I’ve been selling customizable business cards for several years now at Retropolis and The Celtic Art Works. Customers would click on a sample image and be carried over to the Zazzle site, where they could edit the text on that card design to their own specification. The system worked pretty well, and a lot of people bought their business cards that way; but I’ve always thought it could work better.
After I built the Pulp-O-Mizer I could even see how it might be better: if all the possible background images were available in menus, and the whole user interface worked a bit more like the Pulp-O-Mizer, I figured that the process would not only be more fun, but more engaging. Customers would be able to try out all sorts of possibilities… so they would. They’d be more likely to buy their cards once they’d invested their time in them. It could work out better for all of us.
But it wouldn’t be a small job, and I’d need a fair-sized block of time to work on it.
As it turns out, the job took about a month.
It’s alive! Alive, I tell you!
So today I’ve unveiled the Business Card Construction Kit at Retropolis. (It’ll show up soon at The Celtic Art Works, too; but I’ve included all the Celtic art backgrounds already.)
The Business Card Construction Kit includes much of what the Pulp-O-Mizer does, but it also does more. You can design a business card in either horizontal/landscape or vertical/portrait shapes; you can have images and text on both the front and the back of the business cards; you can select any colors you like for your text; you have over 250 background images from which to choose, along with a wide variety of typefaces; and I’ve made innumerable little improvements to the user interface and user feedback.
It’s a pretty nice system!
Over 250 background images
The background images are divided by subject and style; in addition there are separate menus of images for the front and back of the cards. (That’s because the card stocks are usually coated on just one side, so an image that works well on the front may not look as good on the back of the card.)
There are a lot of Retropolis images, of course, but I’ve included all the old Celtic card backgrounds from The Celtic Art Works, and then added a lot of new border designs and images in that style. And I can continue to add more designs and styles as time goes on.
Many text controls, typefaces, and selectable text colors
Both the front and back of your business card can have up to six different areas of text, each with their own controls.
The color selector is something that I decided to leave out of the Pulp-O-Mizer, but it makes a lot of sense here.
And because there are so many typefaces available in the Business Card Construction Kit I’ve given you a second menu, which you can use to filter the typeface list by font type: Serif, Sans Serif, Hand Lettered, or All.
Save, export, and share your card designs
In order to save, move, or share your card designs, you get the same options as you do in the Pulp-O-Mizer. You can save and load locally, or you can export your card data as a block of text that can be imported into the Construction Kit on another device or browser.
There’s also a menu of example designs that you can load, and learn from, and even use as the basis for your own business card.
So that’s what I’ve been working on. I think it’s a much improved system for buying your customized business cards, and it’s designed to grow, as well. Give it a spin!
Well, it was uphill all the way for our first stretch goal, if by “uphill all the way” we mean up and down and up again; but we finally made it, and we’ve got just over a week left to hit the second stretch goal.
If we get there, this is what happens: I have the funds to arrange a Kirkus Indie review; and everybody who pledged over $50 will get a memo notebook with the Patently Absurd cover art on its own cover. These are nice little notebooks, as I can tell you from my personal scribbling experience.
It’s a harder goal to reach, at $1900, but we may have the urgency of the project’s end on our side. It’s coming up!
So if you have friends or if you see strangers who might like the book, this is the time to tell them all about it wherever you find them: on Facebook or Twitter, or at your own blog, or at GoodReads or LibraryThing or, in fact, anyplace at all.
It’s the larger pledges that will benefit from this stretch reward, so I’ve added a new set of ten “Collector II” rewards at $65. They’re just like the original Collector rewards except that they cost a bit more. That’s so you early adopters have a reason to look smug. If you need one, I mean.
(For the rest of you, that $65 gets you a signed, printed advance copy of Patently Absurd; a matching eBook of the same; an eBook edition of The Lair of the Clockwork Book; a pair of custom bookmarks; and a signed hardcover copy of Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom; plus a memo notebook, if we hit the second stretch goal.)
In other news, today I should see my third proof copy of the book. The last one was pretty great, but I’m still fiddling with color profiles for the cover.
Back around the middle of July, the relentless T-Shirt engine of the Pulp-O-Mizer sputtered and failed.
I looked through it. I discovered that figuring the problem out was going to be both complicated and time-consuming. Then I just threw a tarpaulin over it and kicked it a couple of times. I had a lot to do, right then, and I was going to have to postpone the whole thing until my eyes had uncrossed and I could give it some thought.
That happened this morning. I wish I could say that I’d been brilliant, but the sad truth is that I tried a gazillion little changes and, once I got it running again, I had no idea which one of them did the trick. Or if it was all of them.
But it works now. Huzzah!
Once again you can get a custom T-Shirt with your very own Pulp-O-Mizer image on it. Just… don’t ask me how I did it.
First off, great news: the Patently Absurd fund drive met its primary goal on Day 3. That’s really unexpected, and welcome, believe me.
But it’s not over yet. In order to set an attainable goal for the project I moved some pretty important things out to stretch goals. We’re looking at the first of those right now.
What we’ve done
With the primary goal behind us I’ll be able to send advance copies off to book reviewers and the book buyers for some local bookstores. I’ll also be able to meet some other pre-production expenses, like ISBNs and some setup fees at Ingram. (Ingram Spark will be one of the two printers to produce the final books.) Review copies will be going out to trade publications like Booklist, The Library Journal, and Locus.
What we need to do
But there are a couple of other trade publications that are missing from that list. That’s because Publishers Weekly and Kirkus charge fees to review independently published books. They have their reasons. The barrier to self-publish a book is very low, now, and if they take everything… well, everything is a lot, these days. So one can see their point, even if it seems like there might be a better way to deal with what’s now a flood of indie books.
So, at the moment, we’re looking at the first stretch goal for Patently Absurd. At $1400 (just $200 more than the primary goal) I’ll be able to arrange a review for the book at Publishers Weekly. To celebrate, all Kickstarter backers who weren’t going to get a Lair of the Clockwork Book eBook will get one; and everybody who’s getting a print copy of the book will get a pair of custom bookmarks with art from my books.
Those are small bonuses, but it’s just another $200, right? And we have 27 days left to go.
The Kickstarter project for Patently Absurd is now live and it’s eager to talk to you. You can meet it here.
Tell your friends, your families, and strangers on the street.
The Files of the Retropolis Registry of Patents
Well, Patently Absurd is very nearly a book. A few days ago I finished the last illustration for The Enigma of the Unseen Doctor, the final story in my series about The Retropolis Registry of Patents, and after that I completed the layout for the print book.
But just having all the stuff for a book isn’t quite the same as finishing a book. Very soon I’ll set up the first proof for the print edition, and that’ll show me all the things that weren’t actually done even though they seemed to be; mainly, that means some adjustments to the illustrations so that they print better. And then there’s the layout for the eBook edition, which is more complicated than usual when you’re dealing with illustrations.
Oh, and those illustrations? There are forty of them. Forty, in a book of about 260 pages.
The first five stories in the volume were serialized at Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, and I wanted an illustration in every page update: that meant an illustration for every 1000 words. I backed that off a little bit for The Enigma of the Unseen Doctor, but it’s the longest story of the bunch by far. So, forty illustrations, plus the title page.
No more serials for me, probably. That’s a lot of illustrations.
Next step: Kickstarter
The rest of the work you have to do to have an actual book, rather than all the stuff you need for one, is to launch it.
This time I plan to do that in pretty much the way that any publisher would. So there will be review copies, copies sent to bookstore buyers, and other expenses. And to meet those expenses I hope to enlist you in the launch through a Kickstarter project that will put an ARC (or advance copy) right in your own hands while funding the distribution of a lot more copies to places where they’ll do the book some good. And once you get your own copy – right about the time that the book bloggers and buyers get theirs – I hope that you’ll review it, and post about it, and tell everyone you meet on a street corner about Patently Absurd. Because grass roots promotion is the key.
It’ll be a pretty tight schedule, for me: I want to start the Kickstarter project during the first half of October. So I’ve started the pitch video and the project itself, and there isn’t a heck of a lot of time to get it all done. Believe me, you’ll hear about it when I kick the thing off.
It shouldn’t be long!
It’s true: now, in this brief moment before you start wishing they were sweaters, you can get a 15% discount on all my t-shirts from Retropolis and The Celtic Art Works.
The sale lasts through Monday, September 18th, and all you need to do is to enter the coupon code 150917 while you check out online. Save 15%!
As I said in my last post, I’ve been busy; I still am. I’m working on my tenth illustration for Patently Absurd since the end of June.
It’s not a bad average when you do the arithmetic, but I spent twenty days on the picture we see here. That’s slowed me way down since the beginning (the first five pictures went very quickly) but I knew what I wanted here, and it was obvious that it would take a bit of time.
Sometimes what you need is a little, cluttered shop filled with the things that clutter little shops, and if all those things are unique and new then your next twenty days are pretty well spoken for.
I kind of expected it to take twenty-one days. So if you squint a bit and tilt your head just right, it looks like I’m ahead of schedule.
That’s why I look a little squinty and twitchy just now.
It’s not working, though. When I lose the squint and straighten up my head I can see that I’m far behind where I’d hoped to be by now. So it’s likely that the blog will remain quiet for awhile longer.
I think it was one of Tim Powers’ characters who once said “If it was easy, they’d have got someone else to do it.”
Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom
I was pretty happy to see this latecomer of Switchboard reviews at Sci-Fi Fan Letter. Among other things, there’s this:
I loved the characters in this. Dash is so much fun, and Nola’s got a good mix of spunk and intelligence. The Campbell kids are… something. They were both great and terrifying to follow.
The world-building was great. The switchboard is sort of an internet, if history had taken a different path. The priests of the spider god were fun, and kept the old school pulp feel. The robot League and the interactions between robot and human people show a positive future that’s often lacking in modern SF and something I enjoyed seeing.
The book’s done very well over at Goodreads, with forty ratings and twenty-six reviews; at Amazon it has a good, solid rating, but only twelve reviews.
Hint: those Amazon reviews are really helpful at the Amazon site. So if you’ve read Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom, consider adding a review at Amazon. Thanks!
The Lair of the Clockwork Book
I’ll close with a reminder that you can get an eBook copy of The Lair of the Clockwork Book for $2.99 (a dollar below list price!) at Radio Planet Books.
If I was quiet in here during July, that was for the usual reason: I was doing stuff. Not all of that stuff is done, which means that I’m still doing it. Because you do it till it’s done, right?
But in the midst of doing (some) stuff, other stuff happens anyway. There’s the stuff that happened, and then there’s the stuff I’m doing. So this post is about All That Stuff.
More reviews for ‘Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom’
Today’s Toronto Star features a terrific review of Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom in their round-up of The latest new books for science-fiction lovers.
Spoiler: they really like it. The review ends on this blurb-worthy note:
“Fans of the comic novels of Jasper Fforde will feel right at home, and the wonderful illustrations by Schenck add to the fun, making this one of the real treats of the year.”
…which was awfully nice of them. And Jasper Fforde? Yes, please.
Then – at both File770 and at her own Lis Carey’s Library – Lis Carey has posted her review of the book.
Illustrations for ‘Patently Absurd’
And this is about The Stuff I’m Doing.
I’m working on the last illustrations for Patently Absurd, my collection of the Retropolis Registry of Patents stories (including their conclusion!)
That new, final story is the longest of the bunch. And even though I reduced the frequency of its illustrations compared to the stories that ran as serials, there’s still a big pile of ’em to do. The good news? Most of them are done. I think you can figure out the other kind of news just by looking at that sentence.
Still, it won’t be too long before I’m ready to start my plans for the book’s release. That will start with a Kickstarter project to fund my Johnny Appleseed inspired distribution of pre-release copies.
And I’ve done a new cover layout for the book. At the moment it looks like this:
Still a pretty good price for ‘The Lair of the Clockwork Book’ at Radio Planet
It’s hard to beat last month’s sale price for The Lair of the Clockwork Book at the Radio Planet Books site. But even though that sale is over Radio Planet still offers the eBook for just $2.99, a dollar below its list price.
Until the end of July you can buy the eBook edition of The Lair of the Clockwork Book for just $1.45, only at Radio Planet Books. That’s less than half the usual price of $3.99.
The Clockwork Book’s lair lies far beneath the city of Retropolis, in the world of the Future That Never Was. As far as anybody knows, it’s always been there – slowly collecting the stories, the ideas, and the secrets of its visitors, and then sharing them with those who come after.
If you were to visit the Book yourself, you might realize that in its own retro-futuristic world the Book serves the purpose of a social network – a mechanical social network. With that in mind, you could hardly be surprised at the misadventures its clients seem to have.
And what is the Book, really, and who constructed it, and why? That’s one of the few stories that the Book is not allowed to tell.
On the other hand… the Book has learned how to bend the rules.
The Lair of the Clockwork Book, with over 120 illustrations, began its life as a serial that ran from February of 2011 to April of 2012 at the Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual web site.
The eBook edition, in greyscale, is usually priced at $3.99. But at Radio Planet Books you can get it for $1.45 through the end of July. (Both mobi and ePub versions are available.)