Putting the blog to use.

Today I took Killian to gymnastics. Wrote a very little. Worked on a basic picture render because I wanted to do something. Played Pandemic with the household. Took a nap, but that goes without saying. And I spent some time looking for a missing case full of games, and failed to find it. Which drained a lot of my energy for anything else. But I wanted to write down what I did today.

Rules of Consent for an Autistic Kid (and anybody else)

[Originally known as Rules of Consent (Complicated Version for Big Boys)]

1.) If you are doing something to somebody else and they say ‘Stop!’ or ‘No’ or ‘Ow’ or ‘I don’t like that’, STOP IMMEDIATELY. Follow up by asking if they’re okay. Don’t start up again unless they invite you to. You can instead suggest something else to do: play a different game, watch something, hang out and talk.

2.) If you have tried to do something with or to multiple people in a short timespan (which might be a few minutes or an hour or a day, depending), and those people say NO, don’t experiment by trying it on new people. For example: if two people don’t like ‘joke hugs’, don’t try it on a new person for at least a day. If three people don’t like it, wait a week before trying a new person, and so on.
3.) Respect a closed door. Never open a closed door unless you’re the one who closed it, or the owner gives you permission. Only knock once on a closed door. Special requests override the knock-once rule. So do life-threatening emergencies.
4.) When you are a guest, wait for an invitation to do things unless it’s a biological issue: you can ask for a drink of water and to use the bathroom, but do not play with toys or explore the house unless they invite you to do so. You can ask questions about things in the house, but not if you can play with those things. (If they want you to play with those things, they will invite you to do so.)
5.) Hands off. Don’t grab people. Don’t restrain them. Don’t hold them down. Explicit exceptions: you’ve both agreed to play some kind of wrestling game. Somebody is in danger of being hurt (running into traffic, falling off a tree, and so on).
6.) Respect personal space. Don’t stand closer than an arm’s length to a stranger, a hand’s length from a friend and you can hug family, but you have to ask first.
7.) Respect personal boundaries. Everybody has different personal boundaries regarding personal space AND personal interests. Rule #1 also applies to topics of conversation. If somebody says, “I don’t want to talk about that,” say, “OK!” and  change the subject. You can always talk about the weather or your pets.
8.) If you have observed that somebody does not like it when a third party does something (they say, “No,” or “Stop,” or “I don’t like that,” or “I don’t want to talk about it,” or “Don’t touch that,”) do not test if that rule also applies to you. Assume it does.
9.) All these rules also apply to other people interacting with YOU.

Fat-shaming and bigotry

Look. It’s been said that fat-shaming is the last socially acceptable form of bigotry.It’s not quite true; I suspect the ‘last’ form will be ‘personality-shaming’ aimed at those with personality ‘disorders’– but fat-shaming IS bigotry. Body-weight is deeply linked with the idea of ‘bad’ in American minds. Look at any discussion of body-positive models and you’ll see not just mockery and derision but outright rage that anybody dare try to to present fat people as healthy, attractive, okay in any way. Being fat isn’t just considered unhealthy for an individual (as well as a sign of laziness, gluttony and poor moral fiber), it’s considered unhealthy for a society. A good portion of you reading this are probably thinking, “Yes, but it IS unhealthy to be fat. They really should do something about it. There’s an obesity epidemic!” Well. There’s an argument to be had there and other people are having it, so I won’t. I’ll just point out that to be fat (perhaps especially a fat woman, but men get this too) is to be _surrounded_ by media that tells me how worthless I am: how little I can expect to accomplish and how my failures are all my own fault for being bad. Even a mildly overweight (by some standard) person being criticized will inevitably have their weight criticized too. And while some people will argue with that, more agree quietly (or vocally) with it. Being fat is wrong. Let’s all lose weight. Every good person can, and will.

I’m bad, I’m worthless, I’m ugly, I’m lazy, I’m a failure and I’m fat. If you care about me, I bet it hurts you to read me saying those things about myself… even “I’m fat.” Think about that. Do you want to say, “Oh, you’re not….” That’s the cultural bigotry at work. I hate calling myself fat. I’ve got the cultural bigotry too. It tells me to hate myself and oh, when it comes to my body, my special body that only rarely gets sick and never gets fevers, I do hate myself. I want to be thin more than I want to be healthy. And every time I see somebody’s weight criticized by strangers, those negative connections are reinforced. For me, and for everybody who reads them.

Fat-shaming is bigotry. “Oh, but it’s different.” “Oh, but it’s their choice.” “Oh, but they’re so bad for society.” “Oh, but it’s a disease and they should be helped.” Really? I feel like I’ve heard all that before.

*

For the last three years, we’ve had “Women Destroy Science Fiction,” “Queers Destroy Science Fiction,” and “People of Color Destroy Science Fiction” run wildly successful Kickstarters. Next year we get “People with Disabilities Destroy Science Fiction.” Do you think in 2018, we’ll get “Fat People Destroy Science Fiction”? I suspect not. Alas. Maybe someday.

(Probably a few years after people stop thinking a ‘low-fat’ diet is the right choice. The govt, recommendations have changed but society has already been poisoned that way…)

I made a thing.

Bower of Blood and Thorns

This is what I’ve been working on the past few days. It’s my first complete Twine (a hypertext interaction fiction tool) project. I wrote it for Porpentine’s LocusJam. It features fallen angels because I have a schtick, oh yes.

If you read and liked the story in Etiquette of Exiles called “The Endless Silence of Forgotten Things” you’ll probably like this. Or if you like Dark Souls storytelling, maybe.

It is less than 6000 words all told, and any one playthrough should take less than five minutes. It’s a flash-fiction generator! And there are 9 ending points.

I am kind of embarrassed by it, but I had a lot of fun putting it together. So I guess that’s okay?

Food for thought

We’re watching this show, my housemate and I. In it, every so often 6 chosen heroes are sent to Deal With the Demon Lord. Except this time, there are 7. They not unreasonably conclude one of them is sent by the Demon Lord. They’re trying to figure out who.

1.) If they gang up on the wrong one, they’re screwed.

2.) They have no way of knowing who the plant is.

3.) They already know that somebody raised by the Demon Lord to hate them can change their mind.

They haven’t discussed this yet but it seems OBVIOUS to me that the best and safest solution is for all 7 of them to bond strongly. Be generous to each other. Be kind. Because the absolute best and strongest solution is to make the plant care enough to hesitate and choose not to betray them. Then it’s 7 against the Demon Lord. Hah hah. Good guys win.

Food for thought.

*

It was really windy today. As I drove home from dropping the kid off at preschool, I watched the tall trees in my neighborhood sway.

Sometimes, in a windstorm, the trees fall. On houses, on cars. People die.

But somehow, we never say, “Ah, and now we must cut down all the trees.”

Sure, we keep an eye on dangerous trees. We assess. We trim. We remove the diseased. But even when disasters happen, we don’t respond by cutting down all the trees.

(And we don’t cut them down for a good reason! If you cut down all the trees, you lose your soil. You end up with a dustbowl. You have an infertile wasteland where nothing grows and everything is the same. Sad. And deadly.)

More food for thought.

Exclusivity and me

I started out with a small press, the lovely Candlemark & Gleam. When I had a publisher, they decided where and how my books were sold: on their website and via most of the major book retailers. Not my problem.

I self-published Nightlights, and as C&G did with Matchbox Girls, I published it everywhere. Even now it’s available in places none of my other books are, like Wattpad.

On my own, I published everything everywhere, except Carousel Chain, which is a little short story thing I threw on KDP Select for a while. Nothing really happened with it, even when I made it free, so I sniffed a little, unenrolled it and moved on.

I believe in my books being widely available. It’s almost a moral issue. So I ignored KDP Select for a long, long time, through all the various changes. I didn’t even bother reading about it. I could see how it helped some but even when I went completely indie and started republishing the Senyaza books on my own, I stayed in wide release.

I have data on how my books sell. I know how they sold in wide release with quirky covers and limited marketing. I know how they sell in wide release with genre-appropriate covers and as much marketing as I could manage within the price limitations I was subject to.

And one day I said, “It’s only a three month term. Let’s see how well they sell if I take advantage of KDP.” It was easy to say, because I’d sold zero books outside of Amazon in the previous three months.

So. The Senyaza books are enrolled in KDP Select, which means the ebook versions are only available on Amazon. It also means they’re included in the Kindle Unlimited subscription, which is the Amazon library service. And what that means is that I get approximately half a penny for every page read by a KU borrower.

(This will have ramifications on the launch of Divinity Circuit in November. Stay tuned if you’re an epub reader. You’ll be presented with options–although the easiest and best one is to support my Patreon.)

Anyhow. It’s been educational, because now I have data on what happens when a book is part of KDP Select and borrowable… and what happens when a book is part of KDP Select and pushed through an advertising campaign. And hey, I can show you a chart. Would you like to see?

rank

I shared an earlier version of this graph months ago, without really going into details. That’s because it was a lot less interesting then. It’s my Author Rank in Amazon, which is related to Sales Rank of an author’s entire catalog somehow. Spikes are sales, usually. Library borrows adjust Sales Rank just like actual sales.

The red arrow highlights where I took over actively marketing the Senyaza series. Sales, paid advertisements, general paying attention. That stuff clearly makes a difference! I went from around $5 a month to $40 a month (but still around a net $5 a month after advertising expenses).

The blue arrow is when I joined KDP. I futzed around with some marketing efforts but while they were more productive than anything I’d seen before, I didn’t have much of a sense of what I was doing. Still, I started getting borrows and that half-penny a page added up to around $50 more.

Then I ran a promotion that worked better than the previous ones. That’s the green arrow. It’s a promotion that wouldn’t be possible without the tools provided by Amazon Select. It hit milestones. I continued to sell books–even more books! and my pages-read skyrocketed. And I’m suddenly contemplating actually earning something I’d call an income from my books (albeit a tiny one). I’ve been working toward that dream so long that it’s almost uncomfortable to contemplate.

So yeah. I read things sometimes from various traditionally published pros, and from indies who would “never give [their] work away,” and they talk about how bad KDP Select is. Conceptually, theoretically, philosophically… maybe so. But I know for a fact that refusing KDP Select on philosophical grounds does nothing for my dreams.  I can write good books but I simply don’t have what it takes–personal popularity, a great hook, a platform, marketing savvy, whatever–to get hundreds or thousands of people to pick those books up. Not without Amazon’s help.

I’m hoping I can build a real fanbase while things are the way they are at Amazon. I don’t have any faith that I’ve found a forever home. But I’m willing to take advantage of opportunities while they’re around.

A side note: I think it’s funny how so many people come into publishing  and assume they started at the bottom. I’ve read people worrying about their Author Rank (that chart above) dropping below 1000– and assuming everybody else shares the same worry about the same level. I laughed.

I think that happens with both indies who started out somewhat successful, and with traditionally published authors. My definition of ‘somewhat successful’ is a lot lower than somebody who started out making the equivalent of a few hundred bucks a month. Oh yes. On the other hand, I’ve learned a ton, maybe including some stuff those who start out luckier never do?

Another sidenote: I’ve recently encountered the idea among some indies that books can be ‘dead’. Dead beyond resuscitation, even. I’ve read suggestions that badly performing books can only be saved by taking them down, changing their titles and covers to ditch previous record links, and republishing. I laughed again. I might not be laughing in a few months when I do some more experiments, but right now all I can think is, “I’m glad nobody ever told me that my books were dead.”

Marketing as an Indie

This is how selling books on Amazon works as an indie, after you’ve exhausted your own lovely readership.

Sales rank is like shelf space. The higher your sales rank, the more likely you are to be seen by random browsers. (This is also influenced by # of reviews, especially when it comes to browse methods other than category-wandering, like ‘also bought’ and straight up search results.)

Sales rank is obviously influenced by sales. So you need to move your book up in the sales rank so more people see it. You need to do this by selling. Or by doing giveaways that you convert to a minimal price point on the second day. And you have to promote the sales and the giveaways, so you go to various deal-promo lists and you hope to get a lucky feature or else you pay them (or you get lucky and THEN you pay them) for that feature.

And you hope like hell some of the taste-setters maybe pick up your book someday. One of the problems there is that the taste-setters are pretty courted and petted and busy, and they often have an aversion to reading books they haven’t heard other people talking about warmly. Kind of a catch-22 there, where you also have to end up lucky. But you keep trying because word of mouth matters and some mouths have more reach than others.

Meanwhile you’re of course working on the next books, which, especially if they’re sequels, provide their own boost to sales. I think they’re the longest-term thing to be accomplished, both in terms of time spent and benefit gained. But ask me about that again in a year or so!

It’s definitely a job, with expenses. Not anywhere near a full-time job, not for me and my shelf and my approach. But I can understand why a micro press without somebody armed with a budget and fully dedicated to marketing would eventually flounder. And unless you have lottery-winning luck or an existing platform with thousands of solid social media contacts, simply writing a book and putting it out there is going to result in six sales and depression.