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On Design

Posted by BigWords on April 17, 2016

As I write this, the cold winds of winter still brushing against the land, the paperwork hasn’t all been signed and filed and the preparation of some basic material is still pending, but… I am really excited at the prospect of not having to rush things. Yes, there is a date picked for the launch of the madness train, but it is more of a celebration of publishing as a thing that exists rather than a point at which material must be produced by.

I’ve been poring over old titles to see why literature makes me so happy (I had fourteen books in the caravan, and all of them were read multiple times), and the realization that everything has a place in the grand order came to me. Like an insight which should have been obvious, but needed pushing towards in order to be uncovered.

It is simple to see, looking back, that the Penguin titles were the foundation of color as a brand. The use of bold color to indicate genre was not new to marketing, with the most visible use being vinyl records, but books feel different – less readily catalogued, more unwieldy. While a simple border color can hint at things being part of some larger scheme, it doesn’t readily follow that it would work for every title.

Indeed, it can harm future titles if a books performs remarkably badly, hinting that the rest of the works accompanying the title follows in the same direction. It also makes it difficult to see the movement in genre styles which come with the passing of time, putting older works and modern into a great stew which makes discerning patterns – ironically – more difficult.

Using specific fonts is another way in which a line can stand out, but this creates the same problems. Design? House designs tend to skew towards the old ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ mindset, and even though a great number of iconic, timeless titles originally appeared under basic covers, I am less than enthused about the use of strict house styles. Maybe it is a way of preparing books for the world which has had its moment

When the future chroniclers of the state of ebooks come to talk of design, what will be the consensus on design quality? Will there be gushing commentary regarding the chances taken, or will there be mockery. I am worried that we are all going to look like cavemen when historians living on the moon begin to disseminate their masterworks on literary history.

There is already a Tumblr about bad Kindle covers, and while I feel bad for those covered, it might be the impetus to shake up their process. Hell, it could drive people to pick up one of the books to see what the contents are like, but I might be wrong about that – if anyone has had a title mentioned there, they might want to mention how it affected their sales, if at all.

There are a few things which I look for when I am out at bookshops, but with the notion that everyone is different, please note: this is a personal observation. Woodcut prints stand out, block colors work if the story is easily conveyed, and painted covers can hit or miss depending on the artist used. Simple color schemes are dramatic in isolation, but among a variety of similar imagery gets lost easily.

And here’s something weird: In the last decade, but especially so in the last few years, the trend of using iconic schemes from other media seems to be picking up. Covers which mimic old computer game releases, or video cassettes, or even audio cassettes, are on a bit of a wave right now. I’m not sure if that is retro-love or laziness, but it amuses me to see throwaway culture being immortalized now.

Where are we going? Well, there are still plenty of uncharted atolls we can reach by getting an overall sense of the map. Which is a growing trend, apparently. Books about maps, that is. I’m not a great fan of the introspective titles using maps as metaphor, but straight-up map books? Hell yes. I may be in the minority when it comes to those, but they always seem so optimistic to me. Maps as a way of looking at the world.

I’m not sure where this post was heading.

I started with something about books being awesome, but got turned around.

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The Goodies

Posted by BigWords on April 14, 2016

I am working on getting a bunch of custom materials together for (technically) free use by any small or self-publisher. Fonts, backgrounds, illustrations – all the goodies that will enable some kick-ass covers. I’m getting tired of seeing the usual suspects (Impact, TNR, Arial, and all the rest) being used again and again on covers, often without an idea of what such typefaces might represent to the reader. The overabundance does not bode well for a title standing out, especially at smaller resolutions.

nu_gods

Nu Gods, whose title should come as no surprise to geeks. A heavily simplified Blackletter design, which takes a lot of cues from seventies and eighties science fiction lettering.

Part of putting together links, fonts and images in a communal pool is to see what people can do with the tools – a dozen people are going to come up with a dozen designs, even if the titles are remarkably similar in tone and audience. The idea of people pushing off against the ideas their contemporaries are providing, and stretching out in new and exciting ways. Like evolution, only not.

Ten Free Image Sites

Freeuse
ISO Republic
Gratisography
StockSnap
Unsplash
Pexels
Pic Jumbo
Pixbay
Pixabay
Wikimedia Commons

Check the licenses before using, and do what you can to support free image hosting.

Custom Logo Design

When I have things settled into a groove, there will be time to create cover logos for people who need them. I haven’t got it all worked out yet, but I am hoping that it can assist with under-perfomrming books. A great graphic can be enough to get someone to pick up a title they might otherwise overlook.

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And There’s More…

Posted by BigWords on April 12, 2016

The one thing I am missing more than anything is real-time interaction. These posts are going to be appearing, and I have no way of gauging the reaction to any of the surprises I am throwing out there. Viewing indie publishing as the seventh of the Big Six, which is not as revolutionary a notion as you might think, probably comes closest to a game-breaker, but I am already ahead of the curve in considering this.

There is a chance, for those reading yesterday’s post, that some people are already working out ways to game the system – to get links to their books with the least possible effort so they can get as much out of it as possible. Here’s where I step in with a little thing called Balancing (Wikia) – if you are considering what I have already put forth, I suggest learning about balancing and (please, I’m begging you) take into account the way it works.

Somewhere online there used to be a fantastic quote about balancing – I think it was about MechWarrior or a similar game. It basically laid out the fact that it was possible to have an immensely overpowered playable character while keeping the entire game from revolving around the acquisition of more firepower. You don’t have to understand any of that to get a good understanding though. I’ll break down the principle as it applies here.

Reciprocal links between titles are a bad thing. It shunts the reader back and forth between a tightly-centered community of writers, limiting the opportunity for a reader to discover new, exciting works, and isolates those outside of the community which is heavily promoting their material. It is, if you like, a part of the balancing process. Links are not something to be traded, but something to be offered (without the expectation of same) because a title is worth promoting.

And where, the cries undoubtedly come, do these links go? Ah, that’s the best part. After the text of course. You have the standard “other titles by this author” bit, where people who have enjoyed the title can go find more books, then you have “by this publisher” for titles that are from the same publisher. Right after these, there needs to be a “Recommended Reading” section, where the good stuff you love and want to highlight goes. This is the special little section which guaranteed you a place in the hearts and minds of authors and readers.

But wait – what if someone does all this, then starts acting like a dick? There’s a solution for every problem, and this one is especially simple. You don’t simply start removing links to an author who is using fake reviews, or slamming others on their blog, or… Whatever the flavor of the day for bad behavior is. We need to cultivate the respect of our audiences, and that comes with a cost. The cost, in this case, isn’t financial. We need patience with those who are, perhaps, a little looser in their concept of respect and wisdom.

We need a naughty step.

A reference, I am certain, which needs no explaining to a large number of people reading this. For those unfamiliar with the concept, it is a “time out” for people behaving badly.

Which brings us to another problem – who determines what is bad behavior? I, certainly, have neither the time nor the patience to go through thousands of authors’ blogs and websites to vet the ideas which might be considered inappropriate, and I wouldn’t want to even if I had the time. That ain’t my job. It’s something the writing community needs to have a long discussion about.

Okay, so that’s two serious posts in a row.

For the moment, while this is still something on paper rather than an all-out attack on the stability of the overwhelming forces at play in publishing, lets decompress – here are three cool things everyone can undertake in the next week.

  1. A Recommended Reading page on your blog or website, highlighting at least ten indie books you feel deserve wider recognition. Leave links in the comments – when I get back online I’ll okay any which have been held up in the spam filter.
  2. Reach out to your fellow authors and talk. No ‘buy my book’ nonsense – just normal interaction. I know you can all do this, because I was reading your blogs before my ‘vacation.’
  3. Start writing up your lists of books for the back matter of your forthcoming books. As you go forward you should hopefully see how this brings readers to minor works, and as it costs nothing to do it ain’t exactly a stress factor on your schedule.

Tomorrow I promise there will be less serious, though none the less interesting, thoughts on something which has been bothering me since I caught up on happenings in the world.

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Books – Something – Profit!

Posted by BigWords on April 11, 2016

An obvious question people are likely asking:

How do you know that what you are doing is different to everyone else?

Which is extremely easy – and yet tiresome – to answer. There’s thousands of indie publishers when you take into account the self-published and the niche publishers, but none (so far) have been set up in a way which embraces the promotion of books irrespective of the publisher. The main goal of That Which Will Be is to celebrate the rich diversity of books currently available.

The ways a person can promote a book on their own is going to be limited by a number of factors:

  • A knowledge of blogs/websites which review books.
  • Ability to present ideas in concise and clear text.
  • Ability to parse the subtleties of a forum or chat-room.
  • Access to websites which require paid access.
  • Access to websites which restrict membership.
  • Ability to network outside key areas of interest.

There are a bunch of other things which come into play, especially when you take into account foreign languages, paywalls, regular internet access, health, income and so on. As a catch-all for the big problems, we can see straight-off that some of the problems which restrict the dissemination of information about a title might be self-inflicted (however involuntarily), so by acting as a promoter I can try and get eyes on titles without authors pissing off people who don’t want to be given the hard-sell.

I’ll admit that there’s a lot of work involved in this aspect of things, and it is early days as far as the requirements go. I have small chunks of the overall layout and reach calculated, along with an estimate of how much work it is going to take. It turns out, amazingly, that the numbers aren’t so bad. In fact, it makes more sense to heavily promote my “competition” than it does attempting to maintain an increasingly irrelevant isolationist ideology.

That’s one aspect that I have been providing people with when asked about why they should join in this little adventure. What I haven’t explained is the extent of the advertising. See, there is only so much that a single website or blog can do, and that – in a nutshell – is the notion which is going to shake things up. This isn’t just a business plan, but a philosophy which is for the benefit of writers, readers and small publishers.

But… It isn’t entirely about that.

Whenever there’s a new idea, it needs time to settle in to a form – the standardized  version which has been tested and stressed, which has had the rough edges sanded off for a better user experience. I have a fairly solid grasp on how to roll out the wider application of the concept, and ways to prevent the blatant abuse of same. As I have pointed out – plenty of time to figure things out and examine the repercussions.

There is one thing which has remained constant. Throughout the process of putting writers, designers, programmers, musicians, and other talented people together, there has been a focus on shared benefits. See, it never made sense to my why people disliked the notion of having books adapted into games (Dune, especially, comes in for a degree of criticism in certain circles), or having albums written about characters, or other possibly interesting avenues.

Part of the reason I am offline is this – because the idea will draw out the freakshow crowd who are going to attack everything, and because I don’t want to draw the same freakshows to any of the places I hang out. There is enough to deal with at the moment without having to sort through all the additional crap which can be so easily avoided simply by refusing to make myself a target.

And there’s an addendum to the notion of everyone grouping together. See, I’m drip-feeding you the information for a reason… Should I go all-out and fill in details, the folks who see change – any change – as a threat, and who go out of their way to maintain a status quo… Those people are gonna go batshit. The implications have probably already hit them. As these words sink in, the realization of what I am promoting is likely forming in the brains of everyone else.

The sliding scale.
I want you to consider it.

How many indie titles are out there? Each blog and website deep into promoting works which profit them. Think about the individual push each title gets, and imagine if – even for a moment – the collective might of the self-publishing community working together on a single title… Everyone throwing their weight behind a title in the knowledge that their turn will come and the internet will fill with ads for their novels.

I told you my ideas were scary.

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Sneak Peek

Posted by BigWords on April 10, 2016

Thought that I would share a little something to whet the appetite of those thinking this would be three weeks of me complaining. Nope – building towards…

sneak_peek Title: Terror on the Peak
Author: William Chassin
June 17, 2016.
eBook, 70,000 words.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much all the information I can hand out at the moment as there is a lot to be finalized. The back matter is a tug of war, which I think I am winning…

Billy claims it is a thriller, I thought it was a straight-up horror, and others have claimed it was psychological drama.

And that might not be the cover it runs under, as I have a massive problem with the washed-out look.

My own title – Red Somethingorother – is set for the beginning of June, but I might push it back to coincide with another title which has been gaining traction with a couple of people who have good taste. Not that I have terrible taste, but I don’t follow the latest fashions with anything more than mild disinterest.

Being in charge of certain things comes with a cost. I gotta be on the ball when it comes to much of the mundane things. And, as you will notice from the image and information provided, there are still secrets I have to keep – some of which are being held back on the request of others.

Come back tomorrow to find out that there are more important things than titles.

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