matters to YOU – and not what you think you can make a quick buck off of because someone else did. Whoever that is – you aren’t them, and the situation that sold their book is not your situation. It’s a losing battle for a crown of mediocrity. If you have something to say – write. And read – buy books – keep your head in the game. Writing is both craft, and art. At the craft level it can make a living – at the art level it can make memories. I think you all know what is more important to you, personally – pursue it.
I hope – in some way – this has helped. If you made it to here – the first five who leave a comment will receive an Amazon.com gifted copy of my novel THE PARTING. I hope you win. I hope you read and like it. I hope you review it.
Find all 650 plus titles from Crossroad Press at http://store.crossroadpress.com or wherever eBooks are sold.
By David Niall WIlson
With a cameo appearance by Donovan DeChance of The DeChance Chronicles
I mentioned previously that I was going to revitalize my series, The DeChance Chronicles, in 2013. These are the amazing cover images that will help me do that, the first four courtesy of the uber-talented Mr. Bob Eggleton – and the last the creation of the sublime Ms. Lisa Snellings – that being for the as-yet unpublished tie-in novel to the series, NEVERMORE. All four books will see print this year, hardcover and trade paperback. Signed copies will be available through the Crossroad Press store – the books will be on sale everywhere (and hopefully in a lot of libraries) and this year the audio for Kali’s Tale will complete the audio set of the first four, and production will begin on Nevermore : A Tale of Love, Loss, and Edgar Allen Poe.
I saved, and I scrimped, and I got the covers I wanted… I am VERY grateful to the artists for working with me.
“You are just like Gods . . .”
By David Niall Wilson
Myoshi felt his foot slip on the slick, moss-covered rock, and he gripped the rocks above him more tightly. The sharp lava stone cut into his fingers, but he regained his balance and remained very still, letting his breath and heartbeat calm. The sun rose slowly, warming his back as he climbed. Birds cried from the rocks above, and from the depths of the trees. Myoshi brushed his fingers across his brow, wiping away the sweat.
Fuji rose above him, grim and imposing, but no more so than the formidable drop behind. Myoshi had begun his climb at first light, and he had made good time. On his back, his school book bag bulged with supplies. There was a souvenir shop at the edge of the forest, but he’d wanted to avoid prying eyes.
He carried some well-packed fish and rice, and two small packets. One was his school work, graded and banded carefully to be saved and shown to his parents. The other was a packet of letters. Letters from Myoshi’s grandfather. Letters Myoshi’s father had kept, wrapped carefully in rice paper and bound with a silken ribbon. Letters that one day would be missed.
The mountain leveled off for a time, and Myoshi was able to walk normally, sweeping his gaze along the trail that wound up and up until it was lost among trees and clouds. It was a wonderful day for a climb.
Far below, beyond the ocean of trees that was the ancient forest of Aokigahara, school was in session. Myoshi’s father had been at work for two hours, and his mother would be home, cleaning and organizing. Nothing in their small, neat apartment was ever out of place. Myoshi’s father would not have permitted it, and his mother would do nothing that shamed her in her husband’s eyes. Perfection. Myoshi yearned for that. In everything he did, he fell short.
In school, his mind wandered. His grades were not bad, but neither were they good. In Myoshi’s household, mediocrity was not an option. Other children excelled. Some were athletes, others could calculate in their heads faster than Myoshi could press the buttons on his calculator. Myoshi could write, some, but even in this he fell short in his father’s eyes. His marks in penmanship were less than satisfactory, and his grammar was erratic. His teachers said he lacked focus and discipline.
Myoshi’s grandfather had known about discipline. He had understood about being different, as well. It was all in the letters. Letters written by a man who died before his own young son could bring home grades, or books of letters. Letters that were Myoshi’s father’s one link to the past. A fragile link, built of memories half-forgotten and fantasies long rehearsed. Myoshi had heard those fantasies. He had met his grandfather through his father’s words. He had seen the glint in dark eyes, and the shining leather of the uniform. Myoshi had heard the roar of engines as great birds of war took flight.
“You are just like the Gods,” Myoshi breathed, “Free of earthly desires…”
He slipped under the umbrella of tree-limbs and continued up the mountain. His father’s voice echoed through his mind. The mountain slipped away, just for a moment, replaced by white, billowing clouds. The soft cries of birds and the chirping of insects gave way to crackling static. He sensed the others, tightly formed squadron of death, moving as a single unit with the sun blazing above. Myoshi could feel the sweat beneath the flight helmet. He could sense the symmetry of the squadron’s practiced motion. One great bird. One bolt of lightning aimed at those who opposed the Emperor.
“To fly as one bolt
From the crossbow of a
A tree root protruding from the mountain’s rough hide sent Myoshi tumbling, and his mind returned to the moment. He caught himself on both hands, scraping one palm, and fighting the urge to cry out. The weight of the pack pressed him more tightly to the earth. Turning, he seated himself on a rock and caught his breath. The sun was bright, and as he looked back the way he’d come, he saw that the trail had disappeared, the winding course cutting off his entrance to the tree-line completely. Nothing below but the green tops of the trees, obscuring the forest floor, and the rocky peak above rising on a gentle slope above a second line of trees. Myoshi could just make it out, and he smiled.
From his pack, he pulled free a rice cake, and the packet of his graded school papers. Carefully, he unwrapped the bundle, plucking out the sheets one by one. He laid them on the stone beside him, tracing the even lines of his script with a critical eye. He had been doing well on this one. Line after line of formulas strung together in the proper patterns. Then the error. One figure out of place, another line used to scratch the mistake from the paper and the continuation – flawed. Beside each figure, a corresponding red character in the elegant script of his teacher. Corrected. Berated. Imperfect.
Myoshi had done well enough to pass from this class to the next, but with no honors. No fine words from teacher to parent. No pride. It had taken him hours to complete that assignment, painstakingly forming each character. He had wanted so badly to please his father that the old man’s image had formed in Myoshi’s mind. The words, and the stories, and lectures slipped in to distract.
Myoshi traced the scratched out character’s with the nail of one finger. He whispered to himself.
“You are just like gods.”
The figures mocked him. The red letters, so bright in the sunlight, glittered like the eyes of serpents. His father had not seen them. Myoshi had kept the papers, folded and tied. Bound and under his control. He could not control the characters, or the formulas, but he could control their outcome, for a time. The birds did not threaten to expose his secret, and Fuji beckoned.
Myoshi glanced at the second packet of papers. He slid his hand into his pack, stroked the silk bindings, but he did not open the letters. Not yet. He quickly packed the wrapper from the rice cake, and the school work, and rose, turning to face the mountain once again.
“Free of earthly desires,” he said softly.
Free of his family. Free of school, though it tugged at his heart. He would be a disappointment to his father this final time. Myoshi had not missed a day of school in five years. The only desire he could recall in all those years was to please his father. The most wonderful moments of his life had been spent at that great man’s feet, listening to stories of emperors, and wars. Stories of his ancestors. Stories that filled his heart and mind with dreams of other places, and other times. Times and places where he was not a clumsy young boy, but a hero. There were ways for those unworthy of honor to regain it. There were answers to the loss of pride.
The good times with his father had grown fewer and further between as Myoshi had grown older. As the piles and piles of papers, just like those in his pack, had stacked themselves against his future, and his honor, his father’s eyes had grown distant. They still saw Myoshi, but not the same Myoshi they had seen before.
Myoshi rose once more, his gaze sweeping up the winding trail to where the peak of the mountain slipped through the clouds. Eagles soared through the highest branches of the trees, circling slowly. Myoshi screened the sunlight by cupping his palm over his eyes and watched them. The brilliant light glittered on a bit of mica imbedded in the mountain, diamond glimmer nearly blinding him. Myoshi squinted, cocking his head to one side to listen.
He could hear his father’s voice as the mountain faded. Could sense the shift, and welcomed it.
“We watched from the decks as the pilots swarmed to the sky, a black horde, synchronized and dangerous. It was not our time. We were too far from the enemy, and these would return, but they were majestic in flight.
“I remember standing very still on the flight deck, watching them shrink to fly-specks on the horizon, and knowing, when it was my time, that speck would be me. Shrinking to nothing. Here, and then, no more, a bright spark in the Emperor’s eyes – a memory in my family’s heart. Just like the Gods.”
With his eyes squinted so tightly, Myoshi saw the aircraft shimmering against a darkened sky, saw them bank and circle against the clouds. Saw them focus. Eagles. Eagles were like the Gods, as well, but a different sort of God.
Myoshi picked up his things and started up the mountain once more, suddenly eager for completion. He could feel the wind on the wings of the eagles, and that same wind shivering through his hair.
There were not many letters. Myoshi’s grandfather had not served for years in the military, or even for a year. Months, only, and he had never returned. He had not been a precision pilot, nor had he been blessed with the blood of the Samurai. Still, he had soared.
Myoshi had read those letters again and again. He had begged his father’s indulgence to allow him to watch over them. To guard them. He had seen in his father’s eyes the struggle this had been, but those words, those images, were ingrained in his father’s mind. That great man no longer required the letters, and so they had passed to Myoshi, who had cherished them as no other possession.
His grandfather’s penmanship had never faltered. There were no red characters or strike-outs. There were clear thoughts, worded in poetry stretched to prose without loss of continuity. It was his grandfather’s words that inspired Myoshi’s own writing, unworthy as it was. It was the images of his grandfather’s death that stole those words, and distracted him from his own honor. His teacher said his mind wandered. Myoshi knew it soared.
The trees had begun to thin. All that stood between Myoshi and his goal was a ragged backbone of rock. Far above him, farther than he could have climbed in such a short time, patches of snow were visible. The air was noticeably cooler, and Myoshi was glad, very suddenly, that his mother had insisted on the sweater he wore, though it had been too hot less than an hour before.
“The higher you go,” Myoshi’s father’s voice, “the colder it gets. The harder it is to breathe. It is always dark. We don’t fly by day, and those few of us who get to practice at all are very sparing with our fuel. We are not trained to fire at the enemy. We are barely trained to land. It is not expected of us.
“We study the great maps daily. We listen to the inspirational words of our leaders. I have meditated more this span of two weeks, my son, than I have in the last two years of my life. Things I have never thought of become clear. Your mother. Your face, watching over me in my dreams.
“My face reflected
Bright smile, shining eyes, dark
Like the twilit sky.”
Myoshi’s eyes were dark, as were his father’s. He knew that he resembled both men, third generation to bear that visage, first to fail. There would be no medals hanging on the walls of Myoshi’s home. Not unless he inherited them. He would not write wondrous letters to a son yet unborn, telling tales of glory, and darkness, blood and fire.
He stopped again, shielding his eyes and glancing up toward the mountain’s peak. The eagles had roosted, leaving the sun to beat down on a desolate slope. Myoshi planned to be across the ridge and safely on the plateau on the far side before the afternoon sunlight waned. He considered stopping for another snack, but there wasn’t much shade until he crossed, and he wanted to reach the ledge with enough light for reading.
Not that he needed light. Not that every word in every letter wasn’t ingrained in his imagination, every image fully formed and captivating. He stepped out onto the bare stone. The wind whipped up and nearly toppled him from his precarious perch, no longer blocked by the trees. Myoshi fought for his balance, regained it, and took a quick step forward, then another. It was easier once he was moving, and he concentrated on the stone at his feet.
Myoshi did not want to think about the side of the mountain, or the lava fields, obscured by the forest below. He dislodged a tiny avalanche of dust and stone and stopped, waiting for his heart to grow still.
Myoshi thought of Cherry blossoms. His grandfather had often mentioned them, as had his father. One of the other pilots, younger even than Myoshi’s grandfather, had written a poem that Myoshi loved. The haiku, so simple, so profound and complete in that simplicity.
“If only we might fall
Like Cherry blossoms in the spring
So pure and radiant.”
Myoshi contemplated the mountain. The distance to the base. The remaining climb. There were no cherry trees on the mountain, and somehow, he was glad. He didn’t want to think about the ground littered with their petals. He didn’t want to walk over so many great souls.
As the sun warmed his back, and the wind chilled his face, Myoshi climbed.
* * *
The sun dropped fast beyond the horizon, and Myoshi leaned in close, trying to catch enough of the dying light to finish the letter. It was the last of them. Eight, carefully penned slices of life; all that remained of Myoshi’s grandfather. When he had read the last familiar word, he carefully folded the paper, painstakingly matching the folds and tying the ribbon as it had been reverently. Myoshi tucked the bundle under his shirt, close to his heart.
Next he pulled free a single sheet of blank paper, and his pen. It was getting more difficult to see, but it would not matter. There would be no red glaring characters to mar this piece. Nothing to correct. No figures, only a promise. A single promise.
Myoshi wrote slowly as his mind wandered, for once allowing the words to be absolutely his own. He didn’t watch the paper. It was getting too dark for that. He had to depend on his instincts and luck. He knew his teachers would not approve, but for once, he was beyond that as well. He was not writing a lesson. He was writing a history. He was encapsulating his life.
“Since I was very young,” he began, “sitting at your knee, my father, and listening to your stories of grandfather, I have loved the cherry blossom. I read the haiku, and in my dreams, the blossoms grew to men. In the words of those who died gloriously, taking the paths of falling stars to the hearts of their enemies, I found dreams. As I failed in my life, they gave me hope.”
The mountain faded around him as shadows lengthened. The moon had yet to rise, but only the last rose-tinted hints of the sun licked the skyline. Stars glittered like diamonds. Like petals. So many petals.
Myoshi continued to write, but his mind closed out the reality of mountain and paper, the pen slid silently, marking the trail of his thoughts, but not carefully. Not with the painstakingly rigid strokes of the school, now empty and silent, like the mountain. Not with the measured rhythm of his grandfather’s even script. With Myoshi’s heart. He penned each character as it felt, and he paid no more attention to it than he did to the breeze. He mouthed his grandfather’s words and shivered.
“The air was cold on deck. We were allowed only minimal equipment. Nothing, really, to prepare for the weather. If we grew ill, we would find our release. If we were cold, we had but to think fo the flame, and the glory to come. Each brow was covered with a single strip of cloth, white, with the rising son emblazoned.
“I remember last night. I went, alone, to the flight deck. The Oka – cherry blossom – stood before me, silent and empty. I tried to picture the skies, the enemy, the waves. I saw a coffin. I saw an end, and a beginning, etched in flame. My heartbeat quickened, fanned like a flame by the wind as it whipped across that dark, empty deck. I stood there a very long time, and when I returned to my bed, I could not sleep. Instead, I turned to the pen, and the paper, wanting you to share the moment.
“Waves lapped gently at the sides of the ship, rocking us like babes in the arms of our mothers. It is the last night we will spend in the arms of any mother, cradled by the earth. I want to sleep and let it slip away. I want to awaken to that last day as I had so many others. I know I will not. I cannot sleep.
“Now the sun is rising, and my hand shakes as I hold the pen; my heart races. The others have tossed and turned all around me. None found the peace of deep sleep, and those who did sleep are round-eyed with visions and final dreams.
“I will close this now, so that I may seal it and put it in the Commander’s hand. He will see that you get this letter, and the others. Tonight, I die, but part of me lives on. I have a sun, and I am blessed.
“I remember the words of Admiral Ohnishi, by whose grace I have this chance to die so well.
‘In blossom today, then scattered,
Life is so like a delicate flower.
How can one expect the fragrance
To last forever?’
“May I honor you. May I honor our Emperor. May the gods embrace me.
Myoshi’s pen did not stop scratching at the paper as his grandfather’s words ended. He could feel the deck swaying beneath his feet. He wrote on until the paper was filled, and turned, and filled on the opposite side as well before he set it aside, unsigned. Only the weight of the pen held the paper in place against the stone, and the edges flapped in the breeze, like the wings of a great moth, reaching into the moonlight.
The takeoff was rougher than usual. The waves had risen higher, and the deck slanted one way, then the other, great sweeping rolls that skewed the skyline and stole one’s balance. Myoshi blinked, the strobe effect easing his nausea. A thousand butterflies had risen to flight in his breast, and his hands shook like those of an old man.
All around him the roar of engines. Each coughing to life, sputtering drowsily then roaring with barely contained life. Life. That is what pulsed through Myoshi’s veins, pounding so loudly he thought of the surf, and the ocean. The air was cool, but he felt a fiery heat building, felt the glorious binding of man to machine to air as they launched.
The air whipped against his face, and he felt the exhileration, the pure joy of release as the deck/earth/world slipped away. His breath was stolen, and though he fought against that breathlessness, he could not quite force the words past his lips.
Myoshi’s body tumbled, falling freely from the ledge of stone, arcing out from the stone and whirling, head over feet over head again and crashing through the upper branches of the ocean of trees, swallowed whole by the ancient, silent forest.
Far above, the clouds opened for one second, and the silhouette of a single plane was outlined – then gone.
* * *
A group of teenage boys, on a hike, came across bones, picked clean and whitened by the sunlight, slipping through the trees. They turned in horror, ready to bolt, but one stopped.
A packet of papers, mildewed and rotting, lay to one side. It was bound by a single ribbon of silk. Forcing his eyes from the bones, the boy reached out and grabbed the packet.
They ran. It wasn’t until much later that the papers were carefully opened. Most were very old, but a single page of newer script was tied atop the pile. On it, this verse.
“White blossom, broken
stained petal, crimson, gliding
Lost in the moonlight”
THE NEXT BIG THING
Last week Steven Savile tagged me on his blog as part on an ongoing chain of book/author recommendations called The Next Big Thing. Today I will take a crack at the ten questions originated by Paul Magrs, then send them on to five more authors to post answers to them in their various blogs – one week from today. I will be discussing the latest (and currently in progress) addition to The DeChance Chronicles :
1. What is the working title of your next book?
Nevermore – Book V of The DeChance Chronicles
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
The series, obviously, has been in the works for a while. The idea for this particular story, however, comes from several sources, bits and pieces of things I’ve been wanting to work on but never got around to. I’ve been playing for a while with the notion that my protagonist, Donovan DeChance, has been alive for a long time, and has witnessed some things – from a very different perspective than the rest of the world – and might tell some of those stories.
While researching the fourth book in the series, Kali’s Tale, I found a couple of interesting sites about a roadhouse that rested on the border of North Carolina and Virginia back in the day. The laws of both states were different, as were the laws about things like dueling – if one party was on either side of the line.
One of the rumors about the roadhouse, which I call simply the Halfway House, was that Edgar Allen Poe stayed there, and that he wrote the first draft of his poem The Raven while in residence. Just one of many rumors surrounding that work, but I held onto it.
The sub-plot comes from a practice I share with my youngest daughter – picking out faces, animals, and images in things like trees, floor tiles, stones, bushes – clouds. I wrote a story a while back titled The Fruit of a Different Vine, involving a pole near our home that grows thick every year with vines until it resembles a woman pointing a gun into the woods over the top of a small home. In Nevermore, we meet Lenore, who is an artist. She sees those same types of things, and she draws them, paints them – and tries to set them free.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
That’s a good question. It’s dark fantasy, to be sure, with elements of horror and urban fantasy as well. This particular book also falls under historical fantasy, I suppose. Donovan DeChance is a magician, of a sort – a book collector bound on gathering the dangerous books and spells of the world, scanning them into a new computerized repository, and most importantly, sealing them away from the hands of those who would misuse them. You can read his origin story in the third book of the series, My Soul to Keep, which has him 16 years old in the mid-1800s.
There are vampires in these books, and dragons, rifts between worlds, werewolves – voodoo houngans and new-ageish crystal-toting witches.
4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
This is a little hard for me. The perfect Donovan DeChance would be somewhat of a hybrid. He’s originally born of the old west, so I can see some Sam Elliott, but Sam is far too old – If you mixed in some Jason Momoa for the swagger and a bit of humor, and some Robert Downey Jr. for the culture it would be close. I’d love to hear thoughts on this from readers of the series. Donovan is a lot like Harry Dresden, except, Harry gets beaten up all the time, and seems more “rumpled”. Donovan wears long dark coats, has long hair in a day when it’s not really fashionable, but pulls it off.
Definitely Felicia Day for Amethyst, his love interest, who is adept at Earth and crystal magic.
For Poe? Someone tragic. In this story, both Poe and Lenore would be slightly older…Maybe Amanda Tapping for Lenore, and Grimm’s David Giuntoli as Poe? Is he too young to fall for Tapping?
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Donovan DeChances shares a memory from his past, dragging his companions into the world of Poe’s The Raven, and then bringing that world back to the present – and to the secrets of The Great Dismal Swamp.
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
This is an odd question in that a: it only gives a small fraction of the possible answers, and b: I’m in a rather unique position. I am the founder of Crossroad Press –and since the creation of the company, all of my books have come out as Crossroad Press titles. In a sense, it is self-published, but Crossroad Press is a growing force in digital, print, and audio publishing. The only thing certain is – no agents will be involved.
7. How long did it take you to write a first draft of the manuscript?
I am writing it now, during Nanowrimo 2012. I suspect I will finish the full novel by the beginning of December…and I am scheduled to hit the 50,000 word mark (if I retain my rate of speed) around the 23rd of the month as things stand.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I’ve made the comparison before to my early work for White Wolf Publishing and their “World of Darkness”. I originally created Donovan because I wanted to try writing similar stories, but without the restrictions of their game, their world, and their creative vision. I also believe fans of The Dresden Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Grimm, Angel, etc. will find this a perfect match. Heck, I even named the crow that hangs out with Poe … Grimm.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
This seems like a very similar question to the one above asking where the idea for the book came from. I’ve been inspired to write since I was very young. I’ve got over 30 books out now, with more in the works – I can’t imagine NOT writing – so it’s not so much what inspired me to write this book – but what inspires me to write.
My family – the way they support my stories, put up with my endless “what ifs” and dig in to help any time I need it. My co-workers, who have been the first group I’ve worked with in all my days as a writer, with the exception of a few small groups on US Navy ships, who paid attention when I said I was a writer – read the books – and seem genuinely interested.
This book is partly inspired by fans. There are thousands of folks out there now who have dipped into the world of San Valencez, California, and Donovan DeChance. I don’t want to disappoint them, or let them down. The magic continues.
Final nod on this question to my son Bill Macomber. He went in just before midnight and bumped the poll I was conducing to choose which of three possible projects I’d complete this November to the DeChance win. I’m now going to make him read them all.
10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
I think the growing dynamics of how “magic” operates in Donovan’s world is fascinating. The idea that time is more of a static plane one can move across – even influencing events in odd, temporal glitches. The story of Poe, and Lenore should be of interest to many. I’d like to think I’ll do him justice, and that my tale will become part of the fictional canon surrounding his life and work. He’s been a huge inspiration in my own work.
One thing of note – this will be a print book as well as eBook and audio – and we hope to get all of the previous books into print as well, both hardcover and trade paperback. Heart of a Dragon is already available in trade paperback – we are expanding our print line significantly, and one thing we’d like to see is an attractive, hard cover set for collectors and fans.
One of the things the Internet has made possible is the wide-spread sharing of work in the Public Domain. This is work that is not copyright to any estate, individual, etc., but is free to use – as a person sees fit – for fun, profit, or what-have you. All well and good. We have even scanned and presented a few older titles through Crossroad Press, sort of testing the waters…but here’s the thing.
Sharing Public Domain material is one thing, and trying to capitalize off of the work of others with no effort on your own part is ass-hattery.
Case in point. There is a wonderful site – Librivox – where narrators and readers are taking their time, effort, and love of books and the written word and making something wonderful. They are offering public domain narrations of public domain books and stories, as well as public domain podcasts, etc. available to listeners and readers everywhere. It’s a lot of work.
We have done over 200 audiobooks at Crossroad Press, so I feel somewhat qualified to comment on the number of hours our narrators spend reading, editing, mixing, and tweaking files to prepare them for listeners. It’s probably a ration of close to two to three hours for every one hour produced, and your average book runs around eight hours.
What I’ve seen lately is this…people going to these public domain sites, downloading the audio, maybe sprucing it up with some music (also public domain) and putting it up for sale through sites like Audible.com … profiting off of work that was done in good faith for the benefit of all…and for free.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind. Public Domain work IS free for use in any way you see fit, but you cannot copyright it. If you add music, or content to it, you can copyright that music or content IF that music or content is – in fact – something you own the rights to. You can’t copyright the “production” of work you did not create and have no rights to.
And let’s be serious…only a jerk profits off of other people’s volunteer work. I just wanted to point out this practice, and to frown upon it publicly. If the narrators themselves want to make their Public Domain work available for sale, I see that as a way some folks can pay them back for their generosity. If a third party who did nothing more than download the files and then upload them back into a sales outlet profits, I consider that – if not illegal, at the least worthy of a golden-asshat award. (there should BE golden asshat awards…seriously…).
Go give LIbrivox a listen … you won’t be disappointed.
Ten tips for using Facebook as an author:
1) Have a personal profile AND an author’s page. This allows you all the perks of both, but gives you a good way to split your personal from professional “imprint” . . . and in case you achieve the fame you crave, you can have more than 500 likes on your author’s page, but not on a personal profile.
2) Do not make a new page for your new book. If you have a series with an actual following, it’s worthwhile to break those fans off with a page of their own, but in general, use your author’s page to build a solid list of readers, and don’t break it into pieces. Most of those who join the new page will just be people from the old page, and it serves no real purpose.
3) If you decided to send a notice to a successful author and they take you up on “liking” your page, or friending you, do not follow up with “Hey! Thanks for that! Here’s the link to my brand new book you might want to buy. As a corrolary, do not post that same link directly onto said successful autors (or anyone’s for that matter) timeline without their permission.
4) Be aware that online “Events” – again – probably only reach the same people as your author’s page, and probably annoy at least half of the people you invite. Just post the information on your author’s page. Concentrate on building the base for that page.
5) Only “sponsor” a post when you REALLY want it to be more visibile. Ther is no solid evidence (none) that promoted posts actually sell anything, but they DO spread the word wider and longer if there is something you are trying to emphasize…as with any Facebook promotion, take anything they say with a grain of salt. FB is a horrible marketing tool.
6) Post regularly and not just links to buy your newest book. Do not post every time you get a new review from a friend on Good Reads or Amazon, people are not stupid. Give them the information on what your book is about, and the information on where to find it. If you have a promotion or contest, post that, and politely request your friends share it.
7) Remember the first rule of Internet Marketing. (My rule) You’ll gather more flies with lolcats than with persistence. You will get more shares, likes, and comments with something entertaining or amusing that you’ve used to draw attention to your work than you will to a review on someone’s blog, or an entire blog tour of places no one was going to go anyway. In fact, my opinion on blog tours is that if you can’t tour on already very popular blogs, they are a waste of time, other than to up your numbers on certain search engines.
8) If you have a blog, and you post regularly there, I recommend Networked Blogs on Facebook. You can post a short note and a link for each post automatically to your various pages and / or personal profile and you you can avoid doubling content while reminding folks about your blog.
9) BE ENGAGING – and this rule applies to Facebook, Twitter, PARTICULARLY Pinterest and other Social Media sites. Nothing irritates me more or faster than a feed full of nothing but links, or a Pinterest page that has one board – My books – or maybe two … My Books and My friend’s Books. Social Media (as everyone knows by now) is supposed to be a converation. If you use it like a virtual mirror and keep TELLING it who the fairest one of all is, you’ll be scratching your head and wondering why no one pays attention. Be yourself – unless you can be Batman. Always be Batman.
10) Do not try to fashion yourself after success. Because Anne Rice or Joe Hill or any other person can create a spectacular following on a social media site does not mean that if you a: copy what they do or b: listen to them because they proclaim themselves a guru (NOTE: I am not a guru, all of this is just observations and my own experience) or c: desperately cling to them hoping they will mention you and draw you along in their wake – that it will work. You, and your work, have to stand alone. If you don’t stand out as a memorable, engaging person, or your work does not prove to actually reach the heights you claim it does…no amount of manipulation of social media will make it so. Spend more time writing – less time trying to figure out how to sell it. Engage when you can, be interesting, funny, and real, and trust your talent. USE your talent. Don’t try to be someone else – unless (of course, you can be Batman, or The Fist of Goodness, in which case refer to rule 9)