Tag Archives: independent

Film Review – It Follows

Director: David Robert Mitchell

Running Time: 100 mins

Certificate: 15

Theatrical Poster

Theatrical Poster

It’s always good to see a low-budget film make it big. You could say it’s a strike for the little guy against the monopoly of the major studios. There’s been a buzz building around It Follows ever since it became the ‘breakout’ film of last year’s Cannes Film Festival. Since then it has been generating some overwhelmingly positive reviews, somewhat unusually for a film of this genre. In fact it’s the only film I can remember to have garnered a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while The Telegraph newspaper called it the most exciting film of the festival, going on to say, “With its marvelously suggestive title and thought-provoking exploration of sex, this indie chiller is a contemporary horror fan’s dream come true.”

High praise, indeed. So what’s it all about?

Well, it starts as a simple boy meets girl story. Or girl meets boy. 19-year old Jay (played by Maika Monroe) is an ordinary lass who likes swimming, hanging out and watching TV. Everything seems to be going reasonably well in her slightly awkward budding relationship, except the boy is a bit weird and often claims to see people that aren’t there. Anyway, Jay overlooks this fact and Boy and Girl do it in a car. More-or-less normal teen behaviour, you might think. But then things get really weird, as the boy drugs Jay and holds her captive. I can’t divulge why, or that would give away a crucial part of the plot. Better to see for yourself. Afterwards, Jay finds herself plagued by strange visions and the inescapable sense that someone, or something, is following her. She too starts seeing people that nobody else can. Faced with being drawn into a waking nightmare, Jay and her friends must find a way to escape the horror that seem to be only a few steps behind. It quickly becomes apparent that in order for her life to return to normality, she has to address the curse, if that’s what it is, and ‘pass it on,’ a realization which throws up some interesting moral dilemmas.  

It Follows carries on the recent trend of foregoing blood and splatter in favour of good old-fashioned chills, often calling to mind the classic, atmospheric ghost stories of old (MR James, anyone?). There are also elements which echo Hideo Nakata’s Ringu and low-budget hits like All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. The film is especially effective in its early stages, the formulaic jumps and frights getting a little predictable towards the end. But the really interesting thing is the subtext, which goes far beyond the traditional SEX = BAD epithet. This is hinted at in the press release, which says, ‘It Follows is a contemporary horror exploring teen sex, suburbia and the stuff of nightmares – a cult classic in the making.’

Who knows? They might be right.

UK Release: 27th February 2015

 


Adventures in Indie Publishing: Part 4

Crunching Numbers

Hopefully, if you run a free promotion on KDP and promoted it properly, you will have benefited from a few hundred, or even a few thousand downloads depending on how much marketing you do. Incidentally, you can track exactly how many copies are being downloaded , and in which territory, in the ‘Reports’ section of your account. This is an invaluable tool because as you progress through your marketing campaign it allows you to instantly see which strategies are working for you and which ones are not. There are some general rules that it’s worth applying; probably the main one being that most people have more leisure time on weekends and are more likely to download your book, so when utilising KDP promotions, make sure the promo runs over Saturday and Sunday.

In the first three days X: A Collection of Horror was up for free, it was downloaded 368 times in America, 157 times in the UK, and 17 times in other countries, for a total of 542. The following month I put it up for free for another two days, and shifted another 362, for a grand total of 904. I have no idea if that’s good or not. It peaked at number 14 in the Amazon free books horror section, if that’s any indication. I priced paid copies at $2.99 (£1.87, approx) which meant I gave away $2702.96 (£1690.48) worth of books, before tax and Amazon’s 30% cut.

That’s one way of looking at it.

But obviously, most of the people who downloaded my book for free probably wouldn’t have forked out actual money for it, anyway. So the other way of looking at it is that I gained 904 new readers.

I’m not stupid enough to think that every one of those 904 will get around to reading my book. First and foremost, I am a reader. I download a lot of free books to my Kindle, a lot of which I never actually read. I am assuming most people do this. There are a lot of free books out there. Making a rough estimate based on my own reading habits, I imagine around half of that 904 will never open my book. Still, looking on the bright side, that leaves 452 who might!

The Selling Game

From here on out, bar the occasional other promo I do, every book I sell makes money. That should be all the incentive you need. Now, it’s time to go to work and step up your promotion efforts. You can’t force people to buy your book. And begging is just embarrassing. In the most basic terms, you have to get your book in front of people who might like it and persuade them that they need to buy it.

It helps no end if you have a good, concise, well thought-out blurb, or product description. Make it exciting. Check out the blurbs on top-selling titles in your genre for some tips, taking note of what kind of words they use. This may not work for every book, but soon after I put out my latest release, X: A Collection of Horror, I revised the product description to include the following:

WARNING: Adult Content.

At first, I just wanted some kind of safeguard in case I started getting emails from angry parents of kids who had downloaded it. The strange thing is, after I inserted the warning, there was a mini-spike in sales. Then I started thinking, what happened back in the 1980’s when the PMRC made record companies put parental advisory labels on record sleeves? That’s right, sales went through the roof. I don’t pretend to know why, I’m not a psychologist, but I can tell you that after that, I left the warning there!

Getting noticed

The media industry may be in flux, but there are more markets, and more ways to access these markets, than there ever has been before. The sheer number of websites, blogs, magazines, fanzines, newspapers, radio and TV stations, is bewildering, but the one thing they all have in common is that they all need content. You can provide that content for them, either by way of giving interviews or simply sending out review copies of your book. Don’t forget to tell your local newspaper. They love local-boy-does-good stories, and so do readers. However, don’t expect to command a fee. You aren’t Dan Brown or Stephen King. Just be grateful with the column inches and hope they translate to sales.

Try to get a handle on things and focus your efforts. I made up a list of blogs, websites and publications that may be interested in promoting my book either directly or indirectly, then contact them systematically. If you can count some fellow writers amongst your friends, offer to do a guest blog for them. In this manner, you can even organize virtual blog tours. Within the first couple of weeks X: A Collection of Horror was on sale, I managed to secure publicity interviews with:

Zombie Girl Shambling:

http://zombiegirlshambling.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/x-collection-of-horror.html

Daily bookworm:

http://thedailybookworm.com/christian-saunders-interview/

Gingernuts of Horror:

http://gingernutsofhorror.com/5/post/2014/03/horror-author-interview-cm-saunders.html

None of the above are massive sites, but every bit of exposure helps build your platform, increase your profile, and boost your internet search rank.

My first indie offering, X: A Collection of Horror, is out now:

amazon.com/dp/B00IGHTFC8 

Adventures in Indie Publishing: Part 3, focusing on promotion and social networking can be found here:

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/adventures-in-independent-publishing-part-3/

Part 2, covering advice on editing, cover art and priming the market, can be found here:

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2014/04/20/adventures-in-independent-publishing-part-2/

Part 1, featuring an overview of the industry and an introduction to Kindle Direct Publishing, can be found here:

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/adventures-in-independent-publishing-part-1/


Modern Publishing

books460

I’ve kicked around the publishing game for a while. In the past decade I’ve had two books published by traditional publishers, and four by digital publishers. On the flip side, I’ve collected more rejections than I can count. I’ve experienced the high’s and the low’s, and now I’m going to share with you some of what I’ve learned…

First of all, the phrase ‘traditional publisher’ is a misnomer. There is nothing traditional about publishing in the current climate. Now the term implies a publishing house which is a bit long in the tooth, maybe a little bit resistant to change. Traditional. Like antique furniture. They publish paperbacks, maybe even hardbacks, but have a very basic website and minimal internet visibility. They probably advertise in the classified section of the local paper, if they still advertise at all.

On the other hand, digital publishers specialize in, surprise, surprise, digital e-books for computers and reading devices. Even phones. Some digital publishers do distribute actual, physical copies of books. These tend to be Print on Demand (POD) and are so expensive, hardly anyone buys them.

The tricky part is the huge grey area between trad and digi publishers. This is filled in part by vanity publishers. They are a different proposition entirely, and one to be avoided. If anyone tries charging the writer money for any ‘service’ at any stage of the publishing process, they can safely be considered a vanity publisher of some description. Under no circumstances should the writer pay the publisher. It should be the other way around. They might tell you they like your book, that it will sell by the truck load, that you should pay them X amount of money to produce X amount of copies, and pay them RIGHT NOW to take advantage of this special limited offer they have going on. After you have paid for the cover design and editing, of course. If you are foolish enough to go through the process and pay the fees, you will end up with a room full of books you then have to sell on your own just to recoup some of your outgoings, which is virtually impossible.

Digital publishing houses (I use that term very loosely) hand out contracts like confetti at a wedding. Some even publish via Smashwords or KDP, something the writer can easily do themselves. Most ‘name’ authors are contracted to one of the larger publishing houses, who are very selective about who they take on. They are generally unwilling to take a punt on a ‘new’ author purely due to the costs involved, and because they have so few books to promote, they can afford the necessary investment and the books sell. Some sell very well.

But it seems the lower down the chain you go, the less selective the publisher becomes. The result is that smaller publishers often have dozens or hundreds of authors tied to contracts with dozens or hundreds of books to promote simultaneously. It’s the scattergun approach. Instead of having a hundred authors each selling a thousand copies of their book, they have a thousand authors each selling a hundred. Of course, with so many authors and books to promote, and with less staff and a smaller marketing budget, the publisher can’t actually do much actual promotion. If any. That is left to you, the writer. Right across the board, publishers now seem to be doing less and less marketing. Instead, they lean on the authors to generate sales. This strikes me as lazy, exploitative, and a bit tyrannical. In theory, the system works; get loads of people to write books then sell them on your behalf, handing you a hefty slice of the profit.

ipad-magazines

But in practice, it just doesn’t add up, and here’s why – most of their ‘clients’ are new authors who have no existing platform, and very little experience of marketing. That’s where it all breaks down. Being semi-pro at best, the vast majority juggle real-world jobs and responsibilities and have very little time to do any book promotion, or even learn how to do it. Nobody ever sits you down and tells you what to do. You are expected to just know how to market yourself. Even if you DO know what to do, securing reviews, doing interviews, blog tours, book signings, giveaways, competitions and the like, even utilizing social media, all takes time. Time that most writers would rather spend writing.

Now, if they are doing all the promo and marketing themselves, any author worth his salt has to ask what the publisher actually does to justify the percentage they demand from the writer’s sales (usually 40-50%). In most cases, they pay an in-house designer $30 to knock up a cover, do a rough edit of your book, then bung it on the internet and hope for the best. When the money doesn’t start rolling in, they send out abrupt emails to their writers asking what promotion they are doing. Which, of course, is code for, ‘I’m not making enough money from you. Make me more money!’

I had such an email from a publisher recently, and after explaining in detail what book promo I was doing/had done, I felt compelled to sign off the email with, “Now tell me, what promo YOU are doing?”

Of course, the publisher didn’t reply.

At times it feels like I’m doing all the work, and giving away a large proportion of my (very minimal) profit in exchange for little or no service. Not any more. I’ve had enough. I’m going solo. It’s the indie life for me. For fiction, anyway. Non-fiction is a little bit different. That way I can write what I want without editorial interference, set my own prices, and keep track of where the money goes. Who even needs publishers these days?

Get ready for X.

@CMSaunders01

The original version of this post first appeared on:

http://www.deadpixelpublications.com/

Copyright remains with the author.


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