Book Teasers & Trailers Done Cheap!

Book Teasers/Trailers for Brass Legionnaire are Up! Also, an update on How I made them, and on the status of my Kickstarter Project


My Brother emailed me with the most wonderful birthday gift (not today, but soon!), a finished audio rendition of my chapter one. “Now hold up” I can imagine many of you saying. “Your book isn’t even out yet, how do you have an audio book component?!” Well my good friends, I’ll let you in on a little secret… Most editors will do a free test edit of your first chapter. If you like what you see, you can send them the rest. In my case, I was fortunate enough to have a great editor in Marg Gilks over at Scriptora Editing Services. Not only was she actually interested in the story, but I carefully reviewed her previous work and found a few books similar to mine. So I hired her.

Back to the main point! I asked my brother, who has lots of voice and drama experience, if he would be willing to read my book. I love his voice, and he is able to make the different voices. I’ll admit, the first time he read it, I got goosebumps! He emailed me the copy earlier today, and I set to work.

Just a brief background – he used his PowerBook G4 with GarageBand to make the audio. He spent a few days locked in his room, recording and fiddling and rerecording. No expensive microphone (he started using a headset microphone I have from Rosetta Stone, but gave up on it after a while and just used his regular computer microphone) was needed. The music comes from Garageband’s ample free library, and I think it fits the mood really well. You can even fiddle around with it to make your own music.

So after I got the files, I simply plopped them into iMovie, imported my cover art, and using a few ‘Ken Burns’ slides and transitions, I was able to make a pretty handy book chapter teaser. I wouldn’t say it is on par with the professionally produced ones, but it doesn’t have to be. I didn’t spend $800 on it either. This way, I get the best of both worlds: A free book teaser with increased traffic and attention, while also doing it quick and easy. Now granted, I used family to help out, but that’s what they are for! He was amply paid in food, and the chance of a free room in my condo/house at some point.

Anyways, the most frustrating part was splitting up the file. It was 22 minutes long, and YouTube only lets you load 15 minutes at a time. Keep that in mind! If possible, record your audio and stop at good points, so that you can split it up easier. I had a hard time finding my split, as the most convenient on was at… 15:05. Seriously. 5 extra seconds was all standing between me and perfection and I could not make it fit. So I cut elsewhere. A little bit rougher, but it still works.

The thing I like best was that I could upload it direct to Youtube. A click here, there, and poof, it’s online! Don’t forget to make sure you tag your video with appropriate tags to grab the right people’s attention! Another cool thing is that eventually, it will be the start of my audiobook as well if I don’t get it more professionally done.

By the way, FUN news! My Kickstarter project was actually funded! Hurrah! I’d honestly given up hope, but sometimes it just takes one person to make a difference. If you’re still interested in helping out, you can contribute for another two days here. Please consider contributing, each extra dollar helps me get more cool promotional things and keep the cost of editing the book down.

Here’s the second part of the trailer for your viewing benefit! Or read the entire thing here -> Brass Legionnaire Chapter 1

10 Things to do Before Publishing Your Novel (Besides Editing)

10 things every aspiring author should do before their book comes back from editing!


Hello all!

So it’s been about 4 weeks now since I sent Brass Legionnaire off to the editor. I’ll admit freely, once it was out of my hands, I sort of… blanked. I was truly faced with a ‘now what’ type of situation. So for the last couple weeks I’ve been trying to tie up other loose ends that I figured I might as well get done now. So in my free time (My day job and graduate school keep me fairly busy, so that’s rare right now!) I put together a list of a few things that you can do while waiting for the book to come back.

1. Get some nice cover art (Mine was handled by the great people over at Streetlight Graphics, but you can also check out 99 designs or deviantart and post a job offer on either one.) Alternatively, if you’re a great artist or have a deft hand on photoshop, hunt down what you like and tweak it in the best ways. Great way to do it on the cheap if you need to.

2. Set up a personal author blog or website (Like this one) or perhaps even a website just for your book or series. However, don’t jump the gun too early. I have my entire website ready to go on Wix – a flash driven site that is really quick and simple to use – but I haven’t gone live yet because I feel a bit silly doing it without a product to show! Since I can’t do ‘preorders’ I’m simply holding off until the book goes live, then I’ll probably buy one of the smaller packages just so that I can get my domain name (and not have to worry about having other stuff in my URL), but I’ll save my money until then!

3. Set up a business/promotion plan – How will you promote your book? What will you do? Will you advertise? if so, where? Who is your specific target audience? What is best for them? Text ads, picture ads? You’re going to have to do some hard thinking on this one. Don’t limit yourself just to facebook or google. There are a variety of other sites out there that host ads, so find one that is more likely to be frequented by the people you are targeting!

4. Create a free audiobook sample of your first chapter. A lot of people offer a ‘free sample’ of their book to entice readers in. Even if you don’t plan on doing a full audiobook, a sample chapter (read by you, or someone you know whose voice is better!) can draw in a whole host of new people. Make it free on iTunes, put it up on YouTube. The more exposure, the more likely you are to rope someone in who is actually interested! Personally, I’d want to make it a full audiobook eventually, but in the meantime, it’s another cool way to build some hits.

5. In connection to that, create a book ‘trailer’ all you really need is some basic knowledge of iMovie or another video editing program and some effects and definitely your cover art. Alternatively, you can pay someone to make a (probably better) product, but it will cost you. For example, a basic book teaser at Circle of Seven productions will set you back a cool $800. But if you’ve got the money to spend…

6. Make some business cards/bookmarks. One of the most basic things to do is make a nice business card with your name, email address (not your phone number!) website, and title (you are a soon-to-be-Author!) along with a picture of your cover art. Don’t have cover art yet? Set it up except for that one part. Then it’s a simple copy and paste situation. You’ll probably want to use photoshop for this, but you can pay someone to do it. Personally, I like the control (And also screaming at my computer when photoshop goes wacky!) Then, it’s a quick upload to vistaprint or Zazzle. Be even fancier, add a QR code to the back and direct it to your website! Integration baby!

7. Set a reminder to copyright your book when it is done editing. No really, you need to remember to do this! Click here to find out more. You can also pre-register your book if it is in the process of editing to get a bit of a head start on the copyright process – Another chunk of money you need to shell out, but you don’t want people stealing your hard work now, do you? I’ll be honest though, I’m not sure if the pre-registration is a good deal. Readers?

8. Make sure you’ve got an account on Goodreads, Amazon, Smashwords, and anywhere else you plan on selling your book.

9. Make sure you’ve got a well-written synopsis for your various book pages and a good blurb or two for your front page or inside cover.

10. Write your bio, your acknowledgements, then sit back and wait!

Anything I forget? Please let me know! (Due credit where credit is due 🙂 )

The Realities of a Steampunk World

A quick look at making your story match the technology and things within it.


So I went to see the move John Carter yesterday. We shelled out the extra money to see it in IMAX, not because we really wanted to see it in IMAX, but because our local movie theater doesn’t like to show movies starting around 9 pm (It likes 8pm and 11 pm, but little in between) After being deafened and blinded in the previews, we were treated to a real spectacle of a movie. But I digress, this post isn’t a movie review, but rather how I saw a ton of amazing ideas that I COULD use in my novel, but will most likely choose not to.

The most challenging thing about a steampunk world is that you have to remain true to your specific subgenre. For example, Boneshaker (Sci Fi Essential Books) includes undead, guns, airships, etc. But it stays true to roots without using ray guys, rocketpacks, or technology that is beyond what the locals *could* realistically have designed.

When I saw John Carter, the thing that stood out to me the most was this…

Yes, one of the coolest designed airships I’ve ever seen. And I would have loved to somehow make mine (in Brass Legionnaire) as cool as those. But I won’t for a few reasons.

1.) Believability – My Romans are still running around using steam power. Those are definitely not running off steam power.

2.) I don’t want to copy someone else’s idea. Could I take a few pointers from how they look and add descriptions to my story? Sure, but I don’t want to just blatantly take an idea and throw it into my story because it’s cool. That’s a bit too crude for me. Ideas and a story have to match.

3.) It would take my story in an entirely different direction than where I want it to go. I want my books to show technological process and advancement book by book. I don’t want it to be a ‘oh, look, in the last two months we developed this awesome airship that doesn’t rely on hydrogen, helium, or steam power and it works perfectly. By the way, we armed it with these artillery pieces.’

I guess the point of this post is simply to make sure that your technology matches your story. I’m not saying you can’t – or shouldn’t! – be outlandish, but I’m one of those people who get’s thrown out of the story when the main character pulls out a weapon that doesn’t match the rest of the world or story and just pulverizes the enemy.

It’s like the green skinned aliens in John carter who run around with spears, swords, and projectile guns, but aren’t lugging around the alien equivalent of the RPG – they aren’t up to that yet. If your steampunk story has guns, then give them guns, but they shouldn’t have an M16 while everyone else has a muzzle-loading rifle. Technological progress doesn’t move in that way. If one country or place has it, soon enough everyone else will beg/borrow/steal/take by force that technology.

A good book to read is Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies Great read on a topic of technology among cultures.

Ciao!

PS – book editing is halfway done, hopefully it will be ready to go by May!

The Illustration Conundrum


To Illustrate or not to Illustrate, that is the (expensive) question!

To begin, I’ve always loved chapter books with illustrations. They breathe life and culture and feeling into a story. Sometimes, I wish to high heavens that Harry Potter books had come with full page illustrations every couple of pages. Not every page mind you, even just one per chapter would have been awesome. Obviously, the style of your book has to lend itself to illustrations. Personally, I think all books could use them in one form or another.

But Wait! You cry. “I have my own created image of what this world looks like, why should someone else make it for me?”

Someone else already has, if the book you are reading has cover art. From the moment you open a book, your mind is building the world that you are reading. The cover (to me) is like the section in a library – Does it have dragons on the cover? Trigger the fantasy imagination component of your mind. Man waving a french flag with a musket? Activate the Three Musketeers and Napoleon memory centers! Illustrations in a book are a way of guiding the reader’s imagination, like mileposts or markers on an old trail. The trail is laid out for you, but you are making the journey. The markers guide you, even shape some of the world for you. But illustrations are expensive, and only the most well paid authors or those with a great amount of extra money to use, those who have won the family/friend lottery (Hey, wanna illustrate my book? I’ll pay you in pizza!) can truly fill a novel book with illustrations. Even Scott Westerfeld of steampunk fame doesn’t have illustrations on every page.

 

So what is a new/upcoming author to do if they want illustrations. There are a few options.

1.) Sell your firstborn (Just kidding!)

2.) Compromise – Have only a few illustrations that are super critical.

3.) Never have any illustrations and pour that extra money into cover art or extra promotional things.

Of these, option two is the best, and really the only option, that makes the best sense if you have the money for illustrations. As a visual person myself, I love having maps in my book. If your story is going somewhere, have a map! They make great interior covers, and can break up a story neatly into chunks if that is what you need. In my book, I have plans for two maps – one of the entire continent of Europe, and the other of my semi-fictional city of Brittenburg.

My plan for Brass Legionnaire is to have two illustrations that are critical to the story and really tie into the theme and idea of my world. Not only can I have them in the book, but I can get enlarged ones as posters and other things to use as freebies and contest prizes. Theoretically I could sell them eventually too, but I like the idea of having control of a limited number of them in really nice form. Those in the book would be black and white, while the promo ones would be full color.

I suppose I could lay down a pretty penny for one illustration per chapter, but maybe I’ll save that for the omnibus (in the far, far future!) Of course, if you want to make it happen, check out my Kickstarter project and donate. I don’t have much time left on it, and I’m sort of sad that it won’t likely happen, but I’m excited to still have the chance to share the book with you guys regardless!

Ciao!

 

Turning Points


As a writer (And avid reader) of alternate history novels, I’ve often been asked why I read this ‘what if’ genre. I think the best way to answer it is to simply say ‘Have you ever wondered ‘what if?’
What if I was a police officer, or a medic, or a doctor, instead of a teacher? What would be changed? Who would have my job? Whose world would be turned upside down, for better or worse? Who would I have met/not met? How many of us ever wonder how the world would be different if one little thing happened? This is a ‘turning point’ or life change, or ‘point of divergence’ as some people say.

So what makes a good turning point?

I put forward three rules for good turning points.

1. It must be believable (makes sense in the story context).

2. It must be reasonable (COULD actually happen based on technology, characters, etc)

3. The results must be possible based on the outcome of the event.

Let me give you a good example. In my story, Brass Legionnaire, I have two main points of divergence. The first is the rescue of Julius Caesar by Brutus. The change is that Brutus loved Caesar (True in real life) so much that he was willing to forgive the general’s ambitions to save his life, rather than kill him for the sake of the republic.

Believable? Yes, I think so (so do several professors I’ve talked to over the years, remember, it was a big surprise to Caesar at seeing Brutus among his assassins)

Reasonable? Yes, hasn’t love for friends, family, or significant other driven you to do something a tad bit crazy? This is just asking Brutus to put his friend above the needs of the republic, a stretched, but still reasonable, idea.

Outcomes: Well, the assassins get turned in, Caesar gets his Emperorship, and the Empire gets off to a roaring start, rather than suffering through a few years of civil war at the hands of Augustus (Octavian) and the rebels. With security and stability, plus respected and talented military and economic leadership, the foundation for our world has been set.

So what is my point? Great authors create realistic and possible worlds by making their turning points believable and possible. Some of my favorites are Harry Turtledove and S.M. Stirling. Mr. Turtledove, in particular, creates beautiful portrayals of worlds that have undergone one major change, but it throws off the entire course of history. See ‘Opening Atlantis’ for a great example.
Let me know what you think!

Who does my Cover Art & new advertisements for Brass Legionnaire!


So in case you didn’t know, I’ve been using the company Streetlight Graphics for my book’s cover art. I decided to splurge on their Ultimate Pro Package, which includes the following (Those people new to self-publishing may find this really cool!)

Ultimate Pro-Package: (Taken directly from their website)

Print (Createspace only)

Book Cover Interior Print (Createspace only)

Formatting E-Book Cover

Formatting for Kindle

Formatting for Nook

Formatting for Smashwords

A written tutorial explaining how to upload your e-book

All this for only $265!* (Since increased to $285)

(It also used to include banner ads for wherever you wanted them, but they claimed that most people didn’t want them. I asked nicely and got them included 🙂 )

To me, this was an awesome deal. I mean, I know I could spend some of my own time formatting them for all the different sites, or just pay someone $50 to do it, but the fact that I get a print cover, an e-book cover, and someone to do my formatting all at the same time is really cool. Also, its the convenience factor. It’s only one person to talk to, handle, and work with, instead of several different ones. Although I’m pretty technologically savvy, I’ll take all the help I can get on this first go around.

How did I find them, you ask? Actually, it was courtesy of Lindsey Buroker, (Encrypted) someone who I admire and have been following for the last few months. She puts out great comments, tips, tricks, and really useful stuff for us self-publishing people out there. She used these guys earlier to update her cover art for her novels. I have to say my experience with them has been awesome. No complaints at all! They are very communicative, open and helpful. They are able to change the smallest things to fit your wishes.  They knew how to deliver what I hadn’t even known I had wanted (If that makes sense?).
Anyways, on to the actual point of this post. I asked for and got two different advertisements that I can use on my YouTube page (not much there now, much more planned in the future). In addition, I’ll see if I can somehow adapt it for my twitter (@dOttalini – Add me!) I figure that I can use these cool advertisements to point people watching my videos or tweets in the direction of my book once it is published. So here, I’ll post them below.

This one is a 728 x 90, which is a perfect size for a youtube video. They can be made on photoshop if you’ve got the time and desire (I’ve done it before, even though I’m a poor hand at it!)

The second one is simply 468 x 90. It’s a bit smaller and may be a pop-up ad in a video, rather than the header of a video or posting. Let me know what you think of them. Like I said earlier, It’s important to keep the theme simple, but also demonstrate the concept of your book.

I’ll take this last moment to plug my kickstarter project. PLEASE consider donating any amount of money, there are some pretty cool rewards  you can earn (For those of you with lots of disposable income, You can not only name a character, but decide if, and how, you want them to die!) Here’s the link again, talk to you all soon! http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/187272667/brass-legionnaire

– Daniel

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