Following the Crowd

In the last 12 months, there has been a lot of buzz about crowdfunding, especially as a potential monetary channel for authors. Some books were successfully funded on Kickstarter (while many disappeared without a whimper), then came Unbound, which labels itself as a crowdfunding platform and a publisher in one and is actually quite selective of the projects taken on, followed by Pubslush, a platform dedicated to crowdfunding books, and now Authr. Be sure: many more fish will attempt to feed in these seemingly prosperous waters.

If you’re unfamiliar with crowdfunding, it’s this: “The practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet.”*

You may be excused in thinking that with such a process, the wisdom of the crowd will prevail. It doesn’t. Successfully crowdfunding a project, whatever it is, has a lot more to do with marketing and perseverance than with a project’s merit. Oh, and it helps to be famous to begin with. Just see the likes of James Franco, Spike Lee, Don Cheadle and others, using crowdfunding sites for their projects.

Still, these days, publishing is pretty much 90% marketing, and authors have accept this and get involved. Running a successful project on a crowdfunding site requires a lot of work and involvement, before, during and after. Don’t simply think you can post your project and everyone will donate. It’s essential to engage, starting with people in your own network and expanding from there.

Separating your project from the crowd

My first foray into crowdfunding has just started. I thought I was well-prepared. Turns out I’m not, but I’m learning a lot on the fly. I run Rippple Books, a small publisher of fiction. One of our writers, Royce Leville, won an independent publishing award a few years ago, and for his next book, we wanted to try something different in order to build momentum and reach new readers before the book is published. Enter crowdfunding.

But as there are so many book projects trying to be crowdfunded, we feared that Royce’s collection of short stories would get lost in the crowd. We needed a way to make the project stand out. In the end, we were lucky that the director Marc Bethke liked one of Royce’s stories so much, he adapted it into a short film screenplay. Together, we’re trying to fund the production of the film and the publication of the book, all under the banner of “a unique film-book crowdfunding project.” Take a look at our campaign page: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/short-film-mikelis-and-story-collection-the-book-of-names/x/7963130

What started as a publishing venture has morphed into a cross-media endeavor, and this means we’re pulling film fans towards the book and readers towards the film, and whatever else in between, and this will continue long after the campaign is over: the book will drive the promotion of the film, and when the film is released, it will bring viewers back to the book.

Plus, it’s become increasingly apparent that crowdfunding is suited to short-form fiction. It’s much easier to post a short story for potential backers than an outline for a novel. It fits the digital era too, as readers are more willing to give 5-10 minutes to reading a punch-packing short story on a mobile device than to committing to a 600-page doorstop. And like a song, a short story can be easily shared as well.

So, if you’re a short fiction writer looking to crowdfund your collection, I suggest you think outside the box a little. Try to make your project more than just your stories. You could partner with a musician, who writes songs based on your stories, resulting in a book and a CD, and possibly a joint tour. Or with an artist who illustrates the stories and puts the resulting work on display. Or with a fashion designer who makes cool t-shirts based on your stories. Or…whatever else might be interesting, transforming and, er, crowd-pulling.

Guest post written by Cam Jefferys

An award-winning author in his own right, Cam Jefferys also runs Rippple Books, a small publisher that works with authors who offer unusual perspectives and who challenge the established structures. The three P’s stand for “producer to public publishing.” Rippple likes to connect books with readers, and to have readers share the books around. That’s why every publication has a Travel Page at the front, so readers can document where the book travels.

What Type of Reader Are You Trying To Appeal To?

The tricky thing about writing shorter works is there is much less time to make an overall good impression.  A novel’s plot is an intricate weave of multiple plots, characters and themes.

In other words, lots of time to create a favorable impression.  It’s not quite so vitally important for the reader to like every character.  So long as they like enough of what is going on, it’s a satisfying reading experience.

What one person finds “satisfying”may be unsatisfying for another.  Therefore, a short story writer must be extremely clear about what type of reader the story is trying to appeal to.  If it’s horror, the focus should be building that fear.  If it’s science fiction, the focus should be on world-building.

Instant draw.  Instant connection.

Business as Usual

I ordered business cards today.  For my pen names.

In the grand scheme of things, ordering business cards is not that big of a deal.  I’ll be honest, I found some cute designs and I couldn’t help myself (I dig office supplies).  But it occurred to me after I ordered them that I took yet another step to making this writing gig a business and not just a hobby.

I already took the big jump about two years ago when I started keeping track of my writing expenses and monitoring the income.  That made the writing real for me.  But it takes two to tango in the publishing world.  It’s not just about what’s real for me, it’s about what’s real for the readers.  If I continue to exist like some sort of sketchy black-market shadow business I am limiting my opportunities for finding potential new clients.

When people ask about violin teaching I whip those cards out so fast it almost results in near-fatal paper cuts for all involved parties.  But writing?  “Yeah… I write stuff… you can find me online but it’s all under pen names so… never mind…”

Time to make some changes.  If this business is going to grow, I have to treat it as I would any other business and artistic insecurities be damned.

Cross posted from Book Brouhaha.

SFWG’s Third Anthology is Up For Sale!

Love is a tale as old as time. Short Fiction Writers Guild (SFWG), an organization dedicated to the celebration of all genres of short fiction, presents their third anthology: TANGO.

Historical Romance from Gabriella Mahoney: HEALING TOUCH
Albert is a young, ambitious doctor with a promising career ahead of him and cannot afford distractions. Which is why his future wife will certainly be nothing like Tessa Alcott. The outspoken spinster is far too blunt and has an unfashionable taste for her own independence. Such a woman couldn’t possibly be good for him… could she?

New Adult Romance from P.J. Post: CLAY
Bethany Warner is graduating from high school and is looking forward to college and the gymnastics team with few regrets, except for maybe Tommy – her possessive ex-boyfriend.

And as the last party of high school is turning into a dangerous and unforgettable nightmare, she meets Connor Clay, a punk and musician with a reputation for violence.

Western Romance from Annie Turner: TOMBSTONE
With her husband lost at sea and her family dead, Lillie Hayes has nothing but poverty and memories left for her in Boston. Defying this dismal fate, she travels to Tombstone, Arizona, determined to make her fortune at a silver mine her uncle left her in his will. She finds that she may have signed up for more than she bargained for when word gets ’round that she may have struck it rich. The claim jumpers begin to close in and Lillie is quickly running out of options…

Contemporary Romance from Yolanda Allen: TEXT BUDDIES
In a world where all guys do is text, I needed one phone call to change my life and it had to be from him.

Pick up your copy on Amazon today!  Also available through Smashwords and most other major E-book retailers.

Why You Should Write Short Fiction

Many in the writing and publishing industries don’t believe in the value of short fiction.  These same individuals fail to realize that many of our most important and popular authors are (were) prolific short story writers.  F. Scott Fitzgerald, J.D. Salinger, John Steinback, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, and Stephen King are just a few to name as examples.  One particular writer, J.D. Salinger, began his writing career as a short story writer before he wrote his first novel.

So, why should you write short fiction?  There are several reasons:

1. It helps hone your overall storytelling ability.

2. It strengthens your use of active verbs over passive verbs.

3. It improves your character development skills.

4. It forces you to write tighter plots.

5. You can use short fiction to flesh out various story ideas, or get to know your secondary characters better.

6. You can use short stories to post as freebies on your blog or social media to give your readers a taste of your work.

7. You can write short stories to explore various themes (political, environmental, humorous, etc.), or passions (poetry, music, food, movies, etc.).

8. Writing and publishing quality short stories are also great ways to start building the foundation of a successful writing career.

The reasons are practically endless.

To those who still do not see how writing short fiction is worth the time and energy, ponder on this:

“Short fiction seems more targeted – hand grenades of ideas, if you will. When they work, they hit, they explode, and you never forget them. Long fiction feels more like atmosphere: it’s a lot smokier and less defined.” -Paolo Bacigalupi

What kind of stories do you want to produce?  The ones that explode like a grenade, that would stick in people minds for days; or, the kinds that are forgettable after being read only once, like the gray smoke as it dissipates into the air?

Short fiction has the ability to be the grenade.  So, what’s holding you back?  Write that story!

Guest post written by Carrie Ann Golden.

Finding My Writing “Voice”

I’ve been struggling (good struggling) a lot with my writing “voice” of late.  It’s such a crucial element to a good story and yet it’s not something you think about right away when you first dabble in writing.

 

I’ve been reading a book that was recommended to me called Creating Short Fiction by Damon Knight.  He talks about how there are several stages of development for a writer.  The first stage is always very conceptual.  An author thinks of interesting concepts and little else.  Like a really good opening line or scene with no plans for how it could actually unfold into a fully developed plot.

 

I think if I had read that when I first started publishing my stories I would have totally denied it.  My stories were perfect back then.  Any reviews that said otherwise was an affront on my genius.

 

I think if I had read that by my second year of writing/publishing I would have acknowledged the truth of it and been embarrassed.  Like I should remove all of my books from Amazon and completely rewrite all of them.

 

But now?  I’m comfortable enough with my writing to acknowledge the truth of what he said and realize that I am, in fact, human.  I need to develop my writing skills just like every other human being who claims the title of author.  And this takes time.  There’s nothing to be embarrassed about.  I had to write the stories I did in order to evolve.  It’s a natural process.

 

There’s nothing new under the sun when it comes to plots.  You could make an argument that just about every possible plot element has been done before somewhere else.  So the key is not your idea so much as how you deliver this idea.

 

I find this… difficult.

 

For one thing there’s no way to quantify it.  It’s not like you can always apply x,y and z to a certain scene and voila! Your writing voice appears!

 

For another thing I’m not even sure what my voice is trying to say at times.  What kind of a writer am I?  three years ago I would have scoffed at this question.  I would have said the story idea makes the writer.  Now I’m thinking it’s the other way around.

Cross-posted from Book Brouhaha.

Black Beacon Books

Not content with just writing fiction, I decided to set up an independent publishing house last year because, believe it or not, there aren’t enough publishers giving talented short fiction writers a chance. That the endeavour will prove viable as a business is unlikely in the current climate, but that doesn’t matter. The aim is a humble one, to publish and promote a handful of gripping titles in the genres of mystery, suspense, horror, and the just plain strange and quirky. Six months after the ghost tale “809 Jacob Street”, our debut title, was released, we now have three titles for sale via our website and on the shelf at two bookshops in Australia.

If you are as passionate about short stories as we are, Black Beacon Books is definitely worth checking out: www.blackbeaconbooks.blogspot.com

NEW READ: “Fugitive: The Uxel Herum Saga” by Alain Gomez

Genre:  Young Adult Science Fiction

Summary:  Book 2 of the Uxel Herum Saga

Fearing retribution, Uxel Herum flees Gemshorn. Her escape is short lived when her ship malfunctions and she crashes to the surface of a neighboring planet, leaving her completely stranded.

While trying to explore her new surroundings Uxel is captured by the natives who are as formidable as they are fearsome. Their leader offers Uxel a chance to prove her skills, provided Uxel has any skills worth proving…

Buy this story here.

NEW READ: “Clay (The Punk Series, Book 1.5)” by P.J. Post

Genre:  New Adult Romance

Summary:  Why did she get in that truck?

Bethany Warner is graduating from high school and is looking forward to college and the gymnastics team with few regrets, except for maybe Tommy – her possessive ex-boyfriend.

And as the last party of high school is turning into a dangerous and unforgettable nightmare, she meets Connor Clay, a punk and musician with a reputation for violence.

Clay retells the opening chapter of Ache from Bethany’s point of view, showing us not only her perceptions of the events of that fateful evening, but also much more about who she is and most importantly – why.

Welcome back to the 80′s, the party is just getting started.

Buy this story here.