Lots of planning went into this and now I’m able to finally share my page with the world. I hope you join me.
Here is a rundown of the current offerings and tiers:
For $1, you get access to an ongoing serial novel (minimum of one chapter posted every two weeks). Current creature feature playing is GIGANTIGATOR DEATH MACHINE, an homage to classic B-grade monster horror following a group of friends on a cabin getaway only to meet something sinister at the docks.
Patreon-only blog posts.
For $2, you get complete access to the serial novel.
Patreon-only essay blog posts exploring the ins and outs of publishing and tricks on getting your work done so you can share your craft with the world. (Minimum of one essay per month.)
Regular Patreon-only blog posts.
For $5, you get access to the serial novel.
Patreon-only essay blog posts.
A look behind-the-scenes (whether text, photo, or video; advanced looks at works in progress).
A nifty A.P. FUCHS/CANISTER X Official Membership Card mailed out to you with your name and membership number.
For $30, you become a member of the A.P. FUCHS BOOK-OF-THE-MONTH CLUB. Each month I will select a book or comic book of mine from my inventory and mail it out to you complete with signature for the duration of your Gold Standard patronage.
You also have access to all other reward tiers, including your membership card.
And there you go. These are the tiers and rewards I’m starting out with. I’m excited to see where this journey takes me. Please consider joining me. Please also tell your friends, share via your social networks, and any other way you can think of to help spread the word.
All right, let’s talk straight. Specifically, let’s talk author platforms. You’ve read the articles. You’ve been told how important they are. You’ve been given a list of what to include. Heck, you’ve even taken all that information to heart and acted upon it.
And the book sales aren’t happening.
So you keep at it, hoping one day it’ll all pay off. Day in and day out you bust your tail on social media and the Web only to keep missing your goal sales-wise. Or, perhaps, you hit it some months and others you wonder what it’s all for. Frustration sets in and you don’t know what’s going on. You did what Author A said. You got your Facebook page, your Twitter account, your blog, your Instagram and all the others—yet still you’re just another author voice shouting into the storm.
Here’s the issue: you’re following someone else’s advice. Worse, you’re following it to the letter and in the game of publishing, following the author platform advice to a T is a death sentence.
This is why:
▪ Publishing is a giant crapshoot. There is no sure-fire way to do anything. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or trying to sell you something. While true there are basics and groundwork you can lay, that’s all those things are. Yes, your standard author platform recipe should be part of your game plan. That’s no different than saying you want to sell your book but you know you can’t sell your manuscript as is. You need to make it pretty and put it between two covers before you can do so. That’s a given. The basics.
▪ The standard author platform isn’t working for you is because you aren’t making it yours. You’re making it like someone else’s or, simply, following the basic recipe without adding the personal tender loving touch that makes your cookies taste better than the other guy’s.
This is how to fix the issue, written step-by-step, but don’t treat it like an instruction manual. Customization, you know?
Lay down the standard recipe. All good baking has a fairly consistent base across the board. Have your Facebook page, your Twitter, blog, Instagram and all that. Customize each page and make it about you and your books then commit to a Web plan where you’re active on each on a regular basis.
Start adding the TLC. Don’t make your Facebook page like Joe Famous’s. Make it like yours.
I hate the word “brand” when it comes to this author stuff. It turns us into a product and, frankly, art is never about product. It can become a product, but should never be a product. See the difference? This world is sickly loaded with consumerism and people pushing products non-stop twenty-four hours a day. Most of us have tuned out the racket. But what draws us and captures our attention? Unique items and unique people. This so-called “brand” you’re supposed to become? How about voice? After all, your voice is what makes your art what it is to begin with. Why turn that off when sharing it with people?
So . . .
Format and design your pages to reflect you and your books. Don’t be all authorish. Don’t be all bookish. Don’t make people feel like they’re in a stuffy library when they visit you on the Web. In other words, don’t be so professional you come off as cold. Cold people suck.
Into baking or crafts? Build that into your page designs and content.
Into superheroes and comics? Put up some indie superhero character art as part of your banner and pictures.
Into sci-fi and tech? Give your page(s) a mechanical flare and make the electro-junkies squee on the inside when they visit you.
Into horror? Spook it up, man.
Get the idea?
With your on-line base of operations already established, leave it alone for a bit and start playing around with other marketing ideas.
Some items . . .
▪ Set up book signings. Table at conventions. Hook up with some craft shows and flea markets. Arrange a book tour, say, local at first then, depending on success, look at traveling out-of-province/state, even country.
▪ Set yourself up as a unique property at these events. Don’t just have a plain table. Add some posters and signage. Add some props. Display your books in a pyramid-like tower. Stand out. Fool around. Don’t be the lonely author who sits there with a handful of books laid out boring and flat in front of them, longingly gazing at the passersby, your eyes pleading, “Please come talk to me. Please come buy my book.” I mean, you took all this time to personalize your on-line presence, why wouldn’t you do the same for your off-line one?
▪ Casually bring up you’re an author into everyday conversations. You can subtly work your pitch into whatever you’re talking about with someone—choose appropriately, of course—and at a bare minimum leave them with a business card. But have books on-hand or in your car in case a sale is to be made. Trust me, it happens.
▪ Go to open mic nights and share story excerpts or poetry. This is your chance to pimp your work, network and perhaps get hired for new projects.
▪ Do workshops.
And a thousand other things. These examples are to make this point: lay your groundwork—that author platform—then play around with other marketing avenues. You’ll be surprised what works. You’ll also be surprised at what doesn’t because what works for Author A doesn’t always work for Author B.
Book marketing is all about customization. It’s about finding what works for you and putting energy into those things while discarding the things that don’t after you’ve given them a fair chance (i.e. six months to a year or something). And you know what? Even that thing you did that didn’t work for your first novel might be the goldmine that works for your second one. Each book is different. Even each book in a series is different.
Authors want the easy way out. “I just want to write,” they say. Well, if that were really true, you wouldn’t be publishing as well, right?
Or they want to be told what to do: that standard author platform recipe. Come on. How can you be so creative in fiction then totally useless outside of it? Don’t you know your life is a story and so is your book career? That creative flare that you put on the page can be used off of it, too. Stop thinking inside of your book and start thinking outside of it.
After this article is drafted, my plan for the day is to revisit my platform, one that I’ve already customized to me over the years—self-publishing since 2004—and take inventory on what’s working and what isn’t. I’m going to make some changes and try new things. Going to add my own TLC instead of relying on the standard Author Platform recipe.
I’m eager to see how these cookies turn out. I already know my zombie chocolate chip ones are dead ringers for a win and my Axiom-man cookies are super.
Screw the standard author platform. It’s boring and useless. But your own? The one with your personal touch?
Author’s note: This essay originally aired on this blog prior to the file purge of 2014. It is now being rerun for your reading pleasure. Please note Zomtropolis is no longer available as a free on-line serial and will be released in paperback and eBook in the near future.
Zombies are monsters. At least, that’s the standard definition. Someone dies, rises, has a taste of human flesh and so hunts down the living and, once the prey is caught, chows down and eats their guts. Oh, and they’re ugly, too, slowly rotting away with each passing day.
That’s the standard version of the zombie and the one most are familiar with.
It’s the one I knew of when I first discovered them, but as for their main backstory, I didn’t know what that wasy.
See, I grew up in a household where horror and monsters where off limits. This was a good thing, in that I didn’t have to view creepy faces, see blood and guts, watch people get killed, or be subject to dark forests like other kids I knew. I was probably saved hundreds of hours of nightmares as a result. This absence of horror made for a happier childhood, in that regard. My dad always said, “If you want to watch horror, watch the news.” And he was right, and still is. We live in a sad world with villains in it that outmatch most of what we create in books or on screen.
At the same time, being so sheltered was a detriment to a well-rounded upbringing because later on, I was naïve about a lot of things, including the darker side of life, both in terms of what humans were capable of and scary images.
My first exposure to monsters was seeing a ripped-from-a-magazine picture of Freddy Krueger lying in the playground in elementary. The image of a disfigured man with bubbles on his skin was so foreign to me that I had occasional nightmares from that single image for years. I never saw an actual Freddy movie until I was eighteen and living on my own, but I got to tell you: going to the video store to rent one sent up all sorts of red flags and I was scared to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street for the first time.
But zombies, werewolves or vampires growing up?
At most I saw the Halloween episode of Highway to Heaven where Michael Landon was a werewolf for part of it. Scared me to death. Same with that other episode with the devil.
Highway to Heaven. Good show, from what I remember, and it was allowed in the Christian household I grew up in for its message. It was also this growing up in a Christian household and the zero tolerance policy for horror and monsters that shaped my life, not only in terms of what I couldn’t see, but how I reacted when faced with the horrors that pop up in life now and then.
In fact, I only got into horror because of something painful that happened to me. It was in this place of darkness that I found comfort in other dark things for a long time.
Later, when I incorporated writing about zombies into my writing career, my view of the undead and fandom of them wasn’t your typical horror fan’s. It wasn’t the blood and guts that excited me or their spooky nature, the whole things-that-go-bump-in-the-night thing.
Instead, it was rooted in my first love: superheroes.
And they still are.
I’ve never viewed zombies as “horror monsters” in terms of how I create and write them. To me, they’ve always been supervillains, and I think it’s this definition of them that is more accurate: they are “super” because they can’t die via conventional means—only by the removal of the head—and are certainly not part of our everyday lives, and they are “villains” because of the evil act of eating others they commit.
When I set out to write my first zombie book, Blood of the Dead (book one of the Undead World Trilogy,) I didn’t want to write a standard zombie novel about a virus, people dying, people coming back, people surviving. I’ve never been one for formulas in my fiction and have always tried to do something new with each tale. Once the story was done, it immediately birthed unusual plans for the sequel, Possession of the Dead: angels, demons, giant zombies some fifteen stories high, shamblers and sprinters, shape shifting zombies and the consequences of the time travel ending of the first book. The third, Redemption of the Dead, incorporated all these unusual elements, while neatly dealing with the time travel issue and ensuring it was paradox-free, which, as a major time travel fan, was something important to me. But all along, as these books were written, the zombies were supervillains to me, with my main cast—Joe, Billy, August, Des, Tracy—being superheroes in their own right, especially Joe and Tracy. While Joe was an excellent shot with the gun, tough as nails and grim, Tracy was a highly-skilled marksmen and fighter. Likewise, they had the tendency to rescue people versus just letting people die.
The story certainly would not have been what it was without my love of the superhero genre and my sheltered upbringing. Doing zombie stories this way also enabled me to tackle Zombie Fight Night: Battles of the Dead, with a kind of comic book sensibility, that is, classic characters—ninjas, samurai, robots, Vikings, and more—and pit them up against the undead in Bloodsport-like battles, each fight with a purpose that served the overall story being told between each bout.
The supervillain angle—I like it. I grew up with it, being a huge fan of Super Friends, the Christopher Reeve Superman flicks, the Tim Burton Batman movies, even the Spider-Man TV show. To be honest, I can’t imagine writing monsters any other way other than as supervillains because that’s what they are to me.
Any monster is, actually, and I explored this idea in the series of anthologies I edit called Metahumans vs. The first two are Metahumans vs the Undead and Metahumans vs Werewolves. For the uninitiated, metahumans are superheroes are the same thing. The idea with this series was not only to showcase independent superheroes, but also put them up against a new kind of supervillain that isn’t used that often in comics or cartoons: monsters.
Before you accuse me of this article being a giant commercial for my undead work—for free serial zombie fiction, see my on-line novel, Zomtropolis at www.canisterx.com, wink wink, nudge nudge—there’s a point to all these examples, and that is this: not to let stereotypes and archetypes be a guide for your fiction, in this, we’re talking about undead fiction.
Why do zombies have to monsters via the standard definition? Why can’t there be something more to them?
I fully realize we live in a very commercialistic society, where most of what’s produced is made because it’ll make the most money. For me, this is a shallow way of approaching storytelling. It’s selfish, it’s limiting, it’s, frankly, wrong. Art—which includes writing—should be about honest expression, about pushing boundaries and trying something new. Will this new thing always be popular? No, but the fact that it is new is important and shows the artist behind it has put thought into it and expressed something from within versus simply a formula of what would sell.
Let’s look at the typical zombie formula.
1) a virus sweeps the world, killing people
2) these people rise from the dead as flesh-eating machines
3) a group of people were somehow not infected—which may or may not be explained
4) this group must survive in a half-destroyed world with limited resources—are our armies really that incompetent that the surviving military couldn’t defeat creatures who are stupid and slow?—and battle amongst themselves and against shambling zombies
Did I miss anything?
While this is fine for the skeleton of a story, it doesn’t make much for the meat of it. There needs to be more. Reasons for things need to be given. A new spin on these four main ideas needs to be taken otherwise it’s just the same story being told over and over again, the only difference being the people’s names and locales.
“Well, that’s what the audience expects?” you say. They expect that because that’s what we’ve been giving them.
Ever read a book or see a movie and go, “Now that’s a new way to do it?” I have. It’s an amazing realization and elevates the work in question to a whole new level upon seeing it.
Some possible fixes to the aforementioned zombie formula, off the top of my head:
1) Why is it always a virus? Why not something supernatural? Or something from space? Something from Earth? Something mechanical that gives the illusion of people back from the dead? I edited an anthology called Dead Science, which challenged the authors to create unique science-gone-wrong-based origins for the undead. The stories they came up with were fun and original.
2) Shamblers and sprinters seem to be the order of the day. Some have ventured into smart zombie territory. What if they had super strength? What if to kill them it wasn’t cutting off their heads but it was their guts—source of hunger—that needed to be removed? What if they were giants? What if part of the cause of them dying also shrank them and you had zombies so small they were like bugs and could get all over you so quickly like ants that you had no hope of survival?
3) Seldom is it explained why the group of survivors were immune to the zombie virus. An explanation for their survival needs to be included? Was a vicinity thing? Did the cause of the undead only affect people indoors? Outdoors? Is the whole world taken out or just a part of it?
4) How come the world is always destroyed within a few weeks of the outbreak? Have you noticed this or is it just me? While I realize people act like animals under panic—we’ve all seen riots on the news—all these cities with broken everything, over-turned cars, bodies everywhere, graffiti, everyone suddenly in torn clothes, etc.—I just don’t get it. What about our military? Wouldn’t the countries’ forces combine to eradicate a common threat like a zombie outbreak? How could even a horde of zombies take out a guy with a machine gun unless they’re oh-so-slow moving bodies somehow got in a sneak attack? What about planes and bombs?
I won’t admit to having read every zombie book or seen every zombie movie, but it seems to me the element of realism has been taken out. It’s always been my view that a book or comic or movie—whatever—needs to be grounded in reality somehow, the whole “what if this happened tomorrow for real” thing. To add such an element to a book—regardless of how out-of-this-world the circumstance is—suddenly brings that fantastic circumstance into our world and puts the reader right in the middle of the tale because he/she can completely understand why things happen a certain way. Life isn’t full of conveniences, tidy plotlines and clichéd ideas. It’s a mess with tons of twists and turns.
Shouldn’t our stories reflect life?
The argument is people want to escape. For me, that’s just an excuse to get out of a life that isn’t the one you wanted. How about turning that on its head and reading stories about lives like yours, that aren’t the way the characters wanted, and you draw strength and encouragement from that? There’s lots to be said about relatability and seeing people in the same boat as you, whether they’re real or not, whether the world they inhabit is yours or not.
But I realize that trying new things and going against the grain is countercultural, especially in the West. I realize that to propose writing zombie fiction as something other than zombie fiction flies in the face of decades of tradition.
It just seems, though, that these standard ideas have become so ingrained in us that we’re afraid to move or operate outside them. Afraid to grow. Afraid to step off the beaten path and blaze a new trail.
“Fuchs is an exceptionally fluid writer with a keen inventiveness and proficiency sadly lacking in the works of many writers of today.” – Nicholas Grabowsky, author of Halloween IV and The Everborn
Many summers ago, an evil presence known as a Bloodan visited Camp Silverway, a peaceful summer camp for teenage girls, and nearly killed a young girl named Shelly. Mary Thompson, a girl on a bunk bed near Shelly, watched as the creature made from blood and darkness, began to sink into Shelly and begin to feed.
Through tears and cloudy vision, she also saw her friend rescued by a stranger in a black cape, with blue fire blasting from his hand.
Never forgetting that night, Mary was tormented for years by the memory of what she saw, and now, twenty-two years later, she has returned to Camp Silverway as a camp counselor, trying to face her fear.
However, what starts out as a fun summer soon comes to an end when not one, but several Bloodans return to the camp and begin killing again. As before, the man in the black cape, Tarek, reappears, yet he hasn’t aged a day since he rescued Shelly long ago.
Shock upon shock ensues as Mary learns not only where the creatures and her hero come from, but also when. The Bloodans enclose the camp in a liquid red dome made of blood, and as everyone around her gets killed and the monsters multiply, Mary, her friend Sarah, and Tarek are left with no place to go.
The Life and Death of Hertzan Chimera
by Mike Philbin 3 out of 5
For over a decade Hertzan Chimera terrorized the online writing world both with his brutal brand of fiction and his brutal personality. That was until August 2004, when Mike Philbin, Chimera’s secret identity, killed off the fictional writer and decided to write under his real name. Which leads us to The Life and Death of Hertzan Chimera, Philbin’s much-delayed autobiography on his literary creation.
In short, The Life and Death of Hertzan Chimera is basically divided up into two halves, the first being a history on Chimera and how he came to be, the last being a series of interviews where Chimera acts as both interviewer and interviewee.
The reason this reviewer picked up the book was more so not because I was a fan of Chimera’s work—I had only read a handful of short stories; I will state that based on what I read, I enjoyed Chimera’s writing and was more than impressed with his insane amount of creativity—but because I was interested in getting a behind-the-scenes look at what most would consider a demented psyche. But I was only partially satisfied in my quest. The first half of the book gave insight into Chimera’s childhood, who he was and how he came to be, which was interesting but wasn’t really explored in the detail I had hoped. After each section I was left wanting a little bit more. But this is also coming from a guy who enjoys long-winded fiction and detailed explanations so it could be just me.
The latter half, the interviews, left me cold, I’m afraid. The ones where Chimera himself was being interviewed were fine and had a place in the book, but the ones where he was interviewer read more like filler than needed information. As I read the interviews, one of the biggest things I kept waiting/hoping for was an explanation for Chimera’s distaste with the current state of horror and, more importantly, his hatred for the mass market press. Though these were explained, they were explained briefly and I was hoping for something more in depth, a more thorough argument about horror being a lost art and all that’s left is cookie cutter fiction.
On the whole, I would recommend this book to those looking for a glimpse into the mind of Chimera and what made him tick. What I am looking forward to, however, is where Mike Philbin is headed now that he’s free of Chimera and is able to just be himself without always putting on a show. That, of course, is the secret to any great writing: honesty.