The end is nigh: my launch plan for Resolutions

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800px-BookshelfThe time has almost arrived for Resolutions, my science fiction short story collection, to hit digital bookshelves. I don’t want to be too specific at this point, as a spanner could easily enter the works, but I am hoping to have the collection available to purchase and download by the end of next week (Friday 26th Sept). I’ve never electronically published a book before, so there could be some unknown hurdles still in my pathway, but I’ll keep you posted if there is a delay.

I’ve tried to be methodical with the preparations for publishing, and thought you might find it interesting and useful to see my plan for how I have gone about this.

Phase one – create content

Draft text meta-data – anything that the retail site(s) need to create a profile for your texts, generally a short description, an optional long description, and content tags. Follow guidelines precisely (character limits, etc) and take advantage of the opportunity to sell the product.

Draft launch blog post – this will be the foundation of the promotion, as it’s the place where the most data can be shared about the text. Make sure to include (and make prominent) links to the retailer(s) where the text can be purchased, a clear description of the text (can be reworked from meta-data), and a call for readers to feedback on their experience of the text in a variety of ways.

Draft press release – this will be useful to send out to any mailing lists you have for supporters or other contacts (work, church, hobbies, etc), and for any relevant media contacts who might be willing to promote your text. For a guide to creating an effective press release, see the free Smashwords Marketing Guide.

Draft social media content – don’t assume you’ll know exactly what to say on the day. You’ll have various links that you’ll be wanting to drive traffic towards (retail sites, your blog, launch reviews, etc) and you need a plan for how to manage these links. You’ll also have a variety of networks to utilise (Facebook, Twitter, email, message boards, etc) which all demand a specific method of engagement. One size doesn’t fit all so work on the style, timing, and frequency of messages.

Phase two – publish!

Upload your text – even if this isn’t your first time publishing online, block out some time to get your text uploaded. Who knows what kinds of technical gremlins will pop up at this point, so it’s good to have some time to deal with them. If possible, ‘soft launch’ your text prior to full promotion, so that you can test that everything works as it should.

Phase three – promote!

Change your online profiles – add the appropriate links to your text, upload any promotional images you may have. Don’t forget the simple updates like your email signature!

Send promotional/supporter emails.

Put your social media plan into action.

Phase four – PROMOTE!!!

Once you are certain that the process of purchasing your text is working smoothly and buzz from your initial launch has died down (even if it is a small buzz with just a few sales and reviews), work on innovative ways to promote your text. Here are some ideas:

  • Write a blog post detailing all the ways you can obtain and read the text – some supporters may not have the technical understanding how to use the retailer sites you’ve chosen, so guide them on how to do this.
  • Organise ‘interview swaps’ with other authors
  • Arrange a competition to drive sales – source a tasty prize, write an engaging press release, draft the rules of your competition
  • Plan a discount promotion – or give your text away for free for a limited time

I hope these tips are helpful – I’m currently at the end of phase one, not long to go now! If you have any suggestions of your own, questions about my plan, or if you downright disagree with my ideas (you’re allowed to!), please comment below.

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Reposted: Beyond Thought – short story

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This short story was previously posted on my old blog. It will be included in my Resolutions collection, and is the starting point for my novel idea.

It was a dull wispy morning, the gantries of Neo London draped with fog. The towering angular structures grew out of the misty depths below and disappeared into the clouds above. Kale scuffed her way along the suspended pathway, fiddling with her burgundy blazer, her short brown hair still wet from her hasty shower. Although the gantries were full of people on their way to work or school, she walked alone, like every morning. Her younger brother and sister would dart off in a different direction once the children had left the apartment building. They didn’t want to be seen with their reject sibling.

Kale stood patiently at the crossing bridge, waiting for the air traffic to divert and the platforms to link. She didn’t want to arrive at school any quicker than she needed to. She noticed a man in a formal grey suit also waiting at the crossing. He stood as far away from the girl as he possibly could, pretending she wasn’t there and yet clearly aware of her presence. As the platforms hovered together and bridged the immeasurable drop with a magnetic click, he strode away as quickly as he could. She could tell he was afraid, repulsed by her emptiness. You didn’t need to be a psychic to work that out.

. . .

“How are you progressing with the task, Kale?”

Miss Warner smiled as she made the enquiry, but that only made her appear more patronising.

“Um… OK, I guess.”

Kale turned her work book around for the youthful dark-haired teacher to see. The young girl was one of the two children seated in the non-psi area at the back of the classroom. The normal children sometimes got spooked by the ‘dead-heads’. The empty psychic space where thoughts and feelings should flow made them nervous, especially the chipped kids, afraid their implants would break if they got too close, sending them back into the mental darkness that was normal life for Kale. She didn’t know why she didn’t just work in a different room. Probably because that would be too much like segregation, and this, well, this was nothing like segregation at all.

“I have identified some mistakes,” said Miss Warner, overly formal. The spoken language that teachers like her had to learn was so rigid, so lifeless and cold. “I have marked them with a circle. Please try to identify and rectify the errors.”

Kale nodded. Miss Warner turned and walked back to the front of the class, soundlessly communicating with the psychic majority. Kale could tell when they were talking psychically. The movement of their eyes, the turn of their heads, lots of little clues they didn’t realise they were giving away.

Sitting a couple of desks away from Kale was Derek Middler, a spotty little boy, the only other non-psi student in the classroom. Despite their shared affliction, she always kept her distance from the scowling youth. He was troubled and volatile, like many non-psi children could be, feeling paranoid and threatened. Not someone you wanted to be associated with.

“They’re talking about us,” Derek muttered.

Heads turned. Kale wished she could sink through the floor with embarrassment.

“You got something to say?” Derek challenged. He jumped up from his seat aggressively. Some of the students shrank back. Others grinned mockingly.

“Don’t laugh at me!”

“Please calm down, Derek,” said Miss Warner evenly.

She’ll be summoning the hall attendants, thought Kale. Derek wasn’t going to calm down.

“Shut up!”

The wiry boy pushed his desk over, books and pens clattering to the ground. Two hall attendants entered the room. They walked straight up to Derek, faces emotionless, and grabbed the boy, who struggled against them, yelling and screaming. They dragged him out of the room, his rage echoing away down the corridor.

Kale looked down at her book, her face flushed with shame, knowing that all the remaining occupants of the room were scrutinising her. If not with their eyes, then with their minds.

When are you going to snap? they questioned.

When are you going lose it?

. . .

The family sat around the table, plates of hearty home-cooked food in front of each member. Kale ate slowly, chewing each mouthful with a deliberately sluggish pace. They might not try to converse with her if they think her mouth is full. She assumed her mother, father and siblings were talking together; her mother hadn’t awkwardly broken the silence for a few minutes.

“Molly was just saying she might apply for kinetics next semester,” said Kale’s mother out of the blue.

“Oh, OK,” replied Kale, thinking about how fun it would be avoid the objects her younger sister would send flying at her with the power of her mind.

Her mother often did this, tried to act as interpretor; a guilty attempt to make her other child feel included. She only saw pity when she looked into her mother’s eyes, a pity that outweighed love.

“Your father is taking the day off on Friday. We are all going to the holo-pool together.”

“That sounds cool,” the young girl replied unconvincingly. Her mother frowned.

“I think they have adequate heating.”

“No, I mean… forget it.” None of them were used to speaking, they’d lost the natural ability. Kale had learnt from old films and songs, conversing with herself, re-enacting scenes, playing all the characters.

Molly laughed. Kale knew this was aimed at her. Whenever her brother or sister poked fun at her, they always laughed out loud so she would know they were laughing at her. Their father gave them a stern look. Kale ignored them. She had risen to their baiting in the past, responding to their hollow chuckles with white hot anger. Over time she had learnt to block it out.

. . .

“Goodnight Kale.” Her mother turned out the light. She didn’t kiss her daughter at bedtime anymore. She didn’t need to with her other children, they could feel her love in their minds. She had forgotten, trying so hard to stop Kale from feeling different. As the young girl rolled over under the covers she longed for her mother’s touch, those soft arms encircling her in a simple hug. She began to cry, sobbing as quietly as she could. The loneliness didn’t always sting this badly, but some days she couldn’t help but feel crushed under the weight of the isolation, feeling like the only person who hadn’t been told a secret. She reached over to her bedside table and picked up her ear pieces, slotting them in comfortably.

Ray Charles, ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’.

The voices surrounded her, soothing her. She imagined she was part of the ensemble, singing the refrain in perfect harmony.

To be a part of something.

That was all she desired.

Starting my new novel draft

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The pen has hit the page! Or rather the finger has hit the screen (I’m finding myself doing a lot of writing on my phone at the mo). I’ve been planning an idea for a novel draft, and recently I decided to jump in and start producing some content.

With my previous abortive attempts at novel writing, my mistake has been to neglect the planning. With one idea, I managed to get 26,000 words done before stalling completely, but sadly I couldn’t salvage much of that work because there were giant cracks in the concept. With my current attempt, I’m using the A Novel Idea iOS app as a planning aid, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a tool help structure and store their writing ideas.

My current novel idea originated from a screenwriting piece from my second year at university, a scene lifted from one of my old novel concepts about psychic superheroes being hunted down by an evil autocratic government in a dystopian future. The feedback was that the writing was fine, but the concept was basically The Matrix with the serial numbers filed off.

However, all was not lost, as I had a bit of an epiphany. The story would be so much more interesting if I flipped things around. The protagonist should be a normal human in a world where everyone is psychic. Working with this concept, I wrote my short story Beyond Thought, which fleshes out the world and characters that could become central to my novel draft. I plan to include Beyond Thought in my Resolutions collection, but I will also repost it on here.

I have done a lot of structure planning for the novel, but I still have a lot of elements to peg down. However, I decided that I should start getting some words out rather than over-emphasise the planning and never start writing. The approach I’m going to try is non-chronological writing, that is, taking scenes out of the structure and treating them as individual short stories. This will make things feel more manageable, and also play to my strengths as a short story writer.

I’ll keep you updated with my progress, and I’ll have the Beyond Thought short story on here to give you a taste of what’s to come.

Something old, something new

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As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve decided that I want to refocus my creativity so that I’m not working solely on StoryMechs. In fact, since I’ve made this decision I’ve been much more productive with StoryMechs.

There are some past projects which I had stopped working on, and now I want to kickstart my desire to achieve these targets.

The first of these is to self publish my science fiction short story collection, Resolutions. I picked up the draft recently, and although it definitely needs editing with a fine-tooth comb, I still love the narratives and think readers would too.

I also want to resurrect my aim to write a novel. I started writing a story called This Dark World, a young adult fantasy story inspired by the biblical theme of spiritual warfare, but I found that the theology was too dense to distill into a simple plot mechanism. However, I do have another idea in the pipeline, which I think could bear fruit. I’m currently working on the structure plan, using the A Novel Idea iOS app to set things out. More will be revealed in future.

Those are my old ideas, onto the new. I’ve become a lot more into board and card games recently, and this has sparked a desire to design a game myself. I did try to create a card game based on the premise of StoryMechs, but that didn’t pan out very well. However, lots of lessons learned there, which I’ll share at some point. I’m working on a idea for a strategy card game at the moment, so look out for some insights into my work on that.

Last but not least, I want to start a creative project geared towards a Christian market. My faith is the linchpin of my identity and existence, and therefore I want to use my gifts to serve God directly, as well as indirectly i.e. by doing everything I do as an offering to him. I have an initial idea for something along these lines, but I want to keep myself open to where God leads.

So, only five creative/writing projects to focus on! My plan is to switch focus regularly, to keep things fresh, but also to have some clear objectives to stay productive. I’ll keep you posted on how things go!