There was a time when it used to be my understanding that ‘art’ and ‘commerce’ simply didn’t make for good bedfellows. Honestly! When you really consider what it means…you’ve got two groups trying to work together that are thinking from two completely different sides of the brain. One might be vague and optimistic and creative…while the other is in a constant state of analysis and strategy and logic. It may seem like a small thing sometimes…but it can cause more conflict that you would expect it to when you bring these two forces together. Especially when it comes to doing big things, and both sides are really passionate about getting heard.
Sometimes, it just leads to problems. Hehehe! And with me being a bonafide ‘problem child’ myself, mixed with that good old fashioned ‘Taurus’ stubborness…I used to worry that actually making a business out of my writing would never work. I LOVE writing! If I could write stories and have sex all day long, I’d be in an eternal state of bliss! And all of my stories had been offered absolutely free of charge for over a decade before even considering the idea of marketing them for money. Not to get wealthy or anything, but just to put some extra cash in my pocket and make all of the hard work, the headaches, and the sleepless nights, worth it all. I just didn’t want to put myself in that frame of mind. I think my biggest joy was having people simply read and comment and show some real love and appreciation for what I do. People who might have never found me on some pay site. People who really needed a story that they could relate to. Teenagers who didn’t have a credit card or extra money in the bank to purchase an answer for the many questions that they had and the struggles they were going through. I figured…I write the stories, the fans tell me what they thought and sent me a smile or an occasional compliment, and we’d call it even. You know? I wasn’t selling out! Hehehe! This was my gift. These were electrical impulses in my brain, and I typed them out on a screen, and I sent them out into the ether. If it helped just a FEW people feel better about who they were, and believe in love, and hope, and true friendship…if they could just connect with the characters in the stories and find a piece of themselves along the way…that was more of a reward than any amount of money could buy. Period.
However…there came a time when I had to face the reality of the situation. I needed money. There was no way around it. Living in Chicago was NOT cheap! And as the bills piled up and those hard earned paychecks were getting stretched thinner all the time…I had to figure something out. And it was actually the people on the Shack Out Back website that talked me into maybe finding a way to make some extra profits off of the stories that I was writing online. And that took some time, because…hehehe, my stubborn nature wouldn’t let me.
It was the good friends that I had gathered from the Shack that all pitched in to help me out with this new idea. I’m far from being a ‘techie’ in any sense of the word. Again…it’s an entirely different side of the brain. I can create characters and write detailed and complex stories all night long without blinking an eye….but I’ll want to put my friggin’ FIST through a wall if it takes me twenty five minutes to figure out why my computer coding can’t just take a simple graphic and put it on the LEFT side of the screen instead of the RIGHT!!! Arrrrgghhhh!!! Nothing frustrates me more than wasting an hour of my life trying to figure out what’s wrong, just to have someone tell me, “You just have to a semicolon in the code and add a space here.” WTF???
There’s no reasoning with technology…
Some of you guys have been around long enough to remember some of the earlier attempts that Shackers helped me out in the beginning. From having the “My Only Escape” series actually read on an Australian radio station by Chris Conker (Rest in peace, my friend. And thank you), and having it printed up on a collection of CDs that I was able to send to fans directly from a PO Box…to having another Shacker put out two volumes of hardback books for sale, so people could have a solid copy, and even send in for an official Comsie autograph! This wasn’t ME doing all this! This was the hard work of a group of readers that truly believed in me and wanted to do all that they could to help by coming together and making this happen. Honestly, looking back on all that…I am truly moved that they would do that. I wasn’t used to anything like that, but I will forever be grateful.
Technology was doing what it always does…enhancing and elevating its supreme powers at a breakneck pace and daring the rest of the world to keep up! Something that I couldn’t really do at the time, as long work hours and my online commitments were taking up about 90% of my day to day life…where I spent the extra 10% getting yelled at for not doing more. And, while the CDs and hardback books were an AWESOME idea in the beginning, trying to get to the post office and move physical product back and forth proved to be just as time consuming as it was expensive. But, just as before…Shackers clued me in on the idea of making my stories available as ‘ebooks’ instead.
Ebooks? What is that? How does that work?
It was basically the advanced class version of what I was doing by posting my stories on Nifty or at GayAuthors.org. Everything was online, the stories could be read by a variety of different devices, there was no physical CDs or books to pick up or send out, and…best of all…it was FREE!
That almost sounded like a prank to me at first! But I did some more research on the whole idea. Google, Youtube, etc…and what once seemed to be too good to be true at first, turned out to be true after all. Well, shit! Where do I sign up?
I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t a very steep learning curve for me when it came to trying to use my very ‘basic’ HTML skills to get things to look right in ebook form. Oh God…I swear, if it wasn’t for a HUGE amount of help from ‘Cryptic’ online, who taught me how to post and put an ebook together, I wouldn’t have this section to add to this website right now! LOL! And I want to take a second to apologize to him, because I’m sure I drove him all kinds of crazy while I was trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. And trust me…I did a LOT wrong! You might as well have been asking a toddler to recite Shakespeare! So thanks, Cryptic! For your help, and your infinite patience with me! You’re a major part of this whole project being the roaring success that it is! ((Hugz))
SO…I’ve got the technology! I’ve got the techie assistance that I needed to make things look good! I went in and set up my account to see if I could not only bring my loyal fanbase to buy digital ebooks from me, but if I could actually start all over from scratch and see if I could possibly build up a brand NEW fanbase from an audience who had never heard the name ‘Comicality’ before! I’m always up for a challenge, and this was one of the biggest challenges ever. Were my stories just a fluke? Did I get lucky? Is it possible for lightning to strike twice? Let’s see!
So I began looking for short, one time, stories that I could publish and see how they might do when placed under the microscope of readers who spend all day reading quality work from a ton of writers who have been around a lot longer and were much more savvy in the business of storytelling than I could ever claim to be. And…hehehe…let me tell you…all I saw were horrible HORRIBLE mistakes!!!
I knew that I had been making mistakes the whole time that I’ve been writing, and they always made me cringe when I noticed them…but this was different! This time, I wanted everything to look professional. I wanted people to take me seriously. This isn’t a free ‘stroke story’ anymore. I’m going to be competing with people who are actually pouring all of their passion, time, and energy, into their stories…and I didn’t want to be the ‘amateur’ on the block. I’m going to be on Amazon.com for crying out loud! People can choose between buying Stephen King, Anne Rice, JK Rowling….or Comicality! The least I could do was bring my ‘A’ game to the table, right?
So…first things first…every story that I put out for sale has to be completely reworked, re-edited, reformatted, and practically rewritten from the ground up before I put it out there. No matter how long it takes, I wanted my first impression to new readers to be as good as it possibly could be. No more repetitive phrases, no more open italics tags, no more careless spelling errors, no more continuity mishaps…I was wearing myself OUT on trying to make these new versions of my stories as close to flawless as humanly possible. And I wanted my first two ebooks to sort of test the waters in terms of what new readers could expect from me in the future.
So, my first two choices? A sweet and heartfelt story with a sci fi theme and no sex, called “Light Reaches Earth”…and a much more erotic themed ghost story, “Of The Flesh”. Those were my flagship ebooks online. And now…it was time to sit back and see how they did. 🙂
One thing that I wanted to make sure of was that I kept the prices as low as I possibly could. I even tried to make some of them free, but the lowest price was 99 cents. And after seeing the royalties, that proved to be a mistake. In order to get 70% of the profit from your ebooks…it has to be at least $2.99 online. Otherwise, Amazon is ripping you off. Hehehe, word to the wise. They will take two thirds of your profits, even though you wrote the story, created the characters, did your own editing, your own formatting, and made a cover for the book, and then did all of the advertising and hard work it takes to get it noticed! Yeah…screw that. Hehehe, all they did was provide a store window for me. And I’m grateful, but…seriously?
So $2.99 was the price, and I kept almost all of my books at that price or very close to it. I would much rather have a new fan than a random ebook sale. I want people to appreciate what I do. I want my stories to touch them and have some meaning. And nobody is going to pay a big price for an author that they’ve never heard of before unless I’m given the chance to prove myself. That’s where it all began.
And, what do you know? Lightning CAN strike twice, after all! YAY!
The ebooks were supported by the fans right away, and even though I had given the original material away for free…they came out and purchased the ebooks anyway! Just to say thanks, and to see what the stories would look like, fully re-edited and now portable on their handheld devices. Not only that, but they left star ratings on Amazon and positive comments on the ebooks as well! Sure…there were a few people here and there that went out of their way to give the lowest rating and the worst reviews possible in an attempt to tear down any potential the books had at getting recognized or gaining any momentum (And by ‘a few’…I mean, I can literally count them on one hand), but it didn’t achieve the desired effect. In fact, it hardly did much damage at all. The overwhelming compliments from true fans of the stories were able to draw in a lot of attention from first time readers who wanted to know what all the fuss was about. No instant love. No instant hate. Just a brand new audience jumping in and seeing what I was made of. And they LOVED it! They really did! Much to my surprise! And that was all the encouragement that I needed!
Once the first two books did well, I began picking up a lot of my other short stories to get in line to get the same treatment. Hehehe, I HATE reading my own stuff! The more I read of my older stories, the more I felt ashamed for even putting them out there the way I did! I wanted to fix them up. Give them an extra polish. I really think that it was me going through my older stories that made me much more careful with the newer ones. I can see the mistakes that I made more clearly now, and I’m aware of them to the point where I can now try to avoid them. So…live and learn. You know?
More short stories quickly made their way into the digital age, and with a bit more confidence…I wanted to try bringing some of the bigger, more extensive, series to Amazon as well. And that led to one of the biggest sellers on the entire ebook site…
…”The Secret Life Of Billy Chase”!
It was an absolutely EXHAUSTING task, trying to get those “Billy Chase” books formatted and redone for public consumption! I spent many a night nodding off at my keyboard, trying to get them finished as fast as I possibly could! I think I was already six books in at the time (Each book was 50 chapters long), and there were sooooo many mistakes and mishaps that I nearly broke my brain trying to catch them all! Hahaha! If you have the ebook versions right now…go back and look at the originals on Nifty! You’ll see the difference! Believe me!
However, one of the biggest selling points of those “Billy Chase” books came from TurtleBoy! Someone I consider a friend, and a brother! In fact, this very online magazine was his creation, originally! TurtleBoy offered to do the artwork for the “Billy Chase” ebooks, and what he was able to pull of was phenomenal! They captured Billy perfectly, and all of the work on the first 8 books was all his doing! So big hugs and pieces of chocolate cake to TurtleBoy for his genius on that!
With his professional artwork and the newly refurbished stories…”The Secret Life Of Billy Chase” became the number one selling series out of all the ebooks on the site! And is still selling to this day! And that opened the door for me to take things a few steps further!
I began to adapt more of the stories and correct all of the sad errors that I made in the past. I began getting used to the idea of improving on the stories instead of just fixing what was wrong with them. So I would add little details and lines of dialogue where I felt it was necessary. And then began adding whole scenes that weren’t there before. Call it a ‘director’s cut’, I guess. Hehehe!
By the time I started adding the much longer sci-fi stories into the mix, I found myself becoming really excited about the idea of getting a second chance to make a first impression. So if you read the ebook versions of “Savage Moon”, “Nightfall”, and especially “Gone From Daylight”…you may find a TON of new scenes, dialogue, and material, that was never there before! And the newer stories will have even more.
The more I added to the ebook list, the more popular the ebooks became. I also added a few ebook exclusives like “The Boys Of Widow Lake”, and a newly revived version of the guardian angel themed story, “Always” (Which will FINALLY be getting a new chapter this year!!!). The “Gone From Daylight” got cover art from a cherished fan, Kiyone, who fell in love with the story and had been sending me some amazing artwork in my email! So that’s Kiyone’s artwork that you see on the ‘Resurrection’ and ‘Rogue Angel’ books!
It reached a point where I had a ton of books on Amazon, and no way to really ‘advertise’ them to people unless I listed them all and gave them links in every email and mailing list announcement. That wasn’t going to really work. Not for long. I was on a highly ambitious roll here! 😛
At the time, I couldn’t really use the Shack or Library forums to hold a list in place for long enough for me to link to. And GayAuthors didn’t have the kind of particular space that I was looking for at the time. But I really really wanted to create a page where all of my ebooks could be posted and linked to all at the same time. And…what do you know…TurtleBoy to the rescue, once again! Hehehe!
Imagine Magazine was still pretty young, but he had the tech savvy and the space and the passion to pull it off. So I typed up a message and we talked about how it would look and how it would operate…and there you have it, folks! The OFFICIAL Comicality Ebook Store was born! A place where anybody could come and find everything that I’ve got to offer whenever they clicked the appropriate link! A ‘home’…for my very best efforts when it came to my writing. How awesome is that?
Now? The Comicality Ebook Section has almost FORTY selections listed for fans and non-fans alike to choose from! And it’s not going to stop there! Trust me! More ebooks are being worked on all the time! And even your favorite stories that you know and love by heart, will be getting a brand new spit and polish before they’re released in their newest form. Are the perfect? Nah. I highly doubt it. But they are MUCH better, in my opinion!
This is the hard work of someone who is dedicated to giving you his best efforts at all times. And if I can do better…then I will. Every time!
So check out the ebook section when you guys get a chance! And if you’re curious as to how the new books read over their original presentations…I welcome you to check out “Gone From Daylight” and “Savage Moon”, specifically! And expect future stories to get even more extensive rewrites, as well as a few more exclusives that you won’t find anywhere else!
Some self made video trailers of these ebooks can be found on the ComicalityShack Youtube Channel if you ever want a preview of what you’re in for! ::Grins::
Don’t worry, folks! I’m still not selling myself out for monetary gain. I’m not looking to get rich. And extra five bucks goes a long way sometimes! And I’m super easy to please! BUT…you have my word when I tell you that I’ll still be offering 90% of my hard work for free! Because I know where I came from, and I still feel that the best rewards come from people who never had to pay a penny to find the hope and love that they were looking for. That’s where I started, that’s where I plan to stay. Promise!
From my heart to your minds…thank you all for giving me all of the love that you’ve given me over the years! That’s all I ever wanted! But…if your donations buy me a few beers every now and then…I won’t say no! LOL!