I’ve made a commitment recently to update this weblog on a weekly basis. I even designated Friday evening as the time to do it. This week, however, that isn’t going to work. By this time tomorrow I will be in Avondale, AZ, participating in CopperCon 32. I’m looking to promote my novel – The Luck of Han’anga – and continue to reconnect with the science fiction community, where I’ve become a stranger over the past 20 or so years. I will freely admit to having something of a mercenary motive. I’ve written a science fiction novel, after all, and where better to promote awareness of my book than at a science fiction convention?
This business of being an independent author – and yes, I do see what I’m doing as a business – is all about self promotion. Word of mouth will spread your book from reader to reader, and word of mouth, as they say, is golden. It’s got to start somewhere, though, and for an indie author, “somewhere” is yours truly. And so off I go to a “con” to participate in panel discussions, do a reading, and sign books. This last could be seen as a bit risky, I realize, since so few people know of the book. It’s not likely anyone will be coming to seek me out for an autograph. But I’ll be there, out in the open, copies of The Luck of Han’anga ready to sell. It’s visibility, and every way I can find to make myself visible counts to some degree.
I will, I sincerely hope, do similar things at an event here in Tucson, in November, called TusCon. And again in the Phoenix area for LepreCon. I’ll go further afield as my financial situation improves.
When I’m not heading for a con, I’ll wield the internet as a tool for self promotion, of course. While it’s hard to beat meeting readers face to face (an experience I’m looking forward to) the reach of the internet is simply amazing! In a single year I’ve gone from wondering if I could sell books at all to selling them in England in addition to the USA. Selling books overseas! That’s the power of being online.
I’ve only just begun to explore the possibilities of online self promotion, and this past week experienced a “first.” Book One of the War of the Second Iteration has been featured on the Indie Author Anonymous weblog. Here’s the link:
Not a bad start at all!
It happens late in any summer during which the Arizona monsoon is at all generous with rain. They rise.
The past week or so has been just that, generous, with a significant portion of the summer’s rains falling in recent days. Every morning, out for the walk, I’ve been treated to cool, moist air, amazing cloudscapes and sunrises, and suburban wildlife brought out and active by the abundance of that scarcest of desert resources – rain. This morning, after an unusual day and night of long and steady rains, there was something more than the war between hawks and mockingbirds going on in the air. I set out for the morning walk in a world dripping wet, cool and muggy, and swarming with huge, winged ants. They were literally everywhere, some flying aimlessly in wide spirals up and through the moist air, others flying with clear purpose toward some unseen destination. I looked up to follow their trajectories, and saw thousands more in the air, with brooding thunderheads as a backdrop. The sun was already up, and rays of pale light lanced through the clouds to the east, lighting the bellies of the clouds overhead. Against a sky of black and gray, white and fire, the harvester ants swarmed. There were so many winging through the calm morning that breathing through the mouth was not recommended, as at least one runner I saw learned the hard way.
The ants must have emerged just before I started walking. The gyres of ants I expected to see had not yet pulled together. Here and there a whirling sphere of winged ants drifted over the curb, but it was a good twenty minutes before I saw the expected towering columns of airborne ants spinning like an animation of whirling molecules gone mad. When they finally pulled together, it seemed suddenly the air was cleared of ants. No more aimless wanderers filling the air at random. The main event was under way, the reason they were flying in the first place. The time had come for the males and females of the species to seek each out and mate, which they do in spinning orgies of ants that rise in narrow columns fifteen and twenty feet tall. The bottoms of the gyres are usually five or six feet off the ground and the columns change shape as the ants whirl and dance on wings in search of just the right partner. The ground underneath each gyre is soon littered with pairs of ants that have found what they sought.
Birds, bats, and dragonflies attend the gyres. The winged ants are apparently stingless, and good eating. They take a huge risk, forming these towering gyres whirling in the still air. Some pay the ultimate price for taking this chance, and are recycled into other creatures that share this desert suburb. But not all will be eaten, and new colonies of harvester ants will be founded by these frantic, airborne pairings. Some of the colonies will escape the ire of gardeners, tired of their plants stripped by ants in need of food for their fungus gardens, cultivated deep underground. And next summer, monsoon willing, the gyres will rise high into the muggy air on a morning that smells of yesterday’s rain.
The digital revolution has made it very easy to publish your own book, without concern for editorial and marketing department scrutiny. All too easy, some would say, and those who say so point to the errors that are common in so many self published works. You don’t need to make an exhaustive survey of self published material to see that, although the critics are not above a bit of cherry-picking to make it seem worse than it is, there is truth to their claim.
To combat this impression, ever larger numbers of “indie” authors are engaging the services of freelance editors and copy editors. Nothing is truer of writing in general than this: the worst editor for a given work is its own author. No matter how careful you are, no matter how diligent, you will miss typos, word usage errors, and plot breaks. You’re too close, and you know the story all too well. The writer’s mind can be a tricky thing while proof reading, not at all averse to filling in the blanks or smoothing a rough spot, since you already know what is supposed to be there. And so freelance editors and copy editors find they can make a living. It only makes sense.
It also costs money. In my case, it’s money I don’t have. When I decided to leap into self publishing I was fully employed, and making enough money that none of this seemed troubling at all. Between starting out and publishing Mr. Olcott’s Skies, however, the mushy US economy caught up with me. The job folded, and so far I’ve found nothing to fill the gap. This created a huge problem when that first book was done. Should I sit on it until I was working again, and could afford to hire an editor? Many stressed that I “must” do so, or risk creating a very poor first impression as an indie author. Waiting seemed like a very bad idea. I’m not getting any younger, and with politicians on the Left and the Right too busy beating the snot out of each other to do their damned jobs, the economy isn’t getting any stronger. Rather than face a wait of indeterminate length, I did what I could to make Mr. Olcott’s Skies as clean as humanly possible. I talked friends into serving as beta readers. I read the book out loud. I highlighted the entire manuscript file in black, and examined each line one-by-one as I un-highlighted them. Then I did it again. Backwards. And no, I’m not kidding about that. At the very end, my wife went through it one more time, spotting errors and a few missing hyphens. With all that done, I ran it past one more beta reader. Then I took a deep breath, formatted the book for ereaders, and turned it loose.
So far, three typos have been brought to my attention. I suppose that’s not too bad, for a book more than thirty thousand words long.
I did it all again for The Luck of Han’anga. The same routine, but this time with a book of more than one hundred and ten thousand words. (I think I had a brain hemorrhage while reading it line-by-line backwards.) So far, six typos have been brought to my attention by readers. There may be more, but I don’t know about them, yet.
That any errors at all slipped past such an effort is galling. I reacted to each revelation of error the way most people react to a one star review on Amazon. And then, while reading a professionally edited and produced novel by one of my favorite authors, I realized that a main character’s title – a made up word in a sci-fi universe – had been spelled several different ways through the book. And someone neglected to tell that particular copy editor that the word “meant” does in fact have an “a” in it. Every time you use it.
The experience provided a useful perspective. By dint of extreme effort, and with a lot of help from friends and a very literate spouse, those galling errors in my books put me on a par with the pros.
I feel better. And will, until someone spots an error in this piece.