self publishing

Big Amazon Score: 100 copies of my own book for $1 each

It still amuses me to think of the time I bought 100 copies of my own book, Savage Night and Other Stories, for $1 each on Amazon. Looking back at my Amazon orders, this was on April 1, 2011.

I caught the sale at the right time. Amazon was listing my book for $3. I assume they had warehoused a few stock copies due to the success of my earlier book, Mondo DC. Now they had unsold copies to get rid of. On a whim, I placed an order for my own book, requesting 100 copies. I had to order the books in batches of 33, with one batch of a single copy. I figured they would cut me off based on the number they actually had in stock. But no.

They sent me 100 copies of Savage Night.

Savage Night and Other Stories

For me, this was a no-brainer. Kind of. My royalty rate on Xlibris, where I had self-published Savage Night, was $2 per copy. So eventually I got a check from them covering two thirds of the price I paid Amazon. My net cost was $1 a copy.

Of course I have roughly 98 copies of the book left in my house. If anyone wants one, let me know. I’m sure we can work out a fair price.

This actually happened a second time in May 2015 with the second book I published through Xlibris, Spells of Coming Day. Amazon listed the book for $4, and I tried to order 100 copies. However, the bookseller had learned their lesson. I was only able to buy 4 copies at the reduced price. Of course, I still have those sitting in my house.

Spells of Coming Day

Every now and then, I check the Amazon listings for my books. I haven’t seen any big sales lately. But it’s remarkable how many third party sellers are offering my titles, usually at prices far higher than either Amazon or Lulu list them. I’d like to know how that’s supposed to work. But in some way, it’s flattering to think that someone listed my book in their catalog, hoping to make a little bread. I’m sure it’s a win-win for them: if one sells, they just have to order it from Lulu (or Xlibris or AuthorHouse) and then send it out, reaping big profits.

Since I rarely see any royalties from my own books, I guess they aren’t selling too many copies. Somehow, it all seems like a commentary on today’s publishing industry.

 

 

Savage Magic live on Lulu

Savage Magic

Today I approved the proof copy of Savage Magic, a collection of poems featuring my character Jean Savage. This was the second proof, as I found an error in the first one: a space was omitted between the title and text of one poem. In a month or so, this book should be live on Amazon. At the moment, it’s available on Lulu.

Here’s the back cover blurb I wrote for the book: “[Savage Magic] collects all seventeen poems featuring the philosophy, life hacks, and adventures of Jean Savage, the heroine of the author’s avant garde science fiction novel Savage Night, as well as several short stories which also explore the potential of this rhetorical anima. Violent, erotic, polemical, and mystical by turns, these texts define a poetics of self-actualization and anticapitalist defiance in a mass media ecosphere using images of magic, sexuality, nature, paganism, graffiti, and crime. Something of a cross between a song of self and a rant against the machine, these works offer an obsessive, personal, and rhythmic cleansing and revenge, constructing a hermitage and then defending it from society’s commercial, hierarchical, and fraudulent tendencies.”

I had published four of these poems in my earlier collection Spells of Coming Day. When I recently located a box of old manuscripts, I was surprised to find so many other poems also featuring Jean Savage. I also found three stories I’d forgotten I’d written using the same character. A collection of those stories is planned for release this year under the title, Savage Space.

I’m especially happy with the covers for these companion volumes. The image is the result of experiments with analog video run through a video effects box called the Opti-Glitch, made by a Jacksonville, FL, duo working as Tachyons +. I haven’t had much time to work with my growing collection of video synths and effects, but the images are amazing. Mostly I’ve used the movies as backdrops for live performances. The still photographs make such great cover images I’m planning to use this much more often, especially since a photograph is very easy to work with in creating a cover design in Photoshop.

More new eBooks now available: Dishwasher series, Toothpick Fairy

For those interested in checking out some of my books, eBooks are now available for my novels The Toothpick Fairy, and the entire Dishwasher series: Dishwasher on Uranus, Dishwasher on Mars, and Dishwasher on Venus. You can find these available for instant download on the Lulu website here. Eventually, these titles should propagate to multiple eBook formats and platforms, including Kindle, Nook, and Apple’s iBook. So if you prefer those formats/devices, then keep a look out for them. The list price is $3.99. I hope that’s not too high, but these other vendors take a huge cut, and I don’t seem to be able to set a lower price on Lulu, where my royalty rate is higher. In any case, this price is at least one third to one fourth the cost of the print copies.

I learned a few things about eBooks while I was formatting my titles. It surprised me that so little formatting is allowed: only three heading styles and a few fonts. Also, the text is not justified, an arrangement that forms a nice rectangular column in a print publication and which is much easier to read. Since I generally put much effort into the design and font selection for my print titles, it’s a little sad that the eBooks can’t reflect that. So if you want books with fonts and design, then hard copies is the way to go!

The Curse of Cthulhu

Now the secret can be told. I tried to suppress it, but my hand has been forced. The single surviving erroneous copy of Cthulhu Limericks has appeared for sale on Amazon–the one that has “Cthulhu” misspelled in the title.

I’ll admit writing a collection of limericks based on H.P. Lovecraft’s weird tales was something of a blatant attempt to create a book that would actually sell for a change. After reading just about everything the master wrote, I knocked out about 70 humorous rhymes that featured lines like “the LOL of Cthulhu.”

The first published version of the book ended in resounding failure: after I’d bought 30 copies, I realized that the cover contained a really stupid typo: “Cthulu” Limericks. The name “Cthulhu” was spelled correctly throughout the text, but my underpaid proofreader (me) blew it when reviewing the cover art. After a short period of self-loathing depression, I deleted the book from Lulu and even managed to persuade Amazon to remove it from their marketplace. I thought I had killed the deformed little monster when I destroyed and recycled the copies I had on hand.

That experience taught me to proof the cover art as frequently as the contents before publishing, but now it seems I’ll have to live with the mistake.

Call it the curse of Cthulhu, I suppose this is what one deserves for playing with another man’s toys.

You see, before I noticed the offending typo, I sent a review copy to Bizarre magazine in the UK–at the time my favorite periodical, now ceased publication. Then I sent them a corrected copy. Neither of them garnered a review. I had hoped they’d notice the new book, since they had given my tour guide, Mondo DC, a positive review, probably because I’d written a short feature about DC’s unusual attractions for them previously.

I figured both books had ended up in the garbage. But apparently some unscrupulous staffer–or garbage picker–held on to the erroneous copy and decided to cash it in. The seller actually has two copies on offer–a “used” one and a “new” one. But I know–and he knows–that there’s only one. He’s asking $56.77 for the new copy, and $45.42 for the used one. Maybe he thinks the boneheaded author will buy it to maintain his devious deception about the glaring titular typo.

2Good luck with that, mate. The fully corrected, official book, Cthulhu Limericks, also available on Amazon for the low low price of $15.49, and the bargain basement price of $12.39 from Lulu, isn’t exactly making me rich and famous. In fact, I’m not sure any copies have sold.

The LOL of Cthulhu indeed. Looks like that ineffable, hideous Old One is having the last laugh in sunny R’lyeh.

Anyone who wants to gamble on my future fame might want to grab up this rare, bungled book–one of a kind!–in the hopes that one day it will be worth millions.

Until then, as someone who has advocated for the value of disinformation as a publicity strategy, I guess I can’t really complain that this uncorrected abomination has surfaced to haunt me.

Latest Heta book now live on Amazon

My latest novel, Love and Death in the Land of Souls, is now live on Amazon. Set in an alternate ancient Egypt, this dark fantasy concludes a trilogy featuring necromancer and court dancer Heta that started with Revenge of the Rat’s Hand, and continued with Breasts in Darkness, My Back to the Light. The earlier Heta stories are collected in one volume, Heta’s Book. All titles are available via Lulu.com as well.

Lulu and Amazon worked pretty quickly to get this out there so fast. Oddly enough, four sellers have it on offer, including Amazon. I wonder who these people are who list on demand books for sale as soon as they come out?

7th book published in 2015

Yesterday I uploaded the manuscript and cover art to Lulu for Love and Death in the Land of Souls, my seventh book published this year. The book should become live on Amazon and other sites sometime in January, after I receive and (hopefully) approve the proof copy.

This short novel is the fourth book in a dark fantasy series featuring necromancer and court dancer Heta in an alternative history of ancient Egypt, and it concludes a trilogy that also includes The Revenge of the Rat’s Hand and Breasts in Darkness, My Back to the Light. When I started editing and publishing the other stories in the series earlier this year, Love and Death in the Land of Souls was incomplete. Picking up the story after over a decade, the whole thing went in a totally different direction than I expected. For one thing, Heta’s archnemesis Menanau makes an appearance, acting as an ally when she must travel to the Land of the Dead to save her lover Tema, who’s soul has been captured by Thutmose.

As with the other Heta stories, this one uses an unusual narrative technique that presents discrete sections under a heading of a single word in the ancient Egyptian language. It’s meant to look like the story has been found in fragments of a longer manuscript. And as before, this novel contains erotic content that’s not for everyone. Mature audiences only, please!

Writing contest results


On March 10, 2015 I entered my “cyberpunk” novel Computing Angels in the 23rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. On November 13, I received commentary and scores from “Judge #16,” as follows:

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 3
Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 2
Production Quality and Cover Design: 4
Plot and Story Appeal: 4
Character Appeal and Development: 3
Voice and Writing Style: 2

Judge’s Commentary:
Computing Angels makes an odd first impression with a rather striking, surrealist cover that hints at the weirdness to come. Inside, this science fiction/fantasy mash-up is a bit slow to start but winds up into a rather strange and fascinating tale.
Typos abound, though, like: “That’s why Jackson had picked up him up for assists.” This can make it difficult to sort out what’s a mistake and what might be a part of author Jeff Bagato’s creative voice and unique world building. This leaves the reader spending too much time trying to decipher things, keeping the otherwise wildly imaginative story a bit at arm’s length. This is an issue easily enough solved by the services of a good editor.

The science fiction world building is fascinating and richly realized, beginning with some archetypal ideas but quickly unspooling (in a good way) into something truly original. Enormous creativity has gone into this spare, fairly short book, and as such it calls out for a more thorough read. With an editor’s help in organizing concepts into a more cohesive narrative, this exciting novel of ideas could be something really special in what has become, unfortunately, a very tired genre, mired in “hard” science fiction.

If Jeff Bagato can take the craft of writing to the next level, he will be an author I’ll want to see a lot more of!

I still feel especially proud of Computing Angels, from the story to the book design to the cover art, all of which I did myself. On first read, the comments seemed completely ignorant, particularly those relating to “grammar” and the abounding “typos.” Throughout 2014 I proofread the complete manuscript multiple times (8? 10? a dozen times?), so I’m pretty sure that the book is relatively free of errors. The example cited is not actually a mistake at all, but an idiomatic,  informal expression of a first person narrator. It seems within the realm of correct usage to say, “He asked me for an assist.” In this case, the reference is to multiple “assists.” Just because a word is marked by spell check doesn’t mean it’s incorrect or unintentional.

The story’s narrative structure is somewhat complex, as if follows multiple characters from their own points of view who are scattered across the solar system. To help the reader place the character and location, each chapter heading contains that information. Nonetheless, the judge seemed to have trouble with this, which made me wonder how closely he/she was reading the story.

Another thing that irritated me: the repeated references to “hiring a good editor” to improve the manuscript. Surely the judge doesn’t mean him/herself? Among other things, Writer’s Digest sells editing services to aspiring writers who dream of breaking into the publishing game. For years, I’ve gotten emails from them almost every day pushing these and other services (which is how I learned of the contest.) The subtext here seemed to be: Since you were dumb enough to pay to enter our contest, let us sell you our editing services. No thanks.

It’s funny that when a writer receives criticism on a piece of writing, the focus is on the negative remarks. OK, so this judge misperceived the narrative style and structure. I do get it that if the reader has to struggle to keep up with the story, he/she isn’t going to enjoy it very much, and it probably means that more work is needed. On the other hand, after a third or fourth reading of the total comments, I began to see the very positive remarks, and they began to sink in. The first paragraph, for instance, which gives props to a piece of collage art I’ve always liked, and the “strange and fascinating tale” lurking behind it. By the third paragraph, the judge dishes so much praise, I began to wonder why the book wasn’t rated higher. “World building” seems to be the new buzzword for evaluating a science fiction novel, and apparently Computing Angels succeeds wildly at this, despite being “spare” and “short.” One of my major goals in any of my writing is originality, and it felt good to know the judge thought I had achieved that. I also like the compliment that the book is a “novel of ideas” that “unspools” quickly in a good way.

One never knows how an audience will perceive one’s work. Some of this judge’s remarks irked me, because I believe they are unfounded, and possibly the result of an understandably rushed reading. But his/her positive comments reaffirmed some elements that I have always hoped were present in my stories, and which I’ve always seen as the hallmarks of a great piece of writing.