Labor of Like
I spent the better part of twelve hours reformatting the ebook version of Elf Mastery today. The thing is, a reader had found a typo (I wrote 'Now matter' instead of 'No matter') so I had to fix it. You're thinking, one typo? That's not so hard to fix! The thing is, the book exists in a few different formats. Amazon and Smashwords have different requirements for uploads. By itself not a big problem, except that a couple weeks ago my hard drive crashed. I saved my files but lost all my custom settings in Microsoft. I also forgot how to format. So I had to re-learn formatting and set up my settings. While I was fixing the typo, I also decided to change some fonts and tweak a couple things (Kyla's debacle at the end of Chapter One is less due to her own ignorance and more due to an unreliable mail system. This change was a concession on my part that perhaps I had made her a little too ignorant at the outset, though I maintain she is a sheltered individual unfamiliar with bureaucracy).
At any rate, in all the mucking around I always worry I created new problems Did I make a typo as I re-created my Table of Contents? I don't think so, but after several hours looking at a screen my eyes are no longer trustworthy. Better check in the morning. And then more fun making adjustments to the print files.
All in all, I kind of enjoyed the ordeal. Formatting, though frustrating, is still a bit of fun. I wonder if I could turn a profit doing this sort of thing?
Ah well. Time to sleep, as my brain is shutting dowwnw,fnsdfa.s,m.
Facing (Virtual) Reality
I'm going to digress from talking about Elf Mastery today so I can talk about Virtual Reality instead. I have been doing an online Master's in Integrated Studies, and have been taking a course combination of writing and digital media. I decided I'd like to focus on Virtual Reality (VR), and in particular have been pitching the idea of using VR for people with low mobility. The idea is that scenes could be created, such as parks, beaches, museums, tourist attractions, etc, and be shown to those who can't actually get out to see them. While I didn't have the plans to buy the equipment immediately, my computer crashed and I was forced to buy a new one, and found a discounted system (open box) which had the specs and graphics card required to run the VR equipment. Then, with help from friends and family, I was able to get the money together to by an HTC Vive. I found that there are some existing scenarios that function quite well for my purpose, and I am also learning Unity so I can make my own. There are two types: CGI, and photogrammetric. CGI, of course, is a completely artificial environment, and I found a program on Steam that has some great examples of underwater CGI scenes that I feel quite relaxing. In addition, I found some sites that do photogrammetry, which is the combination of photos of a real scene to create a 3D environment. Sort of like a panoramic picture, but you can move around inside it and view everything from multiple angles.
For the time being, I am limited to the CGI versions and am learning to make landscapes in Unity. There is an artistry to it I don't yet have, though I am currently focused more on learning the technical elements, and how to optimize scenes for the Vive (VR is more taxing on a computer, as everything has to be rendered twice: once for each eye). Now, I'd be lying if I said I didn't also have some games as well, and those have been fun. As it is a new field many are alpha versions or demos, but I have one where you walk through a cave fighting skeletons, and my favorite is one called QuiVR where you use a bow and arrow to protect your castle gate from monsters. If you are not familiar with VR equipment, Vive is like the Wii in the sense that you actually move around in a 'play area', rather than sit and use a controller, so in QuiVR you actually go through the motions of drawing and firing arrows.
I've had a few friends comment that they'd never see me again because I'd disappear into the Matrix, but I have to tell you, that as cool as VR is, it has actually hard to stay in for a long time. There is a sense of disembodiment being inside Virtual Reality. Your brain, on some level, thinks it is still in reality, and sometimes you have to remind it that it is just in a computer. Myself, and a few of my friends, have noted that we feel some resistance to doing things like stepping off a cliff. The first time I tried it I was doing a tour of a castle ruin in Germany, and found myself on top of a wall. I decided to step off, and had to keep telling my brain 'There is a floor. There is a floor.'
In addition to the mental adjustment, there is some physical discomfort if from being in there too much. You are basically looking at two screens very close to your eyes. I've always been susceptible to eye strain, so I do get a bit sore after a while. The headset can also get hot. In addition, as many games and scenarios involve a lot of movement, it is common to come out of VR sweating.
The feeling of disembodiment I mentioned earlier also applies to the senses. You can't touch anything in VR, and sometimes my brain forgets that no, you can't place the controllers on that table, because it isn't real. There is no smell, or taste. It feels like being a ghost.
I don't want those previous paragraphs to seem like I am casting a negative view on VR. It is fascinating in many ways, and I love it and see a lot of potential for it. But the idea that people would become as addicted to VR in the way they get addicted to regular video games seems unlikely to me. I love going in there, but only for a limited time. In fact I appreciate reality all the more once I come out, as all my senses are back in play.
All in all here's my opinion. I don't think I'd by a VR headset just for video games. However, with the addition of exploration, education, and the sensation of tricking your mind in simulated scenarios (such as jumping off a cliff, which I've done), and the ease in which programs like Unity allow you to make your own VR scenes, I give it a high recommendation.
Goodreads Campaign Update
Apparently my number of views has been increasing without my notice - I got over 2000 views today in my Goodreads ad campaign, which brought me just over 10,000 and 4 clicks for a CTR of 0.4. Not sure what CTR stands for, but basically 0.04% of people who saw the ad clicked on it. On the bright side, 10,000 people have seen the ad and have the image of my book floating in their subconscious, and to this point I have only spent $2.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I read that 0.03% was considered a good response rate, so if that's true, I guess I'm doing alright. Again, not sure if those clicks are translating to sales. Not about the money right now, of course: I still need a lot of exposure.
Goodreads Ad Campaign
I put some money into a Goodreads ad campaign, to try it out. How it works is you give them your budget and how much you want to pay 'per click'. I think it's a bid - someone who pays more per click will be given priority for ads. The good thing about this ad campaign is you only pay for clicks, which means you aren't being charged just for your book title showing up on someone's list. At the end of every day I get a report that tells me how many times the ad was seen, and how many times it was clicked.
This was discouraging at first, because I wasn't getting any clicks. I was getting 150 views or so a day, but for a few weeks no clicks at all. I read a post that said ).03% was a good click rate, or about 3 in 10,000 ads. I don't know how accurate this number is, but it's what I've been using as a base line. Anyway I was approaching 5,000 views with no clicks when I finally got my first. And then - lo and behold - two clicks the following day! So I'm at about 0.06% clicks as of this writing. I don't know if that's translating into sales yet, but at least awareness of my book is increasing.
I'll mention here, if I haven't mentioned before, that August may be an interesting month for me. I got an email regarding a review request I sent out a couple months ago, and have now sent a book to another reviewer! Bloggers are good reviewers because they almost always leave reviews, and generally do so on both Amazon and Goodreads. In addition, I go ta message from Locus Magazine in San Leandro to send them a copy as well! Not sure if they are looking at doing a review, a spotlight, or what, but this could be good publicity either way (fingers crossed). And I have paid some company to represent my book in a book fair in Hong Kong. Not sure if that's legit, but will find out. I mean, I'm pretty sure there is a book fair, and I will be represented, but only time will tell if that was a worthwhile expenditure. Will keep you posted. Bear in mind, if you are just getting into publishing, there are scammers all over the place. In traditional publishing you need to watch out for shady agents, and in self-publishing there are nefarious people that will offer marketing services for a fee but not do anything for you. Not sure which end I'm on in this Hong Kong deal, but keeping my hopes up for now.
I am Writer of the Day at Reddit r/Fantasy so feel free to drop by and ask me anything!
After receiving some negative feedback on Kyla, the protagonist, I was excited to see a recent review posted which raved about her. A reviewer said that Kyla was her favorite fantasy character in anything she has read lately. True to my previous hypothesis, this reviewer does seem to be younger - judging by her picture I would guess early twenties. So the theory seems to be holding true that younger women seem to like Kyla, but women 30/40+ sometimes have a hard time with her. As I probably mentioned before, I did expect some polarization but did not anticipate it being drawn along these demographic lines.
In other news, I got my lowest review yet on Goodreads - received a 3 from my reviewer in India. I had specifically requested an honest review, and I am happy the reader took the time to post a review. Matter of taste and all, and could be worse than a 3.
On the positive side, I got a message from Locus magazine to send them a final copy, so I am going to do that right now. Hoping for the best!
Bryant Reil currently resides in Kelowna, BC. Recent accomplishments include completing a Master's degree, and having finished two books, Elf Mastery and Elf Doubt. The third book, Elf Righteous, is underway.