Novellablog

At Long Last, It’s Time: Introducing The Illustrated Kairos Mechanism

It was the final piece of my original plan for The Kairos Mechanism: a digital edition illustrated by reader artists, one per chapter, each of whom would be paid for his or her work. I was excited about the whole project, but this particular piece–the illustrated edition–was the most special piece of all.

Everybody who got involved with The Kairos Mechanism was excited about the illustrated edition. Several of the co-conspirators donated their (meager) compensation in order to bring additional artists on board. With the help of an amazing group of Kickstarter backers, we were able to raise the amount each artist made per illustration from the originally-budgeted $100 to $125. Meanwhile, with the help of friends, colleagues, a few teachers and librarians and one fairly amazing counselor, I found twelve artists ranging in age from 11 to 20 years of age.

We all worked together to make sure that each artist was assigned the chapter he or she was most excited about (and some lobbied hard to be allowed to illustrate more than one). Beyond making sure that each chapter was covered, I gave no instructions, except where I was asked directly for input. And in September, the finished artwork began to arrive by mail and email. As I mentioned in my previous post, the final piece was hand-delivered to me by my cousin Annie on Christmas Day, the work of 12 year-old Hassan Davenport of Baltimore. Best present ever.

Because I wanted to offer the final edition free or pay-what-you like, I opted to rely on a PDF edition for this version, and last week I turned everything over to Allie Tova Hirsch, a literary designer recommended to me by the good folks at Vook. Allie took my files and created an interactive PDF (correcting more than one of my own formatting errors along the way). And here it is, at long last, complete with not thirteen but eighteen original illustrations.

Please enjoy this book. It is absolutely free if you would like it to be; follow the link and you can decide for yourself whether you’d like it to be complimentary (in which case, leave the dollar amount at zero). However, all proceeds from The Illustrated Kairos Mechanism go toward this summer’s release of Bluecrowne, so if you’d like to become a backer, just enter the amount you’d like to contribute in the dollar field. The artists have also decided to offer prints to help raise the cost of paying the next group of young illustrators for their work, which you can purchase here.

Last of all, please remember that although The Illustrated Kairos Mechanism is offered as a PDF and that you don’t necessarily have to pay for it, the text and all the images are copyright-protected and the rights belong respectively to myself and to the individual artists. If you would like to reproduce anything, please contact me directly about permissions. And if you read the book and would like to share it, please share the download link rather than sharing by any other means. Your friends can still have the book free if they’d like, but I’ll be able to get excited about every copy that’s circulating, which is helpful, and your friends might just contribute a buck or two, which is wicked helpful.

And I guess that’s–oh, right, you want to know where to get that book thing I’ve been talking about this whole time. Click here, and enjoy, with all our thanks for reading!

Sincerely,

Aidan, Candice, Emma, Hassan, Lily, Maeve, Maud, Natalia, Shannon, Reed, Tanner, Victoria, and Kate

Counting Down to the Illustrated Kairos

Over the course of the last few months, in between exclamations of joy at the release of The Broken Lands and exhalations of relief over finishing (at least until my editor weighs in) Greenglass House, I have occasionally had reason to shriek in delight at the progress of The Illustrated Kairos Mechanism. Twelve artists sent work in styles varying from digital to pen and ink to watercolor to cut paper to pencil.

I’m in the final stages of pulling it all together and should be able to announce its availability within the next couple of weeks, and I just can’t wait to share it. Earlier this fall I posted a video of Natalia Eldering’s painting of Tom Guyot; today I want to share one of the pieces I received this week: Tanner Hansen’s imagining of the stone hawk from Simon Coffrett’s garden. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Novellablog: A Video Treat for a Special Day: Tom Guyot

Today I came home from seeing the first proofs of The Kairos Mechanism emerge warm out of the Espresso Book Machine to find a of The Broken Lands at my door–the first real-world, hardbound, this-is-what’s-gonna-be-on-the-bookshelves copy I’ve ever seen. It is beautiful. They both are.

Here’s another really beautiful thing. As many of you know that, in addition to the ebook and paperback editions of The Kairos Mechanism (which, of course, is the companion novella to both The Broken Lands and The Boneshaker), I’m putting together a reader-illustrated edition, with the help of thirteen amazing young artists. This is Natalia Eldering’s contribution to this very special edition. Enjoy!

Novellablog: Final Revision Stats, Briefly Stated in a Rambly Manner

This is not going to be my most elegant blog post. Mainly I want to write this down so that I can stare at it in an hour when Nathan gets home from work and I wake up from fugue state and wonder where the hell my day went.

I am surfacing only briefly; I have, however, wolfed down my late lunch (note: it’s after 6pm in Brooklyn) in ten minutes rather than the twenty minutes I promised myself I would take for a break after getting to the end of this draft of The Kairos Mechanism, so I get to relax for another ten minutes. TEN MINUTES. DON’T RUSH ME.

Kairos is going to print this week. Probably Thursday. I did a full read-and-revise about midmonth, then I did two more revisions (without reading through) based on notes from three critiquers and the copyeditor. Then I printed the draft out again. I started reading it on Sunday; you may have seen my picture of the first page with its makeup on, which I posted to Tumblr. I had intended to dog-ear the pages that needed touching up until I realized that I could reverse the strategy and dog-eared the ones that didn’t, and then I wouldn’t have to fold any pages at all.

That’s right. I ended with notes on every single page.

I finished reading and started editing last night. Four chapters in at 11pm I figured I was about halfway done and that I’d go to bed and get up early and finish in time to spend the afternoon writing new stuff. I failed to notice that it had taken me three hours to get four chapters done.

This morning I started at 9:30 a.m. and finished the line edits at 5:50. I have cut 6 pages, bringing the ms down to 149, but that’s without chapter breaks and without front and back matter. The copyeditor’s notes on this draft will arrive this evening. Presumably I have already fixed a lot of what she’ll tell me I screwed up. Definitely there will be work left to do. I also still have one scene yet to rewrite, which I saved until the end because it required going back to the history books. Gonna start that as soon as I finish typing this up. I also have to go back through and search for words and phrases I know I overuse. On the list I made today: strange, odd, little, uneasy, awkward, expression, glance(d), look(ed), turn(ed), “for a moment,” “something like,” seem(ed). I also have to look up what the style standard is for writing years out. Is it Nineteen Thirteen, or nineteen thirteen, or Nineteen-Thirteen, or nineteen-thirteen (which is what I’ve been using)?

One really wonderful thing, though (apart from cutting 6 pages, which is immensely satisfying) is that I managed to add, with only one paragraph, a really excellent moment I’d failed to notice I’d given myself the opportunity to write, and which not only really works well, but ties two other moments together and generally, I think, adds a lot. Go team.

Now I gotta go back and fix that other thing. Also this title is plainly a lie, because after fixing and cutting so much I’m obviously going to have to read it one more time. But if I think about that now, I might go out of what remains of my mind.

Go team.

 

Novellablog: It’s Time! PRE-ORDER THE KAIROS MECHANISM! And while you’re at it, PRE-ORDER THE BROKEN LANDS!

Boyohboy, guys, here we go! It’s time. It’s really, really time! It’s all over but the formatting, so I’m pleased to announce that The Kairos Mechanism will be available in paperback and your choice of digital formats created with Vook (PDF, iBooks-compatible, Kindle-compatible, and Nook-compatible) on Friday, September 7th, and you can preorder it right here, right now.

Because the paperback of The Kairos Mechanism winds up costing a bit more like what an “adult” pb costs than what a middle grade or teen pb does (the list price will be $12.99, due to the cost of printing on the EBM), every paperback copy of The Kairos Mechanism comes with a DRM-free Kairos digital edition in your choice of format. 

Possibly the coolest option for getting The Kairos Mechanism actually isn’t from me, and also involves getting it on the cheap. Between now and September 1, if you pre-order The Broken Lands in hardcover from one of the most excellent independent bookstores listed below, you can also pre-order The Kairos Mechanism from the same store for five bucks. (Shipping is subject to the individual bookstores’ policies.) Also, since The Broken Lands will be released on September 4th, Kairos will ship early with those orders. Want your copies signed and/or personalized? You got it.

Planning to get The Broken Lands from your local indie, so you just need The Kairos Mechanism? Not a problem.

Pre-order The Kairos Mechanism in paperback ($15.99, including shipping):

Pre-order The Kairos Mechanism in a digital edition ($3.99):

  • DRM-free PDF
  • DRM-free iBooks edition
  • DRM-free Kindle edition
  • DRM-free Nook edition

UPDATE (SEPTEMBER 2012): Digital editions are now available through Vook.com. Go here to purchase them.

Pre-orders handled through Clockworkfoundry.com are securely processed by Gumroad. Paperback pre-orders through Clockworkfoundry.com include domestic media mail shipping (international buyers, please add $10).

If you’d like to be put on the mailing list for the reader-illustrated edition, please email me directly at kate(at)clockworkfoundry(dot)com. Due to the involvement of 13 different artists with different schedules, the release date is TBD.

Want The Kairos Mechanism sooner, and you can come to New York for a party? Join me at McNally Jackson Books on Thursday, September 6th at 7pm for The Broken Lands’ launch party. You can hang out with lots of book-loving folks, hear me read from The Broken Lands, and see the EBM in actual real life. Hopefully I don’t need to remind you that The Broken Lands is the reason this novella exists, but just in case: The Broken Lands is 465 pages of awesomesauced historical fantasy full of horrifying and wondrous things, including (gasp) a love story (whether you classify that among the wondrous or the horrifying is entirely up to you). Kirkus has already raved about it; surely they won’t be alone in their applause. Come out and celebrate with us if you can! All ages are welcome.

Lastly, if I may, I’d like to leave you with some praise for The Kairos Mechanism from some really awesome folks who’ve given it an early read. I’ll sit quietly over here and blush until you’re done.

From Laurel Snyder, author of Bigger Than a Breadbox:

“A dark and wonderful machine, built of magic and history and held together with intricate prose. I loved this book.”

From Elizabeth Bird, NYPL youth collections specialist and author of A Fuse Eight Production blog:

“Youthful corpses, smooth talking villains, war, fate, and the occasional odd albatross. For readers left gasping and grasping after the marvelous The Boneshaker comes a sequel that’s every bit as crisp and scintillating as its predecessor, with marvelous prose and even better characters. I’m torn between wishing I lived in Arcane and offering thanks to every god in creation that I’m safe merely reading about it instead.”

From Rachel Swirsky, Nebula Award-winning author of The Lady Who Picked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window:
“Milford’s Arcane stands at the crossroads of eerieness and adventure. Every visit begins with the best kind of shivery dread and ends with the fun of watching Natalie gin up her courage to tackle whatever stands in her way.”
From Nathan Milford, long-suffering husband of Kate Milford:
“Yeah, I read it.”

Novellablog: May I Introduce the Gorgeousness that is The Kairos Mechanism’s Cover.

Credit goes here to the amazing and wonderful and brilliant team of Andrea Offermann and Lisa Amowitz. Here it is:

I’m nearly finished mailing out the July Kickstarter rewards (meaning, everything that doesn’t involve copies of The Broken Lands or The Kairos Mechanism, since I don’t have copies of those yet to send out), which has been a lot of fun. In the meantime, a copyeditor, a critiquer, and a beta-reading little brother are all giving the manuscript one final once-over before I start working on the digital editions. As soon as I have the final page-count on the paperback edition, I’ll be able to start taking pre-orders.

It’s really happening, guys. Thank you for all your help and support and cheering. But today–let’s all raise our glasses to brilliant artists and designers. Here’s to you.

Novellablog, the Toolkit Series: Outbrain, Part Two, in which Kate Gets Schooled in Bloggin’.

In my previous post about Outbrain, I talked about why I chose to use it, how the service I used worked and what the results were. I also mentioned that in my first meeting with Natalie Chan, the Self-Serve marketing manager, I got a bit of a tutorial on being a better blogger. I needed Outbrain because I needed more traffic to my website during the Kickstarter campaign to fund The Kairos Mechanism. But it turns out that nobody goes to your website if you aren’t putting compelling stuff up there on a regular basis. So before she let me sign up for the service, Natalie told me what I was going to need to do to get the best results from the program, and we made a plan I could stick to.

1) I needed to be adding new content two to three times per week. For contrast, up until that point I considered that I was doing pretty well if I managed to add a post a week, but a post every other week was much more likely.

Natalie suggested that I write ten blog posts in advance of launching (I planned to start my Outbrain campaign at the same time as I started the Kickstarter campaign). Writing that content would be easy; I would be learning lots during the Kickstarter campaign, but I had already written The Kairos Mechanism and done the research on things like the Espresso Book Machine and McNally’s pub services, and (as you know if you’ve read other Novellablog posts) I was already experiencing mild panic attacks about editing and formatting and so forth. I had plenty to draw on to start writing posts.

Natalie offered to look over the posts once I had them ready and offer suggestions on how I could improve them, which leads me to:

2) I needed to make sure my posts were more self-contained than I was accustomed to making them. For the past few years of blogging, about the only traffic I got was from people who already knew of me and of my writing, so I didn’t have to worry about making sure each post stood on its own. Plus, since I was writing a series on a specific project, I had the tendency to just assume that folks were going to have read previous posts. This may seem like an obvious fallacy–and if you had asked me if I thought this was a safe assumption, I would have said obviously not–and yet I had done just that in nearly every blog post I had written in advance.

3) I needed to cut just about every post in half and turn it into two posts. This is something my husband, who is a good blogger, has been yelling at me about for years. The good news is, once I faced the reality that I seem to write things more like articles than blog posts, cutting them in half meant I actually had more posts pre-written than I thought.

4) I needed to really give some thought to the titles of my posts. The more exciting and compelling the title, the better. Once again, this sounds obvious, and it was obvious to me even then, but I still had trouble with titles to start with. For one thing, the kinds of titles that generated a lot of traffic for me via Twitter and Facebook did not translate to traffic when the same titles were offered up to readers who didn’t know of me in advance. My campaign underperformed for the first week or so, and my titles were pretty much directly to blame.

Natalie explained that, taken on their own, the kinds of titles that work best and get high numbers of clicks tend to sound almost sensational, and that that would probably be the biggest thing I’d have to get used to. This turned out to be absolutely true. Titles were my biggest stumbling block.

Now, Outbrain’s customer service folks can re-title posts and articles at their end, so I had the option of using one title on my blog and have the same post offered under a different title through the Amplify service, but that turned out to be more trouble than I wanted to deal with–not because it was any trouble for anyone, but because it did require me to send an email asking for the title change, and as it happens I’m too lazy to be bothered to do that. So I started really trying to keep Natalie’s advice in mind as I chose my titles, and once I did, I started getting vastly improved results.

For instance, there was the post about how I completed the first draft of Kairos in under a month, which I titled “How to Write a Book in 30 Days.” Now, obviously there are many ways to do this, many ways do fail at doing this, many reasons to try anyway and learn to be disciplined about getting words on the page, and many reasons to spare yourself the stress and write at your own pace. But giving the post the simple, decisive how-to title (ignoring all the reasons why what I was about to say was completely subjective, might or might not work for you, etc. etc.) was the key to getting clicks from strangers. There was also the massively popular “Yes, You Can Edit Your Own Work, But You Will Probably Frack It Up.” Same idea. I don’t think I’m any kind of expert; I was just writing about my experiences. Still, titling the posts with authority got better results than ones I titled more humbly.

So those were the things I was tasked with keeping in mind as I wrote my posts. I still have a lot of learning to do, but I do think I was vastly more prepared than I would otherwise have been, and I certainly got better results in terms of clicks and also in terms of engagement with my new readers. Not only did people find my blog, they actually spent time reading it, and even clicked through to read more of what I’d written.

Now I just have to find some way to keep the momentum up now that the campaign’s finished. Which just might turn out to be the hardest thing of all.

 

Novellablog, the Toolkit Series: Outbrain, Part One

Having taken some time to decompress post-Kickstarter, I’m now ready to get moving on a group of posts I’ve been very excited about. In the Toolkit Series, I’ll be talking about some of the services that are making this first volume of the Arcana project possible. This is the first of two posts in which I’ll be talking about Outbrain.

One of the challenges I knew I would have was that I’m a haphazard blogger, and at the time I started the project, my website didn’t get much traffic. I definitely needed to make plans to reach beyond my own circle of contacts. Outbrain is a startup that specializes in driving traffic to web content. Now, full disclosure: I had a lot of time and opportunity to get to know Outbrain, the folks behind it, and how it works because my husband, Nathan, has worked there for three years and is currently the US Operations Manager. I follow Outbrain folks on Twitter, I’ve geeked out over bourbon with Outbrain folks, I’ve even traveled with Outbrain folks (like that time I scored a vacation in Israel by tagging along on one of Nathan’s work trips). Along the way, I’ve gotten a really good sense of the company and what they do, so it was kind of a no-brainer decision to look to Outbrain when it was time to start worrying about how I was going to get people I don’t already know to read about the Arcana project.

I knew I would be using Outbrain’s Amplify Self-Serve program. You choose links to submit through your dashboard, and then those links pop up as recommendations on sites that use Outbrain, too; small sites like mine, as well as bigger, fancier sites like Slate, CNN, USA Today, Mashable, and lots more. You can read this article on Outbrain’s blog to learn a bit more about how their automation and algorithms work to serve up content recommendations, but in a nutshell they do a really good job of pointing folks who are already likely to be interested in what you have to say toward your content.

Before I started, I arranged for a meeting with Natalie Chan, who, apart from being one of my Israel traveling companions, is the Marketing Manager for Self-Serve. The basics are simple enough: you set a budget per day (I started with the minimum, $10) and choose a cost per click (CPC). Each time someone clicks on one of your links, you pay the CPC to Outbrain. You only pay for the clicks you get, so some days you might not spend your entire budget, and other days, your campaign might go offline if you hit your budget limit. I started out at a CPC of $0.15, but over the course of the campaign I adjusted that, as well as my budget, a few times. You can change the elements of your campaign anytime as you see what’s working and what’s not.

So, ten bucks budgeted per day at fifteen cents per click equals 66 clicks per day, or an additional 2000 clicks over the course of the month, assuming I was consistently generating interesting content–meaning I also needed to turn into a better blogger. But more on that later.

I launched my Outbrain campaign at the same time I launched the Kickstarter campaign, at the beginning of April. At Natalie’s urging, I had ten blog posts pre-written in an effort to set myself up to blog more consistently. I was able to monitor the clicks I was getting via Outbrain in real-time on my dashboard. I could see what my campaign had spent up to that time each day, what links were getting the most traffic, and where they were coming from. If you like metrics, by the way, you will have a good time with the dashboard.

For the first week or so, my campaign underperformed. I got monitoring emails from Outbrain a couple times during that period with suggestions on how to improve things so that I was getting enough clicks to spend my budget each day. I also emailed quite a bit with Natalie during that time, and I learned two things: that the biggest hurdle I was facing was that my titles weren’t compelling enough; and that the posts that people were most interested in were about craft rather than general updates and musings. Throughout the entire campaign, the post that got the most traffic was this one about my beta-reader Emma, titled “Kid Editors: Because the Kid in the Room Understands Your Book Better Than You D0.” That one must have had the best combination of subject matter and title.

By the time May rolled around, I had the combination sort of figured out, and I was getting so many clicks that my ten dollar a day budget was being spent by late morning. I’d added not only links to my own blog posts, but links to each interview I gave on anyone else’s blog and links to blog posts that mentioned The Kairos Mechanism or the Arcana project. I started getting emails from Outbrain suggesting that it might be time to reduce my CPC so that I could get more clicks within my budget. I took a look at the links I was “amplifying” and culled a few that were either not performing well or that were not as relevant, dropped the CPC to $0.10, and upped my budget. This combination resulted in more than 4500 clicks in the month of May and more than 1500 in the first week of June leading up to the end of the Kickstarter campaign.

The net effect is that my blog, which in March, according to Google Analytics, was averaging (are you ready for this humiliating admission?) less than twenty clicks a day, averaged more than 60 clicks in April, 213 in May, and 234 in June until I stopped the campaign on the 10th. For contrast, post-Kickstarter but without Outbrain, my blog has been averaging 85 clicks a day. My total spending for the two months was $705.50. This was more than I had initially budgeted (remember that I had started out with the minimum daily budget of $10/day), but once I was getting so many clicks, I didn’t like seeing the campaign go offline so early in the day, so I decided the extra expense was worth it, especially since the readers who’ve visited the site have also consistently spent more time here, which I believe means I am also getting better engagement with my readers overall.

A side-effect of the campaign, by the way, is that (with the exception of the month I just took off, during which I will admit to having willfully fallen back into my errant ways, but LOOK, I NEEDED A BREAK, OKAY?) I did turn into a better blogger, and that’s pretty much all up to the pep talk I got from Natalie during that first meeting. Another great thing about the folks at Outbrain: they are passionate readers of blogs, and they know what works and what doesn’t. So, without suggesting that I lose anything that I might feel was uniquely part of my own blog-writing voice and style, Natalie was able to help me craft posts that were more likely to get served up as recommendations, and more likely to be read and talked about afterward.

And that bloggy pep-talk will be the subject of Outbrain, Part Two. Stay tuned!

Novellablog: Oh, Hi, July!

It’s been just about a month since the Kickstarter campaign to fund The Kairos Mechanism closed successfully. I have been very sporadic in my posting since then, but I’ve been hard at work, I swear. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

  • Churning out pages of the book tentatively entitled Greenglass House, which is due in October and which comes out from Clarion in 2014.
  • Doing final cleanups on The Kairos Mechanism to get it ready for the copyeditor.
  • Meeting with the good folks at Vook about creating the digital editions of Kairos.
  • Meeting with the good folks at Gumroad about selling the digital editions.
  • Traveling to San Francisco for fun and meetings (which were also fun).
  • Getting food poisoning the morning of the flight back to New York which continued throughout the entire flight (no, I have never been so miserable in my entire life).
  • Sending Kairos to the copyeditor, the wonderful Adjua Greaves.
  • Corresponding with Andrea Offermann about her beautiful cover illustration, and sending the illustration off to the designer, the wonderful Lisa Amowitz.
  • Attempting not to panic at the number of emails that got buried in my inbox for the three days I was out of commission with said food poisoning.
  • Attempting to placate fast-reading reader artists who want to get moving while attempting to gently hurry along those who haven’t finished reading yet.
  • Writing ridiculous, multi-page to-do lists and scratching things from them far less frequently than I’m comfortable with.
  • Going to Maryland to spend the Fourth of July with my family and watch Sir Oliver Patrick Lloyd watch his first parade.

Also I ran a ten-mile race with my sister and introduced Oliver to the joys of wearing pajamas like a cape. Plus today I half-cleaned my writing room. I blame my lack of getting stuff done on the room being messy.

What I haven’t managed to do is to get over my fear of setting Kairos loose in the world. But I’m getting close, thanks to the hectoring of the artists chomping at the bit and a late-night lecture from my little brother, who, on my visit to Maryland, woke me up at two in the morning when he got home from work, demanding to discuss the book in-depth despite the fact that I wanted to sleep. He claimed this was fair play because he’d started reading Kairos before bed one night and hadn’t been able to stop until he was done. He also did a lot of swearing during our discussion, explaining that if he didn’t swear he didn’t trust me to understand the depth of his feeling about things. So, all in all, high praise. He also managed to solve two lingering story issues I knew I had to tighten up before finalizing the manuscript.

So…July. Vacation’s over: it’s back into the insanity for Kate. Here we go.