Here is one of the ads I recently ran on Twitter that contains a book excerpt. The context of the excerpt is that Paul25 is a boy whose age is frozen at nine-years-old, and he is immortal. He is a Sophistan-human from the planet Sophista and has traveled the Earth for many millennia. Here, he is in the Renaissance Era of Earth's history.
The goal of this ad was to give people a taste of the book and mainly to let people know that the book project exists. This kind of advertising is important because part of the challenge in getting support for a book, whether it be getting crowdsourced money to support the initial printing or even getting people to try the book once it is out, is making people aware of the book. There are literally millions of books released every year, especially when you consider all the books thrown up on Amazon, many of which are people's thoughts transcribed to text with little editing.
To formally produce a book is very expensive. I say formally meaning that you perform the requisite 3 edits by a professional editor and layout/design the book with something more than the default word-bucket design Amazon does with their word processor to book page default. On Amazon, if the words in your bucket match the fantasy the reader wants to have, you score. That is, if they find your book among the millions there.
There is another side to literature that increasingly gets lost in this cacophony, and that is that literature is also meant to expand your mental perception of the universe. Sometimes that expansion can make the reader a bit uncomfortable. It is not their fantasy. And understanding a new point of view for gazing at the universe, a point of view that might require contemplative thought, is becoming less appealing than it used to be simply because the world is becoming so stressful that people just want to let their mind hide on some hamster wheel in the pleasure of a mindlessly repetitive tasks, which caters to soothing their minds. The US culture, at least, seems to read less and less. In my advertising, I have seen more uptake from the UK and possibly Japan, which makes me feel a bit strange since I am writing in California. It has a feeling of being on a small island in the middle of nowhere, writing via a satellite terminal to some internet forum.
I chose to advertise on Twitter because there are a number of authors on Twitter, and so there is a sort of "safety in numbers" vibe. But one thing I should have foreseen is that Twitter is a sort of narcistic place, where people customize things to what their mind wants to fantasize about and to be a hamster wheel of short-form bites for their tired, stressed-out minds. It many ways, people that go there are looking for low effort, high impact experiences, not ones that require thoughtfulness.
One exception I found to this was those youth that followed Disney on Twitter. They seem to be signing up to be taken to some place quite different than ordinary experience. The interesting thing was that when they scooped up my ad, they took the information to other social media forums. Basically, they scan Twitter for links to information... the news function of Twitter, rather than wanting to have any extensive embrace reading or discussing the contents there.
For me, the whole Twitter experience is problematic, for how do you build a following of people that are interested in your project when your project will long outlast the platform itself? How do you build that persistent following that will share your experience in creation and then reap the rewards of your effort in the end? How do you spend the years required to make people aware of your existence in such a transitory world?
Right now, especially considering what Elon Musk is doing to Twitter, I am trying to find ways build a more persistent interaction and find a slow way, spanning a few years, of letting people know of my existence. The only proposed solution I have is to make this site into a more interactive site... perhaps advertise the site more. I'm not sure really what to do.
I want to talk some about the plans I have for my work in progress, “Stefan’s Owl from Oblivion.” Now, in this race to the bottom, book-quality environment, where each book is just another blob of words to be read and discarded, similar to a newspaper, this may seem strange. And frankly, if you are just wanting to read something to see what some new twist of plot there might be, you can stop right here.
For one thing, I write literary fiction which means, in this case, you are going to take a ride on the lives of some alien-human hybrid kids as they try to fit into human culture and in many cases, try to survive the exploits of profiteering humans, whom would like to take their little bodies apart to find out how their unusual talents work and to increase human scientific knowledge on what’s possible in a life-form. I want you to feel what the kids feel, and to know how strange human thought, when held in relief against other life-forms and the way they think… how strange human thought truly is.
Isn’t the author human? Sometimes I wonder. But in any case, I can slip outside my skin to write from the viewpoint of another life-form. That talent is actually derived from writing some rather unusual software in my two decades of technical work that did require me to mentally simulate things outside the normal realm of human experience. My goal is to make you feel what these kids feel, to think in the philosophical way that these kids think. When they cry, perhaps you will cry with them. Reading this book will be an *experience*.
And part of that experience will be how the book itself is made. The picture at the top of this article is an “illuminated manuscript” hundreds of years old. It is still around because it was a total experience of writing and art and an illustration of the highest skill of the bookmaker’s craft. You don’t have to even read the Latin text to be fascinated by the book.
In the closeup picture above you notice that this is hand done. A large chunk of this monk’s life was spent on making this book. Notice that the monk used gold metallic ink probably made with gold leaf. Only a chosen few were going to read this book so they spared no expense in making this book a memorable… a great experience. Another thing to notice is how beautiful, how vivid the royal blue in the picture is. That monk uses a great royal blue ink.
Outside of a display screen or possibly an art or photography book, you have probably not seen that vivid royal blue. That’s because a standard, modern, four-color print process can’t make that color. You could come close to that color, but the ink density put on the paper would not allow the ink to dry in time before it got smeared all over the place by the printing press. My book will be adorned by these kind of features but it will not be done by hand, since I don’t want to spend my entire life doing it, though by the time this book comes out I will have likely spent about 13 years of my life on it. I will create this book by the thousands. There are presses that can do what appears to be a handmade book.
Offset book presses (as opposed to inkjet self-publishing POD presses) can generally do quite a number of amazing things. Four color presses are generally not limited to four colors but could print with up to eight ink colors. Beyond the standard Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black inks, usually mixed in the printing process to create all the different colors you see in an illustration, you can buy special inks to load into those other, normally unused “print rollers.” For example, there is a company, called Pantone, that creates precise ink colors. I can load metallic gold color ink into one of the unused rollers to print the metallic gold like the monks did by hand. I can also load a clear colored ink, called a varnish. Varnish dries faster and harder than normal ink allowing higher ink densities to be printed by overprinting them with varnish to harden them up rapidly.
There is more to varnish than that, though. Different varnishes can provide different textures and glossiness on the illustration. Choosing the right varnish can give an illustration a magical quality like you are looking at a picture in some ancient book. And I shall try and use that, if possible. A full service press can do other things, like put a leather or simulated leather cover on the book, mix that up with front cover illustrations with parts highlighted with thick acrylic plastic. I will use a number of these press features to provide an experience that is unique for this book. So stick around and see how the story and the experience built around the story evolves.
Owner of the Children of Sophista Publishing and currently the author of books in the Children of Sophista universe.