Saturday, January 29, 2011

Amazon Sets Broadcast 0: Origins Free!

After reading my blog post about the trouble I was having persuading Amazon to offer Origins for free, Dan McGirt (author of fine comedy adventure books), was kind to offer help. He pointed out a loophole in the contract located in the pricing section. After following his directions and adding my own little twist, Amazon reduced the price to $0.00.

I have to admit, the solution is simple. I won't go into a great amount of detail. All any author has to do is look at the competitive pricing clause in the contract for the Digital Text Platform and then read any listing for a Kindle book, where they'll find a place to report a lower price. With those hints, anyone who really wants to offer their book for free can do so.

Now, on to the less boring, non-contract involved stuff. In the roughly 36 hours since Spinward Fringe Broadcast 0: Origins became free it has been downloaded over 12,700 times. It's also the #2 free book on (US) site wide.

Honestly I'm amazed, and hope that this pure space opera novel (or collected trilogy, if you want to be accurate), has a broader appeal than expected. I don't generally expect non-science fiction fans to enjoy this work much, but I'm happy that I've been wrong about this where some readers are concerned. I have to thank Scheherizade MQ for lighting a fire under me and accelerating this issue towards a resolution.

This book is also available for free at Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, the iBookstore (sorry, you'll have to look for it on your iDevice), Diesel and other big or small outlets.

The other version of this book, The First Light Chronicles Omnibus, will be retired soon, since it's much easier to navigate the Spinward Fringe series if you start with Origins. For anyone who doesn't know, Broadcast 0: Origins and the First Light Chronicles Omnibus have exactly the same contents.

If you are new to Spinward Fringe, thank you and welcome to the crew! I owe thanks to the readers who are already aboard for supporting me to the extent that I can write and produce full time. On that topic, things are going very well with this final draft of Broadcast 7: Framework - I'm about half way through it after only a month's work. The draft and a half that came before took much longer. Thank God this is the last draft.


[Before you ask, no, the other eBooks will never be free, sorry. The prices are more than fair, however.]

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

He Did It! No, He Did It! A Small Conflict With Amazon.

Thanks to a heads up from a friendly reader I discovered that Amazon Customer Service has been telling readers that I don't offer any free eBooks on their site because I don't want to.

The question put to Amazon Customer Care was: "How come you're charging .99 for Randolph Lalonde's Spinward Fringe Broadcast 0: Origins ebook download when your competitors are giving it for free, and even the author is advertising the first book free?"

To which Customer Care answered: "I understand that you want to know why there is a charge of $0.99 for the Kindle book Randolph Lalonde's Spinward Fringe Broadcast 0: Origins.

The price you pay in the Kindle Store is based on a number of factors, including the initial publisher price. In some cases the publisher, not Amazon, sells the Kindle book or other content. In these cases the price is set by the publisher and you will see "This price was set by the publisher" on the product page.

In the case of Origins (Spinward Fringe), the price you pay has been set by the seller. You can see the price set by the seller on the product page here:

Best regards,

Your feedback is helping us build Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company.

Let me tell you my side of things. Amazon does not allow me to offer my book for free. Other indie authors can, and do, and I don't know how they manage it, but I can't. Here's what happens when I try to enter a price of $0.00 on their interface:

I'm not posting this to insult Amazon, they've been very good to me and to most of my readers. I just couldn't let Customer Service tell my readers something that's not entirely true without presenting my side. I hope to continue to have a good relationship with Amazon, and that the millions of Kindle users continue to enjoy their services.


[Please don't sue me or pull my books from distribution, Amazon!]

Friday, January 21, 2011

Where'd The Donation Button Go?

Thank you to the few who donated since 2008, when I started this journey. Every penny counted, and all I had to offer you at the time was my thanks. Those donations often meant the difference between having to choose between the electric and internet bill or paying both.

The time has come for me to retire the donation buttons. I'm glad they're gone, it represents a big step ahead for me.

I honestly hope that I never need to create a donation button on any of my sites or causes again, especially since the store is opening.

Those donations also allowed me to keep my cover prices low while the books weren't selling as well as they are now.

Thank you again, I hope the continued low cover prices, lower / reasonable prices in the upcoming store and impending arrival of Broadcast 7 are thanks enough!



Monday, January 17, 2011

Thumbs Up For Draft 2.5 Of Broadcast 7: Framework

The first section of Spinward Fringe Broadcast 7: Framework went off to the editor last week. Last night I got a call at 9pm and all she wanted to know was when she'd be getting the rest of the book. That's a good sign.

I was worried because I've never written a book that resembles what I sent her. It was so different because the first draft and a half didn't work the way I wanted it to, so I flipped parts of the plot around, tossed out a huge section and the ideas that went with it, then added a smaller, more interesting storyline.

The result? Last week I handed my editor a completely experimental draft with two strong perspectives and one shifting perspective that I'm intentionally writing exactly like I would a teleplay. The focus in that third of the book moves from character to character as they come in contact with each other, and I think that's what's going to make everything I want to do in this book possible. If she reported that the style didn't work, then I'd have to find another way. The verdict on my experiment is in, and she said that shifting perspective is the most charming part of the book so far. Thank God.

According to her, the epic elements of the series are back in force, and that's mixed with an emotional story that looks the events of Broadcast 6: Fragments full in the face. So, that leaves me with a challenge. With her so impressed with the first section of chapters I'm pressed to work even harder to make sure it's not all down hill from there!

Oh, and sometime in the next couple of weeks there will be a preview chapter that will be safe for anyone who has read Broadcast 4: Frontline or later. A firm release date is still a ways off, but it draws nearer every day. This draft is flying by.


[Oh yeah, and there's a cover.]

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Production Company - Looking Further Down The Line

Since things started taking off with Spinward Fringe last year, I've been falling back on my business education and experience to start formulating a long term plan. A large part of what I make still goes to survival and saving so I have something for emergencies, but it won't be long before I will have a little extra to branch out.

It comes down to what a mentor of mine said years ago; "For every minute you spend planning for the worst, make sure you spend one on planning for success." His main point was that, if you plan ahead for when you get ahead, you can turn that momentary advantage into a longer lasting, more significant gain. The mentor I'm speaking about didn't refer to money much, he was far more opportunity oriented, and that made him all the more helpful.

Right now I'm hellbent on getting Broadcast 7 done as fast as I can, then editing it as well as possible and finally handing it over for proof reading. I want it all done before spring, which is coming faster than I'd like. After that, there's a lot more writing to do - which is what I love doing - but that doesn't mean I can't spend a few hours a week building skills, doing legal ground work, and laying the foundations for a small production company. I need an excuse to get out of the house, after all.

This production company would be a ground up operation. One of the starting factors - believe it or not - is the store, which will be up and running in February. Unless I personally run into massive financial difficulty, all the proceeds from the store will go towards the production company. The store will also double as a prop purchaser and storage house. The first gains in the store will go towards legal costs, which are low, but unavoidable.

While that's happening, I have a lot to learn about the fields I'm looking to tap into. The store is easy, I've trained retail people before, owned three businesses (two of which were successful enough to close in the black), and managed a retail computer store / technician centre. The Spinward Fringe store is the easiest part.

When I say the production company will give me a reason to get out of the house I'm not kidding. This summer I plan on engaging in a little guerilla film making and other inexpensive, no-budget hobby work in my spare time so I can pick up a few extra skills and see if I have an eye for that kind of thing. It'll probably be a lot of Ed Wood meets Blair Witch if I'm lucky. I won't have much time to do this stuff, mostly weekends, because I write during the week.

There is a road map for the production company that leads from February 1, 2011 all the way to February 1, 2015. As the stepping stones are laid down, and I can talk about my part time secondary passion more, I'll reveal more about the production company. That includes the name, which hasn't been nailed down just yet.


[The camera in the picture is more of a pipe-dream at this point, but we'll see...]

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Plea To A Pirate

This morning Google alerted me that there was a new link to my series online. This one was from a person who is about to list a torrent for all my books for free.

Here is my plea to him:

Hello, I'm Randolph Lalonde.

I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed my books on your new Nook. My full time job is to entertain, and I take great pleasure in hearing that I've accomplished it.

Having said that, I read your recent forum post about sharing my work without permission and I have something to ask you. Please don't supply free download options for my non-free Spinward Fringe work, including broadcast 1-current.

These books are my livelihood. Nearly every penny my readers spend on those goes to rent, food, power, Internet, phone and other critical bills. The leftover money goes towards developing other projects that take months, sometimes years to complete.

By taking my books and offering them to the world without my consent, you're breaking the law and my heart.

I realize you paid for your copies, but the majority of the people who download them will not. If they enjoy the books, they won't go and buy a copy on a retailer's website afterwards either. That's not how piracy works. They'll spread it - for free - and even more people who enjoy the books will keep spreading them without paying the price of admission themselves.

I understand the mentality of try before you buy, and respect it. That's why I offer extensive previews of all my books, so people know exactly what they're buying and what quality to expect. Smashwords has the best previews. I invite you to send people there, where they will find a free 179,765 word novel that you're already familiar with.

When someone steals one of my books, it makes me feel like my work isn't worth paying for, like my time is worth nothing. It takes a lot of work to write a novel, convert it properly, publicize it, and make sure it works on everyone's devices. I also don't have the support of a publisher, or much money to start with, so I have to do all myself. It's also unfair to everyone else who is kind enough to support me by paying the small price of admission.

Piracy can ruin someone like me, who doesn't make much money in the first place. I would have to quit writing full time if my income suffers at all, I don't have much in the way of savings. I live from quarter to quarter by budgeting carefully. If my focus is drawn elsewhere, like on a job not related to these or other books, I'll be lucky to get one book out a year. Not only that, but you'll be personally responsible for stopping someone from doing what they love for a living. I can't begin to tell you how terrified I am of losing that dream, or how hard I work to make sure it remains a reality.

Please don't take my dream away,

Randolph Lalonde

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Spinward Fringe Is Set To Grow In 2011

Interest in the Spinward Fringe series is growing so fast right now that it got a little harder to concentrate on Broadcast 7 for about a week. It feels like I'm living in dog years sometimes. In the space of a day I often write for several hours, take care of business for an hour or two - for several hours a day recently - and I spend a lot of my time every day looking to the future if I don't have to deal with other mundane stuff. That doesn't include all the time I spend looking after the back catalog of Spinward Fringe books and the extra writing I'm doing on the encyclopedia, interactive concepts and grabbing a few minutes of silence just to clear my head. Often that's when the best ideas strike.

My job is to entertain you. That's how I see it. I don't do it for free, but I come pretty cheap. Lately I've been thinking about how I go about that.

For the most part I think I'm on the right course. I think and write my way through each novel until it's complete, try to improve the story and editing quality with each release, and make sure it's where you can find it at a fair price. Included in that price is an unspoken membership with a group of people who know all about Spinward Fringe, and I'm beside myself with joy at the sight of so many of you turning up on the Goodreads forum. Why? It's simple, I watch that board because it's there as a safety net suspended between book releases. I can keep in touch, read about your thoughts, and answer questions at length - I do tend to go on.

I think the Goodreads board is the best thing I've done since making Spinward Fringe Broadcast 0: Origins free. What's my next move? I'm going to continue developing the online store. It's important because there are a few people eager to get their hands on signed copies of the books or other objects, props especially. I'll be the first customer for most of the items you see, the second customers will be the drawing winners.

Despite these exterior things, which are more like a part time job, I'm continuing work on Spinward Fringe Broadcast 7: Framework. Why is it taking so long? The persistent need to write this book to my best ability, while pulling the trigger on everything I've been planning since Freeground (the first novella in Broadcast 0), has driven me to do extra research, an extra draft and behave as though this is the last book I'll ever write. Therefore, it has to be the best. Imagine setting up a field of fireworks. In the daylight it looks like you're planting rows of tubes and wires. Once you're finished and the sun goes down all that work pays off when the atmosphere is filled with a spectacular, explosive frenzy of light. That's what I'm going for with this book, and so far I'm pleased with what I have.

So if the peripheral things slow down for a while as I finish Broadcast 7 (the blog, Twitter, the store, etc...), then it's because I'm doubling and tripling the time I spend writing for weeks at a time. Broadcast 7 is rolling like a film in my head at this point, and I'm just trying to keep up.

One thing I forget while I'm working away is that few people see progress. I may have been developing the store for months now, but it's still not ready for launch, so there's nowhere to show what's been done so far. I've been working even harder on Broadcast 7 while taking notes on Broadcast 8 & 9 for about a year and nothing is ready for release. While that's completely normal for a novel, it also doesn't show progress. Two years ago I started work on The Sons Of Brightwill, and aside from a couple pictures popping up of the cover, fewer than half a dozen people have read any part of the book. Experiments in CGI have led to some good formative work and concept proofs in still images, but no one has seen those either since they're not quite there yet.

Other projects in early development include an encyclopedia, a side novel in the Spinward Fringe universe, two horror novels, a comedy, a small production company (budget permitting), and other boring legal stuff I have to take care of, but once that's out of the way, there's even more potential. It's what's hidden behind the scenes that tells me that 2011 will be a big year for Spinward Fringe and other creative pursuits.

Most of these projects are in their final stages or rolling on their own momentum, so you can expect the fruits of many labours. It was inevitable. As long as I keep working, various projects will mature until they're ready to see the light of day. I can't wait.


[Thank you for accepting the Spinward Fringe series into your imaginations and bookshelves - be they digital or physical. Happy 2011!]

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Winners Of The First Holiday Draw (2010)

Everyone's names were printed out, cut into equal bits and shaken up for about two minutes in an inflated bag. Then I had the pleasure of blindly choosing 9 names. Next time I'll do it on video, but for now you'll have to trust the results of the random picking. I'm pleased with the results, especially since luck rewarded a good mix of vocal readers and new ones alike.

There are going to be at least one more draw in 2011, so if you were missed on this one, don't worry, you can always enter the next.

Here are the results with links to the profiles on Goodreads:

1st Tier Prize: Full set of signed books + Triton T-Shirt
David S

2nd Tier Prizes: Signed Copy of Broadcast 0: Origins + Triton T-Shirt (expanded to 3 winners)
John B

3rd Tier Prizes: Signed Copy of Broadcast 0: Origins (4 winners)
Dave (from Australia)

In case someone cannot accept or declines their prizes, I chose three random backups. If someone declines, the list scrolls up and the top backup takes the bottom spot.

Eric D

What I need from all the winners are your addresses and T-Shirt size info (if you won one), by the end of January. If I don't get it by then I'm afraid I'll have to bump you off. Please email me directly with that info plus the answer to this skill testing question: 2,793 ÷ 399 + 0 =

Sorry, our funny Ontario laws don't allow me to award anything to anyone unless their skills are 'tested'.

Just as a reminder, packages may not start showing up until early March of this year.

Thank you all for participating and congratulations to all the winners! I think this is a fantastic way to usher in 2011.


[Happy New Year!]