Minigrooves Vol. 2 — Coming soon

Volume 2 coming soon
Note: this won’t necessarily be the final design for the cover of Volume 2

Later than expected

It’s not that I’m bad at planning, but since my previous status update on the project, various things and setbacks have happened behind the scenes, and publishing the second volume of Minigrooves before August became unfeasible. I could have made it in a rush, but I want to offer a decent product, not a hurried job carried out in a few intense days.

At the time of writing, I have completed the editing and proofreading stages, and written a new short story to set the final count right. I thought I had 24 stories ready, but it turns out that I mistakenly counted The Blessed Event Room (Part 1) and The Blessed Event Room (Part 2) as two separate stories, while they’ll count as one in the book. So I ended up with only 23 stories and had to rectify the mistake.

What’s left to do: perfect a final layout on iBooks Author and assemble the materials, write Author’s Notes about the stories, add a few extras. All things considered, I think I should have Volume 2 ready by end of September – first half of October. It will be available first on Apple’s iBooks Store, then on the Kindle platform together with a reworked edition of Volume 1. I really hope to debut both books on the Kindle platform in November, but I guess at this point it’s more a they’ll be ready when they’re ready kind of ETA.

Lessons learnt from Volume 1

With the first volume, perhaps due to my excitement for finally self-publishing many stories I wanted people to read, I may have made the mistake of offering too much stuff in a single package (42 short stories, plus various extras). Despite my repeatedly saying that one can read Minigrooves in a non-sequential manner, that you can just open the book and read one story when you want and when you have time, I have the feeling that the overall impression has been, Whoa, that’s a lot. I’ll never finish this.

The main consequence of offering so many things packed in one single volume is that, for all the work I’ve put into it, I had to set a price that reflected the time and effort, and the quality of the materials. I thought that $9.99 was a fair price, I still think it is, but I guess that the utter disaster Volume 1 has been with regard to sales is largely due to its price. It’s already difficult to convince people to buy a useful, well-designed $3.99 app, imagine a $9.99 ebook.

Therefore, Volume 2 of Minigrooves will have a different vibe, a different approach. Fewer stories to begin with (I think 24 is perceived as more manageable than 42), fewer extras, and a lower price point (I’m thinking about a $3.99-$4.99 tier). As for the Kindle platform, I’m thinking about launching both books at the same (lower) price.

As for marketing, I’m always open to help and suggestions. One thing I’ll never get tired of repeating, though: If you purchased Minigrooves and liked the stories, PLEASE tell other people about the project, RECOMMEND the ebook, write a brief review. Everything helps to support my writing. Thank you.

Minigrooves: a status update

EndSeason2

In case it wasn’t obvious by the recent lack of new stories published here, with the airing of Minigroove №24 The Missing Origin, the Second Cycle (or ‘Season’) of Minigrooves has come to an end. This means that the work leading to the publication of Volume 2 of Minigrooves has already begun.

With my creative work, I usually proceed with a It’s ready when it’s ready approach, but I’m trying to do my best to have Volume 2 published on the iBookstore around mid to late July. Since this time the stories are 24 instead of the 42 of Volume 1, all the re-reading, editing, and book designing process should be quicker.

I haven’t forgotten the Kindle platform. Last year I often mentioned that I was working on a Kindle version of Volume 1 of Minigrooves, and indeed I was, but my inexperience in preparing a properly formatted and Kindle-friendly text, combined with the lack of a useful, WYSIWYG tool for Mac OS X à la iBooks Author, made me lose a lot of time redesigning and reformatting the book from scratch only to realise (at about 40% of the work done) that I was doing things the wrong way. With all the flaws of iBooks Author as a publishing tool, I wished many times Amazon could offer a similar software. At least iBooks Author produces an exact replica of what one will see on an iPad or Mac. Designing for the Kindle is quite frustrating, more so when you’re preparing your first book.

I have to thank Alex Roddie — who is way more experienced than me in the Kindle platform — for passing many useful tips on how to tackle this non-trivial task. So hopefully, after the summer holidays, I’ll publish both Volume 1 and Volume 2 of Minigrooves in Kindle format. It’s still an idea, but the plan is to launch them both at a special price. I’ll let you know more as the work proceeds.

In a few weeks I’ll progressively remove the stories you can read on this site, save for a few fragments and extras that won’t be included in Volume 2 of Minigrooves. I’m also considering publishing the occasional short story just for the Web and as a way to promote my writing. It’s always a work in progress with these things, isn’t it?

Minigrooves: the feedback so far

In a word: abysmal, but what little feedback I’ve got has been extremely encouraging. For that, once again I have to thank Alex Roddie, who back in March wrote an excellent review (together with a mini-interview with yours truly) on his Pinnacle Editorial blog: Book review and interview: Minigrooves by Riccardo Mori. He writes:

They’re quick stories, but you can’t read them with your brain switched off — and I think that’s a good thing.

The imagery is powerful and the writing is vibrant, immediate, with an intense focus on a character or a situation, sometimes a theme — sometimes all three within a single story. The ‘minigrooves’ are concentrated and efficient. […]

Where appropriate, the language is completely transparent and the story permeates directly into the reader’s mind; but sometimes it prompts slower reading and more thoughtful interpretation. This is always for a reason. Again there’s that sense of meticulously crafted writing, of deliberateness and enormous skill in painting these short sketches of language and narrative.

I’m really thankful for this, because Alex has perfectly understood my intentions and the hard work behind the 42 stories plus all the extras provided in Volume 1 of Minigrooves.

I suspect many reasons behind the otherwise disheartening feedback (and book sales). I know that my marketing efforts haven’t been particularly consistent or effective. The truth is, I don’t want to alienate people by constantly sending tweets, posts and reminders about my book. Yet, on a few occasions, judging by other people’s reaction (“Oh, you’ve published a book of short stories? When?” – “Almost two years ago actually!” – “Oh, I didn’t know, why haven’t you advertised it?”), I realised I must have been perhaps a little too subtle with my messages. I’ll try to rectify that, but I have to tell you, it’s not easy. You never know when it’s too much or too little. Recently I’ve stopped reading many blogs because I’ve noticed that their authors, for the past months, have just been basically talking about themselves, what they’re writing or creating or producing, the podcasts they’re preparing or in which they’re showing up as guests, and so on and so forth, and I would really hate to end up doing the same on my sites, voluntarily or involuntarily.

Another reason of the little success and feedback has probably something to do with the ‘limited’ ways to enjoy my stories: the book is only on the iBookstore, and you can read it on an iPad (mini or regular) or on a Mac. I put limited between quotes because, well, I don’t think the iPad is a bad tool for reading books. Or the Mac, for that matter. Many people do a lot on their iPads, for some it’s their sole computer, yet when it comes to reading a book on it, eh, it’s a problem, it’s not ideal, etc. Same with the Mac: people spending an inordinate amount of time reading stuff on the Web, but a book — or the occasional short story, in this case, which by the way may be even shorter than an article you read on the New York Times or on Wired — eh, reading a short story on the computer is not ideal, is problematic, and so forth.

Another reason is perhaps the price. $9.99 (or €8.99) for a digital book sounds expensive nowadays, in a digital market that’s driven by cheaply-priced apps. I think it’s a fair price that reflects the months of hard work behind the book and the quality of the final product. By buying the book you’re also supporting my writing and helping me. Once my primary source of income was my translation work, now times are way harder than before, and every little thing — like selling a few copies of Minigrooves each month — really, really helps. I appreciate the mentions and occasional retweets, don’t get me wrong, but I’d appreciate even more if more people actually purchased and read my stories.


The new Minigrooves official site

When the Minigrooves project began back in March 2012, I thought that opening a Tumblr account for it was both enough and also the most suitable way to periodically broadcast the stories at the original pace of two per week. Then, when I finally published the first volume of the series, that Tumblr account started feeling a bit limited. A few friends also suggested that Tumblr was not exactly the platform where people go in search of stories to read, and while I didn’t entirely agree with them, I started thinking about giving Minigrooves its own space. The more I thought of it, the more it made sense, so a couple of months ago I registered this domain. A WordPress installation on a standalone website is more versatile, and the Twenty Fourteen theme — as you can see — turned out to be quite fitting. I want to thank my friend Grant Hutchinson for his assistance and inspiration in choosing the minigroov.es domain. I like short URLs, and this is certainly more memorable, and more personal, than minigrooves.tumblr.com

Welcome

Here we are, then. I’ve tried to make navigating the site a simple, straightforward job. The main pages containing essential information are all listed in the navigation bar above. On the left sidebar you’ll find the most recent posts and stories. In the footer, a few testimonials and thank-yous. I’ve changed the default font for this theme and opted for a couple of typefaces that should be more suitable for reading my stories. They are Vollkorn by Friedrich Althausen for the text, and Miso by Mårten Nettelbladt for titles and subtitles. The Twenty Fourteen WordPress theme is also optimised for tablets and smartphones and should make browsing this site easier if you’re using such devices.

A change in the way stories are broadcast

Up to now, all the minigrooves published online have remained online and available to read even after publishing the first volume as an ebook. I decided to keep things this way because, among other things, it was a quick way to show new interested readers what the project was about, and see whether they liked my writing style, the various story themes, and so on. Minigrooves’ Volume 1 contains a few nice extras — bonus stories, commentary and notes by yours truly, ‘alternate takes,’ and so on. This way, even those people who followed the stories during their ‘airing’ period, or discovered them online afterwards, would find something of value by purchasing the ebook.

But by now, at the time of writing, almost a year has passed since I published the first 42 stories, so I decided to pull them. If you want to have a look at some of them before purchasing the ebook, you can download a sample on the iBookstore with three full stories.

I’ve also come to think that, if Minigrooves‘ airing model wants to resemble the way TV series are broadcast, the stories I publish online while a cycle (or ‘season’) of Minigrooves is ongoing should have a more transient nature. Therefore, from now on, only the five most recent stories will remain available to read here. As soon as a new minigroove is published, the oldest of the five will disappear. I think this should keep things more interesting until a new volume of short stories is finally published.

Enjoy, and Thank you.