COMING SOON! “Noir Christmas” Short Stories And Christmas Comics :)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to announce two festive things that will be appearing here in the near future:

– “Noir Christmas” Short Stories: From the 14th-23rd December, there will be daily short stories posted here in the evenings πŸ™‚

Unlike last year’s Cyberpunk Christmas stories, this year’s collection was meant to have more of a “film noir” theme. However, they’re more like cynical modern comedic detective stories about a nameless grumpy old private detective. This collection will also have something of a story arc too.

Here’s an extract from the first story: “But, this year was different. My only client this week had been Mrs Johansen, and she only wandered into my office because she’d mistaken it for the local optician. And with the measly fiver I’d earned for my deductive services in the matter, the coffers were looking a little bare.

– “Christmas Comics”: Like with last year’s “A Cynical Christmas 2016” collection, there will be a special festive mini series of my long-running occasional webcomic between the 19th-24th December, with a single-panel comic on Christmas Day.

Here’s a preview from this year’s “Cynical Christmas” mini series:

This mini series will run from the 19th-24th December. Plus, there will be a single-panel comic on Christmas Day too πŸ™‚

Merry Christmas everyone πŸ™‚

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Four Basic Ways To Preview Your Art (or Webcomics)

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Well, since I couldn’t think of another topic for today’s article, I thought that I’d talk about art previews. If you post art (or webcomics) online regularly, then there’s a good chance that you probably also prepare your art well in advance of actually posting it online.

Of course, if you’ve got something really cool that you want to show off, then the wait can be kind of annoying – so, posting a preview can be a good idea for both you and your audience. But, how do you do this? Here are a few simple tips:

1) Line art: If your next piece of art involves line drawing (in addition to other things like paint, digital effects etc..), then one easy way to come up with an intriguing preview is to just scan or digitally photograph your art after you’ve finished the line drawing, but before you do anything else to it.

If you really want to make the line art stand out, then just open the picture using an image editing program (here’s a freeware one, if you don’t have one) and mess around with the “brightness/contrast” options. Generally speaking, if you lower the brightness slightly and increase the contrast heavily, then you’ll end up with crisp-looking line art like this:

"Architecture (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Architecture (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

The advantages of using a line art preview are that your audience gets to see the whole picture, but they are also left guessing what it will look like after you’ve added colour to it. Likewise, since more detailed parts of your line art can end up getting painted over etc… when you get round to finishing the picture – so, it’s a good way to show the audience all of the shading and fine details that they might have otherwise missed.

2) Reduced-size previews: I use this one a lot, mostly because this site tends to be the last place my art ends up getting posted online and because I like to discuss techniques that I’ve used in my upcoming paintings. As such, the audience either may have seen the full painting already, or they might need to see the full painting.

So, a good compromise is to make another copy of your artwork, open it in an image editing program and then use the “resize” option to shrink the copy to something like 30% of it’s original size. Like this:

This is, of course, another preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 5th August.

This is, of course, another preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 5th August.

Although this shows your audience a (mildly less detailed) version of the full-size picture, one slight disadvantage of this approach is that many websites automatically shrink images in order to speed up loading times. So, the picture will, at first glance, appear to be the same size as the full size one (even though it’s smaller if you actually click on it).

3) Details:
This is the classic way to preview a piece of artwork and it’s the easiest way to make your audience intrigued too. All you have to do is to make another copy of your painting or drawing and then open it in your image editing program.

Once you’ve done this, use the “crop” tool (the icon for it looks like two overlapping corners in most programs) and select a small, but interesting-looking area of the copy. When you’ve done this, just click on it and everything outside of that area will disappear. This allows you to show off an intriguing piece of your painting, whilst making the audience curious about the full-size painting. Like this:

This is a detail from a painting that will be posted here on the 4th August.

This is a detail from a painting that will be posted here on the 4th August.



4) Greyscale preview:
This technique is fairly similar to the “line art preview” technique. It’s a way of showing off the whole painting, whilst still making the audience curious about the final piece.

All you have to do is to make another digital copy of your artwork, open it in your image editing program and look for the option called “hue/saturation” or “hue/saturation/lightness”. Most image editing programs have this option, and it’s usually somewhere in the “colours”/”colors” menu at the top of the screen.

Once you’ve found this option, open it and reduce the saturation level to zero. You’ll be left with a greyscale copy of your picture that will leave your audience wondering what it will look like when you show off the full-colour version. Here’s an example:

This is a greyscale preview of a painting that will be posted here on the 17th July.

This is a greyscale preview of a painting that will be posted here on the 17th July.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

How Much Should You Reveal About Upcoming Projects?

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Before I begin, I’m going to talk about a couple of my old unfinished and/or abandoned projects. Trust me, there’s a point to all of this……

Last month, I made a couple of cryptic references to a secret upcoming writing project that I was working on.

Unfortunately, this project seems to have stalled and is now on indefinite hiatus after only about three parts of it (totalling about 1300-1500 words overall) were written. It’s possible that I might pick it up again because I really like the concept behind it, but it seems unlikely at the moment.

Likewise, earlier this year, I’d planned to make a comic adaptation of a dystopic sci-fi/ horror novella called “Ephemera” I wrote in 2010. It was going to be very different to most of my previous comics projects, since it would be very aimed at a more mature audience rather than a more general audience.

In the end, I only made about 22 pages before I ended up abandoning the project due to stress, waning enthusiasm and a small amount of writer’s block.

Still, unlike my other unfinished project, I posted a few previews of “Ephemera” comic on here whilst I was working on it – and, just for the sake of it, here’s the cover art from this comic that never was…

"Ephemera - Cover" By C. A. Brown [Painted on 2nd March 2014]

“Ephemera – Cover” By C. A. Brown [Painted on 2nd March 2014]

The reason that I mentioned these things is because it made me think about how much writers and artists should and shouldn’t reveal about their upcoming projects. There are some fairly strong arguments both for and against telling your audience a lot about what you’re working on.

For starters, giving people a sneak preview of the stuff that you’re working on allows you to build anticipation and excitement amongst your fans. Not only that, it also makes your audience feel like they are part of the same creative journey that you are on, this provides moral support and validation for you and it provides more interesting stuff for your fans too.

But, on the other hand, revealing a lot about an upcoming project makes it a lot more difficult for you to cancel it if it doesn’t quite work out. It also sets up much higher expectations amongst your audience (which can be harder to fulfil) and – if your idea is new enough – it might give other people an opportunity to rip it off too.

Quite a dilemma, right?

The best piece of advice that I can think of is that you should only really consider showing off detailed previews either after you’ve finished your project or at least when you’re close to finishing it. The main reason for this is that it’s a good way to avoid getting people’s hopes up about something that you can’t deliver.

Plus, if you do this, then you don’t have to worry too much about your project stalling (eg: if you get writer’s block) or getting delayed. Not only that, you also have a wider range of stuff to choose from when it comes to deciding what to include in your preview.

Finally, if you wait until relatively close to the release before you put out a preview, then it’ll be harder for other people to rip-off your idea in the time between preview and publication.

But, if you’re confident that you’re going to finish a project, then giving people a few small tantalising glimpses at parts of it earlier on in the creative process can sometimes be a way of reassuring your fans that you’re actually working on the project that you say that you’re working on.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

One Old Trick From The 1990s For Improving Your E-book Preview

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So, you’ve written an e-book or made a comic and you want to self-publish it online. Congratulations πŸ™‚ Naturally, this will include putting a preview of your story or comic on the site you’re publishing it on.

Giving people a preview of what you’ve made is pretty much standard practice when you’re publishing online.

As well as supposedly mirroring the experience of flicking through real books in a real bookshop, previews also makes the whole experience of buying an e-book a lot more trustworthy by letting your prospective readers know what to expect if they invest in your latest book.

But, one of the problems with many e-book sites is that they only allow you to make a certain percentage of your e-book avialable as a preview (the good sites will often let you decide how much) starting from the beginning and going forwards.

This sounds good in principle and it’s a good reminder about the importance of writing a strong beginning to your story or comic but, for want of a better word, it seems somewhat limited.

After all, when a film studio wants to promote their latest film, they usually compile a trailer showing off some of the best moments of the entire film. They don’t just show the first five minutes of the film.

Trailers are great for advertising movies. But, well, e-books aren’t movies.

Call me old-fashioned, but I still subconsciously tend to see e-books as being software more than anything else. And, as such, I think that using old-school software promotion tactics could possibly work quite well for e-books.

No, I’m not talking about giving out free time-limited and feature-limited versions of your books, I’m talking about giving out good old fashioned shareware.

In case you were unlucky enough not to be a computer gamer in the 1990s, “shareware” refers to a way of promoting computer games which was pioneered by Apogee Software and which quickly spread around the gaming industry for a while in the 90s.

Basically, quite a few games back then would be divided up into three or four “episodes” and the first episode (the “shareware version” of the game) would be given away for free – with explicit permission for people to share it freely on floppy disks and on the internet.

Not only did this give people a large preview of the game, it also meant that the audience would effectively advertise it for free if they liked it by giving the shareware to their friends or posting it online.

Plus, since the shareware was only part of a game and it often contained instructions for ordering the full version, if people liked it then there was an incentive for them to buy the full game.

Unlike the short promotional “demo versions” of games that were popular in the late 90s and early-mid 00s (which only included 1-3 levels of a game), an old-fashioned shareware version of a game gave the audience a moderately-sized (and often partially self-contained) portion of the game to make them feel really involved in it before asking if they wanted to buy the rest.

So, how can this cool sales technique from the 90s be used for e-books?

Well, for starters, you will need to create a second (DRM-free) “shareware” e-book as well as your main book which you will give away for free and encourage people to share with each other online. This “shareware” e-book will, of course, include links to where people can buy the full version if they want to.

Before you do this, make sure to check that your e-book site both allows you to release things for free and to release multiple things containing the same content. If your e-book site doesn’t allow you to do the second of these two things, then don’t worry – there’s something else you can do in order to stay within the rules (but, more on that later).

After this, you need to choose a fairly sizeable part of your book – basically anything up to about a third or so of it. You don’t have to start at the absolute beginning of your story, but your extract should begin fairly close to the beginning – so that you don’t end up confusing your readers. If the extract ends on a cliffhanger of some kind, then this is even better – but it isn’t essential. This will be the “shareware” version of your e-book.

Likewise, if your story contains several distinctly different plot threads, then think about compiling one of these plot threads into a single e-book (if this is possible) and releasing this as shareware.

If you’re writing a short story collection, then making shareware is really easy. Just compile three or four of your short stories into a separate e-book and release it as shareware. Ideally, you should include one of your best stories (preferably first) and a couple of average stories. Remember, you need to keep some good stuff set aside for your paying customers.

But, as I mentioned earlier, some e-book sites might not allow you to publish two books containing the same content.

So, what do you do if you are in this situation?

Simple, you write something new. It could be a short prequel or a side-story of some kind that introduces one of the main characters. It doesn’t have to be as long as an extract-based shareware e-book (and it could just be a short story), but it should be good enough to make people interested in the world of your story and your characters.

Writing a completely new “shareware” story also has the advantage that it’s something extra for people who have already read your full e-book.

Yes, this extra short story might not earn you any more money but it will make your existing fans even more loyal and, therefore, more likely to buy your next book.

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Sorry that this article was slightly long, but I hope it was useful πŸ™‚