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State of the Experiment: An Update on Lazarus

State of the Experiment: An Update on Lazarus

On the 11th March 2011, www.Bookstogonow.com a Seattle based epublisher released The Lazarus Experiment on to the US and UK Amazon Kindle stores and the Barnes and Noble Nook Store. It remains a great point of pride to have someone look at your work, edit it with you and want to publish it (and publicise your talents). I have enjoyed the experience of going through the revision process with them – a first for me as my work for Ether Books didn’t go through a third party editing process. I had been nervous about it, not being sure how far I could push the defence of aspects of the story against the editors axe. I wanted to be published, but I wanted it to be my story that was published. The Seattle company were fully understanding and engaged on a reasoned debate. I gave on certain issues for them and they accepted my defence of other passages. The finished story, available to buy today, is undoubtedly superior, tighter and more polished than the one that debuted as a free Tuesday Serial in January. Publishing a story is only half the battle.

Does anyone actually want to read it?

I have an ideological perspective on this question. If you are interested, somebody else will be, its natural. It boils down to finding that person and getting that story in their hands. The big publishing houses will blanket advertising hoardings, subway trains, bins, web advertising, television and radio slots to find those people who are interested. For most of the small outfits and the Indy publishers, they don’t have the luxury of such a war chest. The strategy becomes refined even further to targeting each individual sale. I have used Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Shelfari so far to promote The Lazarus Experiment. I have discussed it with strangers and friends of friends in bars when watching Champions League soccer and seen a direct consequence of it being a sale. They in turn have discussed it with friends and lecturers at the local University. I have reached a lot more people than I had thought possible on an advertising budget of £0.00. Not being the publisher I do not have sales figures but have been able to use the Author Central websites for the UK, US and German Amazon sites to track the sales ranking.

My Amazon.co.uk sales ranking has looked like a dodgy heart monitor, stuttering up and down every week since publication. The good news is this tells me that there are sales being made, that if I link the days when I spike (to a highest of 9,271, low of 81,363 and as of posting current rank of 26,502) then I can relate it to my marketing activity. The Amazon.com sales figures sailed consistently down since publication, giving me the distinct impression of irony that my story which was published by an American company wasn’t selling in America. That changed this Thursday when I must have shifted a fair few downloads as I lifted from an all time low of 346,821 to a four week high of 66,511.

I have learned two things from this. On the one hand not to despair when the blue line seems to be going consistently down, you won’t lose your shelf space after all, when the customer turns up they will find it. Secondly, twitter is an incredibly powerful niche marketing tool. Yes we’ve heard it before, social media is great for marketing. Its still nice to have proof in the return of dollars/euros/pounds though isn’t it?

I embraced the book trailer rather after the fact and more as an experiment than any serious effort. I realised that having a discussion page on Facebook and an advertising/networking platform on Twitter was great, but I had no presence on that other behemoth of social media – Google’s YouTube. I have no software besides the abysmal Windows Movie Maker, and no funds to purchase images so I was limited to using just the book cover, scrolling text and a voice over.

I scripted several voice overs to dramatize the plot without giving anything away and lucked out in being able to turn to my voice over producing, international DJ, father Jonathon Wesley over at www.cjmq.fm. We worked back and forth for a week on getting the sound and pacing right, his voice certainly lending considerably more credibility than my squeaky pitch. I then put everything together and published it to my Facebook profile and YouTube account. It was a good learning experience. What do you think of the effort?

I mentioned the German Amazon website. I have to thank the Mad Pulp Bastard Bill Cunningham over at Pulp 2.0 for pointing out that his recent release Frankenstein Lives Again! had surprisingly gone live on the German kindle store. I had a quick search and found my own baby The Lazarus Experiment on sale there too! I will be sure to nudge my publishers to ensure that their eBooks go out on the other Amazon sites. Even without translation there is a large English speaking audience just waiting for our material in those countries.

That pretty much sums up my activities promoting The Lazarus Experiment in the last couple of months. Remember if you are having a story published or publishing one yourself – never stop marketing it, the problem particularly with ‘streams’ is that your audience may simply not be looking one week when you plug your baby. Be proud of your accomplishment and don’t let modesty get in the way of a possible sale when your out and about. Writing is like having a kid. Takes you a set amount of time to create the thing, but your left being responsible for it for the rest of your life. Don’t neglect it!

Do you have any suggestions for ways/places I could be marketing The Lazarus Experiment?

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Posted by on May 8, 2011 in Publishing

 

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Bookstogonow.com publish ‘The Lazarus Experiment’

Bookstogonow.com publish ‘The Lazarus Experiment’

It is with great pleasure that I can announce the publication this weekend for download of my mini-serial The Lazarus Experiment, penned this January and first shared through the Tuesday Serial network of writers and readers. The Lazarus Experiment has been published by Seattle-based electronic publishers Bookstogonow.com who have been wonderfully patient with me over the editing process given how new it was for me to be working with somebody on polishing my work. It follows the publication of several of my short stories including the suspense thriller KATAKOMBY on the Ether Books mobile platform in late 2010.

The Lazarus Experiment is available as a pdf, a Kindle book and a Nookbook making it available on any kind of electronic device you can think of. Readers should note that it is a short story, and I hope an entertaining ride through its electronic pages.

Product Description (from Amazon):

Condemned to death by gas chamber, Frank Swan has little to lose when he agrees to a secret military experiment at the height of World War 2. Little did he realize that he was about to get a second shot at redemption.

Retailers:

Bookstogonow.com

Amazon.com

Barnes and Noble 

Amazon – Germany

Amazon.co.uk

WHSmith.co.uk 

Android Marketplace

Booku.com

Booksonboard.com

Alternatively – ask your local library to get The Lazarus Experiment for digital loan! It’ll cost you nothing!

If you do not have a Kindle or Nook Book you can download reading apps for FREE on to your PC or Mobile Platform. For Barnes and Noble NOOK Apps click here. For Amazon Kindle Apps click here.

Read a Sample! Click here for Part 1.

Don’t forget to stop on by my Facebook page and click Like for future alerts on short stories. If you read the story, why not leave a review? Thank you to everybody who encouraged the completion of the serial in January. I couldn’t have done it without the enthusiasm of you readers.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2011 in Publishing

 

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Review: Metamorphosis by Kafka

When I wrote For Daniels Benefit, I had never read Kafka’s short story Metamorphosis nor was I familiar with the details as I was with George Orwells Animal Farm. Yet people assumed I had read it due to the transformations – the metamorphosis – of the staff working for Southborough Council. I can understand where comparisons come from on a superficial level.

I’ll be honest though. When I did start reading Metamorphosis in January on my Kindle, I found the start of the story very uninspiring. Rather dense and lifeless. It didn’t spark. I kept reading though because it was one of those books the literati declare must be read and, after all, it was only a short story. Gradually Kafka’s sense of humor and ability to observe human behavior won me over. By story’s end, don’t worry I won’t spoil it, I was very saddened by what had happened to the protagonist. Most fiction has a conflict and resolution, often happy, Kafka brings a sense of realism to his fantasy.

If you can get through the opening pages to develop a connection with the characters, Metamorphosis is an absorbing read and certainly one I would recommend. My fiancée has a graphic novel version of Kafkas ‘The Trial’ and I will probably read that sometime soon following my enjoyment of this story.

Below I have attached an animated version of the first third of the story which I feel captures my impression of the tale vividly. I watched a few of the live action videos but none really caught my imagination, but this little animated one is spot on. Obviously, it will spoil plot elements of the first third but may interest you in reading the whole story.

If you have any favorite audio or video telling of the story feel free to share it in the comments below, as well as your first impressions on reading this so definitively ‘Kafka’ story.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2011 in Fiction, Reviews

 

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The Lazarus Experiment – Part I

deathlakeIn the 1930’s a researcher from the University of California called Robert Cornish embarked on an ambitious project to see if it was possible to bring dead dogs back to life by using a mixture of adrenaline, anti-coagulants and a see-saw style machine that would rock the corpses up and down in order to help the recirculation of the blood. Incredibly the process worked and some of the dogs were brought back to life though severely brain damaged.

In 1947 Cornish resurfaced armed with a heart-lung machine made out of parts from a vacuum cleaner and other devices and declared he was ready to test out his process on a human. A death row inmate volunteered for the experiment however Cornish was refused permission. This much is public record. What the public did not know was the real reason he had been refused permission.

Three years earlier, at the start of 1944, the US Government had already brought a man back from the dead.

*

In November 1943, a thousand American scientists were shown a film by their Soviet counterparts demonstrating the process by which the organs of dead animals could be coaxed back to life outside the body. The video concluded by demonstrating what the Soviets claimed to be a dog being killed and then brought back to life 15 minutes later no worse for wear. A family of dogs, who had been experimented on in the 1930s, were paraded showing that the animals went on to live normal long lives, and even reproduce.  In the throes of total war, the possibility that Allied scientists may be able to revive dead soldiers offered a strategic advantage that should not be overlooked. The imaginations of the scientists, the generals and the politicians were captured. If possible, a straight forward war of attrition would result which Germany and Japan could not hope to win.

The approval for a research program into reanimating recently killed humans was swiftly approved and supported from a secret military research fund. Dr Conrad Kissinger, a sixty one year old researcher was appointed the head of a team of twenty who set up their operation in an undisclosed military base in the ‘Battle Born State’ of Nevada. Taking the research of their Soviet counterparts as the starting point, Kissinger’s team hastened by war canvassed the prisoners on death row at Ely State Prison. A handful obliged to give consent for the experiment when the proposal was sweetened.

“The execution shall proceed as previously discussed. In the morning you’ll have the opportunity for a last meal and a priest shall come to take confession if that is something you would like.  Your execution will be monitored by a representative from the attorney general’s office and an independent doctor, who will verify that you are indeed dead. After which we will move in and begin the revival. Do you understand?”

Kissinger observed his volunteer through steel rimmed glasses. The Caucasian male was about 6’1’’ in height, well built – formerly employed by the construction trade – and with dark brown hair. Frank Swan, convicted arsonist and multiple murderer, sat up on his cell bunk.

“And after you work your magic… I’m free?”

For Swan, Kissinger’s face was inscrutable. The scientist barely exercised a muscle in his face to reply with reassuring words. “You were sentenced to death Mr Swan. Once you’re dead, you’re debt to society is paid.”

Swan turned his eyes to stare at the gray wall of his cell opposite and nodded taking a few deep breaths. He signed the documents provided by Dr Kissinger and laid back down on his bunk when the researcher left. One last sleep, then he would be born again.

He awoke to a clanging on the bars of his cell in the early hours. A shave, a wash, a good last meal of steak and potatoes… it was effectively breakfast but he didn’t mind. It was the best meal he’d had in six years. No family visited him. There was nobody left to visit him. His closest relatives, two cousins were overseas fighting in the Pacific theatre. The priest came but Frank had no time for him. He would have felt like he was cheating God if he had given his last confession and the experiment to revive him worked. No, Frank told the Priest he would make his case in person when he’s ready. The waiting after the meal was the most unsettling time. He had spent days since being moved to his final home listening to men screaming, wailing, and begging to escape the gas chamber. Yet all Frank felt was not terror, but nerves. He wasn’t sure what to expect but just clung to the freedom he had been promised.

As Frank was being led into the gas chamber he noticed a cluster of researchers scurrying around an anteroom with an odd looking apparatus, getting ready for their experiment. The DA’s representative and other witnesses observed him coldly through the glass of the chamber wall as he came into view. He sat in the centre of the room, glancing briefly over his shoulder to the door that led out to the men who were entrusted with bringing him back. His legs and arms were strapped to the chair. Swan waited as his crimes were read out.

For the arson of his family home…

For the murder of his wife and two children…

He had been condemned to death.

“Do you have any last words?”

“I’m innocent.”

The gas was released. At first Frank instinctively held his breath but remembered the advice he had been given about the death being worse if it’s fought and tentatively inhaled the colorless gas that surrounded him. From outside of the chamber it appeared he simply went to sleep, shaking a little, but otherwise without struggle. The independent Doctor monitored a Bowles stethoscope that was strapped onto Frank’s chest inside the chamber and pronounced him dead at 8:02 am.

At 9:26 he woke up to the roar of an engine and the rocking of a van speeding over uneven road surfaces. He groaned as his entire body ached. The grotesque face of his prison guard loomed into view.

“I’ll give you this you rotten bastard. You got balls. I can’t believe you agreed to that ungodly experiment!”

Franks throat was dry, “I can’t believe you agreed to let me. When can I… leave… ?”

“Leave? What are you talking about? Until we get to the military base your still my responsibility.”

Frank coughed. Tried to move, and found that he was restrained. He identified three straps; one over his legs, one across his lower waist and the other his upper chest.

“Kissinger… said I was free if… if it was successful…”

The guard grinned at Frank and shook his head.

“My word, he sold you one didn’t he? They just brought you back from the dead Swan. You’re their lab rat. They’re never going to let you go till they have prodded and poked you back to death! You belong to the US Government now.”

———————-

Enjoy this sample chapter? You can now buy the full story from any of the following retailers;

Bookstogonow.com ($1.99)

Amazon.com ($2.30)

Barnes and Noble ($1.99)

Amazon – Germany (€1.63)

Amazon.co.uk (£1.43)

WHSmith.co.uk (£1.07 – saving 28%!)

Android Marketplace (for your Android Phone! 99c / 62p)]

Alternatively – ask your local library to get The Lazarus Experiment for digital loan! It’ll cost you nothing!

If you do not have a Kindle or Nook Book you can download reading apps for FREE on to your PC or Mobile Platform. For Barnes and Noble NOOK Apps click here. For Amazon Kindle Apps click here.

You can read about the research that went in to this serial by clicking here.

If you like the story why not Like it below, write a short review on Amazon, or share it on twitter!

Story Short URL:  http://wp.me/pYPaH-2r

Image: Evgeni Dinev / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2011 in Scifi

 

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Christmas Dinner: Tinsel Tales Entry

Chaffinch

Read My Entry Here

The Writelinks Community have an annual christmas themed competition called Tinsel Tales. I was looking at a few of the entries so far for this years edition and thought I could give it a go. After all, with all the snow outside theres plenty of inspiration to be had… and I’m not likely to be getting much else done till the weather improves.

The only stipulations for the contest are that the story had to be on a christmas related theme and be a maximum of 250 words long including title. £5 to enter with prizes of £40, £20 and £20 along with bonus prizes of free membership to the Writelinks community and an ebook for finding markets for poetry.

***The Competition Closed on January 1st 2011: Below is my entry***

The attractive Chaffinch with its pink chest and slate blue head had gone through a frightening and exhausting trial to bring food back to its mossy nest in the hedge.

Winter had struck early and the gardens were a blanket of snow wherever one looked. Food was scarce so he was delighted to have found a bag of peanuts next to a bin. It was at the last moment he noticed the cat lurking in the shadows, the snow silencing his stalkers approach. Escaping by a whisker the bird with its prize subsequently flew against a window and had to risk returning to the ground to collect the peanuts again.

Flying back towards the nest the cloud emptied again, raining down icy rocks almost as big as the poor bird’s beak. He dodged and weaved through the storm flying against the wind that kicked up snow devils in the large garden. On reaching the shelter of his nest he dropped the bag and pecked at the peanuts that remained inside, breaking them up as best he could.

He perched exhausted but happy as he admired his meal. A rustle of the hedge alerted him to another; he hopped around in fear of the cat but saw a pathetic looking half starved Coal Tit that gave him a pleading look. He sighed and dropped the bag with a few remaining peanuts out of his nest.

The other bird may have been a Tit, but it was Christmas after all.

Image: Tom Curtis / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2010 in Christmas

 

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The Lady Medusa

Hall of MirrorsOnce upon a time in Paris, society revolved around the salons and on the good word of influential people. Into this rarefied world stepped the Lady Medusa, from where she came nobody can recall. She was a woman of some means and considerable beauty who exerted an incredible pull on the men around her. She was aware of her power with men and used it to build that influence that brought her into the fringes of Royal society. She developed a reputation for using men, bachelors and wedded, bewitching them with her beauty and then discarding them lives ruined. That she was a predator in the world of society there is no doubt. Some tell it that her ultimate ambition was the heart of the King himself.

A woman of such means and reputation does not sail through the salons of Paris without making a few enemies. The betrayed girlfriends, wives, daughters, nieces of gentlemen whom she had bewitched and ruined formed a cabal of their own determining to put a stop to this foreign lady before she stole the very heart of the nation. To this end they enlisted a man, a most unusual man. Jean Baillehache was a man only recently returned to France from adventure and pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He had left at the age of 19 a healthy strong risk taking young man and returned three years later much older in wisdom than his years and most strikingly of all – completely blind. Being a man of significant wealth, not drawn from the land, he was not significantly disadvantaged and liked to claim that it was god’s will and he must suffer it, refusing any inspection by persons of the medical profession.

Jean spent most of his time away from court but had earned the favour of the King with his accounts of life in the Holy Land and vivid descriptions of the places Jesus had gone and travelled. For a man tied to his throne and to his duty, living through Jean’s experience was a most pleasing activity. For this Jean was regularly invited to balls and other events at the Palace of Versailles.

It was one such invitation that he received after being contacted by the cabal of vengeful women that he employed as a lure for the Lady Medusa. Sending his maid, less likely to be ensnared by the woman’s charms than his manservant, with a complimentary invitation he asked the Lady Medusa to accompany him to a Masquerade at the Palace. Though she did not know of this Gentleman Jean Baillehache, his proffered entry into Royal society aroused her aspirations and she consented.

The Lady Medusa was collected by carriage and met by the masque wearing Jean Baillehache who complimented her on her dress and offered his arm to her which she politely accepted, her other hand holding her own masque. He walked with a cane, which she assumed was to do with an injury from some adventuring. They chatted and drank, snacked and danced. Each one appearing somewhat distant to the other. She with eyes searching for the King, he focused on her voice so as not to betray his handicap. Disappointment began to settle on her as the evening wore on and it became clear the King would not be appearing, though it being a Masquerade she would not know if he was there at all!

Her attention instead began to focus more and more on her escort for the evening, her questions asserting his wealthy background and status. As the conductor signalled the last dance of the evening Jean invited her to follow him to participate in a cotillion. However, prior to leaving his seat he did a strange thing and felt the wall behind the chair a little uncertainly. He then placed his masque down and asked the Lady Medusa to do the same. Beguiled by his piercing eyes she placed hers down and moved into the centre of the hall, following Jeans deliberate steps – almost as if counting. They took each other’s hands and danced. Jean Baillehache and the Lady Medusa stared into each others eyes for the duration of the dance. Part way through she saw over his shoulder a fleeting glimpse, a reflection for the briefest moment, of herself. As they turned and moved in step with the music she kept glancing over his shoulder, looking behind her, trying to catch glimpse of herself again through the crowd of dancers who only had eyes for each other. And then a gap in the dancers opened open and she stopped in mid step with Jean, who unable to see her stop stumbled a little.

He blinked, unseeingly and listened… to nothing.

For the Lady Medusa, in her ball dress, was stood staring into the mirrors of Versailles at her own reflection; Seduced by her own beauty, unable to tear her gaze away. The power she had wielded on so many men now turned back on her. The crowd of people began to gradually thin out, leaving in their various carriages until there was just Jean Baillehache and the Lady Medusa.

Jean stepped back from the Medusa.

“My lady…”

He got no response. He nodded a little to himself and retraced his steps carefully to the chair which his cane rested on and departed the Hall of Mirrors smartly leaving the Lady Medusa alone. Yet she was not alone, for she was not even there herself anymore. Her skin growing paler, the fabric of her clothes growing stiffer and draining of colour until all that was left of the monster of the salons of Paris, the predator of aristocratic man, was a statue: Her size and height, with her same absorbing stare, but one which was now utterly powerless. The most perfect image of female vanity.

A flash, and then another.

Slowly, a group of chatty excitable Japanese tourists move past the statue.

“If you will please… come this way, please. We are now in the Hall of Mirrors which was part of the third building campaign of King Louis IV, or the Sun King as he styled himself. Work began on the extension in 1678 under the auspices of the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart…”

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I hope you enjoyed reading the above interpretation of the story of Medusa as much as I enjoyed exploring it. It was inspired from a sudden realisation this summer that the Medusa story was about vanity not bravery and has given me the urge to read up on those classic myths which are still such fertile ground for ideas about the world we live in. Feel free to share any comments about the above story below, or about your favourite Greek myths. I am considering expanding The Lady Medusa to about a 4,000-5000 word short to more fully explore the themes tentatively explored here.

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2010 in Reinterpretation

 

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The Short Form: Brief history, Prosperous Future

gutenberg When Johannes Gutenberg perfected his printing system in the 1450s he triggered a revolution in media. For the first time you could mass produce books (importantly for him, the bible included) rapidly allowing for an easier distribution of ideas and news. However whilst productions of texts like the bible and law codes were certainly undertaken it was the short stories, histories, plays, announcements, testaments etc which were the main beneficiaries. As the process became more developed, the technology for printing advanced and the manufacturing process of the paper became cheaper the long form gradually established its dominance. Now publishers expect texts to be a certain length to justify a certain price. Market forces and all that.

As a result short fiction, essays and the like have found themselves in an uncomfortable position. Unable to find publication outside of anthologies or journals except in rare cases. It has proven a major headache for students for decades being forced to purchase or borrow (from an under resourced university library) texts which they only need access to one article out of 500-1000 pages.

The information technology age always promised something different. Theoretically you should have been able to access individual articles, stories, essays instantly over the web. For various reasons – outdated distribution models, copyright systems, stubbornness – this has only been to limited effect. After all, the people teaching students never had these resources so aren’t familiar with it themselves. Now I am doing the vast majority of my essays for my PGCE by accessing articles on the Athens network, some of my colleagues haven’t touched a computer. People have their own preferences, always will. However the advantages of instant access, no waste, no risk of loss are finally becoming ever more prominent in further education. Middlesbrough College has even uploaded ebooks to their ‘Blackboard’ network cutting the need to own twenty copies of the same book. With the kind of cuts we’re seeing in education budgets, this use of alternative techniques can only be encouraged.

Yet through all this, short fiction has until recently continued to be marginalised. Now however several options for writers has appeared thanks in large part to the popularity of smart phones and e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook and Sony Reader.

Ether Books are one such company who are publishing short form (1,000-15,000 words) writing directly to mobile phones through their APP. Currently only on the iPhone system they have plans to move to Android, Blackberry and other operating systems as they grow and expand. Think about this as a writer. How many people have Smartphone’s? How fast is that market growing? People do not need to go to a shop, or pick things off a shelf at home. Most people keep their phones near them. Publish on the Ether Books or similar system and you have instant access to a market of millions at no cost to yourself. They handle the distribution and admin, you drive traffic to yourself with an online author platform and collect 20% royalty on each sale. For writers starting out and trying to build that platform, its a fantastic means of getting out there in a crowded market. I also cannot think of a better incentive for continuing writing than to see people actively buying your work for a nominal fee and not just reading it on your blog for free. Though I personally recommend if you have built up a following thanks to something such as twitters ‘#fridayflash’ phenomenon then to continue publishing those stories for free online and use it as leverage for sending traffic to more ‘exclusive’ stories people might be prepared to pay for.

Amazon have also got in on the act this time for academics and those researchers out amongst us. Their “Singles” platform aims to directly solve that student pickle over needing an entire textbook for one article. They have also cited the perfectly good research which never sees the light of print because of its length. There are some criticisms of this as with any kind of self-publishing in that peer review may not take place but the online space is quite efficient in self regulating via reviews and ratings. I myself have a personal research project on a lifetime history of psychiatric nursing, which I intend to base on oral testimony of former and current nurses working in psychiatric care. It will never be a long enough piece for full book publication but may be an appropriate size for the Amazon Singles. Amazon are looking for non-fiction works in the region of 10,000 to 30,000. Email them if you have a work you’d like considered.

So far no word from Amazon’s competition, but it would be limited the scope of their business if they didn’t follow suit in some form. Of course, you can always self-publish any length of work with Amazon’s DTP.

I’m an optimistic guy. I am a huge fan of 1930s-1950s pulp fiction. The quick, unpolished, high drama works that appeared in the likes of Black Mask Magazine. The current moves to once again commercialise the short form of both fiction and non-fiction makes me believe that a prosperous future lies ahead. At least we don’t have to all get bogged down writing The Novel, which after all, is a fashion itself.

What do you think of short form publishing? Have you used the Ether Books APP or contacted Amazon Singles? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2010 in Publishing

 

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