Free At Last

After struggling without much success to publicize The Prometheus Option, I decided recently to offer it here for free to anyone who wants to read it.

The kicker was learning that I had sabotaged my own efforts to find an agent by self-publishing and failing to find the book an audience. It turns out that agents aren’t too keen on spending their time and energy trying to flog a book to a publisher, only to have the publisher turn up his nose at it, knowing that it already failed to make any money.

Apparently it doesn’t even matter how good the book is. And in the revised second edition, which is now available on the Downloads page in ePub and Kindle formats, The Prometheus Option is very good indeed.

The process of revising the book was interesting (at least, I found it so). The first step was to liberate the book from Microsoft Word. I wasn’t about to go down the path of fixing the italicization problems I ran into several times with Word. So I broke the book up into chapters and imported each one into Scrivener.

I had to invest a few hours into experimenting with the Compile formats to be satisfied with the appearance in ePub form, but when I was, I generated the ePub, saved it in Dropbox, and then imported it into Apple Books on my iPad Mini and read through the whole book, line by line. Every time I found an inelegantly turned phrase, missing italics (way too many of those!) or something that needed to be edited so as not to “date” the book, I highlighted it in Books and sometimes made a note. Italics changes were all highlighted in yellow. More substantial edits were in a different color.

When I was done (and very happy that the book still stands up three years after its initial publication), I started Scrivener, positioned the Books app on my iMac’s second monitor just alongside, displayed the notes I’d made in Books and went through them one at a time, correcting the manuscript as I went.

This workflow is extremely efficient, and what’s more, being able to take the book with me and read it in the comfortable context of a reader instead of a writer, made it much easier for me to be constructively critical. I could see the errors that formerly eluded me. Three years of time between me and the manuscript made it a lot easier for me to be objective, too.

The number of changes is high, but most of them are subtle enough that no one but I would notice them. The quality of the finished product was enhanced by a final laborious spelling and grammar check, which did flag a few usage issues and typos, but surprisingly few of them.

Scrivener makes it trivially easy to publish the e-reader formats I’ve chosen to support. The Kindle .mobi format required more work, but not too much: after downloading and installing the free Kindlegen and Kindle Previewer apps, I was able to export a clean version that looks excellent on a Kindle device, though for some reason the same document seems to be missing all of its paragraph indentations when seen on the iOS version of the Kindle app.

I’ll follow up on that and perhaps issue a new copy of the Kindle book to fix it, if I can ever find out why it happens, but it’s very low on my priority list now.

This is the last blog post I envision making here, unless someone decides they want to make a movie out of The Prometheus Option. I just finished a new book, The Spiral Starway, the first in a projected series of five books called “The Starway Saga.” I will not be making the same error with the new books: I’m starting the agent search now.

Finally, regarding the long-promised sequel, On This New Sea, I have to admit that although my enthusiasm about writing it spiked after re-reading The Prometheus Option, right now I just can’t justify the time and effort needed to do it. If The Starway Saga turns out to be a success, and a publisher becomes interested in making a few bucks from my back catalog, or if that movie happens (ha ha!), then I’ll take a crack at it.

In the meantime, I truly hope you enjoy the book. I loved writing it and I don’t regret a moment that I spent on it (except the many hours spent correcting Microsoft Word’s “I can’t undo that big change you just accidentally made” bugs. Never again! Scrivener is the only game in town.

New Cover, New Contents, New Book

Well, updated contents, in any case.

I ran a contest on 99 Designs and was very happy with the artwork for the new cover. I've fixed up the Kindle and CreateSpace editions and hope to be receiving my first proof editions of the paperback in a day or two.

The new artwork is a damned sight better than my original rather feeble cover, and I will be using 99 Designs (and hopefully the same artists) for the new book. I'm hopeful that it will bring attract a few more eyes, as well as being much more representative of some of the dire events in The Prometheus Option.

New book, you say? Yes, there will be another book. The working title is "On This New Sea." It will very likely be a couple or three years before I publish it. In the meantime I have to learn French, and I have a new job that will demand much of my attention. And I have to keep flogging "The Prometheus Option" to readers.

My last Amazon ad campaign actually did better than breaking even. With the new eye-candy of the cover art, I'm hoping it will do even better next time.

Kirkus Reviews and A-Thrill-A-Week have published positive editorial reviews as well. I'm hopeful that the readership will continue to expand.

And positive reader reviews keep coming in! The Amazon.com composite rating is now 4.9 out of 5 stars, with eighteen reviewers providing feedback. On Goodreads.com, the score is a bit lower but trending upward, still an extremely respectable 4.57 out of 5. Very exciting!

Memorial Day Special - Download Kindle Version FREE!

I'm starting my first promotion for the book this weekend. Download the Kindle version for free starting around midnight Pacific on Saturday, May 28, ending around midnight Pacific on Monday, May 30!

Why free?

Because I'm trying to get my name out there. Self-published books are hard to market, especially when you don't have a serious budget. My budget's about as non-serious as you can get! But if you belong to the Kindle Direct Publishing program, you have five days out of every quarter when you can issue your books for free.

The idea is to increase awareness of the book and its author, and to increase the visibility of the book in Amazon's search rankings. The author makes a short-time commitment to not making any money, and hopefully the book will see enough uptake that Amazon's search engine takes notice and starts presenting it to potential readers once the "sale" is over.

We'll see if the self-publishing podcasts are right! Tell your friends and your neighbors. It's hard to beat free! And remind them that they can use the Kindle app on their smart phone, tablet or computer if they don't have a Kindle reader.

I'll let you know how it turns out. Fingers (and eyes) crossed!

Aaaaand we're live!

"The Prometheus Option" is at long last available on the Amazon Kindle Store!

I celebrated for ten minutes. Now it's time to get the print-on-demand version posted as well.

Oddly enough there are some people who don't care for e-books! What are they, crazy?! I can carry around hundreds of books in my Kindle or on my various iPhone/Pads, and the readers don't weigh any more than they would if there were no books installed at all!

Well, I can't blame them, really. I prefer the dead-tree version to the e-book most of the time, except when I look at the sagging bookshelves in the garage and think about what it's going to be like the next time we move.

However, e-books are awfully convenient, and a lot cheaper. I priced the book at $5.99 US and rounded it down to whatever the next lowest price was with a 0.99 at the end in every other country where the book will be sold, except India, where I priced it a bit on the high side at 199 rupees. E-books don't generally sell in great volumes in India if they're more than 99 rupees, but my book is the size of two normal books, so it should cost twice as much.

I already have some sales from some beta reader buddies. I've asked those who have already read the book to hold off on publishing any reviews for at least a week, since Amazon customers often consider too-quickly-posted reviews of massive books to be scams to pump the book's rankings up.

I'll be writing some posts about the whole process of publishing on Kindle, which wasn't without a few "grrr" moments. In the meantime, I really have to get back to work on the print version.

On the Edge

Almost done. Almost! But not quite.

I spent a week at the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon, incorporating reader feedback, editing, rewriting a couple of scenes, and doing the first draft of the cover art. In between, I walked on the beach, drank coffee, and visited the Rogue Brewery pub on the harbor. 

I thought I was done. Then I made a mistake.

I spent a whole day preparing the manuscript format for use in Kindle. A book as long as "The Prometheus Option" takes a while to reformat. While I was doing it, I changed the body text format, and accidentally changed a lot of italicized text to plain text. I discovered it only hours later, and after having saved the document several times.

So now I'm going through the whole manuscript yet again, restoring my italics. I've also found a few more things to correct. There is always a temptation to tinker.

Yesterday I reformatted the web site. Squarespace has really improved their style editor. It's a lot easier to use now, and I was able to find a web site template I really liked. I also incorporated the new cover art into the home page.

Once I'm done re-correcting the text, I still have a couple of maps to finish. Then I'll begin the process of laying out the Kindle and CreateSpace (e-book and print-on-demand) editions.

First Draft Complete

The tale grew in the telling, until it was just freaking gigantic.

In other words, I just finished the first draft of "The Prometheus Option."

Whew.

Right now the manuscript pencils out at 826 manuscript pages containing 208,857 words. And my fingers feel every one of them.

Now I'm going to put the book aside for a while and let it clear out of my head so I can come back at it with a more objective perspective for editing. It's hard to do a good job of it when I'm still in a creative frame of mind. It's not good to write too self-consciously, because you generate crabbed and stifled sentences that seem more attuned to obeying grammar than to telling a story.

At the same time, when you're in the flow, as it were, it can be hard to spot simple errors that creep in when you're not looking: typos, repetitive phrases, awkward sentences that don't scan well and take the reader out of their state of willing suspension of disbelief.

So I have to let the book sit and ferment for a while and turn my attention to other things. It will be nice to have a break from it, to be truthful. I've gotta get started learning French, and I have some music to write.

Now I'm starting to think about publishing. I was originally convinced that I should go the route of authors of old: finding an agent and trying to get it accepted by one of the big publishing houses. In the last few weeks I've been considering self-publishing very seriously, not least because the royalties for e-books are much higher than for printed books.

Andrew Weir wrote "The Martian" and published it online. He incorporated feedback from readers and improved the book, which is very hard to do with printed publications. His book got picked up by a regular press and got turned into a marvelous movie. I'm not saying I think my book has the same selling potential. It's not quite so family-friendly. If it were a movie, it would have a hard R rating for sure, both for language and some terrifyingly violent content. But who knows? 

Self-publishing via Amazon might be the right way to go. Splitting it into two books might also be the right way to go. There's a natural division point just a bit shy of the middle. It wouldn't even require any editing. If I do go that route, book one will be entitled "The Black Box" and book two will be named "The Borrowed Sword."

I have some ideas for cover art that I want to play with, and some of them will require me to learn some new tools for illustration and graphic design.

There are some interesting promotional techniques available to Amazon's writers, including the option of giving the book away for a limited time to seed the reader base and collect reviews.

I also have some ideas about who I'll send printed review copies. There are several podcasters I listen to who might be able to help jumpstart people into reading it. And I definitely want to give free copies to all of my coworkers, but I'd much rather do that in e-book form. I do want to make money from this behemoth, after all.

So that's it for now. More when I have new things to report. And I'll definitely be posting the cover art here once I'm done with it.

 

Back Into It

I just recovered (mostly) from a rather debilitating sciatic nerve pinch that made it impossible for me to sit down comfortably. Fortunately, the wonders of epidural steroid injections have solved that issue for me, at least temporarily, and I'm back on my feet (and ass) and writing again.

I couldn't use my MacBook or my iMac while I was recovering. Instead, I was glued to my iPad. I even managed to "thumb-in" two chapters of the book. Short chapters, by necessity, but important ones. It's just so much easier to use a keyboard. I've returned to work and have a lot of catching up to do, but I'm getting there.

I don't think there's much chance I'll finish the book before the end of the year. Although I'm entering the end game of the story, the action is quite complicated and is going to require some careful orchestration.

Consolidating

Yesterday I took a break from what had been two continuous weeks of day-job work to write the last chapter of the second part of The Prometheus Option

Every once in a while, the words really flow. I type quickly but writing isn't typing. You spend a lot of time lost in thought, reading, re-reading, editing, picking different words, trying to eliminate adverbs. Not so yesterday. The words were essentially a continuous stream from the moment I sat down to the moment I got up, four hours later.

I've had a few episodes like that before, and they always feel glorious. It's as if nothing at all stands between me and the story but the passage of time. If I could just sit in front of the iMac long enough, the book would write itself to a conclusion. Unfortunately I have to deal with things like eating, sleeping, spending time with loved ones, being a nap-platform for the cats, and (shudder) working for a living.

Today was all about editing. Valerie's feedback on chapter two was that it introduced too many superfluous characters who would never be seen again. Naturally I resisted the idea that I could have made a mistake, as I always do, but it only took me a couple of hours to realize that she was absolutely right—as she often is.

Today I fused chapters two and three and spliced out a bunch of one-off characters who didn't contribute much to the story but length. Then I ran through the rest of the chapter and cleaned out a lot of techno-jargon that slowed the narrative down. There's still plenty of jargon but it's more concise and hopefully more accessible to the non-chemists in the reading audience.

The word count has now dropped from 104,000 to about 102,000. I'm done with part two, and moving into the thrilling and terrifying end game of the novel. I hope I can bring it in before I hit 150,000 words. It's gonna be hard. The first continuous editing pass is going to be harder. 

Speaking of editing: I find that it's a lot easier for me to be critical of my own work when I'm not in front of the keyboard. I'm writing the book in the new beta of Microsoft Word for Mac 2016, which is a massive improvement on its predecessors. There's a matching iPad Word app, and I do my editing there. The only downside to it is that it's a little tricky to position the cursor and select text. It looks like iOS 9 will solve that little problem. And the iPad version of Word lets me use Dropbox, so I don't have to push files back and forth between the devices.

Welcome!

Howdy folks! Welcome to the new site. 

I decided to move all of The Prometheus Option content out of my personal site at jeffkirkonline.com. Assuming I can sell and publish the book when it's complete, this site will be the book's official home. Whatever that means.

As of today, June 5, 2015, the book is still under development. I've written 376 manuscript pages and 95,462 words. Yeah, that's a lot. I expect it will wind up somewhere between 120,000 and 130,000 words in the first draft. Then I need to go at the manuscript with a pair of scissors to whittle it down below 120,000. If that's possible. I've already tossed the prologue, much as I liked it. Prologues are so twentieth-century.

Once the first draft is complete, I will find beta readers and send the book out for comments. I'm hoping to find some technical experts who can weigh in on some of the geekier aspects of the book before I complete the draft and try to find an agent.

My current plan is to follow the traditional route of finding representation and trying to sell the book to a brick-and-mortar publishing house. It should be an interesting experience, and I'll document the whole thing here, warts and all.

I think the book's pretty good, and that it will find a home. I guess all authors are pretty proud of their creations no matter how hideous and ill-formed they may be. I've read some printed works that were so bad I couldn't get through the first page without wanting to tear my eyes out, Oedipus-style. Still, the feedback I've gotten so far has been pretty positive.