Tag Archives: Multiplayer

Where The Magic Happens

The magic is up to you.

An engineer once described the process for manufacturing an experimental, highly-specialized sensor. To put it in lay terms, the ingredients were placed in a pot – a tiny, high-pressure pot in this case. Once it was closed, everyone in the lab would walk counter-clockwise around the pot and chant. That, he said, is where the magic happened…or not.  Sometimes it worked and they got a viable, useful sensor, and sometimes it didn’t. Unpredictable.

John C. Brewer’s novel Multiplayer has hit that point. The novel had an initial reach around three times greater than our projections. Five-star reviews are coming in, as well as emails from readers who have enjoyed the book. It has been blogged about. Tweeted about. And is starting to be picked up by online book lists. All the ingredients are loaded, and the heat is being applied.

This is where all authors hold their breath. They cross their fingers and toes. They’d recite the magic chant if they knew what it was. Either sales begin to climb, or the book sputters along, maybe even stalls. Of course, the authors and the publishers keep up their marketing, and that does make a difference. But for the book to really make it, something else must happen, something outside the control of the author and the publisher – real magic.

If you’re an author reading this blog, you know that helpless anxiety. If you’re a reader, you should feel empowered. You should feel empowered because it isn’t the writer or the publisher that take a book to the next level, it is you. When you read a book you like, tell people about it. Recommend it to your friends on Facebook. Tweet it. Tell your book club about it, or your co-workers, or your family.  Post a review on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or your favorite book review site. This is where the magic happens.

Authors do their best to create buzz for their books, but it only takes them so far. The rest – the magic – is up to you.

Multiplayer – the mileposts

John C. Brewer‘s novel Multiplayer is on it way to success. Five days post-release, we’ve met or exceeded our expectations. We’ve surpassed our first week sales goal by a factor of two. The feedback from readers is more positive than we dreamed. And Multiplayer holds five-stars on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and four and a half stars on Goodreads.

The reviews and comments from our new readers have been particularly rewarding. The balanced angst of the characters. The realistic lives and settings – including the online videogame. The page-turning adventure. All the things that we thought made this novel work, the readers are loving. And that is our biggest satisfaction, and the reason PlotForge exists – to bring readers the books they want to read.

We hope this trend continues and that sales increase so that John and PlotForge can continue to bring readers books like Multiplayer. We’re a long way from that goal, but we are on the right road.

John C. Brewer’s Debut Novel, Multiplayer, Published

PlotForge’s debut novel Multiplayer was released today and is available for immediate download from Barnes&Noble for the Nook and from Amazon for the Kindle. The print version is due to be available from Amazon.com within the next week or so and will be available from Barnes&Noble a few weeks after that.

Multiplayer is the brainchild of rocket scientist, soccer player, motorcyclist, and all around Renaissance man, John C. Brewer. While John may not be the most interesting man in the world, he may be the most interesting man in Alabama.

Several years ago, Mr. Brewer, the father of three sons separated by a total of 30 months, began looking for books for them to read as they progressed beyond picture books. Numerous trips to the bookstore and searching online resulted in few titles that would interest a young man. “Beyond Hatchet [Gary Paulsen] there just isn’t much out there,” he recalls saying at one point. Of course Harry Potter helped fill that void, but he had the same reaction as the Big Six (major publishers) after the final book came out: “What next?”

John had already been writing for a few years and, seeing an untapped market, decided to try his hand at youth titles. But not the ‘pink’ titles you’ll find on the shelves if you go to your local store. But not specifically “boy books” either. John knew that while the market was large, it was also a potentially difficult nut to crack. So what John eventually landed on was books that just tell a great story.

“I was at the Screen Writer’s Expo in L.A. a few years ago,” John says, “and Andrew Stanton was talking about Finding Nemo and Pixar and the way Pixar develops their stories. They don’t aim for the usual markets. They don’t try to make a specific group happy. They just want to tell a great story. A story they would like to see.” John said that’s what he wanted to do. Interestingly, he points out, while Pixar was started by LucasFilm, the principles were not movie executives but experts in computer graphics. John is a rocket scientist.

Sadly, the publishing industry is at a point where they find themselves financially unable to take risks on anything really new. All the large publishers are publicly traded, and while they have magnificent distribution systems, they are beholden to the stockholders to show a healthy bottom line. What this means is that they can only sign books which have an established product base. While everyone is looking for “The next Harry Potter” most acquiring editors are afraid to put their job on the line to find it. Publishing is very much a business in which it is safer to have guaranteed sales of 10,000 titles, than a potential sale of 100,000.

After they were unable to find a traditional publisher, John and some other writers formed PlotForge, Ltd. Their stated intent is to become the Pixar of books. Multiplayer is their first title and they are due to release another in the next three months or so. Foreseen, by Terri-Lynne Smiles is about a mind-reading college kid who not only gets her dream, but the nightmare that goes along with it. Before the end of 2012 they hope to have a half-dozen titles available for eReaders and in print.

So if you’re looking for a great story; if you’d like to recommend something to your kids who’ve given up on reading for entertainment; if you are a kid yourself, old or young, who is interested in popular culture and where it is leading us, give Multiplayer a try. And, John asks, if you wouldn’t mind, he’d appreciate it if you’ll write a nice review on Amazon or B&N. It’s all about the numbers these days and John Brewer and PlotForge, Ltd. hope to rise above the noise.

Tired, Stressed, and Satisfied

Well, we’ve done it.

It took most of the day, but John Brewer’s novel Multiplayer is out there in the digital universe. or at least on the server for Barnesandnoble.com. Converting the manuscript to a .epub before uploading it was … eventful.

First, there was the random lines of text that became bold upon conversion. Some became bold and lost their indentation. Some became bold, lost their indentation, and became LARGE!  We caught a few other errors as we search through it, then decided to check the words “your,” “you’re,” “it’s,” “its,” and “their,” “there,” and “they’re” one last time just to make sure we hadn’t missed any of those types of mistakes. John plugged away fixing each error. Fortunately, there weren’t that many.

Then there was getting the page breaks right. You’d think that’d be simple, since there are very few page breaks in an ebook. But somehow, getting the title page, the copyright page, the acknowledgements page, and the dedication page not to run together took a while.  But we were cruising … bumps on the road… nothing major.

But then…

Somehow, we’d managed to start from the wrong file this morning – one that had the wrong ending. I have to give John a lot of credit here. He didn’t swear. He just got the correct document, compared them, made the necessary changes and moved on.

And, of course, just before uploading, we played around with the cover, trying to see how it looked if we embedded it in different ways into the .epub, and in the process, we managed to mess up the file again. John has the patience of Job.  And I have to admit, it’s nice to be working with a rocket scientist. He bore the brunt of most of this today.

I wasn’t exactly slacking off, though. I made sure everything was properly assigned for the ebook, uploading descriptions and book category information to countless websites, and dealing with more numbers than I usually see in a week. Three thirteen-digit ISBNs, prices, BISAC categories, bank routing numbers …

But it is done! Multiplayer‘s files have been uploaded to barnesandnoble.com with a publication date of December 21, 2011. John’s out celebrating. I’m not far behind him.

And then? On to the next challenge… Amazon!

How Much for eBooks?

Have you ever wondered about ebook pricing? It’s all over the place! To be perfectly honest, I’d never given a thought to this subject until recently. Now, of course, we are set with the task of pricing our ebooks, including Multiplayer, and it isn’t a simple matter of looking at our costs and what other books sell for. I just scanned down the Nook Books Bestsellers list. In the top ten, the prices range from $2.99 to $14.99, and that is a typical distribution.

I’ve had one person tell me they won’t buy an ebook priced under $5.99 because they “must not have the quality of high-priced ebooks.” But applying that to today’s Nook Books top ten, that reader would automatically reject a novel from Amy Tan, and two of the three Hunger Games books. I’ve had another person say they won’t buy ebooks priced over $5.99 because they want to read new and indie authors. The novels I just mentioned are below that price point, yet aren’t new, indie authors. On the other hand, many of the novels by Joe Konrath, who is held out as the guru of self-pubbing, are well above $5.99.

So, watching the current market provides only general parameters that our ebooks should be listed between $2.99 and $14.99. That’s a wide swing. And, obviously, the anecdotal information is conflicting, and therefore, of no help.

Then, we must consider the type of books we are publishing. While the first two novels kick off series, they are not the type of serial novels our mothers used to pick up while at the drug store. Those books, we think, are priced lower because the reader is expected to buy the next one, and the next one, and the next, with them coming out every month or so. We want to make sure the pricing supports the type of reader expectation that’s appropriate for the novels. Plus, we want to make enough money to keep getting the novels out to you, and at $2.99, we need to sell a lot of them to do that. On the other hand, we’re in this to provide fun, thought-provoking entertainment to the readers and want a price point low enough to reach them.

So, $2.99?  $3.99?  $7.99? More? You’ve seen the description of Multiplayer. The description for Foreseen will be added soon. What do you think the price should be?

Let us know.

Testing the Markets – With Your Help!

The first two novels from PlotForge aren’t coming from one of the traditional Big Six publishing houses.  These are well-written, have rivetting stories and interesting characters.  But they will never be picked up by traditional publishing because the primary audience of one is teen boys, and the other appeals to college kids – that is, new adults roughly in the 18-25 age range.  So, what’s the problem?  Conventional book marketing wisdom says teen boys don’t read, and college students won’t read anything other than what’s been assigned in class.

The question we asked at PlotForge:  Why not?

To us, it’s a chicken-or-the-egg question.  There isn’t much to track in the buying history for these two groups.  But is that because they don’t want to read or because there hasn’t been a lot out there that interests them?   All of our anecdotal research from you, the readers, told us one thing: These groups are hungry for novels that are relevant to them.  And now, with your help, we are preparing to test that research.

Author John Brewer’s novel, Multiplayer, will be released in a few weeks.  It’s a story about a normal, bike-riding, soccer-following, video-gaming teen who is justifiably angry about the evil he has encountered in his life.  But through the interplay of his online world with real life, it turns out that blind hatred, no matter how well-founded, may be the greatest evil of all.  John will be talking a lot more about his book in the weeks to come.

My novel, Foreseen, which will come out a couple months later, is an action-packed love story involving quantum mechanics.  Huh?  You read it right.  My college-aged readers say it perfectly captures the flow of their lives, following characters who are taking steps from the egocentric world of teenagers to the multi-centered reality of being an adult.

Multiplayer and Foreseen.  Very different books for overlapping markets. If you know people who you think might be interested in either of these novels, pass this blog along.  Ask them to find PlotForge on Facebook, follow along with this blog, or they can follow John and me on Twitter, as we test these exciting markets.  Whatever the result, by putting out these books, it’s you, the reader, who get to decide.

‘Modern Warfare 3,’ the Publishing Industry, PlotForge, and ‘Multiplayer’

I’m not a huge gamer. Well, that’s a little bit of a lie. I was in high school back in the 80’s when video games exploded onto the cultural scene. I’ll never forget the day the school bus broke down on Navy Boulevard in Pensacola, Florida. One of my buddies led me to a nearby miniature golf course that had added a video arcade. It was my first experience on Tail Gunner, and will live forever in my mind.

Over the next few years, I spent a lot of time and money at that arcade, riding the wave of the video game revolution on AsteroidsDefenderMario BrothersSpy Hunter, and others. But I graduated from high school and weaned myself off the games easily. After all, I had no quarters, and girls, college, and sports consumed most of my time.  It wasn’t until around 2003 that my friend Ron Phillips, the owner of Digital Radiance introduced me to HALO: Combat Evolved. I wound up playing a lot of HALO with my growing sons. Man, I loved killing aliens. And exploring those virtual worlds with my boys was great, especially when they wound up taking care of me inside the digital universe!

HALO was a turning point for the video game industry and saved the XBox. Another milestone was the release of HALO 2 in 2004. It sold a staggering 2.38 million units on the first day, shattering all records with $125 million in sales. The die had been cast. And just this past week, seven years later, Modern Warfare 3 topped 9.3 million units on its first day, and many of these sales were direct downloads.

So why do I care? For one thing, a lot of potential readers are playing video games. Millions. All over the world. For another, people have plenty of leisure time. Time that creative business people are figuring out ways to fill.

For better or worse, the Big-Six publishing companies are not among these savvy entrepreneurs. Few hard copy titles in brick and mortar stores would appeal to the millions of video game players. As a group, they aren’t into romance novels, or vampire/werewolf love stories, or character-driven novels devoid of any action. They want stories they can relate to, about the problems that are facing them today or that they could envision facing tomorrow. Multiplayer, a PlotForge novel that will be released in about a month, was written for them. Not surprisingly, it is not being released through the Big-Six.

The exclusion of a massive market by traditional publishers may not be intentional. Rather, the industry focused its attention on maintaining what it had, and not exploring new products and markets.  A quick look at the websites of literary agents, the gatekeepers of traditional publishing, illustrates this fact.  The typical biographical blurb tells of a life-long love of great literary works, followed by a statement that they only represent books they personally fall in love with. In other words, with such gatekeepers, the publishing industry is creating the products it feels like making, rather than being driven by what consumers want to buy.  In fact, after reviewing Multiplayer, one agent stated, “It is too commercial,” as if that was a negative. In what other industry would a salesperson turn away because the product is commercially viable?

Even as I type this blog, my business partners and I are getting ready for the release of Multiplayer – in eBook formats to suit the market the novel was written to reach. The first of many releases for PlotForge in the coming months. And I can’t help but think back to how the personal entertainment industry has changed during my lifetime. In 1981 I had to go to a video arcade and pump quarters into a machine that cost as much as a house. Today, I sit in my den and play Modern Warfare 3 on an XBox that only cost a few hundred bucks but is far more powerful than a Cray II. In 1981 I stopped by Walden Books and picked up the latest Piers Anthony novel, a work that required hundreds, perhaps thousands of people to create, produce, distribute, and sell. Today, well… Walden Books doesn’t even exist anymore.