Monday, July 28, 2014

Timing is Everything?

Scientists researching the dinosaur extinction have actually determined that the Chicxulub asteroid did indeed cause the extinction of most dinosaur species (We call the ones that survived "birds").

On top of that, if it had happened 5 million years sooner or later, i.e., not in the middle of a major period of volcanism, then we wouldn't be here. Or maybe we would be dinosaurs. The dinosaurs were successful and stable through several other mass extinctions. 160 million years is a long time...long enough that it's surprising they didn't evolve technological intelligence (birds are certainly capable tool users). Or maybe they did and it never got to the point to leave traces that survived what happened after the impact - a global firestorm from which earth's atmosphere still hasn't recovered.

Which links up to my personal theory on why they didn't make it. The firestorm was followed by decades of global winter, but there was a distinct drop in oxygen levels. The Earth of the dinosaurs had more oxygen in the air than the Earth of today.

No bird gives birth to live young. Even the ratites, who don't have to stay lightweight for flight (and besides, bats manage fine). It's entirely probable that no dinosaur did either. In Japan, there's a rather interesting species of lizard. It's a very ordinary lizard - except that the subpopulation that lives at sea level lays eggs and the subpopulation that lives at high altitude is a live bearer. Scientists studying the little creatures to work out why realized that it's harder to raise young in eggs at altitude - because eggs need a lot of oxygen.

Did the dinosaurs not survive the impact, ultimately, because the drop in oxygen levels prevented their young from coming to term inside such large eggs?


Or maybe it was the decades of winter, although growing evidence that dinosaurs were probably endotherms, like us, and grew feathers, the best natural insulator there is...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday Updates

Most of this week has been working on a certain script. I wish I had more announcements, but I don't.

I can say there's cool stuff coming and we have awesome art for Strange Voyages - our artist is working apace and giving us everything we asked of him. I highly recommend +Juan Ochoa - professional, fun to work with, reasonable prices and quick turnover.

(Always give the artists their shoutouts).

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Annoying Promotion Tactics

I need to vent a little bit.

I've had to throw three followers off of my twitter feed in the last week for excessive promo tweets.

The thing is, these people weren't tweeting their own books. They were retweeting other people's - in batches which in one case reached 100 in about 5 minutes, spamming my feed out completely.

There's a common wisdom that retweeting other people's promo links is a polite thing to do. But if you really have to - spread them out. You're not benefitting anyone if people unfollow you for spamming.

Spread them out. Use scheduling software correctly. (The people I had to unfollow were probably using it incorrectly...nobody can type that fast).

Oh, and as a reminder. Never send unsolicited Buy My Book messages to people directly on any social media. That's another thing that will get you unfollowed pretty quickly. And possibly blocked.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reminders of...

...those wonderful vanity publishers. There's a new one on the block - Green Shore. I won't link them because I don't want to give them the hits, but according to the wonderful Victoria at Writer Beware they're going as far as to create fake Facebook pages of fake authors. Sigh.

Here's the thing.

Vanity publishers generally don't offer a very good deal. That is, their packages are seldom cheaper than you would get buying those services yourself. If they include marketing, the marketing is often half-assed. Why? They've already been paid - unlike real publishers, who make their money off of book sales.

Again, if you want to self publish, you are better off buying the editing and cover art yourself and learning how to do the conversion and layout (If you really can't, there are people who will do it for a reasonable price - heck, I'd do simple ebook conversion for a price, but I encourage people to learn. It's not hard).

You'll get a better deal and because the editor is working for you not a third party you'll retain the creative control that is, after all, why most "indies" self publish.

And if you want a real publisher? No reputable publisher asks for money from their authors up front. A few even give you the money up front (advances are rare these days, but not completely non-existent). Reputable publishers use the money from the last book to pay for the next one.

And any publisher that claims to be something new, different, and amazing - isn't.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Should-Have-Been-Expected Benefit

So, we know that fish tend to frequent underwater structures - but somehow people are surprised that this includes offshore wind turbines.

The discovery was made by seal researchers, who spotted that some seals were visiting one column after another. To a seal, the bottom of a wind turbine is basically a buffet. Researchers are now suggesting that it might be possible to site and design turbines to increase this effect and benefit fish and other wildlife...and possibly even fishermen.


Seals are cute.

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Few Notes On Kindle Unlimited

The news of Amazon's new "unlimited library" or "Netflix for books" service broke after I posted on Friday.

And one of the first things I was asked was why only some of the anthologies I'm in were on it.

So, I'm going to explain a little bit about how it works from the author/publisher side of things.

Kindle Unlimited works fairly simply. Amazon sets aside money - at first from their capital, and presumably eventually tied to the number of subscribers. Authors/publishers get a percentage of this fund prorated to how many times their books are borrowed.

It's potentially a good way for an author to be found by new readers. However, there are some roadblocks.

The biggest is that to enroll your books in Kindle Unlimited, they have to be in the Kindle Select program. This means that the electronic version of the book can only be sold through Amazon. The Select program has quite a few perks associated with it, including Amazon taking a lower commission on sales and some free promo stuff. Some authors/publishers, however, feel that those perks are not worth the price of limiting their books to one ecosystem. Being in Amazon Select means your book is only available in .mobi format, which is proprietary to Amazon. This is a fairly small deal as any phone can read .mobi books (I have the app on my phone myself, as my ereader is a Nook). It also means that you can't sell through other outlets and, which matters to some people, you can't sell to traditional libraries - libraries purchase their ebooks through other systems. If you are an e-only publisher, this is a big deal.

Additionally, a few authors don't like the KU terms and are pulling their books out of the system. Others are putting some books in and not others - there's been a fair bit of talk that KU might be a good outlet for short fiction "singles," which are hard to sell.

What it boils down to is that for each individual book, each individual author or publisher has to make the decision of whether to enroll that book or not. It's nothing personal to those looking for books on KU - it's a matter of doing business and choosing the strategy that we think will lead to the most sales. (And this isn't a knock on Amazon either - they too are choosing the strategy they think will make the most money).

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Updates

The cover for Strange Voyages is done and interior art is in full string (backers - look for a special surprise perk to come your way).

As the publisher tweeted about it - I can now reveal that I've been working on the script for a steampunk graphic novel, Rapscallion. (That's literally all you get right now, folks).