4x5 original

4×5 original

AKA July 1. Yeah, this morning I woke up optimistic for the first time this week. Not because the new KU is going to work out for me – every sign indicates that it’s not. In three days of KU 2.0, I’ve made…$100. I made $200 the last three days of June. Sure, Gretel, we were dumb, thinking that the nice witch had invited us into the gingerbread house to eat all the doors and windows we wanted without paying for it. Of course at some point she’s going to try and cook and eat our nicely fattened bodies. But if you remember the end of the fairy tale, even in the grimmest version of the Grimm stories, it’s the witch who ends up dead.

I have a strategy that I believe will pay off. Diversify, diversify, diversify. I put all my eggs (or gingerbread) in one basket, Kindle Unlimited. Big mistake. Not because I was going to sell anything on any other site – no, Amazon was always 90% of my income. My writing income, that is. That was my mistake, betting that I could write gayroms full time forever thanks to the KU system. Nope! Not gonna happen.

So here’s the plan:

1. Hiring myself out as editor, copyeditor, ebook formatter, manuscript adviser, etc. I’ve already talked to two people this morning about this. I’ve done 100% of this for myself for three years now, why not share that expertise with others? If you think you might be interested, here’s a link to my “Why should I hire you?” manifesto. Just from the two conversations I’ve had so far, I’m excited – it’ll be nice to have some work that employs my “other side,” cerebral/analytical, that’s about working with people and not just wrestling with myself.

2. Getting my ass in gear on Bradiobooks. They cost me nothing and if they pay off they pay off a lot bigger than KU for damn sure. There was an article in the NY Times this a.m. about Stephen King’s release of an audiobook-only story.

“Digital audiobooks have become one of the fastest growing categories in publishing, bolstered by the growing use of smartphones. Revenue and unit sales for downloaded audio grew around 27 percent in 2014 compared with the previous year, easily outpacing e-books and print.”

And I have the voice for it, at least for my own work. I’ve got the studio set up and run my sample past the world with a recording of “Kyle’s New Stepbrother.” The funny thing is, after listening to the opening to the free “Gone Girl” audiobook I got with my Audible membership, on my Bose headphones? I can’t tell the difference in output quality between that book and mine. I’ve got a Blue Snowball, Audacity software, some foam panels and some YouTube videos…and I’m in business. Admittedly, it’s something I need to do when I feel happy and excited, not stressed and depressed – I’ve got to have that “kick” in my voice to make the story pop, and that’s some of why I’ve put it off lately. Well, I’m back there now.

3. Finish “Werewolves of Brooklyn,” which will probably NOT go into KU. I can get a big boost at ARE etc. for a month or two, but then titles die out there, there’s no “long tail.” At that point, when it’s dead at other sites, I can put it into KU, but under this model, there’s no advantage to going exclusive with it at Amazon on Day One – especially at 50k words.

4. Get back to Adam Vance and the FJ One series. Adam’s been on the side shelf for a while, with good reason.  He’s a long term investment – it’s going to take multiple installments in the series before anything really takes off. But. At this point, with romance and erotica looking more and more like a lose-lose proposition, these stories are looking more and more like something I need to get back to now.  Yes, he’s in KU, and will stay there – Amazon is the Eater of Worlds when it comes to original ebook science fiction.  And, there are economies of scale to think about – the SF market is *far bigger* than the gay romance market, so even at the shitty borrow rates we’re at now, Adam has a better chance on making it on the Wal-Mart model, a fraction of a profit on each unit made up for in volume.

Finally, there’s this, another article from the Times today. It’s about a small town that’s managing to survive despite the nationwide tendency of small towns to dry up and blow away.  I’m not the “life lessons” guy but there was quite a lot that resonated in this for me, in this situation.

Ms. Pratt, 35 and full of energy, had been a store display designer at Coldwater Creek and she could have easily left Sandpoint for other opportunities. Instead, she stayed on. She downsized her house, told her family in Oklahoma that she would not be coming home, and tried something new.

For $5,000, she bought a 30-year-old delivery van in Seattle and drove back to Idaho listening for every pop and gurgle from under the old white hood, then refurbished it as a one-woman mobile flower shop. She named the truck Mabel. She bet her future on the challenge of delivering bouquets, and selling blooms from parking lots.

“The question was always, ‘What can I do to stay?’” she said, surveying the quiet morning trade from under Mabel’s little awning, with bouquets all around her. “I was dug in.”

…Once, on a story about grizzly bears, I met a man whose grandfather had homesteaded a ranch in the late 1800s, alone at age 16 in one of the hardest and coldest corners of northern Montana. The boy, his grandson said, had taken the train from New York, got off at the end of the line, staked a claim and lived under a wagon through a frigid winter until a shack could be thrown together.

Somehow, that boy and that family had clung to the land, and were still there.

…The common thread over and over? A bold act of risk. If movement was the tidal surge that filled the West with hopefuls, then the laying down of a wager after that — trying something new rather than moving again — was the illusive force that kept them. And then they kept betting, through losses and long odds that chased others off.

That grit — the tendency to sustain interest and effort in very long-term goals — is intimately linked to achievement, according to a growing body of psychological research. Intelligence, it turns out, may be no more vital to future success and happiness than stubborn persistence.

…[Pratt] told me the Western small-town ethos — the reason places like Sandpoint survive — might ultimately come down to putting a pebble in your shoe.

In making her one-woman company, a friend who been through the entrepreneurial trenches gave her some advice: Order more flowers than you think you could possibly sell, because then you’ll have pressure, and a bit of anxiety — and that little frisson of added risk is what puts you out there, willing your product in the world.

“It’s O.K. being uncomfortable. That was the lesson,” Ms. Pratt said one afternoon. Her homey Mason jar vases for bouquets were stacked behind her, the fecund ferment of stems filling Mabel to the brim. “It makes me more of who I need to be to succeed.”

And maybe that’s it, the crucial catalyst of Sandpoint chemistry: Just don’t give up. The restless impulses of the West, in movement, risk-taking and community spirit might or might not in the end sustain you. But being willing to grapple with the still hard corners of this region, without respite, is what finally tucks in any little valley town.

Yeah, all that. I filled my covered wagon with all my worldly goods and headed West, out of Cubicle City, never to return, no matter what the odds against me. And I feel pretty good that, somehow, I’ll manage.

ALTBSticker$80 each to IAVA and Puppies Behind Bars from “A Little Too Broken” royalties! That’s $4,050 to veterans’ organizations so far…

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EN2M37O

Yeah, this Amazon clusterfuck has spun me around so much that I forgot to do June’s end-of-month donation until just now… It’s the permanently guaranteed 50% this month and not the 100% I’ve been giving lately. Because, duh, as of July 1 thanks to Amazon, my income is now way, way, way below what it was June 30th. I’m going to need every penny…

 

Hit and run today. I need some time to watch tennis and detach from all this. I’m definitely getting killed financially. What I don’t understand is how the Kindle Normalized Page Count is being calculated…

KENPCVariance

First off, the page count on the product page is…meaningless. I mean, all my novels have the same style, the same intentional short paragraphs and short chapters, but you can see that the variation between that count and the KENPC is between 118 and 189% different…

And what’s more, there’s an issue with the word counts. “Have a Little Faith in Me” is 4,000 words *longer* than “Given the Circumstances,” but the shorter book has 35 *more* pages in the new count.  Why? The styles are similar in all my books, dialogue-heavy, conformed to the “short paragraph and chapter” rules of ebook publishing…why the radical differences?

There’s only one thing that can account for the disparity – Amazon is NOT counting the pages at the end of the book, NOT counting the excerpts from other books as part of the readable pages.  An author I know was informed by a rep that ALL PAGES would count to the very end.

At the end of “Faith” I have an excerpt from “Lie,” and when I deduct that from the manuscript, I get 68,700 words. Then the variance suddenly makes sense.

GTC at 73700 / 408 Kindle pages = 180 words a “page.”

Faith at 68,700 / 373 Kindle pages = 184 words a “page.”

Houston, we have a problem.

money-bagsYeah, I’m one of the lucky ones, my income only plummeted 50% yesterday. It’s not looking good. So yes, if you are looking for an editor, copy editor, story consultant, manuscript evaluator, ebook formatter, I’m for hire as of now.  BradVanceErotica@gmail.com. I can’t wring my hands and wait for the axe to fall, and if yesterday was any indication, I’m looking at >$1000 in borrow income this month…

Someone’s got to be winning under this new system, but I haven’t spoken to anybody who’s winning so far. We’ve figured out compensation is 1/2 a penny per page.  Amazon told us in that typically mist-clouded oracular way.

“As measured using KENPC, during the month of June, KU and KOLL customers read nearly 1.9 billion Kindle Edition Normalized Pages (KENPs) of KDP Select books.”

So, they put $10.8 million in the fund for May / 1.9 billion pages = that’s 0.0057894736842105. If you figure May and June pages read are nearly the same, yeah, that’s just over 1/2 a penny a page.

I’m not freaking out. If this is the end of my full time writing career, well, I can edit, I can copyedit, etc. I’m not going back to a cube farm for all the tea in Amazon’s Household and Kitchen Department.

DPYeah, quite the day. I decided to come out of the closet and reveal my real name in my latest “Diary of a Smutketeer,” which you can read here, with all the reasoning behind it.

http://sinfullysexybooks.blogspot.de/2015/07/brad-vances-diary-of-smutketeer-episode.html

I’m republishing a novel I wrote as Orland, “Different People,” now available for pre-order here:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B010MBTGC4

It’s been out of print for a long time and the publisher is out of business, so the rights are reverted to me. It’s been both taxing and educational, going through something I wrote 12 years ago.

Damn, I was verbose. I mean, I wouldn’t even use contractions. And the semicolons? Jesus, give me a break. Never mind the rants and digressions that only slowed down the story. Chop chop goes the Ctrl-X.

I realized that I’m now a better editor than many of the pros I’ve worked with. I’ve gone through this 125k book and have sliced out about 15k, without touching the meat of the story. If my writing income goes to hell under the new KU system, well, I have a bright future as an editor, if someone’s willing to work with the ruthless eye I’ve developed.

Fuck, it’s a dark book. I honestly don’t think it’ll sell. But, I ran the original through two TeamVance members who loved it, so…I guess other people have more of a stomach for “dark” than I do.

The crazy part is, I decided to reprint it the day before Amazon changed their system to “pages read.” And 110k is a hell of a lot of pages…

Speaking of which, the new KU reporting system is starting today, and there are some surprises. I mean, right, yeah, a few hours’ of reporting isn’t reliable. But so far? “Sam and Derek: The Whole Story,” of all things, is blowing the other titles out of the water in terms of pages read. So shit, what if novels AREN’T the new gold standard? What if I need to go back to writing action-smut? Well, I’ll do what I need to do.

A little bird told me that Amazon had no idea when they started the KU system that authors would be so agile in their response, that we’d write so many supershorts to cash in. Really? This is a BUSINESS, I am a BUSINESSMAN, and Amazon is Wal-Mart to my little word factory.

Of course I’m going to change my production line to suit Wal-Mart’s compensation scheme. I’m not Emily Dickinson, sitting in my attic penning poetry, with no thought of making money from my work, willfully hiding it from public view. I can’t afford to do that. Yes, I’m going to write what I enjoy, what I’m good at, but I’m going to focus on those product lines that pay my bills.

WerewolfGIMPOldTimeCasablancaDamn I’m doing a lot of research for a werewolf book. Civil War regiments and battles, underclass Manhattan after the war, wolves and their behavior, rent control in modern New York, landlord scams, the art of butchering meat, Abolitionist churches of Brooklyn… Well, it won’t be your usual werewolf book, that’s for sure.

I love research. I love the directions it takes the story. It can be so frustrating, when you’re going for realism – you have all these ideas that dead-end into the wall of history. Then, all of a sudden, the wall opens up, and it’s like the motherfuckin’ Yellow Brick Road.

This morning, I was battering myself trying to find a viable Civil War backstory for Albeus, aka Elvis Finley. This battle, or that battle, which would give him the opportunity for foolhardy bravery which would get him his brevet captaincy, in which year, under which commander, how long before he’d lose said captaincy, and why…

TIL that his brevet captaincy may be the most unlikely thing in the whole book. Yeah, werewolfin’ might be less believable. Finally I found an instance of an enlisted man’s elevation.

“The Civil War encouraged the granting of hundreds of brevet commissions to both Regular and volunteer army officers and to at least one enlisted man, Pvt. Frederick W. Stowe, who was brevetted a 2nd lieutenant.” So yeah, it happened at least once.

BUT. He wasn’t just any private, he was Harriet Beecher Stowe’s son, a man of “considerable social prestige.” So it would be unlikely that our man, from a working class Brooklyn family, would become a captain, right?

YES.  Highly unlikely, and bound to be resented by the generally middle to upper class officers around him. (80% of Civil War generals were college graduates, for example.) Which is exactly why they’d conspire against him to have him knocked back down to sergeant. I could only think that he’d been given the promotion by U.S. Grant himself, a tanner’s son before he rose in the military.

Which in turn meant I needed to find a regiment, a time frame, and a battle or series of battles where I could compress his rise and fall. I was hyperlinking across battles, generals, theaters, and finally, I hit the jackpot.

Do you know who were a bunch of Civil War badasses?  The 14th Brooklyn regiment, that’s who.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/14th_Regiment_(New_York_State_Militia)

If ever there was a perfect place to put Sergeant/Captain Finley, full of instances of derring-do, that was it. After I found them, it all tumbled into place – the chronology, the battles, the dissolution of the regiment in 1864, everything I needed.

That’s when research is fun, when all of a sudden what you needed to make your narrative “real” suddenly reveals itself. Reading about wolves in Yellowstone gave me the idea for the relationship between the werewolves and ravens (one researcher even suggests that ravens, who both lead wolves to food and pick the carcasses, may be part of the pack).

Yeah, I have many fingers crossed for this book. At this pace, given an absence of crises and/or additional Kindlefuckery, the first draft should be done in about two weeks…

No action on the Sam Bradiobook, but that’s okay. I can’t overtax myself.  The studio is all set up, everything’s good to go, but I’m busy now editing an old novel under my “real name,” preparing to come out of the closet so to speak. 125k words and it needs lots of chopping but, shit, right now?  Even cut down below 100k? That’s a lot of pages in a pay-per-page environment.

Funny, I decided to revive that out of print book as an ebook, the *day before* Amazon started paying us by the page…Am I Psychic?  CALL 1 800 ASK BRAD! $2.99 PER MINUTE! LEARN THE SECRETS OF YOUR FUTURE!

WerewolfGIMPOldTimeCasablancaYep, just about to start on Albeus’ origin story. I’ve mined lots of detail on 1866 New York from Luc Sante’s “Low Life,” where Albeus hits bottom after the Civil War. For his pre-war life in Brooklyn, I have a book called “Brooklyn and the Civil War” coming today – Henry Ward Beecher and the Abolitionists, Walt Whitman, the Navy Yard…yikes, I could go down a black hole.  But, I’ve learned that even backstory needs a brisk pace, and I’ll use only the relevant details.  So, here’s the “prebackstory” scene, where the cover photo is justified and explained…

“Wait a minute.  You fought in France?  When?”

“The second world war.”

“You’re…how old are you?”

The King had to think.  “Now?  I’m…175 years old.”

“Get out.”

Finally Albeus smiled, his aura flickering as if the flame had received a whiff of oxygen.  “I know.”  He got up and picked up a framed picture from the top of the cabinet.  Darien hadn’t even known it was there; it had been concealed by the picture of Abraham Lincoln and the officers in front of a tent.

He handed it to Darien, who stared at it disbelievingly.  He looked from Albeus back to the picture.  If it wasn’t Albeus, it was his ancestor, and Albeus was his spitting image.  The man in the photo had on a uniform tunic, with no insignia of rank in view.  He was so handsome, and his intelligence, his humor, his bravery all shone through.

Darien knew how rare it was, to find these qualities in a photo from that era, but not because those qualities weren’t present in spades in the men of the day.  The technology required the subject to sit perfectly still for between three and eight seconds, and “holding still” instinctively made people flatten out their affect.  And a portrait was a serious, expensive proposition – it was a record of how your family would remember you, how the world would remember you, and that was no laughing matter.

So to see this young man, almost looking as if he was in a 21st century “selfie,” was astonishing.  It was as if he had been in a thousand pictures, as if he’d mastered the art of posing.  He was brave, in the face of the camera, the world, the war he was going off to fight.  He wasn’t an officer, and maybe that helped – he had no middle or upper class stuffiness about him, no sense that he was required to make this a solemn occasion.

“That was you, before the war?”

Albeus nodded.  “Yes.  What a pair of balls I had, eh?  The war took a lot of that out of me.  It was a long time afterward before I was…that man again.”

Darien stood up.  “Okay.  I’m going to go into the kitchen, and I’m going to make us dinner.  No, Mr. Trask can help me, but I’m in charge.  We’re going to sit down and eat and you’re going to tell me everything.  The whole story of Albeus aka Elvis Finley, brevet Captain of the Union Army.”

Albeus smiled.  “Yes.  That I will.”