For Brilliant Friends

Complicated, Secret, Wildly Visionary

One of the tricky things about maintaining an Author Platform™ (if you’re me, which I am) is figuring out which things to talk about when. I’m a naturally shy person to start with, and quite a lot of what I’m working on is complicated, secret, or wildly visionary in ways that I’m not used to people understanding. But it’s actually probably just the sort of thing that’s worth sharing.

More to the point, I want to stay in touch with you. You’re really wonderful, interesting people, and I like hearing from you and letting you in on what I’m working on. I don’t want to go dark for months at a time. So I’m going to try an experiment, basically start using this blog for semi-regular informal brain dumps. Schemes in progress. Experiments. Failures and discoveries. Complications. Revolutions to instigate. That sort of thing.

And when my lizardy1 brain tells me nobody will like/get/care about the complicated/secret/wildly visionary stuff, here’s how I’m going to try to fight back.

Complicated Stuff: Trust you guys to (a) be smart and (b) self-select.

I find it harder than you’d think to write about what I’m interested in and trust the right people will find me. But if I can be bold and true, I believe there are people who will be interested, even if it’s more about tech brilliance or reimagining crowdfunding than about my next story.

And honestly, I’m learning some super-cool stuff these days. Granted, it’s stuff about how to build a new kind of hybrid-publisher-slash-book-lovefest and nifty “shortcuts” that will make my job really easy just as soon as I invest several hundred hours on the front end. But still super-cool.

Secret Stuff: Stop trying to fake people out.

An ongoing question I wrestle with is how much to reveal about (a) things that are in progress and (b) unexpected behind-the-scenes facts, like how easy it can be to get a high-ish rank in a small-ish category on Amazon. I think holding off on revealing in-progress stuff is fine; revealing half-done work is no fun for you and no use to me. But the other kind gets more insidious.

It turns out it’s pretty easy to give an inflated sense of my success or importance, in the hope that I can impress and excite you and get more people into what I’m doing. But that’s not cool. So I’m going to try to be pretty transparent about how things are actually going.

And the work in progress? I’m still figuring that out, but I’ll try to pull back the curtain as much as I can without ruining the experience for any of us. And maybe even have more spoilery bits available for those who don’t mind having magic tricks ruined, so to speak.

Wildly Visionary Stuff: Be less afraid.

When I hesitate to share big ideas for the future, it’s because I care a lot and I hope a lot and I don’t want people to think the vision is (i.e. I am) dumb. But the alternative is being either shallow (not sharing what I care about) or fake (pretending to care about other stuff). So that’s no good.

And the thing is, the wildly visionary bits are the really cool part. It’s sometimes hard to make it seem plausible to the outside world—I mean, if it were clearly plausible I’m not sure it would count as wildly visionary—and that can make it easy for people to not take the ideas seriously, but I’m going to practice not worrying about that. Some of the ideas won’t happen. That’s fine. But some of them will, and either way it’s still worth sharing the dream.

My secret hope: I’m not actually nearly wildly visionary enough, and getting you in on my schemes will make everything even more awesome.


1 Per autocorrect, ‘lizardy’ isn’t a word. See? We’re already learning together.

First 1,000 Copies!

I started consolidating my book sales numbers the other day and discovered something cool. Looking across platforms and counting free promos, I recently distributed my 1,000th book!

Thanks so much to all of my lovely readers for buying, reading, reviewing, spreading the word, and sending your love and support and encouragement. I say it all the time, but you are truly the best!

Cheers,

—Ben

PS – For the curious, here’s a breakdown:

  • About 75% of those copies were free to the readers, either as free promos or downloads of Hubris Towers Episode 1, which is perma-free. The rest have been paid sales.
  • The Stone and the Song accounted for about 70% of the sales and 55% of the free promos. This surprised me a bit since there are three HT books and only one S&S. Some factors:
    • S&S generated a big surge of interest pre-launch and got nearly 100 pre-orders.
    • The first free promo for S&S got over 300 downloads with almost no publicity from me. Still not sure why.
    • S&S has been available twice as long as the average HT episode.
  • In-person sales of Hubris Towers pocket editions have provided just under a third of HT’s sales and just over half of HT’s profits. This makes sense because most online sales are ebooks, and all in-person sales are paperback sales where CreateSpace doesn’t take a cut.
  • Excluding free copies of HT Ep1, we have about a 74% read-through rate from Ep1 to Ep2 and 31% from Ep1 to Ep3 (so far – one thing I’ve realized is that readers often take a few months to get to a book they bought.)
    • If we include free copies of Ep1, rates drop to about 9% Ep1 to Ep2 and 4% Ep1 to Ep3.
    • Currently we have about 42% read-through from Ep2 to Ep3.
  • The land speed of an unladen (European) swallow appears to be 24 mph.1

Birthday Reflections + 6 Months as a Self-Published Author

I turned 32 on Friday and, as most things do, it got me thinking.

  1. I’m just a few years away from being twice as old as all the college freshmen.
  2. I’ve been married for over 20% of my life. (FTW! Best. Wife. Ever.)
  3. I’m a dad. Still not used to thinking of myself that way. The other day in church our pastor asked all the parents to raise their hands and it took me a second to realize I was a parent.
  4. It’s been six months since I self-published my first book. This one totally blew my mind. Since then my books have hit #1 Free in Humor and Top 10 Paid in Fairy Tales and we launched PintsAndProse.com and published 3 episodes of Hubris Towers and I’m on the verge of a brilliant new adventure with Clickworks Press. Wow. Six months. What can we do in five years?
  5. It seems I am now at a point in life where an hour and a half to hang out at Starbucks and write is an annual celebratory treat. (Cf. #3)
  6. We have another baby on the way! I’m really excited to meet her, and also worried about what this will mean for my capacity to build my writing career as I continue my regular career.
  7. I think I’m officially past the age threshold for most things being impressive due to the age at which I did them. Unless it’s stuff like becoming President, which I don’t really want to do.
  8. I really feel like I’m reaching the beginning of my prime. I’ve been hitting a new stride in life: more confident, making visible progress toward long-held goals, better established than I ever deserved. God has blessed me so richly that it’s honestly taking a lot of thought and strategizing just to figure out how to make the most of what I’ve been given.
  9. That said, I’m clearly at the front end of things. I don’t know what things will look like in 10 years, but it’s plausible to think that by then I’ll be writing full time and doing a lot to help others get more better stories into the world. I can’t wait to see it unfold.

All in all, I’m enjoying growing up. Yes, there are a lot of trade-offs. Yes, it’s way harder than it used to be to get stuff done. But I also find myself stepping up to the challenge. And my daughter is one of the most incredible people I know, and my day job has taken a real turn for the better, and my wife is a fountain of ever-flowing blessing and beauty, and my friends are delightful and challenging and brave and supportive, and I can drink coffee and tea and whiskey and eat at restaurants sometimes and support incredible groups like Kiva and Feed My Starving Children.

And I can have as many cookies as I want.

PS – An amazing, free, easy birthday present is reviews on my stories, especially Hubris Towers Episodes Two and Three. Reviews are a quick, permanent way to majorly increase my visibility on Amazon and other platforms. Thanks!

Yay! Hubris Towers is Now Free!

Hi guys!

Just wanted to let you know that Hubris Towers is now free on Kindle, Kobo, and Google Play! (And cheap on Nook.) If you’ve been meaning to get around to it, now’s the time.

Also? It’s already shot up the charts to Top 5 Free in Humor & Entertainment short reads. What!? That’s crazy banana-pants!

Please go grab it, tell your friends, etc. This really means a lot to me and I’m super-excited, and I’d love to harness this opportunity to get it higher in even bigger categories to get some real visibility. I don’t like getting all sales-pitch-y, but it’s actually pretty hilarious and readers are loving it. More on that below. Click here to get it.

Much love,

—Ben

Hubris Towers Season 1, Episode 1: An Uneasy Interview Hubris Towers

★★★★★ 4.9 out of 5.0 stars

Amazon Top 5 Free in Humor & Entertainment short reads

Amazon Top 50 Free in Humor

Click here to read it FREE on Kindle!

“Luxury living at Hubris Towers: Isn’t it time you get what you really deserve?”

Comedy of manners meets comedy of errors in a new series for fans of Fawlty Towers and P. G. Wodehouse.

Readers are saying:

“had me laughing so hard that I had to put it down to catch my breath. Crafted with perfect timing, great characters, and hilarious dialog.”

“so funny and endearing”

“snappy, amusing, and lighthearted but not cheesy.”

Get it FREE on Kindle!

Inside the Mind of an Author Entrepreneur

Hi friends!

Today I’d like to let you in on my master plan, both the dreams and the practicalities. I’m a little nervous about this because my plans are, frankly, grandiose. I usually tone down the vision when I’m around the normals, but today you get an undiluted look at the layers and layers of vision, planning, and execution that fill my head most of the time. Or at least as many as I can get to in a reasonable amount of time.

This is me.

(On a personal note before we get started, June was crazy. We had a birthday, an anniversary, a hospitalization, a job change, and a book launch in the same weekend. More on that here if you’re interested.)

The Big Picture

I’m an author with a day job. I believe stories shape people and people shape the world, so I care intensely about getting more great stories to the people who will love them. Also I just love love love writing. So I want to make a full-time career out of writing and publishing.

So Many Books

The top layer on my mind is the books I’m writing and want to write. So far I’ve self-published a fairy tale and the first episodes of a comedy series, Hubris Towers. They’ve done moderately well, but they’re just a start. I’m 100k words into a Discworld-esque fantasy mystery and finishing up edits on The Dream World Collective. On the back burner I have drafts of a psychological thriller and a standalone comedy, and concepts for a YA series and more. I’m trying to keep this relevant, so I stripped out a couple paragraphs of details, but there’s more at byfaroe.com/projects if you’re curious.

This is me back when I was cool.

So those are, to varying degrees, in my head all the time. I’m always working on worldbuilding and ways to tighten the plots and show off the characters and find cleaner, richer ways to immerse readers in my worlds, and always thinking ahead to the next story.

Beyond that are the hundred and one tasks that go into creating the actual book. I’m always teaching myself more about print layout, ebook layout, typographic design, cover design, copyrights, ISBNs, book distribution, marketing copy, etc. Each of those could be a course in itself, but I’ll move on to the fun stuff.

A New Kind of Publishing House

For me it’s not enough to just write my own stories. There are too many other talented authors who have world-changing stories in them that may or may not ever get seen. I want to help get those stories out into the world, too, so I’m in the early stages of creating a publishing house called Clickworks Press. I want it to take the best from traditional and indie publishing, to support authors’ interests and maximize reader delight, and to think hard to build a new kind of publishing house from scratch, one that takes advantage of the fact that this is the future and we have amazing new technological and social opportunities that can drive a whole new kind of experience for storytellers and audiences.

This isn’t pie in the sky. I’ve got a couple other local authors already moving forward with publishing their books through Clickworks Press, and it’s really, really exciting. They’re not just random people I managed to wrangle in. These are talented authors with legitimately excellent books, books I’m thrilled about and believe in deeply, and I’m really excited to do whatever I can to get those books into the world. But it’s just the beginning.

Beyond Books

You’ll notice I said “storytellers and audiences,” not “writers and readers.” That’s because the vision goes beyond books.

I have no idea who this is. How did this get here?

I have no idea who this is. How did this get here?

Novels are my main medium, but it’s stories that change the world, and stories can take many forms. My co-author Bill and I are already discussing the possibility of a Hubris Towers audiobook done as an old-school radio drama, and we’re experimenting with narrating our own and each other’s books for audio. I’ll also be looking into professional narration for some of my upcoming books. So there’s the seed for Clickworks Audio.

When I get a little free time (heh) there are two podcasts I’d like to launch, one for authors starting from the ground up (“no real budget, no real platform, just lots and lots of words”) and one for a wider audience, about enjoying the good life of wisdom, contentment, and interdependence. I’ve recorded a pilot episode for the former and it’s looking plausible. It’s just a matter of setting up a sustainable routine of recording when the time is right.

I know a few others who are interested in podcasting, too. They’re interesting people with good ideas and fun personalities. With a little attention and effort, we could build a podcast network that’s really worth listening to. And some of them are making pretty solid strides in acting and filmmaking. Some of us create games. Some of us are developers. With my (and others’) writing and design chops and their film skills and a little more experience under our belts, I see exciting possibilities for the formation of Clickworks Studios and/or Clickworks Game Labs.

Live a Better Story

My amazing daughter being amazing.

My amazing daughter being amazing.

But it’s not just about telling better stories. It’s also about living better stories and helping others live better stories. As we continue to tell smart, funny, deep, moving, life-giving stories, I trust that we’ll grow into a huge family of people bonded by the worlds and characters and stories we love. And huge families of people bonded by love can do incredible things. Good stories inspire and energize and unify the people who love them.

For this one, I want to wait and see what we come up with together, so specific plans this early would be jumping the gun. But I’ve seen the first hints of what’s possible. A while back I started an experimental Kiva team with a few fans of The Dream World Collective, back when I was posting it as a serial on a blog. That team of seven people has disbursed over $3,000 in microloans to help people around the world. We’ve helped a Jordanian woman pay for higher education and Kyrgyz widows buy livestock and a Honduran single mother of four invest in her coffee crop and many others.

That was seven people and almost no coordination or effort, back when I was completely inexperienced at this sort of thing. Now imagine what we could do with a few thousand people and some real thought and effort.

Better Worlds Through Better Stories

Getting more great stories out into the world isn’t just about storytellers who are already great at what they do. I also want to help promising storytellers become great. I’m currently developing a prototype of a writing tool that could end up nothing short of revolutionary. It’s designed to help harness your intuition and creativity to help you bring out the heart of your story and really make it shine, whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, whether you’re writing deep literary fiction or crazy laser-action sci-fi. I’d like to make this and other tools and courses available to help bring out the potential in anyone who wants to write great stories.

My lovely, brilliant wife.

The lovely, brilliant love of my life.

I also want to bring people together to support and build up each other’s skills and projects. Now that Clickworks Press is expanding beyond me I’m putting deep thought into the website. I don’t want it to just be a random little e-commerce site that does no real business because Amazon exists.

Instead, this is our chance to continue extending that new kind of experience to connect storytellers and audiences. The simple part is things like rewarding readers who help spread the word, or encouraging people to buy good books for their friends and read them together, or setting up writing challenges and reading groups and fun things for people to join into together.

I think we can take it to the next level, though. What if we became a micropatronage community with a focus on apprenticeship and mentoring? What if we used incremental challenges, badges, and leveling up to train the next generation of creatives and help the best get discovered? This is yet another part I could go on about forever, but I won’t here. Short version: imagine Patreon meets Khan Academy meets NaNoWriMo. Drop me a line at byfaroe at gmail dot com if you want to help me hash out the long version, or sign up for my friendly updates to quietly watch from the shadows as the adventure unfolds.

Scrunchy faces are important.

Back To Reality

So all of that is in the back of my mind most of the time, and I’m constantly thinking through strategies and next steps. Which brings us back to the practicalities. The execution has enough layers and details that it turns out it gets long and (perhaps) boring to talk about in depth. It’s a little mind-boggling even in brief.

I’d be happy to share concrete steps on any of this if you guys are interested. Just let me know in the comments. In the meantime, here’s an overview of what I’m working on or about to be working on in various arenas.

Making More Excellent Books

Hubris Towers – Write Episode 3. Make the paperback and ebook covers for Ep. 3. Create new back matter in Ep. 1 to point to Ep. 2. Update it on CreateSpace, Google Play, Nook, Kobo, and Kindle. Ditto to make Ep. 2 point to Ep. 3 after 3’s release. Update the landing pages here and on Pints & Prose.

Me and my co-author on Hubris Towers

Me and my co-author on Hubris Towers

Dream World Collective – Finish entering the plot into my prototype plot-hacker for analysis and improvement. Edit the last third of the novel. Set up an option for people on my mailing list to get it free in weekly chunks delivered by email. (Sign up here to get in on this when it arrives.) Finish the cover design. And the paperback cover design. And the hardcover-with-dust-jacket cover design. And the print layout.

Frobisher – Write more!

Building Ways To Connect With People

Clickworks Press Website – Pick a host and a URL for preliminary simple website, probably a WordPress.org site. Set up site structure (how to display books, purchase links, author bios, etc.), hopefully including author patronage options, probably via Gumroad. Also learn Python (at Codecademy.com, which rocks) and look into Jinja2 as a possible route to developing a cooler interactive site later.

My Mailing List – Set up introductory welcome emails. Set up auto-delivery of free story to loveliest readers. Set up ways for readers to help/get involved. Possibly send pictures of sea monsters and/or cute animals.

Hubris Towers Mailing List – Set up introductory welcome emails and free book as welcome gift. Set up other free book as enticement. Take over world.

Elsewhere – Write semi-regularly for this blog and for Pints & Prose. Learn what Twitter is.

Building Ways To Get Others’ Stories Found And Loved

Emir Seyyid Mir Mohammed Alim Khan, the Emir of Bukhara. Origin of the phrase

Emir Seyyid Mir Mohammed Alim Khan, the Emir of Bukhara. Origin of the phrase “like a boss.”

Clickworks Press Business Model – Figure out how to maximize my authors’ sales and audience connection in non-evil ways. Figure out how to collect money and then get it to authors. Figure out tax stuff. Figure out awesome surprises. Figure out whether it’s better for newish authors to get paid double for a direct sale or to get exposure on other platforms. If former, figure out how to set up direct sales. Start thinking through workflow for a call for submissions.

Pints & Prose – Build out the projects page. Keep writing better pieces. Solicit great work from local creators.

Back Burner/Future Awesome

Podcast – Sketch out my experiences so far this year preparatory to sharing said experiences in an engaging and transparent manner on a podcast. Look into podcast hosting. Set aside times to record.

Future Books – Finish draft of Carsick, maybe for NaNoWriMo. Finish plan for The Clockwork Tower, a YA series. Rework frame narrative for the psychological thriller. Start planning the next couple books in the Hastily Dobbs series.

Games – Keep learning how to create interactive story games on StoryNexus. Look into what it would take to get custom Knight’s Bridge boards and pieces created. Possibly start a Kickstarter project for this.

So There’s a Lot Going On In My Head

It’s probably too much for one person. But the thing is, all of this is possible. It’s big and there’s a lot of it, but it all boils down to real steps we can take. I think we can really do this, and it could be awesome. Sure it’s a ton of work, but it’s so worth it!

Behold!

Behold!

A big source of my drive is that I’m deep-down convinced my stories are really good and will really improve peoples’ lives, and I’m going to run out of days a lot sooner than I run out of stories, so the sooner I can get to writing full-time, the more stories I’ll be able to get into the world. And stories can last generations, so every one I can finish means more lives changed for years and years to come.

I didn’t start this post planning to ask for money, but if this excites you and you want to help free me up to get more of it into reality faster, the two best ways you can help are by spreading the word (e.g. by sharing this post) and by clicking below to give a monthly (or single) gift to help me cover the costs of production, distribution, experimentation, and getting more awesome.

Thank You

I’m surrounded by incredibly supportive, interesting, generous people and I’m so grateful to each of you who have helped me along the path. I say it all the time, but it’s true. You’re the best!

Cheers,

—Ben

Also, while we’re at it, here are a few other author entrepreneurs worth checking out:

Rachel Aaron – Finally someone who understands that analysis isn’t soulless. Nerdy and funny and smart. Beautifully insightful thoughts on the craft and business of writing. Made me feel I’m not alone in the world as an analytical creative.

Self Publishing Podcast / Sterling & Stone – A trio of highly prolific storytellers with great vision, strategy, and experimental chutzpah. They set a really high bar, and then do everything they can to help everyone else get over it too.

Kate M. Colby – Super-useful writing resources, a new vlog, and an upcoming novel worth watching for.

Libbie Hawker – Author of historical fiction and helper of authors. Brilliant at breaking down the process of writing (and selling) your books into clear steps you can act on now.

Rocking Self-Publishing with Simon Whistler – A very approachable, useful, and fun podcast interviewing successful self-published authors.

Kara Jorgensen – Author of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series. Creating and growing at an impressive rate.

Ani Alexander – Author and podcaster working to inspire and encourage other writers and provide useful publishing resources.

Bookshelf Battle – Wildly creative and prolific humor writer. Really almost manic in the quantity and diversity of the properties he’s created in very short order. But in a good way.

Pints & Prose – A creative laboratory I co-founded with a few other Baltimore writers, thinkers, and creators. Worth checking out (though I say it who shouldn’t).

May in Review + June Goals

Hi friends! May completely snuck up on me. Between a series launch, a string of family visits, and a heavy workload at the day job, I seriously didn’t even notice we were in a new month until about the 10th. It was, frankly, unsettling. Nevertheless, May was full of exciting developments. Let’s take a look.

May Accomplishments

1. Hubris Towers series launch!

Hubris Towers

Seriously! Go check it out!

Bill and I published Episode 1 of our new comedy series. It’s so good! You should totally read it!

  • Reader response has been phenomenal, with almost unanimous 5-star reviews to date. Brilliant!
  • First-month ebook sales were a little lower than I expected, but should pick up as we release new episodes.
  • The paperback Pocket Edition was surprisingly popular. I expected to sell a few to die-hard fans, but we sold dozens of them. Maybe because it comes with a free Kindle copy on Amazon. (Boom! Marketed.)

2. My first free promo I made The Stone & the Song free for two weekends in May, and—wow! Suddenly I understand why people use free promos!

  • My book hit #1 Free in Fairy Tales on the first day of the promo and stayed there for the rest of the weekend!
  • Downloads in the first day more than doubled my first month’s sales, and over the course of the two weekends I ended up with hundreds of downloads.
  • This is the first time I’ve definitively broken out of the friends-of-friends sphere of readers, and also resulted in my first (5-star!) review from a total stranger.
  • The first weekend did about four times as well as the second, and I have no idea why. Let me know if you have any theories or have seen similar results.

3. First multi-platform release The Stone & the Song is my KDP Select guinea pig, but long-term I definitely want to build up a robust cross-platform audience. Hubris Towers was my first multi-platform release.

  • So far, Hubris Towers is available on Nook, Kobo, Google Play, and Amazon.
  • So far no real traction on the non-Amazon platforms. I’m curious to see how this develops as the series matures and gains momentum. Still pretty sure it’s worth it long-term.

4. Released 2 more sections of the Dream World Collective

5. Wrote about 8,000 words of Hubris Towers Episode 2. (Now with Russians!)

  • Planned release date is June 13. That’s so soon!
  • This is by far the fastest-paced large-scale project I’ve attempted to date, and I’m really excited to see how that helps us build momentum.
  • Sign up here to get a reminder when it comes out

6. The Clickworks Press catalog is expanding! I can’t say too much yet, but I’m getting ready to release the first Clickworks Press book I didn’t write.

  • This is a game-changer. My plan from the beginning has been to make Clickworks Press bigger than me. Bringing in new authors makes it a fundamentally different kind of endeavor, and I’m so excited to be bringing in brilliant talent this early on.
  • Short-term, this helps authors streamline their publishing experience, cross-promote, and get more exposure. It points readers to great new reading experiences. It helps Clickworks Press develop legitimacy, flexibility, and a robust catalog. Long-term, just wait and see. We’ve got some incredibly cool ideas in the pipeline.
  • I’m still thinking through the details of the business model and I’d love to hear what you would find cool and useful. Drop me a line at byfaroe@gmail.com if you’re interested in brainstorming or have some ideas for me.

June Goals

That was long, so I’m going to keep this quick.

  1. Release Hubris Towers Season 1, Episode 2.
  2. Write 1/4 to 1/2+ of Hubris Towers Episode 3.
  3. Release more sections of The Dream World Collective.
  4. [Stretch] Set up a weekly auto-delivery system that will give people happy stories in their inbox.
  5. Iron out the first-phase Clickworks Press model.
  6. Investigate the costs and mechanisms of a Clickworks Press website that can support my super-cool ideas.
  7. [Possibly] Write more of The Unaccountable Death of Derelict Frobisher. Frobisher is the crème de la crème of my writing endeavors (which is saying something). It will not do to neglect it much longer.

What’s new with all of you? Anything I can get excited about with you? Tell me!

Cheers! —Ben

So Many Cool Things! Free Book, New Site, Call for Submissions, Series Launch

Hi friends!

Sorry to go incommunicado on you. May kind of snuck up and pounced. Also I have so many cool things going on that I didn’t even know where to start, so apparently I didn’t, but that’s no way to live. So here’s a quick rundown for now.

  • The Stone and the Song is free this weekend! If you like fairy tales, lyrical writing, living(ish) statues, or stories where the heroine does as much rescuing as the hero, now’s your chance to snap it up. (Click here to get it on Amazon.)
    • Super-cool sidenote: Last weekend was the first free promo I’ve ever done. The Stone and the Song hit #1 Free in Fairy Tales within 24 hours, and stayed there until the end of the promo! This time around it’s been hovering around the Top 10 so far, even without much promotion. Also got my first reviews from strangers, I’m pretty sure, including its 10th 5-star review!
  • Pints & Prose is live! I’m one of the founding editors and art director for Pints & Prose, a Baltimore-based creative laboratory. We’ve hosted local gatherings for years, and we officially launched our online presence earlier this month. It’s a place for writers, thinkers, and creators to create great work, enjoy it together, and share it with the world. I haven’t said anything about it because I didn’t want to be premature, but it’s been super-hard to stay quiet on this one. But now we’re live, and there are already some fantastic articles up, including a piece about why sports needs villains and a couple perspectives on the recent Baltimore riots. Check it out at pintsandprose.com!
    Ben Ponders the Pocket Edition

    The pocket edition is in my actual pocket!

    • Are you creative? We’re also looking for guest contributors, so if you’ve got great creative work to share with the world, submit it here and we’ll take a look.
  • Bill and I launched our new series, Hubris Towers! I feel like I haven’t shut up about this one, so I won’t go into it at length. Short version: I think it’s one of the funniest things I’ve written lately. Early reviews seem to agree. Also the pocket edition is so cool! Learn more here or buy it on NookKobo, or Amazon (US Int’l).
    • Protip: Buy the pocket edition on Amazon and you get the Kindle edition free!

Brilliant!

I’m so grateful, as ever, to have you all along for the ride. Big things are happening, people. Leave a comment and let me know how you’re doing. I miss you.

Cheers!

—Ben

Hubris Towers Cover Reveal! (+ Design Notes)

The time has finally come! I’ve been holding back on this for so long and I’m terribly excited to finally get to reveal the new cover for my upcoming comedy series, Hubris Towers!

Before I forget, sign up here to get a note when Hubris Towers comes out.

This is one of the funniest things I’ve written in a long time. One of our test readers almost hurt himself from laughing too hard for too long. I’m desperately trying not to spill the beans and just share all the funniest parts prematurely. But I do want to give you a better idea of what it’s about. Here’s my best attempt to date. See also Bill’s take.

Hubris Towers

I’m really proud of the cover. I designed and created it myself and, in classic bootstrapping style, did it all for free with images licensed for commercial reuse with modification and free image editing software. (GIMP 2, if you’re curious.)

To be fair, I got sucked in and let my perfectionist/fiddly side take over, so I probably spent 12-ish hours on it in total, which is not really optimal as a major side-goal with this project is to see how much we can streamline and minimize the production process. But I had the bulk of the work done in about half that, and the rest was optional fun messing around. And I’ve got it set up in a way that will let me create the next 7 covers in about 5-10 minutes each (literally), so if we think of it as laying infrastructure that’s still not too bad in the balance.

The progress bar at the bottom is something we decided to try out just for fun. It shows how far into the 8-episode season you are. I’m nervous some people will find it confusing, but Bill and I decided that it fits with our ideals as authors who are willing to try new things and play with convention.

Overall we were going for a timeless, fairly iconic, stylized look but one that still communicates that the story is set in the modern day. I drew inspiration from a type of cover layout that’s common in comedies and mysteries from a while back, and still used (albeit usually with a rather updated look and feel). Clean fonts, maybe an extra design element or two, but primarily a name, an object/image, and a title.

Image result for agatha christie books

Silhouettes reinforce the iconic look, while a cartoony or unreal element helps signal that it’s a comedy.

The hand with serving tray hints at the subject matter—the main character Jimmy Acorn trying to get a job as a concierge at a new luxury condo complex—and the modern skyscraper reinforces that while also helping set the scene in the modern day. The bold splash of color is eye-catching, including a bright thick border that will work well in thumbnails. (I’ve got an alternate version with a single pinstripe border and gray edge that I think will look stunning on larger, paper covers.)

I can’t wait to share this with you guys! Sign up for our HT-specific mailing list to get notified about a secret deal that will disappear before we publicly announce the release.

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New Preview Page for The Dream World Collective (+ Hubris Towers!)

I have a couple really exciting things to share soon, but I’m exerting all of my patience to wait until they’re actually ready. In the meantime, I’ve added a new preview page for The Dream World Collective at byfaroe.com/dwc. You can get a story synopsis and read a free sample. I’ll be developing it a little more in the near future, with access to even more free chapters, so stay tuned. If you have any ideas about how to make the page prettier, more interesting, or more useful, please let me know in comments. Thanks!

Also, the first episode of Hubris Towers is rapidly approaching! So excited! It’s one of the funniest things I’ve written in a long time. Oh, man. I can’t wait. You’re going to get to meet Billiam! You’re—Ok. Patience. All will be revealed soon enough.

You can sign up for Hubris Towers updates here. Everyone on the list will get a note about a super-secret launch deal that’s going to disappear before we announce the launch publicly. So go do that thing.

Cheers!

—Ben

C. S. Lewis on Friendship at First Sight

I consistently enjoy Spiritual Friendship, but this one struck a special chord with me. One of the deep themes of The Unaccountable Death of Derelict Frobisher is the sense of isolation that comes from thinking there’s nobody else in the world who really gets you or likes what you like.

These glimpses of another person who understands—these moments of friendship at first sight—cut through that isolation. I suspect introverts may experience this particularly strongly. When it’s hard to connect in general, a deep and instant connection is a precious gift, especially when it proves to have staying power over the years. I love this reminder to honor the depth and reality of those friendships.

Plus I’m a sucker for C. S. Lewis and Narnia. But who isn’t?

Spiritual Friendship

I have visiting nieces and nephews at the moment, which means I’ve been reading more children’s literature recently. As I was reading, I was struck by this passage in C. S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader:

All morning on the following day they sailed in fairly shallow water and the bottom was weedy. Just before midday Lucy saw a large shoal of fishes grazing on the weed. They were all eating steadily and all moving in the same direction. “Just like a flock of sheep,” thought Lucy. Suddenly she saw a little Sea Girl of about her own age in the middle of them—a quiet, lonely-looking girl with a sort of crook in her hand. Lucy felt sure that this girl must be a shepherdess—or perhaps a fish-herdess—and that the shoal was really a flock at pasture. Both the fishes and the girl were quite close to the…

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