The 7th Bullet: The Soundtrack

The 7th Bullet, the next installment in The 9 Lives of The Outlaw known as Crazy Cat series will soon be complete (within a few months). The story is edited into a cohesive narrative, what remains is polishing and proofreading.

While you wait for the book, I’ve made a soundtrack for it, like I did for Embers at Dawn and An Obelus Wheeze. After (almost) completing my third novel, I’ve found out that the story ain’t “there yet” until the soundtrack flows smoothly. Just like the book, the soundtrack has been put through a rigorous editing process where darlings have been killed and gaps filled. If a song feels out of place or forced, it might of course be the wrong song for the scene, but most often I find that the fault lies in the scene it’s meant to accompany. First and foremost I put together these soundtracks for my own enjoyment, but they are also a great tool to better understand the ebb and flow of the narrative.

A Self-publisher’s Second Year in Numbers

Happy new year, y’all!

2015 has been an absolutely amazing year. I published two books, An Obelus Wheeze – the second book in the The 9 Lives of The Outlaw known as Crazy Cat series and my first photobook, All the Things a Woman Oughtn’t Do – The Ballad of Zerelda Glanton, a collaborative project with model and costume designer Ingvild Eiring. Images from Zerelda have been Exhibited at Fotografiets Dag, featured in Floz Visions, and I was recently granted NOK 25.000,- from Norske Fagfotografers Fond to put together a proper exhibition. Ingvild and I also went to California for a week, it was – to sum it up short – AWESOME!

In this brand new year we call 2016 I’m fixing to publish The 7th Bullet – the third Crazy Cat book and a travel journal with images and stories from Ingvild and mine’s awesome trip to The USA. I also intend to put the money from NFF to use, but I need to find a willing gallery first. These are the plans I’m most certain about, whatever else I might cough up will have to be a surprise …and I assure y’all, there will be surprises ;)

On the road to Yosemite, somewhere between Merced and El Portal.

A Self-publisher’s Second Year in Numbers
A year ago I wrote the post A Debut Novel’s First Year in Numbers, this is the follow-up to that post. In 2015 I decided to not spend any money on promoting my books. The only promoting I’ve done in 2015 are Goodreads giveaways. Why on earth would I skimp out on promoting my brand new books? Because it’s not worth it… not yet. I’m sorry to say that I can’t recall where I picked up this particular nugget of advice, but here it is: When you self publish, especially in regards to a series, the reader might not believe you will finish the series before it’s done (or at least have a few books out). So, if you wait until you have a couple of books out, the money spent on promotion will have more value, because the reader will trust the series to be completed.

From Amazon to All Over the Place
During 2014 my first (and then, only) novel, Embers at Dawn, was available exclusively via Amazon for Kindle and as paperback. In early 2015 I opted out of KDP Select and made Embers at Dawn available permafree via Smashwords, E-bok.no and Google Books. I am very happy about this decision, I can trust a steady trickle of copies being picked up each month via Smashwords. It took the better part of the year before Amazon adjusted the list price from $0.99 to free. When it finally got listed as permafree in November, sales started moving there too. KDP Select can be great, but for me, it is pretty clear that selling books via more channels works better – the world of e-books is bigger than Amazon.

The Books
Embers at Dawn was published in December 2013, An Obelus Wheeze in April 2015 and All the Things a Woman Oughtn’t Do – The Ballad of Zerelda Glanton in July 2015. Here’s the cold, hard numbers of their success in 2015:

Embers at Dawn
Embers at Dawn sold (I include free copies when I say “sold”) 1340 copies in 2014 and 337 in 2015 – 148 via Amazon, 183 via Smashwords, 8 via E-bok.no and I have no idea how many via Google Books because their reports are a pain to decipher. I hosted two Goodreads giveaways for Embers at Dawn in 2014, but in 2015 the only thing I did for it was make it available on further platforms. Last year 929 people had marked it as “to read” on Goodreads, now there are 878. Last year it had received a total of 7 reviews and 13 ratings, now there are 8 reviews and 21 ratings.

An Obelus Wheeze
I did the launch for An Obelus Wheeze very properly. I set a date for its release and made it available for pre order (one person pre ordered it – my boyfriend) and sent out a newsletter about its upcoming release to the good folks on my mailing list. I also hosted a Goodreads giveaway that ended on the day of the book’s publishing date, 852 people requested it. When I hosted another giveaway, about six months later, 872 people requested it. Not bad, I think, for a second book in a series where barely anyone has read the first book. To my great shock and delight, 595 people has marked is as “to read” and it has garnered 5 very nice reviews and 15 ratings. A mere 39 copies have been sold – the statistics of the feedback, considering the number of copies in circulation, is beyond my comprehension… I am humbled and grateful and gleefully surprised to find that so many has jumped into the world of Crazy Cat without the proper introduction of the first book (the series is really meant to be read as one big whole) and still enjoyed it.

All the Things a Woman Oughtn’t Do – The Ballad of Zerelda Glanton
Ingvild and I have been creating buzz around the cowgirl project, that eventually culminated in the book, for two years. A lot of people have shown great interest in it, but as of right now, only 15 copies have been sold. We thought we would easily sell at least 20 copies at the release party for the book. I have hosted one Goodreads giveaway for it where I gave away one book, 1036 people requested it. 407 people have marked it as “to read” and it has received 3 ratings, but no reviews. I’m not entirely disappointed with the sales of Zerelda, but I have learned that selling a photobook is a very different shot of whiskey than peddling free and cheap e-books and affordable paperbacks.

Merchandise
The Crazy Cat emporium hasn’t exactly boomed during 2015 either, but I’m pretty happy about seeing the Crazy Cat merch move at all. On Society6 I’ve sold three T-shirts, one duvet cover and one framed print. On Tictail I’ve sold 3 signed copies of Zerelda, and on Zazzle; 3 Zerelda 2016 calendars. I’d call that a fair increase, compared to last years two buttons, one mousepad and a coffee mug.

Social Media
I don’t do much, if anything – I know! I’m terrible! – to gain followers on Social Media, but the increase in followers since last year is pretty decent nonetheless. My followers on WordPress have gone up from 35 to 49 – tipping my hat to y’all! Facebook, from 130 to 144. Instagram from 98 to 147, and Twitter from 67 to 137. I know I’ve been a terrible blogger, the few posts I’ve written have mostly been announcements about new books or happenings… Exactly the kind of things one are advised against to blog about too often. Because boring. Facebook is pretty much the same as it was last year, a place where primarily friends follow me. Twitter is still a mystery to me. I’m still no good at it and I tweet seldom. A lot of my followers there are book promoting sites who are obviously fishing for customers, the rest are mostly authors. Followers are nice, but they are not necessarily customers.

All in all I’m happy with the 391 books I sold during 2015. I’m also happy about getting my first reviews on Amazon, being contacted by a book blogger who posted a nice review on her blog and Goodreads, and receiving fan mail! That was a BIG WOW moment. I completed the first draft for book 4 and 5, and am currently in the latter stages of editing the third Crazy Cat book. I’ll let y’all know the details about how 2016 went in a year, maybe I’ll even throw in a pie chart or a line graph. Until then: Have a good one, y’all!

Tintype

I did my very first tintype shoot last week. Ingvild Eiring modeled, and styled the clothes. As always, we had a blast! And the tintypes turned out beautifully, if I may say so myself. See more of my tintypes over at julieloen.com or even more at Flickr.

I used the Rockland Colloid Tintype Parlor Kit from Freestyle Photographic and borrowed my boyfriend’s Holga. The kit includes 8 4×5” black aluminum plates. I cut the plates into 16 smaller plates to fit the medium format camera, this also left me with 16 extra mini plates I used to test the exposure with. The kit also contains emulsion, developer, fixer and easy instructions – everything you need, except trays and safelight. I used cheap food container boxes from IKEA as trays, when I was done for the day I just put the lid on the chemicals.

The few glitches I encountered were all about the emulsion: getting the damn thing onto the plates evenly (I had to reheat it for about every 4th plate), and leaving the plates long enough in the developer – the three minutes the instruction suggested were far from enough, but then again, it might have been a bit colder than the preferred 20°C. When the plate isn’t properly developed the image will turn out blue, typically in the corners and around the edges. The blue is impossible to see under red safelight in the darkroom, so buckle up for surprises!

Zerelda Calendar 2016

Greet the new year in true cowgrrrl fashion with the Zerelda Glanton Calendar 2016. The calendar features fourteen images (the twelve months + front and back) from the polaroid photobook All the Things a Woman Oughtn’t Do – The Ballad of Zerelda Glanton.

Choose between a variety of holidays to best suit your culture.

Get your calendar here. Safe filter must be turned off to view it – calendar contains images where clothing is not entirely present.

The calendar will only be available until I see fit to pluck it down some time early in the new year, so don’t wait too long to get yours ;)

My Self-Publishing Toolbox

I’ve been asked recently about how I publish my books, so without further ado, I present to y’all my self-publishing toolbox:

Image of Frøydis Labowsky from a shoot we did in 2011. Styling and make-up by Ingvild Eiring.

Image of Frøydis Labowsky from a shoot we did in 2011. Styling and make-up by Ingvild Eiring.

Getting the story down

I don’t support the idea that you need a special space/room/cave/whatever to jot your words down. Writing is writing – it’s just you and your brain making up stories. It doesn’t matter if those stories pour out of you by way of pen or keyboard, if you’re sitting in a tree or by your speshul IKEA desk made chic with sandpaper and pastel ribbons. You don’t need to clear your calendar either or feel somehow particularly inspired. Just goddamn write already! …and keep on writing until the first draft is complete.

I do a lot of writing on my iPad while on the bus to work. Of the many writing apps on the market, I’ve tried Pages, Nebulous and iA Writer – they are all good. If you want something simple to just plop the words down without any distractions iA Writer is great. If you want to write on your pad with “everything” you need readily available with an extended keyboard, Nebulous might be the thing for you.

I use Open Office on my computer, but borrow my boyfriend’s laptop with Word when I need to format a manuscript.

I find the good ole paper notebook to be absolutely crucial for ideas and outlining. I’ve tried the manuscript organizing apps Writers App and A Novel Idea, they work just fine, but I prefer to keep a notebook dedicated to story timeline, character gallery etc.

Publishing platforms

I use Createspace for paperbacks. It’s easy to use and makes my books available on Amazon.

For photobooks I use Blurb, that also can make your books available via Amazon.

For ebooks I use KDP, Smashwords, Google Books and ebok.no. I’m particularly fond of Smashwords – where you can easily get your book distributed to several platforms.

Formatting ebooks

I know it is possible to do this “at home,” but I find the process painstaking, frustrating and ghaaa… so I choose to leave this to the professionals. I use Kindle people to format my kindle book and ebook launch for everything else.

Since I’m a professional photographer I have no qualms about making my own covers, in fact – I cringe at the thought of having someone else mess around with them, but if I wasn’t a professional myself I would hire one.

Proofreading

I use Scribendi for proofreading. I’ve had my first two novels proofread by Scribendi people and couldn’t be happier. It’s not cheap, but it is necessary and absolutely worth it.

What about editors, you ask – well, I have several friends who have studied literature and are authors themselves. I trust them to give me the non-sugarcoated feedback I need to make my books the best possible.

Social media

As you can see, I use WordPress for my blog and homebase for my books. I also have a Squarespace website for my photography work. I have, of course, domain names that make sense too: jcloen.com and julieloen.com – it looks more professional and is far easier to remeber if anyone should ask, than a free domain name with “/blahblahblah” added to it.

I use mailchimp for newsletters. Free, easy and good looking. My sign-up page looks like this.

I have author profiles on Goodreads, LibraryThing and Amazon.

I can also be found around the web on Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and YouTube.

Promotion

For promotional purposes I’ve used:

KDP’s Free Book Promotion

Goodreads Giveaway (I’ve got one going on now, if you’d like a chance to win a signed copy of An Obelus Wheeze) – this thing is pure gold! It has generated more ratings, reviews and books added to to-read lists than anything else I’ve tried.

Goodreads Ad

Digital Book Today

E-books Grow on Trees

FreeBooksy

It’s Write Now

For business cards I use Moo. Fantastic quality at a great price.

Merchandise:

I used Etsy for years, but have given it up basically because you have to pay to make a non-permanent listing (added item to your store). The community is, however, great, and I did sell a few prints there – I might come back some time. I’ve also given up Cafepress because of ridiculous shipping prices and better looking print-on-demand items elsewhere.

The shops that are still open in the Crazy Cat Dry Goods & Sundries Emporium are my Tictail store, Society 6 and Zazzle.

Tictail is super easy and free to use – this is where I sell signed books and handmade goods. I would prefer to sell all my merchandise like this, but this is simply something I cannot afford to invest in right now. Both Society 6 and Zazzle are good print-on-demand online stores. I might move away completely from Zazzle, though – I have already unlisted all the clothing I had there. I was not happy with the quality of the print there. I bought a T-shirt there last year and the print is about to peel off completely… and I have not worn the T-shirt often. I love the quality of the clothes from Society 6, but I would like to be able to decide the price myself – currently the artist can only set the price for art prints.

Other Resources

There’s a jungle out there! It seems like every person who have self-published a book also publish a book about self-publishing books. I’m sure a lot of these are very good and informative, but the two people I keep coming back to for advice are Catherine Ryan Howard and David Gaughran. They have bloggged extensively about self-publishing and published books on the subject too. I’d recommend checking them out.

Western Comics

Well, y’all know I’m a nerd anyway, so I might as well admit I’m a comic book geek too. Figured I’d share some of my favorite western comics with you.

My absolute favorites are these four gems:

Bouncer

Beautifully vizualised, gritty adventures with a one-armed gunslinger in the lead. This is the kind of comic I’ll re-read many times and bring out occasionally just to gawk at the artwork. The stories are on point. The violence is grim and inventive. The characters well developed, flaws and all. In short: A masterpiece.

Loveless

Ah… Wes and Ruth – the protagonists – just might be my all-time favorite comic book couple, reminiscent of Tulip and Jesse in Preacher (another gem worth reading, if you haven’t already). Their blood-soaked, southern tale of revenge spans across 21 remorseless albums. Ruth is exactly the kind of ass-kicking anti-heroine I’d like to see more of in any media.

Pretty Deadly

I have a very real crush on Ginny, the skullfaced daughter of death – another fierce, gunslinging dame… and she is only one of several bad-ass women in this gorgeous tale of magical realism. The artwork is through and through beautiful, the story remarkable and well balanced in brutality and heart, you’ll even find something to call cute in there. The first five issues have been collected in a single volume, you know what to do… I can hardly wait for the follow-up!

Hawken

An old man riding a blind mule, with the ghost of every person he’s killed trailing after him… It’s weird. It’s violent. It’s a buckshot load of fun. The stories are great and told with plenty of humour. The black and white artwork is perfect for the gnarly ole gunslinger.

Other western comics I’ve enjoyed…

Bikini Cowboy is so much fun! Our hero, Whisky Jill, stomps around in the desert with a surfboard, wearing pretty much nothing but a skimpy bikini. The sketch-like style of the drawings corresponds perfectly with the whimsical story of the sassy Whisky Jill and the boy with mysterious powers she rescues.

The Grave Doug Freshley is another weird western where a young boy gets rescued, this time by the corpse Douglas Freshley, a former schoolmaster.

I take it Jonah Hex need no further introduction. I’ve read only a handful of albums, but have enjoyed the tall tales about this notorious bounty hunter very much.

Streets of Glory is also worth a mention. Penned by Garth Ennis, the mind behind Preacher, The Boys and Jennifer Blood, just to name a few.

Manifest Destiny has yet to be concluded. I’d advise you to buy the collected volumes, waiting around for the next album and the next makes for a jagged reading experience. Follow Lewis and Clark’s expedition into the wild and weird American frontier.

I’d love to hear what your favorite comics are too! Let me know in the comments :)

Zerelda in Floz Visions

I know. I know… Everything is about Zerelda these days. Hope y’all ain’t tired of her yet. If you want to know the connection between a Barbie doll in a fighter pilot outfit and the gunslinging babe in the shape of Ingvild Eiring, head on over to Floz Visions, where Zerelda’s been featured along with a bunch of pictures you probably haven’t seen before.

Zerelda’s Big Weekend

Ingvild Eiring and yours truly at the release party for All The Things a Woman Oughtn’t Do – The Ballad of Zerelda Glanton. Much love and squishes to everyone who showed up! We had a great time!!!

TheShop

Here’s our little dry goods store at the release party we held on Friday. If you couldn’t come, but would like to buy a signed copy of All The Things a Woman Oughtn’t Do – The Ballad of Zerelda Glanton, Embers at Dawn, An Obelus Wheeze or maybe a pack of Zerelda postcards or the Professor Lafayette’s Bison Horn Potion bottle, head on over to my Tictail store.

A selection of images from All The Things a Woman Oughtn’t Do – The Ballad of Zerelda Glanton were exhibited at Fotografiets Dag at Preus Museum in Horten yesterday. As you can see, there’s no name under the pictures. Some time between 12.30 and 15.30 someone removed my name tag and stole my box of business cards, efficiently sabotaging my exhibition. A bunch of pictures without a name is worth exactly nothing. When granted an exhibition spot at Fotografiets Dag you basically get 5 hours of attention from a crowd who’s there to look at photographs. Up to three of those hours have been stolen from me. Ingvild and I have worked on this project for two years. Getting noticed is hard work. To be exhibited at an event such as Fotografiets Dag is a golden opportunity to promote what we’ve been working so hard on. I paid for the prints myself. Hell, I pay for everything myself… I’m a self-publisher. Nothing is cheap. Nothing is easy. But bullshit like this takes the fun right out of it.

Zerelda Gets Exhibited

I am very proud to announce that six of the photographs from All the Things a Woman Oughtn’t Do – The Ballad of Zerelda Glanton will be exhibited during Fotografiets Dag (The Photography’s Day) at Preus Museum in Horten on Sunday, August 23rd. I will be there from 12:00-17:00.

The museum is always a treat to visit and there will be lots of photographs to look at. Hope to see you there!

Release Party for Zerelda Glanton

Ingvild Eiring and yours truly are throwing a belated release party for our Polaroid photobook All the Things a Woman Oughtn’t Do – The Ballad of Zerelda Glanton. The release party will take place at Fuglen in Oslo on Friday August 21st. We’ll be there from 18:00 with books you can buy and get signed.

Find the event on Facebook here.

Blurb:

All the Things a Woman Oughtn’t Do – The Ballad of Zerelda Glanton is a photographic journey in hardship and badassery by photographer Julie Loen and model Ingvild Eiring.

Two years in the making and shot entirely on Polaroid film in snow, rain, sunshine and dusty interiors – capturing the seasons and a myriad of locations – the fleeting figure of Zerelda Glanton comes to life as a gun-toting, horse-riding, anvil-banging, booze-swigging cowgirl, whore and lady.

If you’re partial to undraped ladies and shooting irons, and take kindly to the grittier side of photography, this ought to be right up your alley.

Preview of the book can be viewed at Blurb, and a selection of images from the book can be seen at my website julieloen.com.