(written in late 2006) –
Murder at Avedon Hill began as an idea for a tournament module for the computer game Neverwinter Nights. The module was a mystery with multiple endings so teams of players could play through the module and compete against other teams. I came up with the plot and characters and built out some locations using the NWN editor. Others were tasked with doing the scripting and other technical items that would make the module work. But time became an issue for everyone involved, so the story died…
Until I decided that the story should be told. Since the tournament module was going to be part of the Neverwinter Vault website, and because I had already released several chapters of another novel on the site, I began a contest with NWVault editor Maximus. I wrote and released chapters on a bi-weekly basis, ending most chapters with a question or cliffhanger. Participants would bet on what would happen next (based on a multiple choice question), and the site automatically kept score for each contestant.
This was a grand exercise for me. I wanted to experience writing fiction on a deadline, even though it was only a self-imposed deadline. I was successfully meeting my deadline (okay, for the most part), and after 23 chapters my wife Liza kicked me and asked why I wasn’t trying to publish it. There was only positive feedback on the site around the story, so I ended Part I of the mystery with a cliffhanger and started work on Part II with the intention of publishing it as the novel.
Soon thereafter I was interviewed by Bioware about the novel, because of the original connection to the Neverwinter Nights computer game. It’s ancient history now, but the interview can be found here.
It’s been two years… and the novel is finally done (except for some final edits). I changed a lot of elements within the story so the novel would fit within my existing role-playing/novel setting. I integrated the plot within the major story arc of my world. I worked hard on improving my consistency, my descriptions, and my point of view within the novel.
I submitted the novel to three publishers. Two were fantasy publishers that responded with “We don’t do mysteries.” One was a mystery publisher that responded with “We don’t do fantasy.” Undaunted, I pushed forward.
The internet, my best friend other than my wife, revealed one path for me — Lulu.com. Lulu is what I like to call an Enabler. It is not a vanity press. Lulu doesn’t want to own the rights of any creative work that uses their services. Lulu facilitates the printing and distribution of your print-on-demand content. If you are a creative person, you’ve got to check them out. I am currently publishing my novel through Lulu.com.
My next discovery was even more exciting, as it turned out — podcasting.
Podcasts are downloadable media that can take the form of music, talk shows, comedy skits, etc. What makes podcasts different are the fact that rss feeds allow listeners to subscribe to a creator’s content. A podcast aggregator (such as iTunes) will automatically download new content from a creator you’ve subscribed to. You don’t need an iPod, or even a non-iPod .mp3 player. A good percentage of podcast listeners only use their computer to play the audio files.
Podcasts are the opposite of broadcasting–they are narrowcasting. What does this mean? Whatever content you create, be it fiction, music, political commentary, etc., there is most likely an audience out there already looking for it.
Tee Morris, Scott Sigler, J.C. Hutchins
(I should include Mark Jeffries here, but I don’t personally know him). Tee Morris was the first person to podcast a previously published novel. Scott Sigler was the first to podcast an unpublished novel, and is now on his 4th podcast novel, with a listenership in the 5 figure range. J.C. Hutchins came into the game a year later but currently has a 5 figure listenership as well for his current podcast novel, 7th Son: Book 2 – Deceit.
As I’ve learned, it’s all about the marketing, baby. And podcasting your novel is a good way to build an audience. Of course if your content doesn’t cut it, it won’t matter in the least. But I have spent the last six months learning about podcasting (recording, editing, publishing, etc.).
I’ve done my due diligence. I contributed to a support podcast for NaNoWriMo participants. I’ve worked on some skits for the Tag in the Seam podcast. I’ve done promos for several podcasts. I love working in Adobe Audition (I’ve become addicted to the whole process, actually). Now it’s time to start my own puppy. Wish me luck!