The First Audition for the Audiobook of Captain James Hook and the Curse of Peter Pan

In the effort to expand the book’s reach, Captain James Hook and the Curse of Peter Pan will soon be available as an audiobook on Audible and iTunes.  In order for that to happen, we need to find a voice actor.

The Audiobook Creation Exchange allows authors to find voice actors and producers pretty easily.

  1. You post a sample of the book.
  2. Actors submit their auditions.
  3. You choose one and move on from there.

We are in the “choose one” phase of our search and I’m asking for your help.

This is the first audition tape.  There is a poll below the file for you to submit your responses.  Every vote helps us make our decision.

Are you a voice actor who wishes to audition?  If so, click here for your chance.  Auditions close at the end of July.

Thank you all again for participating.

Building an Audience Means Taking the Next Step

People won’t just come to you.

Now that there are so many entertainment options choose from, people (rightfully) feel that they should to be courted by creators who want them to read/watch/hear their work.

In truth, it may have always been this way.

Selling the First Wheel

So, if these systems have been in place for millennia, then what can I do to compete?

Building An Audience

Step One:  Blog Regularly

The weekly blogging schedule I’ve taken up has helped keep me sharp and focused.  It doesn’t hurt that I changed my branding a little bit to better fit my personality and interests.  The Writing Teacher was fun and I liked the dual usage of the word “Writing” in the title as both an adjective and a verb, but it didn’t allow me to comment on the topics that most engaged me.

Cynical Sci-Fi gives me some range and helps me be truer to who I am, which is important.  This authenticity has contributed to an increased follower-ship on my Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Step Two:  Broaden My Market Base

It is hard to find new ways to promote old work.  Captain James Hook and the Curse of Peter Pan has had thousands of readers and I am very proud of how it has influenced the Peter Pan mythos, but it is a three-year-old book among many, many, many newer similar titles.

Therefore, I am working with the Audiobook Creation Exchange to make both Captain James Hook titles available on Audible and iTunes.  As of this post, I have one audition already submitted and I am using my audience base to promote this opportunity to others.  (Expect to get updates on this process as it unfolds.)

Step Three:  Collaborate With Others

Working with others in a creative field can be a real pain.  Many will actively try to cut you down so that you do not get a leg up on them or will try to rip off your ideas while discouraging you from pursuing them.

It is important to find a partner (or group) that will encourage you while being constructively critical.  I am fortunate that my writing partner is as talented as he is insightful.  Hundreds of thousands of words have passed between us:  read, commented, and revised.

This isn’t for work that we share credit for either.  These are solo titles, made better through joint effort.

The followup step is to get myself into book talks, social groups, and conferences.

Step Four:  Create New Work

This is often the hardest part.  You tweet.  You post.  Distractions pull you this way and that until hours have passed and you find that your daily word count is under 1000.  It doesn’t have to be this way, though.

  1. Develop new ideas
  2. Set a schedule
  3. Stick to it

This simple process has given me two new series of short fiction, the first titles of which are already done and ready to go.  More are on the way as July and August are typically big drafting months for me (teacher’s schedule).

Step Five:  Experiment

I’m taking a different route with the new titles.  Their lengths allow them to be submitted to genre magazines and I feel that they have a good shot, so I’m trying that first before diving into a self-publishing model.

As with the audiobook creation process, expect that future posts will include updates on which magazines each title will be submitted to and what the responses are.

New is only new for so long, then you have to learn what comes next.  These are both new journeys for me and I’m excited to take them on as a lifelong learner.

 

Tips for Self-Publishing (Almost Completely) Free

Let’s assume that you have a book that you think is worth selling and you’ve decided to publish it yourself.  What do you do?  Put it up on Amazon?  Find a Print On Demand site?  How do you make sure that your wonderful book looks appealing enough for others to give it a chance?

It all depends on your needs and (frankly) your budget.

There are some things that are out of most people’s specialties and require a good amount of training.  If you’re a graphic designer, then you have a leg up on others.  (I’m not even going to mention marketing or SEO in this post.)

The point is that there are gateways that all would-be self-publishers have to pass through.

Here are some of those key questions that have to be answered.


Do I have to pay for an editor?

No, but you really should.

Most people read books for enjoyment, but very few people are taught how to read a book for whether or not it will sell.  This, along with the commonly understood proofreading part of the job, is why an editor will help.  David Kudler wrote a great article in The Huffington Post on this topic.  Also, Joanna Penn has a page dedicated to the topic along with recommendations.

Total Mandatory Cost:  $0


Do I have to buy an ISBN?

No, but you probably should.

In the U.S., Bowker is the only legitimate seller of ISBNs.  Most others who sell them for cheaper have bought them in bulk and are scamming new authors.  The prices range depending on your needs, but spending the money makes it more likely that bookstores will carry your title.  Bowker General FAQs.  Bowker ISBN FAQs.

There are free ways to get an ISBN, but whoever provides it for you will be listed as the publisher.  For example, if you take the free ISBN from CreateSpace, then Amazon is listed as the book’s publisher.  You still retain full author rights and the book is yours to do with as you please, but you would have to republish it again with a different ISBN to be registered as the book’s publisher.

Total Mandatory Cost: $0


Do I have to copyright my book?

No, but you definitely should.  Your ideas are only your ideas if they are protected.

Copyrighting your work is a quick and inexpensive process.  Go to http://www.copyright.gov/ and click on Register a Copyright.  It will ask you to create an account so that you can log in later.  Here’s a list of Frequently Asked Questions for those who are nervous about copywriting for the first time.

There is such a thing as a poor man’s copyright, but it doesn’t offer as much protection as we’ve all been told.  Just check out one of my older posts, The Power (and Problems) of Writing with Public Domain Characters, for more on that.

Total Mandatory Cost: $0


Do I have to pay for a professional book cover?

No, but you certainly should.

The original cover to Captain James Hook and the Curse of Peter Pan.

The original cover to Captain James Hook and the Curse of Peter Pan.


The redone cover to Captain James Hook and the Curse of Peter Pan.

The redone cover to Captain James Hook and the Curse of Peter Pan.

Unless you are REALY good at Photoshop and have taken classes in graphic design, don’t try this.

The first book cover for Captain James Hook and the Curse of Peter Pan was a disaster, especially compared to the professionally redone cover by Jaycee DeLornezo.  There are many other cover artists out there, but she’s really good and charges a fair price.

You still don’t have to pay.  You could do this on your own if you have the skills.

Total Mandatory Cost: $0


Do I have to pay for a professionally formatted book interior?

No, but you undoubtedly should.

Book interior formatting is the dead giveaway of an amateur.  Do you know which pages are supposed to be odd or even?  I didn’t at first.  How about margins and header text?  No?

You have two options when it comes to formatting a book interior:  Spend a lot of time researching or spend some money to get it done by a professional.

Again, Joanna Penn has a great page on this topic, but that is if you have the $300-$800 to pay for it.

CreateSpace has a few forum topics on the subject and, of course, there is my post on Using Adobe InDesign.

Total Mandatory Cost: $0


 

Total up the mandatory expenses!

Editor: $0

ISBN: $0

Copyright: $0

Cover: $0

Interior: $0

Final Mandatory Cost: $0 (but you’ll be spending hundreds of hours not writing)

The Power (and Problems) of Writing with Public Domain Characters

It didn’t take Captain James Hook and the Curse of Peter Pan long to reach 10,000 readers.  It took even less time for it to blast through to 25,000+.  For a new author’s first novel, it was an encouraging sight.  My co-author and I were through the roof with excitement.

Then I was told that some of the ideas in our book were lifted by a different property.  Peter Pan is evil and is described as a shadow?  Check.  The fountain of youth is in Neverland?  Check.  Captain Hook had connections to the British Navy before becoming a pirate?  Check.  These were all in the originally published ebook made available for purchase on June 21st, 2012 and linked to the other property’s fan page long before the other property introduced these characters.   (The book was reformatted for print and resubmitted on November 15th, 2013.)

Despite what I was told, I still have doubts.  All of these connections are so incredibly vague that it could be a coincidence.  Even if our book inspired someone who works for the other property, which is a complement, there are broad differences in the way that these ideas are used.  In short, I am making no claims or insinuations.

I did, however, learn a few things about using public domain characters that are worth sharing.

Creatively, the benefits of using public domain characters are pretty clear.  The world is built for you.  The characters are already fleshed out with opinions and goals.  Events have already happened that will shape their actions.  Since the Captain James Hook series of books are all prequels to J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, future events are set in stone and give a clear end-point that directs the narrative.  The only downside to all of that available history is that there is a good deal of research involved.  This wasn’t a problem for me, I generally like getting my hands dirty in the details.  One of my main sources of pride in the first book is that it is set in historical context.  For example, J. M. Barrie wrote that Hook was Blackbeard’s boatswain.  That puts a narrow window on the time when Hook could have done that because Blackbeard wasn’t a pirate for long.

The real advantage to using public domain characters is market recognition.  People know Peter Pan.  People know Captain Hook.  When they see those names, it triggers a whole set of memories, feelings, and expectations.  Even though we turned those expectations around and seemed to have done a pretty decent job at it, I have little doubt that most of our success was due to people already being invested in the characters.

That advantage can also play against you.  Your ideas aren’t as protected as they would be had you built the world and made the characters yourself.  No one can publish and make money off of J. K. Rowling’s characters.  They belong to her.  The same is true for the work of Riordan, Martin, King, or any other author from the last 75 years.  Yes, fan fiction exists, but it is seen as not worth reading (even though some of it is really good).

The conclusions I drew from my experience are pretty simple.  Authors who adapt works from the public domain take a risk.  Yes, much of the work is done for you, but there is only so much a copyright can cover when the characters belong to someone else.

2013 in Review

2013 yielded some interesting outcomes in my teaching and writing career.

New Publication

Late in 2013, I was announced as my building’s “Teacher of the Year” for 2014-2015.  In response, I decided to write a series of books that details my best practices and my teaching philosophy.  The first of that series is now available for purchase.

The Re-Creating Lifelong Learners book series reinforces authentic instruction by holding students accountable to assignments that are based in the real world and have long-term goals in mind.

Interviews and Book Talks

My Brand Interview by Susan Newman Design brought some excellent attention to my work.  Susan is a Jersey City resident who specializes in media and marketing.

Locally, I have had several events in Jersey City.  The public library, JC Made, and Farms in the Heights have all been wonderfully receptive to my work.

Donation to @MCCNewYork

One of the most rewarding experiences of 2013 was my ability to raise enough money to purchase a dryer for Sylvia’s Place, a homeless LGBT youth shelter in Manhattan.

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Jeremiah Kleckner hands the money over to Ted McGuire.
Photo by Melissa Kleckner

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A snapshot of the dryer purchased exclusively through book sales.

Grow (yourself) Locally

Everything is harder when you are doing it on your own.  That’s the first idea people need to understand before they decide to self-publish instead of seeking an agent or a traditional publisher. While working on your next project (book, painting, t-shirt design, etc.), you have to make it easier for people to find your work.  Authors who do not have a global reach need to start small in their home towns and build from that base.

THE PLATFORM FOR A GLOBAL PRESENCE

This is the easy part.  Anyone can set up a free website, run a Twitter/Facebook page, and purchase a cheap domain to bring it all together.  Those who are more advanced use email lists to focus the attention on their audience.  All of this costs less than you might think.  The greatest expense is time, which is always in short supply.

Amazon has been a great advantage for Captain James Hook and the Curse of Peter Pan.  As of this post, it has reached over 15,000 readers and is rated more highly than Capt. Hook: the Adventures of a Notorious Youth, Peter Pan in Scarlet, and Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.  (Your days are numbered Starcatchers!)

Not one part of this is local, but it helps you to be seen as more credible when talking to local businesses.

LOCAL CAUSES

The first thing I did was hitch up to a worthy cause close to where I live.  The Metropolitan Community Church of New York specializes in caring for the needs of LGBT homeless youth.  Often, these kids are on the street because they were born into intolerant or abusive homes. You can read more about them here.  A major chunk of the money the book will make this year will go to them because they are truly great people and they can do more good with $1000 than I can.

LOCAL LIBRARIES

Jeremy Marshall and I are showing off our display at the "Tales of Our Cities" event in September 2013.

Jeremy Marshall and I are showing off our display at the “Tales of Our Cities” event in September 2013.

In the spring of this year, I contacted the Jersey City Free Public Library regarding their fall event.  The “Tales of Our Cities” event in September was a great way to gain exposure for the book.

We signed a few copies and I did a reading for the crowd.  In addition, the library bought ten copies for their use.  The platform was important, but the push behind our involvement came from my status as a local.

I read for the crowd at the "Tales of Our Cities" event in Jersey City.

I read for the crowd at the “Tales of Our Cities” event in Jersey City.

LOCAL BUSINESSES

Business owners are shrewd, and for good reason.  They need to be certain that what they are doing is good for them and for their customers.  Two places in particular have opened up to me and to the book.  Yes, the global platform gives me credibility in an anonymous and ambiguous way, but living in Jersey City is a key factor in our agreements.

Jersey City Free Books is located on Griffith Street in Jersey City Heights, blocks from my door.  Books are collected for trade in a manner that fits everybody’s ideal of a socialist utopia.  The concept is simple: take a book, leave a book.  There is no money exchanged and the books are generally not tracked or catalogued.  I dropped off a few copies for them to give away and, in return, the owner posted on his Facebook page.

The stand at JC Made where you can find our book for sale.

The stand at JC Made where you can find our book for sale.

JC Made is a store that sells work exclusively from artists who live in Jersey City.  When you walk in, you will see a collection of vases, t-shirts, lamps, cards, and now… books.  On Friday, I signed a contract to sell my book there, making it the first place where you can walk in, see a copy of Captain James Hook and the Curse of Peter Pan, and pay for it at a register.  Again, the Amazon sales and ranking gave me a platform, but my local status made this possible.

Building a writing career, while climbing in your main career, is hard when you are doing it on your own.  However, if you look closely enough, local opportunities are all around.

The $1000 Pledge – September Update

I am still clawing my way to reach my $1000 donation goal to @MCCNewYork Homeless LGBT Youth Services. Click here to find out more. 

VISIBILITY

September has been a fantastic month for the book’s visibility.  The “Tales of Our Cities” event in Jersey City has opened up a world of opportunities for speaking, reading, and selling.  This has helped push the number of reviews for Captain James Hook and the Curse of Peter Pan to 41 on Amazon.  With some luck, more events are in my near future.

PRODUCTIVITY

Book Two in the Captain James Hook series is done on my end, at least for now.  Jeremy Marshall has the reigns through the winter season and will add his ideas to the pot.  I’ll jump back in sometime in March to push it along for a June release.  Until then, my job is to teach, post, coach, and kick around other project ideas.