About J. A. Self

J. A. Self is the pen name of Elipsimuth Archibald Vallimasque, though most people just call him Jim. Being forced to read child detective novels at a young age forever set him on the path of the librophile. These days he usually finds himself with a fantasy novel of some sort on his eReader. He enjoys all manner of nerdly activities as well as weightlifting, running, sports, hiking, swimming... well, all manner of physical and outdoor activities as well. If you were to visit James K. Polk's hometown, you might bump into Jim on the street.

Running a sale. Yup. #free #epicfantasy #buymystuff #icommandyou

So, my series is on sale this week. (Also notice I’m playing with dedicated landing pages!) Hopefully this will introduce it to some new readers. The first book is free, and the others are discounted to $2.99. No hassle so far, which is nice.

In other news, I’m thinking of doing a series of posts on my hobbies. Probably some would be on Minecraft, since it would be easy to grab screens for posts. That, and the MC community is enormous and very engaged. If they were to happen to come here, where I also present my books for sale… that can’t be bad, can it? :D Yes, it’s an excuse. Shut up. I’ll use it as an experiment on driving traffic using twitter. There. That sounds more justified, right?

Nook… *sigh* Why am I not using KDP Select again? #amwriting #selfpublishing

I praised Nook’s new interface for their publishing platform a month ago or so. Well, now I have some gripes.

After the “reboot” of my series, which included better covers, better sales copy, better front and back matter, better support from my website… I got very little sales at B&N. And getting to this point wasn’t that great either. I had a problem getting one of my new covers to show up. And when I say that I had trouble, I mean that it was never resolved.

Yep, I uploaded the new cover file several times, after checking the requirements for size and dimensions and such several times to make sure it wasn’t my mistake. The old book is still sitting there with the old cover. That was my fix; I unpublished the old copy, uploaded the manuscript (again) and gave it the same name and uploaded the new cover. That worked. And by worked, I mean it didn’t screw up for no apparent reason.

I’ve come to complain about this tonight because I’m in the process of watching SPP #127. Well, that and Hugh Howey was ruminating about KDP Select this week. So here’s how I see things as they stand for my books right now.

1. I have very, very, very few readers off of Amazon. Kobo kicked all of my books back during the erotica purge last year (and no, they weren’t erotic books), and I was too ticked off to reupload until about a month and a half ago. Since then… nothing. Barnes and Noble, since the rebrand and new book release? One. Kindle, meanwhile, is trickling sales with zero promo being done. And we all know Amazon is the career-making marketplace right now. I wouldn’t abandon readers on other platforms, but that isn’t a problem here.

2. There’s a lot of visibility to be gained, and I need it. Countdown Deals and KU both look like great tools. I’ve finally gotten on board the promo train after listening to quite a bit of advice from people who have actually had successful careers as online marketers, and right now all of that learning points towards the visibility KDP Select can garner.

3. It gives control. Being able to time your Select free days precisely helps nail promos from the big promo sites. Otherwise you’re stuck rolling the dice on price-matching. This relates back to the marketing advice as well. The tactics for building sales require that you can turn all the gears at the right times.

4. Why not? Maybe my stuff would do well among binge readers in KU. Maybe it would get enough visibility in Countdown to spur sales. If it doesn’t, I haven’t lost anything.

Anyway, that’s my thinking. I unpublished all of my titles at other retailers just a minute ago. Once they’re done processing (tomorrow probably) I’ll be dipping my toe into that KDP Select thing.

Into Ruin is now finally (finally, finally, finally…) out!

Yes, book 3 of the series is now live. It was a heck of a long time in the finishing, but that struggle is now over. Feel free to buy it as many times as you like. Here’s the story description.

IR smallPrince Kyloth of Salentia and his companions are preparing themselves for the assault on
The kingdom of Salentia is preparing for war with a race who call themselves “metalgods,” machine creatures whose power comes from the blood of their human slaves. Prince Kyloth is training himself in the magic he learned from the tribal survivors in the metalgods’ lands, and Prince Reginald is hurrying to manufacture and refine Salentia’s powerful war machines.

Prince Kyloth and his companions have already fended off an attack by one of the fiendish metalgods, but only one alone, one with no army to speak of. What will happen if the entire metalgod City turns its attention their way?

Unknown to any of them, an army of metal creatures is already approaching the shores of Salentia…

It’s up at Amazon and Kobo right now. B&N will be right along, as soon as they iron out things on their end. Can’t wait? Don’t want to risk a whopping $5 on an author new to you? Contact me and let me know you’re interested in a review copy, which I’ll gladly trade you in exchange for an honest review.

The New(ish) Nook Press Interface

So I haven’t been over to Barnes and Noble’s self-pub platform for a while. A long while. I was pretty unhappy with them because they were my worst seller. (Clearly ALL their fault! Of course!) But Into Ruin is about to come out, probably in the morning, and so I was over there…

The new interface looks really, really good. It’s clean, intuitive, easy to navigate, and is processing pretty quickly. I heartily approve. I have to say, I’ve been on the B&N failure schadenfreude bandwagon, but I actually hope they manage to pull through. They still have the best chance to keep Amazon competitive here in the US, and one has to assume they actually do like books. Hugh Howey’s statement that they do just as much business in self-pub books (proportionally) helped a lot.

Just one teeny little problem… It’s not letting me change one of my older covers. Yeah. It’s been 2-3 days now, and the file hasn’t updated. I can appreciate that they don’t want to let me toss any random image of my choosing onto their professional website. That would be stupid of them. It only takes about $0.15 through a service like Mechanical Turk to get that checked, though. Oh, right, that’s owned by that other book retailer. I can also appreciate that the cover image is by far the biggest file the site has to handle for me. Still, my website can get the same image uploaded and into a post on the fly in a few seconds. Sigh.

As long as I can get this cover thing resolved, I’ll be able to give a tentative two-thumbs-up to the new Nook Press site. Tentative, until I see how sales compare to Amazon and Kobo.

Covers? Covers!

New covers! I’ve been running my brain through the gristmill to learn how to make better covers for my books. I also got honest with myself and rebranded the first book from “Sunshells” to “Shadow on the Eclipse”. The new name fits the book and my target reader MUCH better. Here’s a look at the new SotE cover:

SotE Small

Not bad, eh? GoMB is getting a new cover, too. I have one 99% done, which is now in the “endlessly tweaking” phase. The third book of the series is DONE, HUZZAH, with only some error checking left to do. The cover, however, isn’t done. Still trying to figure that one out.

The big rebranding and whatnot is going to roll out all at once. SotE is going to be republished as a “new” book to help it get some visibility, and the third book will come out at the same time, a la Hugh Howey’s recent advice.

The website will get some tweaking to help build my email list and just look better in general. One example: the email signup at the bottom of this post.

Big stuff happening. Cross your fingers.

Not on the list? WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU? Get on the Story List and I’ll send you the shorter stories I write for fun, and I’ll let you know when something big comes out.

Get on the Story List!



The New Marketing

I’ve been listening to David Wright’s walking podcast, which he calls The Walking Dave. Today (-ish) he got onto the subject of connecting with fans as a means of marketing, and since my wheels have been turning in that direction lately, too, it gave me a lot to think about.

The days are gone when you ran an ad on TV and watched your sales go up. Ignore TiVo, Netflix, Hulu, etc. People don’t respond to ads the same way they used to. It’s a fact backed by data, and a lot of it has to do with how the internet is changing our relationship with media. And, the internet is definitely NOT like traditional media, and doesn’t respond as well to it.

The new reality of media is that there’s a vast ocean of free content of all kinds that you can dip into whenever you want. Want to play video games for free? Or buy cheap games? When I was a kid, getting a new game meant dropping $60. Now you don’t have enough time in a 24-hour day to play all of the REALLY FUN free games out there. How about books? Amazon has an uncountable number of free books, and enough of them are good that you could read forever, without stopping or spending a dime. News media? Music? How about expensive Hollywood-style fight sequences? Surely you can’t see those for free… except you can.

It’s a kind of golden age of media, except most of the media has a grayish-pink tint, standing out no more than anything else. This is the new quandary for the people producing that media; among this ocean of stuff, how can I catch enough attention to be able to make a living? And  the second question alongside it, in this ocean of free stuff, how can I convince people to spend money on me instead?

In the past, it was enough to produce something of great quality. After all, the store shelves only held a certain number of books, and if a customer spent time at that shelf, there was a reasonable chance that they’d at least stop and consider your book before moving on. Now, the shelf holds millions of titles. On the smaller shelves of genre lists, they hold tens of thousands or more. Being on the shelf no longer guarantees anything at all. This is the new truth of selling anything, but especially media. You must, MUST spend some time capturing attention, because otherwise you’re hoping that readers will stumble across you instead of the millions of other options.

I think the question of how to get people to spend money is simpler to answer. Simpler, but not easier. You convince people to spend money on something instead of using a free solution by convincing them it’s worth the money. In other words, you offer quality. It’s the same kind of decision people make when buying a coffee maker. Is this nicer model worth the difference in cost? Is this $5 ebook worth $5 more than the free one I downloaded? If your work is good, their answer will be yes, and they’ll buy your book. If you fail to convince them of the value, their answer will be no.

A third variable enters into the equation at this point, though, the same point that Dave was talking about on his podcast. We can now boost our sales by selling ourselves as a brand. Not so long ago it was almost impossible to “get to know” the personalities behind your favorite television shows or music or whatnot. Now the channel is smooth and easy. What’s more (and better), it’s more available to people like writers than to large organizations. There is no single personality behind Coca-Cola, regardless of their Twitter feed or Facebook page. As a writer, though, I represent the whole work; I can tell you exactly why Reggie has those headaches, should I decide to share it with you. I can tell you what I was thinking while writing that certain scene, and, even better, you can change the future of my books by what you say to me.

That third variable is the one that is the newest, least researched, and least perfected. I’m still not finished with the marketing books I’ve gotten recently, so hopefully there’s some advice about building connections in there.

Flirting with Ubuntu

So I came this close to ditching Windows in favor of Ubuntu last night. I already had it installed, completely overwriting Windows, and I was loving it. (I booted into Ubuntu so I could get online and download the files I needed to repair my Windows installation. Experimentation led to installing it over Windows as a step toward that solution.) The ultimate problem was that Scrivener wasn’t running well. Apparently it doesn’t play well with Wine; about the bottom third of the screen was left uncovered when I maximized Scrivener’s window. That, and the text looked like I was running it on Windows 95. Very hard on the eyes.

I saw that the folks at Literature and Latte are working up a Linux version of Scrivener, but I’m not quite brave enough to exchange my Windows license for a Linux version. I like how Dropbox allows me to access my work no matter what happens, and tying my work to Linux would threaten that. It’s already tied to Scrivener, somewhat.

So here I am, back to Bill’s bloated, unimaginative GUI software. At least everything runs.

That’s Highly Annoying, TradPub

So I’m shopping for a good book on writing descriptions, and here’s what I see:

Delayed Description Book

Oh cool, there’s a new edition of the book I wanted. Wait, there’s no Kindle edition? That’s annoying. Wait, December 12, 2014? It’s not even out? YOU’VE ALREADY FINISHED THE COVER!!! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE AND NOT WANTING TO MAKE MONEY???

pepe

Le sigh.

(This came hot on the trail of Google refusing to show me an Amazon link to the book page, showing me screens of Google Books results even when I searched for “word painting Rebecca Mcclanahan amazon.” Biased much? Also, after reading a lot of reviews, I’m not planning to get the book. Don’t take the picture as a recommendation.)

Mindmaps! You should make some!

So I was just tinkering around with XMind, a freemium mindmapping program. I was throwing notes together for the next project in my pipeline, and I discovered something very cool. When adding notes together, you automatically start grouping them according to their relationship with each other. What I found myself doing was this:

XMind Example

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I began throwing different factors in the plot onto the map, they naturally represent the different pieces of the conflict and the resulting outcomes from each. I had not set out to do an outline, but one started to come together anyway.

This looks like an easy, organic, and visual way to develop a story, while being able to look at all the parts at the same time. And it’s not just a single set of nested brackets, either; I have four main branches going in different directions for different purposes. Note, this all happened within the first 15 minutes or so of me using the program, and there are tons of features I haven’t touched even in the free version. I’m planning to use a mindmap to start this project, convert it into a more traditional outline when it’s ready, and see how it goes. I’ll share my results, too, of course.

(And since I’m using Scrivener, it’ll be easy to staple all of this to the book project and keep everything together for reference and safekeeping.)