Monday, December 31, 2012

Ebook Production Workshop

My six-hour UAF WINTERmester workshop in Ebook Production, which begins next week, still needs a couple of more students to sign up or it will probably be canceled. If you've been thinking about self-publishing your book on Amazon's Kindle or B&N's Nook but aren't sure how to go about it, this is the course for you. On the evenings of January 7, 9, and 11 we will cover the basics of ebook production: file conversion, cover design, proofing, and uploading to Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Even if you think you’d prefer to hire a conversion service to do the conversion work for you, this course will be helpful. Your book can be fiction or non-fiction. Come with a manuscript and leave with a published ebook. Here's the course syllabus.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Two opportunities for writers

In the next couple of months I’ll be offering two diverse learning activities for writers, one for Fairbanks residents and one for anyone with Internet service.

The first is a six-hour workshop in ebook production, part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks WINTERmester curriculum. Do you have a book you’ve been wanting to sell on the Kindle or Nook? On the evenings of January 7, 9, and 11 we will cover the basics of ebook production: file conversion, cover design, proofing, and uploading to Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Even if you think you’d prefer to hire a conversion service to do the conversion work for you, this course will be helpful. Your book can be fiction or non-fiction. Come with a manuscript and leave with a published ebook.

Because the course takes place between UAF’s regular semesters, there will be no computer lab open in the evenings for our use. For this reason you’ll need to bring an Internet-ready laptop to class to make the best use of the instruction. (It’s actually better this way because you’ll have all the necessary software on your own computer.) Self-support course fee is $100. (And be sure to download the course syllabus.)

The second activity is part of the 49 Alaska Writing Center Spring course lineup. In February, I will be offering a one-on-one apprenticeship program for science fiction writers. Here’s the course description:

Science fiction, outside of poetry, is the only literary field which has no limits, no parameters whatsoever.”—Theodore Sturgeon. While this characterization is certainly true, science fiction, like any genre, comes with certain built-in reader expectations that the writer must meet. These include muscular plotting, transformative vision, and freewheeling speculation. The Science Fiction Apprenticeship offers one-on-one guidance to writers working on a science fiction short story project, be it cyberpunk, space opera, hard sf, alternate history, or one of the many other flavors of the genre. You'll submit a manuscript of up to 7500 words for a critique by an award-winning science fiction author/mentor. The mentor will provide you feedback in the form of comments and a letter. After mulling these over, you will be encouraged to submit up to two revisions, each receiving additional feedback, as part of a conversation intended to guide both the work and the writer. We'll set goals for your writing and frame our conversation based on finding a path toward those goals, to include up to 60 minutes on the phone or in-person. The program is open to three participants. To apply, email up to five pages (typed, double-spaced) of your story, along with a short statement of goals for your work, to by January 25.

The Spring 2013 schedule will be up at 49 Writers in the next few days. Only three writers will be accepted for my apprenticeship program, and the cost is $350 (members)/$375 (non-members).

In other news, work on my upcoming novel, Camp Tribulation, goes well. Every day I wake up eager to push it forward another thousand words. It seems to be growing in depth and resonance (at least for my own quirky taste), and I’m constantly surprised at new developments and twists I had not foreseen.

However, despite my respectable progress, the fact of the matter is that there’s another couple of unpaid years ahead before I can bring it to market. Thus the writing gigs on offer above. In addition to them, I seem to be sliding back into my old day job of graphic design, this time with a different angle: I am specializing in book and cover design. I’ll write more about this later, but in the meantime, if you’re in need of a custom-made ebook cover design, drop me a line.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Taking my own advice

In my final guest post to the 49 Writers blog, I reported on the theory that the best self-promotion an author can engage in is writing the next book. More titles on sale translates into more sales from readers who follow one’s work. In that regard, I continue to work daily on my next book, Camp Tribulation, at the expense of putting time into this blog. But CT won’t be completed for another year or longer. So in the meantime I’m putting more of my previously published short stories up as 99¢ ebooks. I am pleased to announce the release of the fourth and latest of these, “Yurek Rutz, Yurek Rutz, Yurek Rutz.”

In my third guest post, which was about ebook covers, I suggested that one style of cover to consider designing is the typographic cover. That is, a cover in which the title itself makes up the graphical element. “Yurek Rutz” seemed like the perfect candidate for a typographic cover, and I followed my own advice in that regard as well.

“Yurek Rutz” took a long time to write, over ten years, in fact. I had a notion in my head of what I was going for, but I hit roadblock after roadblock imagining the story. Every couple of years another piece of the puzzle would come to me, and I would jot it down.  Finally around 1997, I managed to draft the whole story. But it was missing something. I had no idea what was missing, so I put it away again and worked on other projects.

 That summer I attended LoneStarCon 2 in San Antonio and happened to attend a panel presentation called “Should I Sleep with the Editor?” The panelists were leading SF editors, including Gardner Dozois of Asimov’s Science Fiction. To the braying amusement of the audience, they read actual cover letters they had received from unpublished authors who were desperate to break into print. These aspiring authors wheedled, cajoled, and argued in an attempt to reach through the page and twist the editor’s arm. See me, read me, buy me.

Suddenly I saw it, how to finish my own story. When I returned home I rewrote “Yurek Rutz,” recasting it as a cover letter to Gardner Dozois. I learned later that he detests epistolary stories, but he bought it anyway and published it in the January 1999, issue of Asimov’s.

I love reading “Yurek Rutz” to live audiences. Of all my work, it’s the one most like my own speaking voice. I can hear not only myself in it but my father as well. Sometimes I choke up when I read it. It’s also my longest piece set in Alaska to date. So, if you like my stuff and haven’t read this little gem, download it today and see why old Yurek has made a cameo appearance in almost all of my subsequent stories and novels, including Counting Heads and "The Wedding Album."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ebook conversion

My second guest post is up at 49 Writers. I guess I should have mentioned last week that I'm doing a series on ebooks over there. Last week's post told why I took the step of self-epubbing my previously published short fiction. Hint: it involves money. This week I outline the steps writers can take to convert their manuscripts for sale on Kindle and Nook. Next week: the oh-so-important ebook cover. And finally: marketing in the digital age. I'm also thinking of doing a bonus post about possible future models for self-publishers and some things I've learned doing my own blog. I've spent a lot of time researching and writing these guest posts (too much time!), and I apologize for the dearth of new material here. That'll change in a couple of weeks when my guest gig is done. One thing I want to do is give you an update about the state of Camp Tribulation, which is chugging along nicely. In the meantime, check out my guest posts.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Guest Blogger at 49 Writers

During the month of April, I am the guest blogger at the excellent Alaskan writing blog, 49 Writers. (Alaska is the 49th state. Get it?) Click here to read my first posting.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Foreign News

I am thrilled to announce that my German story collection, Wir waren außer uns vor Glück, has been nominated in two categories of the Kurd Lasswitz Preis. The collection includes “The Wedding Album,” “We Were Out of Our Minds with Joy,” and three other stories. The Kurd Lasswitz Preis is compared to our Nebulas, and my book is competing in the Best Foreign Fiction and Best Translation categories. My translators are Jasper Nicolaisen and Jakob Schmidt. The book is available in paperback and Kindle from the publisher Golkonda or from

Very cool.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Giveaway Part 2--Free Kindle Ebooks

Last week I gave away two ebooks for the Nook. This week it's the Kindle's turn. Now through Monday, February 27, you can download previously published short fiction of mine. She Was Good–She Was Funny and My Morning Glory and other flashes of absurd science fiction. Read more about them here. Download with abandon!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ebook Launch and Giveaway

At long last, I am pleased to announce the publication of two ebooks, “My Morning Glory and other flashes of absurd science fiction” and “The Wedding Album.” The first is a collection of three flash fiction stories first published in the British science journal Nature, and I’m giving it away for free. The second is a novella first published in Asimov’s Science Fiction and probably my most popular and widely translated work to date.

In order to make a splash, I’m giving away the “My Morning Glory” mini-collection for free, along with a bonus short story (see below). Because of Amazon’s proprietary exclusivity rules, I’ll have to do this in two phases. First comes Nook. Download for free until Monday, February 20. And then from Thursday, February 23 through Monday, February 27, download them from Amazon for free.

Not to make too big a deal about it, but this is more than just a book launch. It’s also the launching of my new role as e-publisher. The synergistic, skill-extension effect of the personal computer and the Internet has finally caught up with authorship, and all hell is breaking loose. With the introduction of the Kindle only three years ago, the traditional barriers to book manufacture and distribution have been battered down. Tens of thousands of aspiring authors have rushed in where only traditional publishers used to tread. Now, literally, anyone who’s ever wanted to publish a real book (in both digital and POD editions) and sell it around the world can do so at minimal cost and fuss. (Grammer, speling & punctuation is optional ;)

Suddenly there are channels to put books into the hands of the reading public that do not involve traditional publishing. Trailblazing authors have already racked up digital bestsellers without NYC’s input. Traditional publishing is reeling with the changes and trying to adapt, and someday it may figure out a new business model (transmedia novels, anyone?). In the meantime, we mid-list authors of the old regime are scrambling to stay afloat in the new. One thing many authors are doing, now that we’ve been given the tools, is to bring out our backlists in ebook format. I’m giving that a try; in my case I only own the ebook rights to my short stories, and I’m only planning on e-publishing these few. (You can already buy “MMG” and “TWA” along with 8 other stories in my Del Rey collection, Getting to Know You.) If all goes well, I may self-pub my next novel, Camp Tribulation, (partly because I’m doubtful any legacy publisher will touch it--it’s that good!--or, maybe it’s no good at all; I don’t know; still too early to tell; it’s about two years away from completion).

One may wonder why I am e-publishing “TWA.” After all, it’s been reprinted about a dozen times and translated into five foreign languages and is easily found on pirate sites. Hasn’t everyone already read it who’s going to read it? I hope not. The fact that it has done so well for so long suggests that, given a little nudge, it might have the right stuff to find new readers on its own who may become new fans.

A literary agent once said that in order to make a living by writing fiction these days, an author needs 20,000 fans. (I think the agent was Donald Maass.) I don’t know how accurate the figure is, but it sounds about right. If it is, I still have a lot of recruitment to do.

I expect that anyone who regularly checks this blog has already read “TWA,” but maybe you know someone who hasn’t. Maybe someone who received a Kindle or Nook for Christmas or Valentine’s Day and is searching for something good to read on it. If so, please do me the fannish favor of passing this link to them.

On the other hand, unless you have a subscription to Nature (or belong to an institution that does), you may not have read the flash fiction stories. Please download “My Morning Glory” at no cost, with my compliments.

But wait, there’s more! For a limited time I’m also giving my Playboy story away for free, “She Was Good—She Was Funny.” It’s not SF, but it’s kick-in-the-pants fun, and if you read it, you’ll have a little taste of what it’s like to live (and love) in the sub-Arctic.

So, Nookies, get your complimentary copies now! And Kindlers, go to Amazon beginning February 23. (I'll post a reminder.)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The New Cover

It's minus 40 degrees F in Fairbanks right now. It was supposed to "warm up" to minus 19, warm enough for my 1992 Mazda pickup to bounce and slide down the road to the grocery store. But it didn't warm up, and I'm literally tossing one log after another into the wood stove. The temp hasn't risen above minus 30 degrees outside my door for 3 days now.

That's the reason for this rare Sunday post. I believe I have finished, at long long last, the cover for my ebook version of "The Wedding Album." I wanted to share it with you (and to give anyone a last chance to send me feedback). I'm liking this one a lot. It seems to have enough science fictional ambiance to telegraph its genre. IMO, it's visually intriguing. And it does the job (remain legible/iconic) at all sizes from 100 pixels wide to full-sized ebook cover (590 x 750).

I modified two images from Wikimedia Commons for the cover illustration. The kissing couple is from "backlight-wedding" by David Ball. The background is from "Have Your Cake - wedding cake with red swirls" by Terry Johnston.

I don't know why I took so long with this damn cover. I was starting to think I'd never get it done. Now that it is, the new ebooks won't be far behind.