It’s been a while since my last post. I spent most of December working toward the final edits on The Turing Exception.

After two rounds of beta reader feedback and edits, I’m feeling pretty good about the way book four ended up.  the manuscript is currently with my copy editor, and I should get it back in a few weeks. Then I’ll make a few more changes and send it for a round of proofreading. Finally, there will be interior layout for the print edition and formatting for the e-book. And hopefully all that will happen by sometime in February, leading to a release by late February if possible.

Also, if you’ve been paying close attention, you’ll notice the title changed slightly. My friend Mike suggested Turing’s Exception as an idea, and that was better than any of the dozens of ideas I’d considered. But then I tested three different variations (Turing’s Exception, The Turing Exception, and Turing Exception), and The Turing Exception was vastly preferred, by about 38 out of 40 people in a poll.

As I’ve mentioned before, Patreon supporters will receive their e-books before the public release, just as soon as I can make them available. Patreon supporters at the five dollar level and above will receive their signed paperback around the time of the public release. This is because the paperback books are just not available any earlier.

You might be wondering why I have a Patreon campaign. The economics of writing are such that I still have to hold a day job in addition to selling books. Except for a few bestsellers, most writers are unable to support themselves solely by writing books.

Have you heard of the Kevin Kelley essay 1000 True Fans? The core idea is that it’s possible for an artist, writer, creator to support themselves if they can create $100 worth of product per year, and have 1000 fans will buy that product. 1000 fans times $100 equals $100,000, and therefore approximately a full-time living.

The challenge is that it’s hard for a writer to create a hundred dollars worth of product per year. I net about $2.50 per book sold, and I can publish about one per year. Even with 10,000 or 20,000 fans, that’s not a full-time income. So the idea with Patreon is to have a closer relationship with a few people, share some more of what I’m creating and create some special rewards just for supporters and hopefully get to the point where writing can support me full-time enabling me to write more than I do today.

I hope that you had a wonderful holiday and happy new year. I wish you the best in 2015.

AvogadroCorpGermanCoverThe German edition of Avogadro Corp is available for preorder from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.de/Avogadro-Corp-Gewalt-k%C3%BCnstlichen-Intelligenz-ebook/dp/B00PN7Z36Q/

It releases in paperback and kindle on December 9th. If you or a friend read German, I hope you’ll check it out.

The success of this translation will be helpful in getting the rest of the series translated to German, and all of my books translated to other languages.

 

Last November, on a train ride to Seattle to see Ramez Naam and Greg Bear, I started book four of the Singularity series. Last Thursday, I finished the rough draft. I was very excited and did a little dance in my office. Of course, I’m not done. I’ve got to turn that draft into a cohesive story, polish that story into something that reads well, and get it edited, proofread, and then it goes into production (page layout, ebook conversion, cover design).

I’m excited to get it out, and I know other folks are excited to read it, but it’s still many months away from being available. I’m not sure exactly how long. It varies with each book, as I learn more, also depends on my work schedule. I’m making some small changes to my day job schedule that should give me more consecutive days of writing time, which will help me make steady progress.

For a few weeks though, I’ll be focused on other things: I’ve got to the second edition of Avogadro Corp fully out. I need to do some marketing work around my novel for kids ages 7 to 12, The Case of the Wilted Broccoli. I need to give a little attention to my Patreon campaign. And I’ve got blog posts I really want to write that I’ve put on the back burner while I worked on finishing the draft of book 4. At some point I also need to figure out a title for the fourth book.

But before the end of September, I should be back to work editing and revising.

The Case of the Wilted Broccoli CoverI just released my newest novel and my first book for kids ages 7 through 11. It’s called The Case of the Wilted Broccoli:

Willow and her brothers, Elon and Linden, want to build the best science fair project ever, and their plan to build a quadcopter that can fly itself is sure to win. But they’re up against stiff competition, including Willow’s best friends.

The science fair takes an unexpected backseat when students at Mt. Hood Elementary start getting sick, including Willow. Everyone thinks it’s just a stomach flu, but Willow suspects there’s something wrong with the school lunches.

Willow, Elon, and Linden will have to work together, using their autonomous quadcopter and all their detective skills to trace their food back to its source to solveThe Case of the Wilted Broccoli.

It’s available as a paperback and on Kindle and Kobo. If you’ve got a kid in the right range (or know someone who does), please pick up a copy.

I’m going to be mostly unavailable now through mid-May. I’m working to get through the final revisions to Avogadro Corp and managing the production of my kids book, while juggling my day job, a trip, a multi-day conference, and normal family life.

I’m still around and responding to email/twitter, but I may drop the ball on certain items. If it’s urgent, just remind me. If not, I’ll get back to you in late May.

Before I published Avogadro Corp, I considered running a Kickstarter campaign to fund publishing the novel. I ended up publishing without the Kickstarter. Fast-forward three years, and I just found the campaign still sitting in my Kickstarter account.

Here’s the description I wrote for the never-started campaign:

I am asking for help to publish my novel Avogadro Corp. The manuscript is completed, and just needs a final round of copy-editing, cover design, and layout in order to be published. 

Synopsis 

David Ryan is a brilliant computer scientist, cherry-picked to lead a new project at Avogadro Corp, the world’s leading Internet company. The goal of the project, called ELOPe, is to create a next-generation feature for the company’s email product – one that can optimize the language of emails to make them more effective and persuasive. 

With his chief architect, Mike Williams, and a team of programmers, the two have proven the feasibility of the concept and are hard at work trying to release the feature. When David gives a presentation to the executive leadership of the company, they are impressed by the project results and effectiveness. But David fails to disclose to the executives that the project is grossly inefficient, requiring thousands of times more servers than any other project. 

The VP of Operations threatens to kick ELOPe off the servers if David and Mike don’t decrease the number of servers the project uses within two weeks. This would be a death blow for the project, in part because David has been deceptive from the start about how many resources the project has been using. David and Mike start scrambling to fix the performance of ELOPe. 

When it becomes clear a few days before the deadline that they can’t fix ELOPe’s performance, David stays up late making subtle modifications to the software. Instead of fixing the performance problems, David embeds a directive in the software to maximize the project success. David’s modifications have ELOPe filtering company emails to secretly modify any email that mentions ELOPe to strive for a positive outcome. 

The software is so good that at first, the effort seems successful – the project is allocated thousands of new servers and high performance computing experts are brought in to help optimize the code. Innocuous sounding emails convince people to grant more resources and develop new capabilities that make ELOPe more powerful. But soon ELOPe is social engineering people around the company to neutralize threats and strengthen itself. 

When Mike is sent on a wild goose chase to Wisconsin, getting him off the grid as just the moment when David needs him, it dawns on Mike that something is wrong. 

Simultaneously, Gene Keyes, a crotchety old auditor at Avogadro who is known for distrusting computers and using only paper records, begins to find evidence of financial oddities that all point in the same direction. 

Amid background news stories hinting at ELOPe’s ever growing influence, even at the level of government policy, David, Mike and Gene take ever escalating action to shut ELOPe down. However ELOPe anticipates and blocks their every move. 

As the humans prepare for a final showdown with ELOPe, Mike sees a pattern emerge in the news reports: the AI is actually helping humans by fostering peace agreements and stabilizing financial markets. 

Can they win a final showdown with ELOPe — or should they even try? 

Endorsements 

“This is an alarming and jaw-dropping tale about how something as innocuous as email can subvert an entire organization.  I found myself reading with a sense of awe, and read it way too late into the night.”– Gene Kim, founder of Tripwire, author of Visible Ops. 

“Avogadro Corp builds a picture of how an AI could emerge, piece by piece, from technology available today. A fascinating, logical, and utterly believable scenario – I just hope nobody tries this at home.” — Nathan Rutman, Software Architect, Lustre High Performance Distributed Filesystem 

Background for Avogadro Corp 

Avogadro Corp evolved out of a lunchtime conversation. I was arguing that the development of human level artificial intelligence is an inevitable consequence of the increasing processing speeds of computers. My friend countered with the argument that mere people who would do the programming, and we weren’t smart enough to create an artificial intelligence as smart or smarter than us. He challenged me to describe a scenario in which an artificial intelligence could be born. So I described one based on plausible extrapolation from known programming techniques. And the idea for Avogadro Corp was born. 

Avogadro Corp will be satisfying to technical readers who want realistic fiction, and enjoyable for casual readers who want easy-to-grasp explanations of how the science works.’ 

Project Timeline & Funds 

I expect that the digital versions of Avogadro Corp will be ready within 30-45 days of completion of the kickstarter project. Printed books will take longer, due to printing and shipping times.

About Me 

I’m William Hertling, and I live in Portland, Oregon. I’ve been a computer programmer, social media strategist, data analyst, program manager, web developer, and now writer. Avogadro Corp is my first novel, and I am currently working on a sequel.

All writers, whether indie, small press, or large traditional publisher, must learn how to market themselves and their books. If they don’t get the word out about their book, no one will buy it. (This is also true of musicians and businesses, and I think there’s a lot that can be learned from these seemingly disparate areas.)
 
Eliot Peper is a friend and the author of Uncommon Stock a thriller about a tech startup. I really liked the book, but I also enjoyed watching Eliot’s path to publication. Eliot graciously offered to share his lessons learned about the book launch, the all-important first month that helps establish a book on bestseller lists and get word-of-mouth going.
 
Without further ado, Eliot:

On March 5th my first novel, Uncommon Stock debuted at #8 in its category on Amazon. Will is one of my favorite indie authors and his advice, codified in Indie and Small Press Book Marketing played a critical role in shaping my launch plan. He generously offered to let me share some of my lessons learned along the way. I hope you can use some of these strategies to help launch your own bestsellers! I look forward to reading them.

Here’s what you need to do to launch in the top ten:
  1. Write a good book. Without one, none of this matters. It’s tempting to try to think up devious ways to growth hack your book but at the end of the day, it’s all a wasted effort if your content isn’t truly awesome. My perspective on successful titles is really simple: write a book good enough that people who don’t know you will recommend it to their friends. If you can do that, you can probably ignore the rest of this list anyway.
  2. Don’t ask people to buy your book. “Buy my book” sounds like a used-car-salesman. “Read my book” sounds like an author.
  3. Influence influencers. If you already have a million Twitter followers and an oped in the New York Times then this won’t matter much to you. But if you’re a regular guy like me, then you’ll need help from people with platforms of their own to share your title. Brad Feld, a well known venture capitalist and tech blogger, shared Uncommon Stock via his blog and social channels and even temporarily switched his profile picture to the cover of the book. Why? Because I had been sending him drafts of the book since I finished writing Chapter 3. Will sums up the right approach to take with influencers of any kind (this includes media): give, give, give, give, ask. Do as many favors as you can think of for people and worry about the ROI later.

  4. Leverage your network. On/around launch day I sent ~200 individual personal emails, 2 email blasts to my list of ~600 members, published 3 blog posts, and flooded my social channels with content (you really only have an excuse to do this on Day 1). You need people to R3 your book: read, review, and recommend it. How can you inspire them to act? Create a sense of urgency (it’s launch day!) and tell them why their help is important (books that start strong snowball up Amazon’s algorithms).
  5. Cultivate gratitude and humility. Publishing is the path of 1000 favors. Every single person (including your mom) is doing you a solid by taking the time/money to purchase, read, and review your book. Think about how incredible it is that anyone at all is getting a kick out what reading what you write. Never stop telling people how much you appreciate their help, every little bit counts.
  6. Do something cool. It’s easier to get coverage and social media amplification if there’s more to talk about than the simple fact that it’s launch day. I created a Twitter account for Uncommon Stock’s protagonist (@MaraWinkel) and incited a Twitter battle with a few people with large followings. Heck, we even built a website for Mara’s startup and a major venture capital firm announced an investment in the fictional company.  This introduced new people to the story and was a talking point in itself.

  7. All format release. Make sure your book is available in digital and print formats on launch day. I didn’t do this because we were slow getting the print version through typesetting and I know it resulted in significant lost sales. I’ve also had a couple dozen people reach out to ask where they can get the print copy (so there must be many more that didn’t reach out). That sucks. I want to DELIGHT my readers in every possible interaction they have with me.
  8. Recruit a cadre of advance reviewers. The more reviews you can get on Amazon as soon as possible the better. I sent advance review copies out to ~50 people a couple of weeks before launch. Then I pinged those people shortly before launch day reminding them how useful an honest review from them would be. Then I reminded them on launch day that now was the time! We debuted with 28 reviews.
  9. Be strategic. Choose Amazon categories that are specific and not too competitive. Reach out to your alma mater and try to get in the alumni newsletter. Pitch low-lying bloggers or reporters with concise, compelling stories. Snag some endorsements from folks that have actually read your book. Etc.
  10. Write another good book. There’s nothing more important than building a backlist. It gives fans more of what they want. It gives prospective readers a new path to discovering you. Plus, writing books is why you’re doing all of this anyway!
There are more details available on how launch week went for Uncommon Stock here. If you’re interested in an adventure through the world of tech startups, read it!

For further reading, I highly recommend Will’s Indie and Small Press Book Marketing. He shares extensive detail on his various successes as an indie author and it’s the only book you need to read in order to prepare for your own release. I’m particularly impressed by how he’s applied growth hacking techniques like A/B testing to optimize his reader funnel. You should also check out the following three posts. I’ve found them insightful and actionable throughout the launch:

Oh, and one final thing. Don’t forget to take time to celebrate! It’s all too easy to get caught up in all the noise on launch day. Make sure to take a moment to appreciate how friggin’ cool it is that readers finally have your book in hand.
Eliot Peper is a writer in Oakland, CA. His first novel, Uncommon Stock  is a fictional thriller about a tech startup and the lead title for a new indie publishing company, FG Press  You can find it on Amazon and most major retailers. You can even download a free ten-chapter excerpt. When he’s not writing, Eliot works with entrepreneurs and investors to build new technology companies. He also blogs about writing, entrepreneurship, and adventure.

Brad Feld posts about why he writes for an hour each day:

Finally, after almost 20 years of writing, the light bulb went on for me.

I write to think.

Forcing myself to sit down and work through these ideas in a logical sequence for an audience of readers required me to refine my thinking on how I invest in startups. How could I make the financing process more efficient? What’s the best way to structure a deal? I learned a lot, both from my writing and my readers’ responses.

I also love this gem on Jeff Bezos from Brad’s post:

Consider Jeff Bezos’s approach to meetings. Whoever runs the meeting writes a memo no longer than six pages about the issue at hand. Then, for the first 15 to 30 minutes of the meeting, the group reads it. The rest of the meeting is spent discussing it. No PowerPoint allowed. Brilliant. (I’ve long felt that PowerPoint is a terrible substitute for critical thinking.)

This aligns nicely with what Edward Tufte says:

PowerPoint… usually weaken(s) verbal and spatial reasoning, and almost always corrupt(s) statistical analysis.

I spent the last few days in bed with the flu. In addition to missing the company of visiting family, I also missed writing time.

During those couple of days, my friend Tac Anderson asked on Facebook about people’s goals for 2014, as opposed to resolutions.

That got me thinking. What I’d like to achieve in 2014 includes completing, editing, and publishing my next adult novel, editing and publishing my children’s novel, and rewriting Avogadro Corp. (Avogadro Corp is a great story, but it was my first written work, and it’s got some rough areas that could benefit from time and attention.)

One way or another, I will get those books done, but I’d prefer to do it with less stress than its taken to get some of my past books out. I balance a day job, a family, and writing, and although each book is a joy to write and publish, it’s also exhausting to do on top of an already full life.

So my goal for 2014 is to get my day job commitment down from 80% time to 60%. (Hi boss!) To do that, I’ll either need to bring in more book income, find alternate sources of income, reduce expenses, or some combination of all of the above.

I’ve been investigating foreign rights and traditional publishers, and I’ll think more about kickstarter campaigns. I’m open to ideas if you’ve got any.

What are your goals for 2014, and how do you hope to achieve them?

Anne Bishop

Matt Vancil
Jim Kling
  • Background
    • JK: Quit day job in 1992 to go to grad school. In 1995, decide he didn’t want to complete PhD in chemistry, eventually decided to science writing internship. Then went on to do freelance, and has done it ever since.
    • MV: Screenwriter and filmmaker. Have a day job, but it’s a writing job. Got that as a result of a string of other writing. First time he’s had a consistent gig.
    • AB: Author of multiple series. Pretty much a full-time writer. Working on 18th novel, but still have a day job, two jobs a week. 
  • What is the writing life like?
    • JK: 
      • Currently have home office. Had an outside office, but stop using it. 
      • I don’t get dressed or shower until noon. Doesn’t keep regular hours.
      • Had a regular job briefly, hated the regular hours. Would rather work when he wanted to in order to be happy and healthy.
      • Deadlines dictate when he needs to get certain work done.
    • MV: 
      • Required to have bit of structure because of the company he works for.
      • To work at home, he prefers a place that quiet, cool, and calm.
      • But at work, he’s forced into an environment that loud and chaotic.
        • because of this, he’s abandoned the idea of structure, and just embraced the chaotic nature of the work.
      • On his own work, its about a routine: an outline and a quota. Because at the end of a day of work, the last thing he wants to do is write.
    • AB:
      • I like structure. I treat it as a job I have 5 days a week.
      • I don’t get dressed for the office.
      • I throw on clothes, make coffee, and as soon as my brain is engaged and start working.
      • The less time between waking and getting to the keyboard the better.
      • The less input, less sensory, the better.
      • I set a weekly word count equal to 1,500 words a day. This is what is needed to make the deadlines for the size of the novels I write.
      • I sit down from 8:30 in the morning until about 1:30.
      • At that point, it’s time to meet the day. Get cleaned up, and tend to all the other stuff. Nobody gets time in the writing slot except for the characters.
  • MV: The development is actual work too: sometimes its not just typing characters into a keyboard. It’s deep thinking about motivation before you’re ready to put words on the page.
  • AB: No matter what the process is, you have to be willing to produce the end product.
    • JK: You have to be willing to deal with the self-doubt. As a hobbyist, there’s no external pressure. If you never send off the novel, the editor doesn’t even know. But if you’re self-employed, you have to finish it and send it off, because you need it for the check, even if you’re worried that its a piece of shit.
  • AB: Know your writing style. Are you a sprinter or a marathoner? All of these are valid ways to get to the end-goal. But know what it right for you.
  • How do you deal with writing time vs. all the other things you can do?
    • MV: Ultimately it’s about holding yourself to a quota. And what helps you make that quota is an outline. Problems in Act 3 are almost always due to problems in Act 1 that weren’t resolved because there was no outline. Also, give yourself permission to suck. 
    • AB: There’s a difference between 10 minutes of minesweeper to rest your brain and an hour of minesweeper to avoid writing.
  • Q: If you get blocked somewhere in the first draft, do you ever go back and edit as a way of making some progress?
    • AB: I do what I call musings. I open up another file, and just start typing about what I think the problems might be, what the characters might be thinking about. Sometimes this is like warming up after you’ve had an injury: you have to get the muscle warmed up.
      • Give yourself an ultimatum to do the chore you hate the most or write a 100 words. I guarantee that you’d rather write 100 words than to scrub the kitchen floor.
  • Before you quit your day job, what do you need to get from your writing?
    • AB: I’ve gradually decreased my hours at my day job down to two mornings. This has been very good to be able to gradually decrease.
      • If you hope to quit your day job and pay your mortgage and feed your kids, you should be writing under contract long before you give up your day job.
      • Don’t give up the day until your fiction is earning enough to pay all of your bills for a year.
      • Ideally you need to not only pay bills, but also put aside money for emergencies, savings, etc.
      • Agents will say you should have ten books in print before you consider it…
    • MV: It’s better to have a job and work some minimal hours than to simply quit. Determine how many hours a day you need to write, and then try to find a job that will support it.
      • You have to be prepared that this is a long haul… I went to a film school and they beat into your head that you’d need to do this for at least five years before you’d be able to make money at it.
      • Embrace any job that helps you further your goals: e.g. a tech writing job that gets you access to publishers.
    • JK: It’s hard to do this and it requires some luck. But it also requires being willing to embrace a different lifestyle. If you want to drive a new car, have new clothes, eat your meals out… then don’t quit your day job.
      • There are some, but not very many.
      • Be willing to scale back the lifestyle.
      • AB: Leave lean.
    • MV: If you’re writing you are probably doing it because you love it. Be prepared that at some time it’ll feel like a job, and you’ll hate it. Remember why you started doing it.
  • Q: What’s a likely amount of money to make?
    • AB: First advances are lucky to be $5,000, except for an exceptional few. And that comes in 3 payments over about 3 years, so it’s not a lot of money. 
      • If you have 10 books in print, then royalties will start to add up, but it’s still a live lean lifestyle.
    • JK: I have a second income in the form of my wife who works.
  • How do you force yourself to get dressed and leave the house? How do you avoid feeling isolated?
    • AB: Why do I want to leave the house?
    • JK: It is isolating, and sometimes it bothers me, and sometimes it doesn’t.
      • I go out and meet with other writers every other week.
      • I get sick of being at home and go out.
      • My dogs force me to take them out.
  • Q: You’ve talked about the income, what about the expenses particular to writing?
    • AB: You need a computer, paper, electricity and time. The expense of writing is not great except that it is time.
    • MV: One cost is that you’ll have a scary credit history if you don’t have a steady income. 
    • AB: Self-employment tax: the other 7.5% you need to pay into social security.
    • MV: Keep very clear records of your sources of income. I have 8 sources of income.
    • JK: Deduct everything you can.
  • Q: How does it work between writing and film-making?
    • MV: Over the last two years, I didn’t have a day job. When I had a film, I could film it. Now I have to negotiate the time off work from a job I want to keep.