I’m putting together an anthology of short stories by my favorite indie authors – it will be given away for free, probably on sites like Smashwords and Feedbooks, and would include links to the authors’ sites or wherever they’d like to direct people to find more of their writing (whether free or not). If you’re an indie author whose stories have been reviewed here (and therefore through my review blog) you are automatically eligible and I will likely be contacting you (unless you want to pre-emptively contact me first by email at email@example.com) to see if there’s a particular story you’d like included. I have my own ideas about that as well. Other readers of the blog are welcome to send a short story as well, if interested, and I’ll be glad to consider them all for inclusion. I don’t have a hard deadline at the moment, but it will probably go out early next year. Thanking you in advance ..
Anyone who disapproves of free e-books can happily ignore this post.
Most of the websites offering free e-books suffer from the general haystack problem. Most of the needles are rather prickly (in the erotica sense) featuring all sorts of billionaires and spankings and so forth. Some of the sites I like, such as Feedbooks, are dominated by porn to such an extent that most “literary” types have given up on using them. Smashwords still suffers from discoverability problems, as do free-ebooks.net and Obooko which have all sorts of stuff if you can figure out how to wade through them.
I like Bibliotastic because it’s “curated” (I know, a tacky geek word, but how else to put it?). They don’t just publish anything that’s thrown at them, but make an attempt to preview and review and filter the books they wish to be associated with. It’s a small-business operation, worthy of support, and I’m flattered to have some of my books included in their selection. You can also find books their by some of my favorite indie authors, such as Paul Samael and Opposite Books
From Paul’s comment below: “For anyone interested in knowing a bit more about Bibliotastic, here’s an interview with one of its founders, James Crawshaw
I can’t help reading online reviews, it’s a guilty pleasure, but ultimately meaningless. People are all over the place and you don’t know them anyway. I suppose you can take away some insight every now and then but usually I find that the more you look into it a review and the person behind it, the more the whole thing just cancels itself out.
Case in point. My old story “The Part Time People” received two new reviews yesterday on Amazon, a one-star and a three-star. The reviews were sparse, one-sentence affairs that didn’t say much, but I went and looked at the other reviews by the same people and found this: the one-star reviewer has often handed out single stars, but also bestowed five-stars on some “billionaire” porn story. So, okay. This ain’t my ideal reader. The other reviewer had only one other review, where she gave two stars to Jack London’s White Fang. I think she felt sorry for the wolf that it ended up on a farm. I can tell you one thing for absolutely sure. My story in no way deserves more stars than White Fang.
The Part Time People is my most-reviewed book on Amazon – 35 in all – and the spread is interesting:
5 stars - 9
4 stars – 7
3 stars – 6
2 stars – 7
1 star – 6
Does this make any sense at all? The average is 3.2 on Amazon (2.5 on Goodreads, where my stories’ ratings are almost always 0.5-1.0 points lower than on Amazon itself). It’s just all over the place.
I had been using Lulu to make paperback copies on my fictions, one by one, but they’re so small I was never really happy with the results. At least I had something I could give to techno-phobic friends and family, but I had the idea that my fictions would be better served if published as collections, so I’ve lately been using CreateSpace to do that. Obviously these works are not destined for a bookstore near you, bookstores being collectively against CreateSpace on the principle of not helping Amazon destroy them all even more utterly than it’s already doing, but the product is nice and I’ve been happy with the process. It also makes it easier to bundle with Kindle, and you can easily offer the ebook for free now with Amazon’s new Book Match program.
The latest offering is Unwritten Rules and Robots, and includes three short science fiction novellas, each of which is rather entertaining in its own way:
It’s the end of the world as we know it, when the dreaded Singularity finally occurs and happens to be captured, live on tape, by agents of the Frantic News Network, which freaks out, as usual, and causes a lot of trouble for the mild-mannered nanobot exterminator who happens to get caught in the crossfire
Unwritten Rules of Impossible Things:
What if someone – or something – stole one of your days? Just one, and you didn’t know why, or what they had done with your life in that time? Young Philip Galvez and his friend Marcus Holmes found out for themselves when they decided to discover why there was a giant stuffed moose in a house down the road.
The New Guy in Moon Base Twelve:
They weren’t exactly the crew the President had in mind when he announced his plan to build a permanent base on the moon so the Chinese wouldn’t do it first, but there they were, a boring collection of peaceful, happy settlers who couldn’t even get a decent reality TV show rating. Life was perfectly dull until the new guy arrived. Now if they could only find out who he was and where he’d come from.
Other CreateSpace collections include these:
Dragon City: Enter the world of Snapdragon Alley, where every so often very strange things happen in a far corner of the city of Spring Hill Lake. Beginning as children, Alex and Argus Kirkham and their friend Sapphire Karadjian encounter the whatever-it-is and find themselves repeatedly drawn into its orbit. Is it a sentient wormhole to another dimension? Is it a creature of vast and unusual appetites? Is it even a thing or a place at all, and will anyone ever unravel its essence?
Four episodes in the lives of these three people over a period of fifty years explore the mysterious worlds of Dragon City in four short novels, including Snapdragon Alley, Freak City, Dragon Town and Happy Slumbers.
Rays and Nights: Three short novels sharing characters and locales in widely different genres.’ Zombie Nights’ is an existential resurrection thriller. ‘Death Ray Butterfly’ is manic comic sci-fi detective fiction. ‘Raisinheart’ consists of three coming-of age stories.
Epic Fail: The anti-hero, anti-fantasy anti-quest adventure!
Accidental ordinary everyday immortals, shut away in an infinite forest prison maze, must find a way to fulfill their mission: to find some unknown thing, take it somewhere, and do something with it. Failure might be the only option, and the only way out could turn out to be no way out.
This book contains the first three books in the Epic Fail series: Entropic Quest, Prisoners of Perfection, and The End of the Line
The Secret Trilogy: The three short novels comprising The Secret Trilogy share characters, plots and locales across different genres: a mystery (Squatter with a Lexus) , an urban fantasy (Secret Sidewalk), and a ghost story (Hidden Highway). A secret thread runs through the set, defying the reader to sniff it out. In the end, who can run away from that which never pursues?
“In these great times” is a line from the Austrian journalist Karl Kraus who is once again having a slight revival, this time due to the writer Jonathan Franzen. “In these great times,” Kraus ironically pronounced, “which I knew when they were this small …” – not so great, in other words. He was a famous crank of his times, curmudgeon, hater, firebrand, performer – I wonder now if he wasn’t a sort of intellectual Lewis Black, a sort of bitter comedian except that his jokes were on everybody else.
I bring this up in conjunction with an article I saw recently on Salon.com on the great success of “erotica” writer Selena Kitt. The greatness of this success is in being a female writer and self-publisher of hardcore porn that is popular with women readers and raking in a lot of money. These are truly great times indeed! What’s interesting to me about this is the confluence of factors that makes it possible. Take the same writer writing the same book and self-publishing twenty or even ten years ago, and you have no “success” whatsoever – partly because of the self-publishing opportunities unavailable then, the technology and the culture and the devices, but also partly because more women seem to be enjoying more and different kinds of porn now than previously.
In other words, there must be an alignment with the times in order for any kind of “success” or “greatness” to be achieved.
Or perhaps for anything at all to be achieved.
In one sense, this is what President Obama meant by his often misquoted “you didn’t build this” comment. It takes a village in order for a woman to make a gazillion dollars by writing steamy sex scenes. In another era, not so very long ago, there’s a chance she could have been imprisoned for peddling the exact same smut!
I’d recently subscribed to Booktrakr - a service in beta that retrieves online book data and presents it to you in a daily email as well as a dashboard in the browser. It’s a good and useful idea, the only caveat being that you may not want to give out your passwords, which they need to get the data for you.
After a couple of weeks I realized that the service didn’t quite meet my needs. Understantably, it’s focused on sales and is intended for people who are selling their books through the regular book and e-book sales channels such as Amazon and iTunes and Barnes & Noble. That’s fine for them, but since I give away all of my ebooks, and do that through a number of outlets that Booktrakr doesn’t cover, I thought that maybe I could just do the same thing myself, customized for my particular needs. It turned out that some of the work I’ve been doing for my day job came in quite handy.
A few of the data point require downloading and parsing spreadsheets (Smashwords’ affiliates, quarterly or annually, and Kindle Direct, at least for starting out accumulating the history) but the rest of it is visiting web pages, scraping the page source for the reported downloaded quantities, and some programming to stash all this in a database and perform some differential operations. It’s not perfect. Some of the figures are misleading because I just added some sites in the past few days. Over the next several days it will all sort itself out in terms of totals and recent history. Also, the browser can crap out sometimes (WebDriver is far from flawless) so there are days when reports don’t happen for some websites, but for the most part, I’m now sending myself daily reports and presenting the information in tidy little tables at the Pigeonweather Cloud site on Amazon Web Services.
The totals do not include the various pirate site where I’ve seen some of my books, nor the Scribd copies that other people have uploaded, and I haven’t yet included some other sites (including Lulu, Liibook, XinXii) where downloads have been relatively few in any case. I don’t intend to go into business doing this kind of thing, but if someone is interested in setting up their own, I could help with some advice and source code.
The Man Who Could Not Forget is a short story, free from Smashwords. It is about, well, the title tells you that much. The main character is unable to forget anything in his life, from the smallest detail to the most subtle emotion, and has to regulate his life so as not to fill up his brain prematurely. The ramifications of this “ability” are beautifully played out, and not without interesting and unexpected twists and turns. A perfectly crafted story, highly recommended.
From Sept 25 through Oct 25, you can sign up for the Goodreads Giveaway of the paperback edition of Epic Fail, consisting of Entropic Quest, Prisoners of Perfection and The End of the Line. The paperback is pretty nice, I think, from CreateSpace, and includes a free ebook edition on purchase from Amazon, using the Kindle Book Match program (which is not the same as lighting a match to a piece of kindling …). Rowed by an old fogey (myself) and steered by a child (my son), this series is (dare I say it) rather original and full of unexpected twists and turns. It’s an anti-hero, anti-fantasy, anti-quest adventure, which is, as one reviewer said, a “very strange story and very enjoyable.”
I’ve done the same with Dragon City (Snapdragon Alley, Freak City, Dragon Town and Happy Slumbers), Rays and Nights, (Death Ray Butterfly, Raisinheart and Zombie Nights) The Secret Trilogy (Squatter with a Lexus, Secret Sidewalk, and Hidden Highway) and The Atheist Shopping Network Presents …. (Orange Car with Stripes, Missy Tonight) Given the size of my books (small) it makes a lot of sense to publish them in paperback in batches.
Booktrakr is a web app/service for self-publishers that aggregates and delivers all your sales, reviews and rankings info from a variety of platforms, including Kindle, Smashwords, iTunes and PubIt. It’s not perfect, but it’s only in beta right now so you’ll want to make allowances for that. It sure beats trying to go and collect all this stuff yourself, especially if you have multiple titles available through multiple channels. Note that Smashwords’ channels don’t report on the daily emails because they don’t report to Smashwords daily, either.
Some amusing things I found so far is in the Amazon rankings of some of my titles. I have no idea how they come up with categories for this stuff. For example:
|Missy Tonight||1||Kindle US Free > … > Agnosticism|
|Orange Car With Stripes||2||Kindle US Free > … > Cults & Demonism|
|Snapdragon Alley||26||Kindle US Free > … > Scary Stories|
|Snapdragon Alley||5||Kindle FR Free > … > Spine-Chilling Horror|
|Snapdragon Alley||12||Kindle ES Free > … > Terror y fantasmas|
|Tiddlywink the Mouse||2||Kindle US Free > … > Mice, Hamsters, Guinea Pigs & Squirrels|
|World Weary Avengers||23||Kindle US Free > … > General & Reference|
|Zombie Nights||25||Kindle US Free > … > Metaphysical & Visionary|
World Weary Avengers in General & Reference? Why? Does it sound like “Wikipedia”, because it begins with a W and contains many syllables? It’s a silly sci-fi story!