I just came out with another ebook, this time a story in the fantasy genre called “The Cold Elf“. This is the tale of how that story came to be, the art behind it, and some of my marketing plans.
Waaay Back In the Day –
The piece above is one of the final versions of “The Sword-Breaker”, also referred to as “The Weapon” in my story The Cold Elf.
However, this all started back in 2007 with a piece of art I created while trying to learn the 3D software Blender. I tried to create many things over the years, but this one always stuck with me. (Why didn’t it look right? There has to be a way to get this thing closer to how I envision it in my head).
I even wrote about it here on this site a couple of years back in a piece I called Blender 3D Art – Updating a Sword-Breaker. Here’s a look at the orignal 2007 artwork:
As you can see, the metal doesn’t look so good, and the water is placed in Photoshop. In the final piece I actually rendered the water in Blender (although I learned a better technique later). You can also see that there’s a shadow of someone or something looming over the scene.
Even as I made the artwork, the answers to those questions became the story I would write – at least in my head. It would take almost six years to actually write it down.
But, I finally did.
The Cold Elf
“A young, bitter Elf undertakes a solitary journey, in search of a weapon that could be the last hope of his people.”
This is the story of Jorr. As you can tell from the artwork, he isn’t a happy fellow. I wanted to show a grim determination on Jorr’s face. Yes, I suppose “grim determination” can be a bit cliché, but it worked out better than the first images I rendered, which showed Jorr with an expression of rage on his face. If you check the image below, I think you’ll agree that the image I finally went with works out a bit better. I didn’t do the whole Photoshop shuffle to complete this one, so you’ll have to use your imagination a little.
To me, the rage face was just too much, so I toned it way down to what you see in the final cover shot.
The Art Story
The story of The Cold Elf is a short read, but I also wanted to include the artwork I came up with along the way.
If you’ve been around here before, you know that in addition to Blender, I also use Daz Studio for a lot of my 3D works. The artwork of The Cold Elf is about equal parts Daz and Blender.
I created several pieces to represent key scenes of the story. Some were harder than others. The below scene outright refused to render. It was set for a large size, so I expected it to take a long time, but after I went to sleep and woke up the next morning with the render progress stuck firmly in the middle of the render, I finally realized it wasn’t ever going to finish.
When this sort of thing happens, I’ll try to remove objects from the scene or keep changing suspect settings until it finally renders. In this case, there were some columns in the background that seemed to conflict with the rest of the scene for some reason. I couldn’t figure out what it was, but it definitely rendered without them, so I reworked it to compensate for their loss, and I finally got the image you see above.
“18,091 – 19,113 VOLLIUS AO used this weapon to visit fire, terror and death upon the Human population of this land. But lo, the Human infestation was so numerous even his power was not enough to completely wipe them away. It is not known how, but the weapon disappeared and Vollius was found dead. Collusion between Humans and Elven symapthizers was suspected, but never proven.”
In the image above, you can see that the pommel and handle of the sword-breaker is not the same as the image at the top, which is all black.
This one is partially wooden and partially black. The reason for this is that I couldn’t decide which one looked better, so I rendered 3 versions of it. I decided I would write my indecision into the story, and each handle would represent three “ages” of the weapon.
If you check my original 2007 version above, the handle was made of 3 wooden cylinders. When I was updating it, I thought it might be difficult to hold onto it that way (unless your hands were freakin’ huge), so I revised it to be a bit more useable. You can see all three versions of the handle below:
The handle is still somewhat non-standard, in that it looks sort of like a bicycle handle instead of a sword handle, but that’s what I wanted to go with -so I had to go ahead and write that into the story, too. Oh, the things I do for my art…
One of the most basic marketing techniques I’m going to go with for this ebook is using the art to get some eyes on this thing.
Being both the writer and the artist does give me an advantage of sorts. I don’t have to commission anyone to create artwork, and I’ll always be (mostly) happy with the results when I’m done.
My plan is to start posting this artwork not only in my usual venues, but also on 3D sites, art sites like DeviantArt and even on my Instagram (that reminds me – follow me on Instagram, please).
Although Instagram is a little tough because you can’t post a live link, but you can put the address in the image itself, and also post the link address. It won’t be clickable, but if the image is interesting enough, some people might take the time to check it out.
I’ve already got a decent set of images to start with, but I plan to keep creating pics for this one and posting them out there to keep the profile up on this thing.
That’s only a tiny part of the marketing strategy I’ve got planned this time, but I want to get into the nuts and bolts of that in my next post.
One thing I will mention in this post is the book site I made up for The Cold Elf. It’s now live at The Cold Elf Booksite.
I’m going to have a page here on my site, but I wanted the main link to be very simple and memorable -so “thecoldelf.com”, not something like “hypertransitory.com/thecoldelf”.
The site is nothing more than a WordPress install with a modified Twenty-Thirteen child theme. You can view some of the art there and also read a preview of the story. It’s a very small site (only 3 pages).
I didn’t want there to be too much to do other than buy the book, sign up for my mailing list or contact me in case of a question or problem.
My hosting plan at Site5.com (Affiliate link – I use the “hostPro + Turbo plan”) allows me to set up as many sites as I want for the same monthly fee, so there was no extra expense there. Plus, I used a GoDaddy coupon from Coupon Swapper to register the domain for $0.99. Sweet!
The Purchase Options
You’ll see on the book site that I’m offering several different ways to buy The Cold Elf.
For $0.99: You can buy from either Amazon, Apple, or Barnes and Noble. This contains the story, plus a 5 piece art gallery.
For $2.99: You can get my Premium Version, which contains the story, plus 15 pieces of hi-res artwork, and my “Artist’s Diary” PDF file that explains more of the art process and behind the scenes.
I’m using Gumroad to sell the premium version. If you’ve never heard of Gumroad, it’s a way to sell directly to your audience in an efficient and above all, pleasant, manner.
I found out about Gumroad from Nathan Barry, a man who’s very good at launching products. I signed up for one of his courses, and that was his first recommendation. Another one was to sell different tier packages of your product -as I’m doing above.
The thing about Gumroad is it’s a very streamlined experience. You click the link, it pops up a cool window with the product info and off you go. Except you never leave the site and get shunted around like a ping-pong ball like you do when you use PayPal. Go ahead, click on the link below and check it out (you can always click off of it without buying):
Pretty slick, huh? Also, they host the file on their servers and provide it securely, so you don’t have to deal with any of that.
Now, what do they get out of this? Well, they take 5% of the sale plus $0.25. So from my $2.99 I get almost $2.60 from each sale. That’s not makin’ or breakin’ me, so it’s pretty good in my opinion.
The PayPal -ugh
With all that said, there are those who prefer to use PayPal, so I decided not to leave that potential money on the table.
If anyone chooses to use PayPal, they can use it to directly buy either the epub, mobi, or premium versions.
Unfortunately, the buying experience with PayPal really sucks. First you gotta click on the buy button, get bounced over to PayPal, then…
wait, am I logged in? Do I log in? Yeah, I’ll log in. Should I click the top button or the bottom button? I guess (hope) it doesn’t matter. Why are there two buttons?? Ok. Ok, I paid. Now what? NOW WHAT???? Am I supposed to be forwarded on somewhere? Should I click the “return to [insert store name]” link? Am I supposed to get an email? Oh God, I hope this works…
Anyway, I tried to incorporate clear instructions on the PayPal page, but hopefully those who choose PayPal will already be familiar with how the dance is done.
Then, unlike with Gumroad or the other usual suspects like Amazon, Apple, etc. I have to host these files myself. That means you need to try to make the download as secure as possible on your own. I wasn’t ready to go full-on “SSL” with this thing, so I decided to use the WP e-Commerce plugin to handle the file downloads.
I had a few hiccups trying to set it up. The plugin only handles uploads of up to 128mb. My Premium Version with the hi-res art files weighed in at over 140mb. I had to upload it myself to the specified directory through FTP and then attach it manually in the product screen. Which isn’t so bad, except I had to hunt around for that info and spent quite a bit of time doing so.
Another issue with the WP e-Commerce and PayPal is I couldn’t get the notifications working right in the PayPal “Sandbox”. I HATE that PayPal Sandbox. I’ve had to use it many times over the years and there’s always one thing or the other that you can’t do for whatever reason.
This time I couldn’t tell if the emails were sending. Sandbox doesn’t send emails, only pops up notifications in your developer profile, so any email that is sent should turn up there. Only they didn’t.
As I usually end up doing just to get it over with, I had to lower the price to $0.01 and buy a couple for real just to see if it was actually working. Damn you, PayPal.
Either way, the email with the download link did send, plus clicking the “return to [insert store name]” link does take the customer back to a transaction results page with the download link.
WP e-Commerce hides the download directory from search engines, prevents direct access and linking, and also encrypts the downloads for the specific user. You can set the number of downloads per user. It seems defaulted at 1, but I changed it to 2 – just in case of any hiccups.
Those of you who might buy with PayPal…I salute you!
Back to the book…
Why am I doing all this? Oh, right. A book. I’m trying to sell an e-book here.
My struggle to set up PayPal was almost as epic as Jorr’s quest in the story.
The Cold Elf is a short read, but hopefully one fantasy fans will think is worth $0.99, especially with the 5-piece art gallery included. Those who want even more art at hi-resolution that they can print up or use as they please can always pick up the Premium version for $2.99.
If you haven’t popped over already, please do me a favor and check out The Cold Elf Booksite. If you know anyone who might be interested please pass it on to them, I’d really appreciate it!
The Wrap Up
So that’s the basics for the initial launch of The Cold Elf.
Next post I’m going to go into more nuts and bolts of the other marketing strategies I’ve decided to pursue on this one. These questions remain…
For now, it is a mystery, but check back next post for the final reckoning of the marketing of The Cold Elf.
See you guys next time!