AR, VR and Every R in Between (July 7, 2018)

HAPPENING NOW: STEPHEN BLACK'S EBOOKS: FREE AND DISCOUNTED

Taking place during the Maker Faire Hong Kong, was AR, VR and Every R in Between, organized by Dr. Ludovic Krundel, of the Digital Entertainment Lab, School of Design at HK PolyU. Here is a link to bios of some of the people who made the day so interesting. Plus, there was Kandao and SnapPop.
Photos by Stephen Black and Bubiko Foodtour.

360VR video of the event is here!



360VR video of this is here.

Day 2 is here.

Hello!

Hello and welcome. My name is Stephen Black and I work with media, words and art.

Media: VR, computer-generated environments,video and photography.

Words: articles and books, including Bali Wave Ghost,  I Ate Tiong Bahru (a national bestseller in Singapore), Tiong Bahru Mouth, Obama Search Words and a few others.

This post gives you some idea of my current projects.

Thank you for stopping by.

Stephen Black

physical laborers

black and white image of man dropping vase

Ai Wewei, Yesim Agaoglu, Stephen Black, Eugene Soh collaboration in gallery.sg

Jeff Koons Balloon Dog in SPOKEN

Nhung: Floating

low tech in hi tech

Works created with ink

two men smiling

If one person can be said to symbolize the Tiong Bahru Market, it might be this guy in the hat...

SB & 3D (Why I’m excited to be in Eugene Soh’s virtual gallery project)

THIS post was written before SPOKEN started. SPOKEN is a project I am doing with Eugene Soh, an experiment in which art, text, virtual reality and social media intersect. Learn about SPOKEN here.

To enter gallery.sg and experience SPOKEN, click here.

Here is the extremely short version: from 2002 until 2008 I was involved with a visionary virtual reality project that combined educational practices with gamemaking and multimedia. However, the spiritual captain of the project was part Disney, part Microsoft and part Sex Pistols. An unexpected death, treachery, incompetence, inexperience, bureaucratic boondoggles and more made my life "interesting"... I have pages of notes about the events and the spirit of the times. We were doing things like Youtube and Second Life before they started. The project was so close... and yet so far away. (Actually, now that mobile technology has settled down, I hope that the lessons and products of that experience can be revitalized. But that's yet another story.)

In 2006, as a way of showcasing our technology,  I entered a gamemaking hackathon. A theme was given on a Thursday morning and the next day at five the results were judged.The theme was something about healthy eating, I think. Working with my programmer in Hong Kong, we made a game in which the viewer learned about the calorie count of certain foods. The player competed with an AI character.  It was fun to do.
However, what I remember most was a team that made an incredible flash game. I don't remember if they won or not, but I do remember two guys on that team very well. George Parel and Eugene Soh were full of energy, knowledge and bursting with creative ideas.
They still are.

I've been lucky to work with George and Eugene on a few projects since then. In 2008 I finally had to put the educational gamemaking project on hold while I waited for a programmer and the mobile device situation to stabilize.I put more time into writing and art projects. George and Eugene (that dude from Singapore) however, have kept on doing remarkably creative things with IT, art, design and more.

Virtual reality may seem to be an artificial place, but the gallery Eugene has created fills me with memories and hope. I am honored and very thankful for I Ate Tiong Bahru to be on display in gallery.sg

IATB in virtual gallery
Cheers, Eugene! Cheers, George!

Ebooks: Born to Click (1 of 3)

Preface

This informal essay is my way of marking the end of a certain era in ebook history. It's part snapshot, part reference materials, part journal.At the end of this post are notes about me, my experiences and my books.
Thanks to Doug Rolph for his insights on economics, Eric Hellman for his input and my dad for having taken care of our family by selling books.

το πνεύμα του Ιανού

After I finish writing eight books, I will begin marketing. Until then, I'll probably study the ebook world less and hopefully do more writing, arting and engaging with Life. When it does comes time for me to contribute to the marketing conversation, I hope I have something to say. For now, I present the following notes, quotes and thoughts as a means of punctuating a phase in the development of ebooks as I have seen and experienced it.

This is an exciting time. The ebook delivery platforms are finally stable, self-publishing has proven to have great value and a number of services have recently appeared that shorten the distances between readers and authors. It seems to me that indie ebooks and ebook marketing are about to enter a new era.

This blog post makes little mention of traditional publishing. This is simply because, as much as I would like to enjoy the benefits of being a Big 5/6 author, that fruit is not now within my reach. I am however, considering joining the Author's Guild.

Although I've done almost no marketing, I have studied the environments in which ebooks are created, presented, bought and sold. Some observations:

1. Except for uploading, nothing about ebooks is easy.
Writing is the anti-social social media, full of long, long hours of pressure-filled solitude. Assembling an error-free book is never simple. The social part, finding an audience, is an immense challenge. I respect all of the authors mentioned in this post for they have successfully met these challenges and more.

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.
Stephen King

Based on my experiences, the work breakdown of an 88,000 word novel looks something like this: 1000 words a day (88 days) or, more likely, 500 words a day (176 days). Call it 200 days to prepare something for a proofreader. Two months for corrections, art, and ebook conversion. So, a book takes about 300 working days to finalize. About...
And then there are the thousands of actions needed to connect with readers... The title of Guy Kawasaki's excellent book says it all: APE, meaning Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur

This document, by Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, is a data-based analysis of the ebook market. Highly recommended, it covers topics important for newbies and veterans. It touches upon issues like word count, pricing, marketing and more. For instance, his research shows that the average bestseller on Smashwords is 100,000 words, and the average romance is 112,195 words. (There are more links to resources at the end of this post.)

Very few traditionally published authors became bestsellers; the same is true for ebook publishing. My goal is not to become a bestseller, but to connect with the largest possible community of people who enjoy the art of reading.

2. A great writer or a great marketer...

....or, the frustration of being caught between not doing enough writing and not doing enough marketing. A writer writes, a salesman sells.

Self-publishing does not equal self-marketing. Spending money wisely on promotion money means income and time to write. (See the links below)

Twitter, Goodreads, FB, LinkedIn and blogging? All have their advantages and disadvantages...

3. There are no independent, hugely successful ebook-only self-publishers.
Note: Two days after this post went up, I became aware of this great piece by Dana Beth Weinberg on Digital Book World. Thank you Jacqueline Church!

Amazon is huge, Apple is huge, Kobo and Smashwords are very big. Unless you are selling from your own website or the back of your car, you're not truly independent.

OK, A bit of an attention grabber there...but the author's need for a partnership with Amazon and ebook distributors is a dependence that cannot be overlooked. These "automatic partners" will always protect their interests first. They call the shots. Amazon is a business, not an author.

Amanda Hocking is a hugely successful author. At one point, the average daily sales figure of her self-published ebooks was 9000. Again: average DAILY book sales: nine thousand! Her success was based on hard work, technological first mover advantage and an indirect tie-in with Hollywood.

Consider:
-the successful and pioneering integration of ebook readers into tablets and mobile as well as the launch of the Kindle (2007) and the iPad(2010)

-the large demographic of young women who bought readers and tablets
- the fact that, having written many books, Hocking could quickly provide a new and large market with a variety of new titles
- writing books about the paranormal when Hollywood is pushing the same cannot hurt. Twilight, the hugely successful series of movies about teen vampires began in 2008. Hocking's first book, My Blood Approves, began selling in 2010.

E.L. James' book phenomenon began in the fan fiction chat rooms for Twilight. The characters in Fifty Shades of Grey were originally the characters from Twilight. Could Master of the Universe, as her series was originally called, have achieved its success without an existing network of thousands of Twilight fans?

These two women made their mark upon society in two different ways. As shared, collective book-based experiences: WOW!
However, the writing is..."not terrible" or worse

I remember SF/F authors complaining (back in 2011) that their readers hadn’t switched to e-books yet, casting jealous eyes at the outsized romance audience. But as readers did move across, we saw people like David Dalglish and BV Larson breaking out, and the rest of “genre” fiction soon followed.
http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/amazon-makes-life-easier-for-authors-of-historical-literary-fiction/

There are "indie success stories" about authors who "rode into town" on the backs of traditional publishing. Funded by Big 6 money these "indies" were advertised and publicized, sent on book tours and given things like business cards. Possibly, audiobooks were made. Hundreds, if not thousands, of their books were given away, many to reviewers.
As the 'first mover'possibilities of the ebook market became clear and realistic, these authors, knighted by the Big 6 and armed with credibility and connections, rode onto a battlefield with little opposition... Undoubtedly hard work was involved, but to label them as indies brings to mind the quip about George Bush: "...was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple."

There certainly are "ebook only" indies connecting with many readers and enjoying sales. I just don't know of any. (FOUND SOMEONE: LINDSAY BUROKER Please tell me about others! them! Somewhat related to this, are there any "ebook only" awards?

Here, authors talk about their sales experiences.

4. The ebook world evolves to reward the reader; the prepared author benefits from this.
Fan fiction. Goodreads. Ebook readers on mobile phones. The mashup between big data and metadata. Entrepreneurs with vision who see ways to connect authors and readers in a new ways.

It is an exciting time.

Ebooks: Born to Click, Part 2 of 3

visit www.blacksteps.tv for parts 2 and 3 of this post, as well as information on art, books and ebooks

 

Bubiko Foodtour tests the WordPress Gutenberg Editor

What's cooking in Shenzhen!?

Bubiko Foodtour Update

This new Gutenberg editor for WordPress is fun and full of options.  This is a "block". (The colored background was easy to do, as was the drop cap.)

This is a block for quotes. And you can quote me on that.

  • This is the list block.
  • I should write what I have been doing lately.
  • Like: singing opera
  • and studying the great cuisines of China
  • and researching Chinese restaurants in Shenzhen
  • Did I tell you that I want to be a superstAR?
  • My book about Ipoh, on Amazon.

I like these blocks! The VR block didn't seem to be ready yet, so I cannot show this yet, but soon! And how about a block for us AR people? 🙂

Lotus Mountain Notes

Lotus Mountain is about a robot and the man who broke her heart. The 360 VR short film written by Stephen Black and co-directed by Leo Wei and Stephen Black, is currently in postproduction.

Lotus Mountain features Alps Bethneck, who can be seen in the 360VR film Beach Road, as well as The Changi Murals, a short film directed by Boo Jun Feng.

The other stars of the film is the dynamic city of Shenzhen, the Silicon Valley of China.

Chinese city landmarks

Shenzhen Civic Center at night.


This page will be updated often in the next two weeks.

The list of people we wish to thank is long, but for the moment, the producers would like to especially thank Stuart Rankin and the Dundercats/Six Cat Studios, Kandao 360 cameras, John Batten, Simon Carr, Ikram Choudhury, D Cafe, Angelo Costadimas/Bao Bao Films and the amazing teachers, administrators and students of the Multimedia & Entertainment Technology (MSc) Department of HK PolyU, especially Gino Yu, Dr. Ludovic Krundel and Giovanni Lion.

Last but definitely not least, Lotus Mountain features the talents of bassist/composer/teacher Rei Shimizu and Scobot, the VR artist whose World One VR artwork has been attracting attention worldwide.

scobot WORLD ONE SIFF2018 360 from scobot on Vimeo.

Rei Shimizu's bass playing featured here...

Support? VR films about relationships and China’s Silicon Valley

Hello! An update... and a request for support. I know the world is a goofy place and that a film is a luxury, in many ways. But I am now, with a great team, making a short 360VR film. The setting is the city of Shenzhen, the Silicon Valley of China. The film is about a couple, one of whom is a robot, but the film is ultimately about relationships.

Additionally, we are also in postproduction for a documentary on the city of Shenzhen itself.

Your help would make these two projects the best that they can be. We documented Shenzhen for 24 hours on August 18th. The documentation actually started on the 17th, which was Chinese Valentine's Day. That inspired the second short film, called Lotus Mountain.

I will write and do some Facebook Live broadcasts soon. If there were more time, I would do a crowdfunding campaign.

Stephen Black holding a Qoocam 360VR camera at the 2018 Maker Faire in Hong Kong.

Leo Wei, on the left, demonstrating a Kandao camera at Hong Kong Polytechnic

But we discovered the deadline for the Sundance Film Festival is this month, as is the deadline for a major European VR festival.

>

We are looking for sponsors and perhaps there is a way to sell it later. VR is a frontier, and there is no way to predict what will happen. For what it is worth, my first VR film was shown at festivals in Brisbane, Las Vegas and Singapore.

If you would like to support, the easiest action with the most value is to buy one of my books, probably i ate tiong bahru. It is a bestseller in Singapore.The paperback version is 17.88, and the ebook and audiobook versions are less than that. If you want to support more, please send me a private message. If you have a company that has a product that could appear in the movie, I am very happy to talk about that as well. Thank you very much for reading this!

At the 2018 Maker Faire at Hong Kong Polytechnic

Stephen Black holding a Qoocam 360VR camera at the 2018 Maker Faire at HK PolyU.

In the next post I will write about the great production, music, art and acting talents who are involved.

Oh yes... Beach Road, my first VR film, was a co-production with Hiverlab that has been featured in VR film festivals in Las Vegas, Singapore and Brisbane.