This is a huge deal for me. I’ve dreamed about being a published science fiction writer since I was a kid. And now I am. Well, sort of. This is not the way I imagined it when I was a teen-ager; I thought I’d first get a couple of short stories published in science fiction magazines, then get books published through traditional publishing. This is a different path.
And, truly, I won’t really feel like I’ve achieved the dream until I’ve sold at least 100 copies. That’s my initial goal — 100 copies.
So what are you waiting for? Buy it now! MY CHILDHOOD DREAMS HANG IN THE BALANCE!!!!! NO PRESSURE OR ANYTHING THOUGH!!!!!
“The Biggest Man in Lilliput” is a battle of wits to save the 21st Century nation of tiny people from a mob of human religious fanatics. Mayor Yoby of the Lilliputian City of New Mildendo has to save the day by outthinking his enemies. It’s got thrills, humor, and a little satire.
It’s a short story, 5,600 words, and should take about 35 minutes to read.
Julie did the cover, and also was my most valued first reader and copy editor. Didn’t she do a terrific job? That’s right, this ebook is a family project. SO IF YOU DON’T BUY IT THAT MEANS YOU’RE AGAINST FAMILY VALUES.
The photo on the cover is gorgeous, you can take a closer look here. It’s by Scanrail. It’s a photo of Stockholm, Sweden, standing in for the fictional city of New Mildendo, Lilliput, in my story.
I’ve submitted the piece to Barnes & Noble for availability on the Nook; I expect approval by Thursday. I’ll let you know here when its available.
It rained the morning the mob of Gullivers descended on Lilliput, the kind of fast, driving rain that was typical for summer storms in that country. Rain was a deadly threat to Lilliputians caught outdoors. A few unlucky Lilliputians were pummeled to death by raindrops, or drowned, every year.
But Lilliputians had centuries of experience protecting themselves from rainstorms. They dealt with the threat. They either stayed home to wait out the rain, or commuted through a network of tunnels under the city.
The morning the Gulliver mob descended on the City, Mayor Yoby stayed home in the Executive Mansion to wait out the rain, coordinating weather control by phone. When the weather cleared, he headed in to City Hall.
He rode the public omnibus to work, a long metal tube strapped to the back of a domesticated lizard. He liked to ride the bus. The political bloggers of Lilliput said Yoby’s favoring public transportation was an affectation, an ongoing PR stunt. They were right. But that was only part of it. Yoby just plain liked meeting the people of the city, letting anybody who had something to say come right up to him and say it; riding public transit gave him an opportunity to do that.
That morning, Yoby got an earful from one of his constituents, a dowager complaining about an infestation of ants in her candy store. The knee-high insects were harmless, but they terrified the children, and left their damn smelly pheromone trails all over the premises. Yoby was in the midst of reassuring the woman that the Sanitation Department would get on the problem when the bus driver paged him in a barely intelligible voice on the vehicle’s scratchy public address system.
Yoby excused himself. The bus was packed with Lilliputians, but they shouldered out of his way when they saw him coming. They recognized the mayor.
Yoby was hard to miss, a man with skin the color and texture of a well-worn, favorite boot, a bald, egg-shaped head, and a barrel-shaped body, wearing a sharp business suit. At more than six and a half inches tall, he was a veritable giant among Lilliputians, towering more than a half-inch over most of his fellow citizens.
When Yoby got to the front of the bus, he found two uniformed cops waiting for him, accompanied by the mayor’s chief of staff, Piopo, a handsome, middle-aged Lilliputian woman.
“You’re needed in City Hall,” Piopo said. “Code Rampaging Giraffe. We have a mount waiting for you here to get through the crowds. We must get moving immediately.”
Yoby indulged his only two vices. He lit a cigar and swore.
Gullivers were both lifeline and threat to the Lilliputians. Since the destruction of the home islands by a volcano shortly after the historic visit from Lemuel Gulliver, Lilliputians had settled in a diaspora all over the globe. Eventually, they formed a new nation, on the east end of Long Island, just a few dozen miles from the Gulliver city of New York.
Lilliputians traded with Gullivers for food, medical supplies, rare materials, and perhaps most important, knowledge.
Artwork and scientific discovery had the same value no matter what the size of the producer. Lilliputian livestock and vegetables were prized for their delicate flavors. Lilliputians worked in the movie and TV industry, especially as actors — they could do a normal movie on a tabletop, and put on an entire, sprawling epic in a single room. The entirety of James Cameron’s classic Titanic was filmed with Lillputian actors in the bedroom of a suburban house. And, with their tiny hands, Lilliputians excelled at delicate work.
Lilliputians and Gullivers were partners in commerce and culture. And yet, the so-called threat posed by Lilliputians was a constant thread running through the more bigoted wings of Gulliver politics. The Gullivers claimed Lilliputians hated America, were stealing human jobs, corrupting morals, distributing pornography, collaborating with terrorists, selling drugs, pirating music on the Internet, and every other imaginable sin.
Julie did a bang-up first pass at creating a cover for my ebook short story. It looks sharp and professional, playful and a little bit serious, capturing the tone of the story nicely. It uses a gorgeous cover photo too; it’s the one titled San Francisco Cityscape With Cookware on this page. I love the photo — I love all the photos on that page — but I don’t think they’re quite right for this particular story. And I don’t have permission to use them. So we’ll have to find another photo. That’s OK, there are plenty of public-domain cityscapes available on the Internet.
The story, by the way, is called “The Biggest Man in Lilliput.” It takes the premise that a colony of Lilliputians built a city on North America, and now it’s survived to the present day, with Internet access and political blogs and all the other accoutrements of modern life. I guess you could say it’s a fantasy-comedy-thriller. It’s short. I’ll be selling it for $0.99. Or maybe $1.09, because apparently $0.99 is a red flag that says crappy shovelware just dumped into an ebook file without even being proofread.
No, I think I’ll just go for $0.99. Pricing for electronic goods, where the cost of reproduction and distribution is near zero, is hard.
I want to have the story for sale by Christmas. E-reader sales are going to be huge for Christmas, and all the people with empty new e-readers will want something to read right away. So that’s an opportunity to make some sales.
I will be using ZappTek LegendMaker software to handle the conversion, which is supposed to be automatic and easy. But I vaguely remember little quirks of ebook formatting that don’t appear to be covered by the LegendMaker documentation. For example: Covers for epub-formatted ebooks, which is the format used by most ebook readers, need to have opaque backgrounds. But the Amazon Kindle requires a transparent background. Or maybe I’m misremembering. Or maybe it’s the other way around. I need to look into this.
I don’t just want the book available in one place, though. After the Kindle store, I’ll put it up on the Barnes & Noble Nook store. Then here, adding a storefront page to this Web site. This blog runs on WordPress, and I understand it’s not difficult to set up a cash register on a WordPress site. I’ll also want to put the book up on as many other ebook sites as I can find; I understand SmashWords is good for that.
Now here’s a fun idea: Con-Dor, a local science fiction convention, is March 2-4. I’d like to print up postcards with the book cover and promotional materials to give out at the conference. Better yet: Postcards to sell, with redemption codes for the ebook. Buy the postcard, come to the Web site later, enter the unique redemption code on the postcard, and claim your copy of the book, prepaid. As if that’s not nerdy enough, I’d like to get a Square credit card reader so I can take credit card payments when I’m just walking around. But only if the convention rules allow it; I don’t want to be a dick about it.
Also: Writing. The most important part. At this point, I have a lot of material in the pipeline — several short stories written and abandoned that need shaves and haircuts, two novel drafts requiring revising, and a third novel in progress. Lots to do.
I had a fine weekend at LosCon, and when I returned had a pleasant discovery. Julie had finished proofreading and copy-editing “The Biggest Man in Lilliput,” which is going to be my first ebook.
She’s also doing the cover. Until she finishes that, I’m fooling around with software for converting documents to ebooks.
According to my research, 80% of ebook sales come from two sources: The Amazon Kindle store, and Barnes & Noble Nook. Everything else, including Apple’s iBooks, is small change. The Kindle uses a format called .mobi, and Nook (and many other ereaders) use epub.
What’s the difference between those two formats? I don’t know, and I don’t think I need to. I just need to be able to convert to those formats.
This multi-part series describes how to format ebooks manually. It doesn’t look hard. It looks like it’s just simple HTML, the kind of thing I’ve been doing for many years to create blog posts.
Alternately, you can use packaged software. The free Calibre, which runs on Windows, Mac and Linux, creates ebooks and converts between formats. I use it to manage some of the ebooks I read. But it looks a little complicated for making ebooks.
Alternately, Michael Stackpole, a science fiction writer and self-publishing evangelist, recommends Legend Maker for the Mac, which he helped design. It’s $50 on the Web. The demo version looks a little scanty, allowing you to only make ebooks up to 100 lines in length. So I took a leap of faith and spent $40 to buy Legend Maker from the App Store.
I’m a little hazy on the next steps after I create the ebook. As far as I can see, I can upload it myself to the Amazon Kindle Store, as well as the Barnes & Noble store. I’ll probably hit iBooks too because, well, why not? At some point down the road, I’ll post it to Smashwords, an ebook publisher that distributes to a variety of online stores. Smashwords takes a 15% cut, on top of the cut taken by other online bookstores (Kindle, for example, takes a 30%) cut. I think I can use Smashwords to distribute the book to other bookstores but not the Kindle, Nook, and Apple store. I need to look into that.
Another very important step: Make the book available for sale from here, on this web site. I get to keep 100% of that money. Woo-hoo!
Pricing: Stackpole recommends $1 per 10,000 words, figuring that’s about the amount most people can read in an hour. So a 100,000 word novel, which is a typical length for science fiction and fantasy, would sell for $9.99. “The Biggest Man in Lilliput” is 5,700 words. The Kindle store sets a floor on prices of $0.99, so that’s what I’ll sell it for. Unfortunately, that leaves no room for future discounts, but so it goes.
Marketing is another important step in the process. I plan a series of blog posts describing what inspired me to write the story, a little bit about my research, and the story’s influences. As you possibly guessed just from the title, a certain book by Jonathan Swift was the main influence — the movie wasn’t out when I wrote the story and we didn’t even see it until a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t bad.
I’m excited about this, and I hope you’ll by the book when it’s available.