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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 Cheers, Eugene! Cheers, George!
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.
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
Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work. Stephen KingBased 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!
Something impossibly magical has happened to you; a situation you could have never imagined, even when you were young and full of dreams. Something like this: a blip in the universal scheme of things allows you the opportunity to create and sell food of any type, nationality or substance! From salt-packed anchovies to grass-fed beef to organic hand made zuchini tofu; anything you want to cook with appears; you just have to think about it.
Spices, harvested at the peak of perfection. Flours prepared by artisans. Spring water and wild honey from pristine mountains, sacred rice, fresh fish and weird stuff usually found in insanely hot bbq sauce. You can make food ”just like mom’s”. You can provide sustenance for refugees or intergalactic warriors. Baby food. Comfort food from the Song Dynasty, the candle lit dinners that Napoleon shared with Josephine, feasts unknown to Anthony Bourdain: anything.
You take a deep breath, think for a minute, and, voila! A Whopper. Not a Big Mac, a Whopper. People praise your Whopper. You sell lots and lots of Whoppers. Your Whopper wins prizes and goes global. Your Whopper stars in a movie.
Hopefully the dream described above will not be mistaken as anything more than that. I salute all my brothers and sisters who, to paraphrase Nabakov, are also addicted to the Drug called Ink. And, being the son of a book salesman, I have a special and sincere respect for those whose books are sold.
I discovered Hugh Howey because of his inspiring support for self-publishers and his collaboration with Data Guy on the reverse engineering of Amazon's book sales reports. Michael Bunker, the father of Amish Sci-fi, surprised me with the title of Hugh Howie Must Die. His work, as exemplified by Brother Frank, is usually provocative and dystopian, adventure-filed and entertaining.
As an independent writer, I must listen to all of the leaders of the self-publishing industry, another being Joe Konrath who, a while back, defended us against big publishing and people like Stephen Colbert.
You pissed me off.
You obviously have no idea how big and important my blog is. How I am the go-to source for all things publishing-related. How this blog can create bestsellers, or destroy careers.
You are now on my shit list, Stephen Colbert. And now I shall use everything within my power to destroy your book sales and ruin your life. Just as you are tying to destroy the book sales and lives of tens of thousands of authors Amazon has helped
Mr. Konrath's renowned blog is recommended: A Newbie's Guide to Publishing.
I am truly, truly thankful to be able to self-publish my books, though they may be an acquired taste. The ability to create for consumers is a gift.
I have been based in Singapore since 2002 and am in the midst of an extended stay in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. During this time I am collecting experiences and research for a book. My time here has clearly shown that
1. Increasing/planned integration with Singapore: trains (local and high speed), bridges,increasing numbers of Johoreans in Singapore, increasing numbers of Singaporeans in JB.
2. Lower rental fees than Singapore.
3. Lower cost of living than Singapore.
4. Developed by Chinese investors, the Forest City megaproject is expected to eventually have 700,000 residents who will live on four artificial islands.That is the same population of Geneva.
5. Iskandar Malaysia, the Malaysian government’s project to upgrade the entire region,demonstrates that Johor Bahru can re-invent itself.
Having experienced the “reality on the ground”, the possibilities of JB become even more obvious. Outlying or unused industrial areas encourage innovation of all kinds, despite their challenges. In Singapore: The Artists Village. In Beijing:798 Art Zone. In New York City; Soho, The East Village and Brooklyn. IT people, food visionaries, unconventional international citizens and entrepreneurs of all kinds will all soon to discover the possibilities of the new JB. Imagineering is here!
Hello Starbucks and Dior.
the sculpture in the image above is Coccoon, by Alvin Tan on display at Puteri Harbour
the first part of this post is here
To review, from about 1999 to 2002, I was very involved with researching and promoting a medicinal and gourmet mushroom called ABM, Agaricus blazeii Murrill. As part of this, I wrote my first book. I did this in Tokyo, Manhattan and around Toledo, Ohio. I established many relationships and enjoyed being involved with a healthful food item in a positive community, and creating possibilities. However, I entered the world of VR and, after that, returned to the world of books and art. I don’t feel as if there are huge differences between the different areas in my life.
Everything is about human relationships and data/information. Efficiency and planning are the keys and I am always working to improve in these areas, without becoming closed-minded. I've been told that the Japanese word for “busy”(isogashii) means “no heart”. Something like that.
So... Johor Bahru, Malaysia. April 2017. Sacha inchi oil. When you are around people who are really healthy, you notice it immediately. !!!! As a writer I have to be careful here! Sometimes, when one describes one’s interactions and activities that are associated with healthy foods and practices, it is easy to across as purely a salesman, sincere or otherwise. Yes, there is an economic aspect, but it is not the main reason that I am thinking about sacha inchi. Sales can lead to an awareness of the powers within plants and humans.
Sacha inchi reminds me of ABM very much. I am considering getting involved with it because I now have experience in sharing nutraceutical information, and interest in sacha inchi is already starting. It seems that Singapore, Malaysia and China are growing markets. America and Japan have potential.
It would be interesting to come up with some idea that combines art with sacha oil. A year ago, my partner and I performed the Iron Fire Riceball Tour, which combined performance art with food art. Meaning simply, we just marched around to all of the organic food stores in Singapore and asked any of the staff if they would like to try an organic riceball flavored with organic miso with permaculture grown ingredients. It was not a commercial project, it was about communication and connecting;art. We didn’t talk business, though it was clear where the miso and rice came from. We had been living in Bali and had worked on the permaculture farm that produced the miso. That little tour was beautiful.
So now; it is an amusement for me to think of how to connect with saha ishi in a way that is personal. What I have thought of so far:
-a book on sacha inchi, but one that is a collection of short stories about everything from the history of the plant to the growing to the processing to the person who is using sacha inchi as a treatment for a serious diseases.Fact-based fiction with emotion.
-a 360 short film that documents a room full of longtime saha ichi users. The setting would be naturalistic and simple. There would be at least 10 or 12 actors and actresses. These people would not have to do anything, but they would be aware of the fact that they are being filmed. The person who sees the film would, simply, sense and observe the healthy bodies.
-the sacha inchi game. Something interactive, of course.Exciting and based on how scientists think sacha inchi empowers the immune system, it would be cool to make a game something like this:
I will think. Sacha inchi is good stuff!
Unexpectedly, I now find myself in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. I have been here for two months, during which time I started to write a book called Touching JB. It is about Johor Bahru, Singapore, food, AR/VR, people, game development, history; many things. It is also self-reflective, but hopefully not in a narcissistic way. My past experiences connect me to the present and future, of course, as they do for everyone.
The most recent example of this involves something called Sacha Inchi Oil. I was just introduced to it here in JB, and I am very interested in it. First, some background information. The first book I wrote was called the Agaricus blazei Murrill Notebook. It was print-on-demand, but I never marketed it. I believe in that book, but it needs to be revised. Paul Stamets, one of the world’s top mushroom scientists, wrote to me soon after I informed him of the book. He told me two things and then suggested I stop publication.
I don't remember exactly,but first Paul told me something like the taxonomy (the way that scientists classify things) for the "ABM" mushroom had changed. Agaricus blazeii Murrill had become cultivated and improved so much that it was considered to have be a new species called agaricus subrufescens.Or something like that; even now the taxonomy isn't straightforward. That happened weeks before I finished the book, and I was unaware of it. That by itself was not an absolute game changer, as most of people would continue to use the old name or would be aware of both. The other complication was that a test result that I referred to in the book had been found to be inaccurate; falsified.So, despite a great deal of interest, I didn’t get the ABM Notebook in the hands of readers.
At the time of the book’s completion I had moved to Singapore to work for a startup doing 3D gamemaking/VR, which I was thrilled to be doing, but which also took up all of my time.I didn’t revise the book.
Before the move to Singapore, I was working with an amazing woman who was a pharmacist and a mother of two boys. We were both living in Japan at that time, and it was there that she introduced me to the company that grew and produced very high quality ABM. We sold their product on the internet as well as at health fairs in the US.The challenges: we were both new at selling something like ABM, the internet was new to us and our freeze-dried ABM was extremely expensive. We seemed to be pioneers as very few people knew about ABM. In short, we learned a lot, made some great connections and didn’t sell much.
However...there are very few things that can compare to playing a small part in a process that results in a person regaining some, or all, of their health.
However, the partnership, the international network and the lessons learned became dormant. But... a few days ago, I discovered sacha inchi oil.
Part two of this story is here.
re: Paul Stamet; This is his company.
This TED talk by Paul is full of mushroom/cancer facts and hope. Go to 1:20
We were sitting on the chairs in front of the wood burning stove when they materialized. Their arms were like Japanese Easter eggs. Finally, the young man stopped with his thumbs and looked up from his phone. On top of his peppery skull was a filet of pink hair. Circular wire eyeglasses, yellow irises. He moved his head a little, then reached for the curry puffs. Started eating before he paid. The girl took hers without looking up.
The man behind the counter smiled sincerely, thanked them. Behind him, a wall was full of photos and newspaper clippings, most from when the man’s hair and beard weren’t white. Near the cash register: two playful photos of him and his wife at the Taj Mahal. Once, at the 123 Cafe, he'd told me that theirs was an arranged marriage. She passed away. Lung cancer. He didn’t say more.
The chairs we are in are comfortable. I am eating a piece of cream bread, she is chewing and studying her red bean puff. Saluddhin’s bakery has an authenticity that would usually capture my attention, but now I cannot help thinking about a game called Firewatch. It’s about a man living alone in the forests of Wyoming, a man whose wife may have early-onset dementia.
I am on target to finish a 50,000 word book by the end of May.The setting is Johor Bahru, a city that borders Singapore. There are other excerpts on this blog, but if you'd like to see the latest edited draft, drop me a line. I am excited about this and determined to stay on schedule.
Powerfrog Troopers Revolution Quest 2: The Croak Goes On (100 million units sold). Who wrote it? Me. Is my name on it? No… Tungsten Fortress Golf Romancer III Seventy-five million units. Eight months of my life, a nice chunk of change and another iPhone, but did I get any work because that? NO. Alekhine Defense of Immortal Soccer Regends. Twenty-three million units. Writing nonstop to meet that deadline nearly blinded me, but after launch was my inbox flooded with job offers? No, no and no. Hi. My name is Biff Enum and I’m a game designer. “Grayboox “is my middle name and scripting addictive interactive stories is my game. I”ve contributed to projects that have sold over 585 million cross platform units and yet you’ve never heard of me? Why? Cause I’m a secret agent man. White labellissimo. Ghosty stylee. Incognito.That’s me. Let’s pretend you are in Kyoto, visiting an “entertainment company” and you are escorted into a room to “have a cup of tea”. You are left alone in a room that looks like the Videogame Hall of Fame. You correctly sense that if you take a photo, your broken camera and/or body part will remain in the room. Before you can memorize anything, a kawaii OL enters and says,” I am sorry. It is mistake of room, you can drink with tea upstairs. If you mention this room to anyone you will be disemboweled, regardless of your global location. Shall we go?” My CV is something like that. Guys who are ethically challenged would like to “have a word with me” if I tell anyone about the complete list of projects I’ve worked on. I have been called a “game developer’s game developer” which means my ideas are uncredited and stolen .It’s not always a problem, this whitelabel business. When a clunker like Revenge of Epic of Bloopy Babies falls flat on its face, I’m search engine safe. Why do I work so hard for no recognition? Money! I am a narrative artist and since I was a child I wanted to write, with passion, stories that shake and explore the emotional blindspots of people. I want to fundamentally compel them to confront our modern world with all of its contradictions so as to engage better with their fractured lives. My novelistic work is disturbing.The only game I have worked on which references my literary sensibility is Quest of the Galaxy Dancemaster Ninjas. With the money I’ve earned as a ghostwriter, I am self-publishing a cross-genre novel that combines elements of GTA with an Undine legend, Switezianka, which is about a hunter and a water nymph. Do subscribe to my blog for updates on this unforgettable postmodern tale of fickle love, European women wearing wet clothes, gunfire and ultrahighspeed Pegassi car chases. Thank you for stopping by. Biff