I thought I'd celebrate Sarah's drive to make me work harder with a first snippet of the Steam Punk thing I've been intermittantly working at - which is aimed at 11-14 year olds. Any submarine experts willing to offer me advice... I'd be very grateful.
The Coal-fired Submarine
Book One of the Drowning Empire
It was after midnight, and London's lights shimmered on the waters that had been her streets. Something dark moved down there in the depths of them. Bubbles of smoke belched up in its wake. No one was likely to notice. The still, warm air already reeked of coal smoke, and the rotting ooze overlying the drowned Landsdown Way bubbled anyway.
The dark shadow slipped onwards into Wandsworth canal, and down into Nine Elms and then through the rotting concrete teeth into the deep channel.
Like the rest of the crew, Tim Barnabas let out a sigh of relief. He knew all about the dangers of the Stockwell tube run -- dead trees, fallen masonry, and, of course, the chance of detection in relatively shallow waters that had once been London's streets.
"Up snuiver, Submariner," said Captain Malkis. "Let's breathe before we head down-channel."
Tim worked the brass-crank with a will, sending the breathing pipe to the surface of the Thames Estuary.
He swallowed hard to sort out the effect of the pressure change on his ears.
And then an explosion rocked the Cuttlefish. Rang the sub like a bell. Tim could hear nothing. But he could see Captain Malkis push the dive levers to full.
A blast of water sprayed out of the snuiver outlet, soaking them all, before the cut-off valve took. The Cuttlefish settled onto the bottom of the dredged channel. No one moved or spoke. Tim's ears still rang, but he could hear sounds again, and saw the Captain signal to the Marconi-man The radio-operator worked his spooler, sent an aerial wire up to the surface. Tim watched the man's face in the dim glow of the battery-lights. His expression grew increasingly bleak. He flicked the dial expertly to another frequency. Then Sparky pulled the headphones off. "I got the Clapham Common sender first. Transmission cut out after an SOS. I picked up Parson's Green. They weren't even sending coded messages. Just reports that Stockwell's been blown, and Clapham had reported that they were under attack by men of the Royal Iniskilling Fusiliers, Captain, before they went off air. And I picked up a signal on the Royal Navy calling channel. The HMS Mornington and the HMS Torquay are ordered to start laying dropping mines in the Thames channel from Blackfriars point to Rotherhithe bay. The Captain of the Mornington was getting mighty shirty about the operation not running to according to orders and him still being below Plumstead shoal and not on station."
The subject of ebooks, self-publishing, new ebook publishers has come up rather a lot lately. So I thought I'd put my thoughts on this down in a coherent fashion. What do you mean, I'm never coherent? My therapist told me that and that I was obsessed with revenge. I told him we'd see about that in good time. Heh, only kidding, I might need a therapist but I believe they want stuff called money (of which I have heard) in exchange for their services. So as I am writer, you'll just have to hope that I confine my vengeance to merely drowning London and New York in text as above.
Let's assume that you, Joe, have written a novel, and like many tens of thousands of people have tried the trad. pubs, where, let's be honest, they knock out 90% of the total unreadables... at the cost of dumping many great books. And of course, they also take some total drekk, and, oddly enough some books which you may wonder however got through first pass, do well.
You've decided that your book is one of the good ones that get missed. After all, they turned down DUNE. Quality will truimph!
So: you go to Kindle Direct. You get 70% of the money. And 5 people read it and 3 of them are related to you.
Or you go to a new startup. They offer you 50% of cover price, which is a lot better than the 12.5% you might see from Trad. Pub
And, with the benefit of a better cover, and maybe a little editing and proof input... you sell 25 copies.
At which point it may dawn on you that trad pub (at the bottom end) is rather like vanity publishing is supposed to be (and isn't). You get to sell (if you're lucky) 5000 copies, earn 5000 dollars - and the process earns 40 000 dollars (of which they give you 5K) for other people. Now you can't take $40 000, print your book, and earn 5K 'profit'- because you don't have that access to physical retail space. If you want to do that, it's possible (and been done), but you'll need $400 000 or more.
However, if you were to take the same attitude to an ebook (where you can have the retail space) and spend the 40K wisely on a copy-editor, proof-reader, cover art, and the remaining $36 000 on a publicist and various marketing devices (the equivalent of your retail space for physical books), that you could sell 5000 copies - which might be enough to get word of mouth working for you (I think the real figure is probably higher - looking at trad pub - only really starting at 25K - if you can shift 100K, even if it is rubbish it'll find a market)
If you don't have (as I don't) 4K let alone 40K...
Should you just give up? Well, I've never been much good at giving up. So let's look at what I think I can do. YMMV. I've decided that a small Ebook publisher at least gives me a finished product and some less hassle, BTW.
1) I could just be lucky. That happens, you're in the right place at the right time. Some people have the breaks. The bottom line however remains that the more often you try the more chance you have of being that 1:1 000 000.
2)I could get a lift from someone who is well-connected. Not likely, I don't know Oprah and I don't get out a lot in Hollyweird. But at the same time, the more you network and link, the more possible this is.
3)You could build yourself a web-presence, a la John Scalzi or Charlie Stross. Now, this is possible and you should try. But 3 caveats. a)they were in the right place at the right time b)You have to have the personality for it, consistantly. c)Barring right place at right time... this is HARD WORK that goes on for many years. And even then, if you don't have (B) you won't get there. It means posting every day (or damn near, or at least on a regular schedule (I post every day on Flinders Family Freer and once a week here.) I have a good friend who read FFF and said 'I'm funnier than you, and our lives are weirder.' She's right. She also posts ad lib and months can go past. She has about 3 views a week. I'm less entertaining but I have 100 or so a day. And I accept I need to go on for years, that it builds slowly and saltationally and if I stop I'll lose my readers.
4)You can network on facebook. You can also make a pain-in-the-nether end of yourself by advertising yourself relentlessly. 2 minor authors I know have made damned sure I never buy their books. People may like to hear and be curious - if you are entertaining and work hard (like Sarah).
5)You can consider tangible bait. I'm seriously looking at free giveaways - tangible, solid ones - books, corkscrews... with the purchase. Yes, it'll cost me pretty much what I will earn.
6)You can look at intangible bait. Sample chapters, free stories. Not sure either work, but they're low cost.
7)You can try to hitch yourself to star. That's why I co-authored books. Because of name recognition.
8)You can come up with a crazy You-tube clip... working on this. "I said if they got me my author copies of dragon's Ring before it actually came out, I'd walk naked up Strzlecki with nothing else or take a swim with a giant ray with it..."
Ok - more ideas? And how did you like the steampunk?