Co-Authoring a Work of Fiction
In March, I placed a new short story titled, Stealing Helen, for sale on Amazon. It was co-authored with my cousin Richard LaVerghetta. I wrote about growing up with Rich in my blog post, The Calling. Rich’s mother and my mother are identical twins, so Rich and I spent a lot of time together when we were young. In the process we developed some similar interests, such as our love of ancient history.
One night while Rich and I were watching the movie Troy, we spent the majority of the time groaning at all of the movie’s errors. For instance, in one scene the Greek city of Sparta appears on the coast. In actuality, Sparta is inland, about 30 miles from the sea.
Sad to say, Troy is about as accurate as Sarah Palin’s 2011 comment that during the Revolutionary War, Paul Revere rode to warn the British, not the American colonists. While laughing at the movie’s many gaffs, we wondered if the film had a historical consultant (it doesn’t). If it had, we postulated that the poor fellow probably demanded his name be deleted from the credits as it would serve as a black mark on his career.
Thus the idea for Stealing Helen was born. It’s main character, Donald, is a fictional history professor at Princeton University, and the historical consultant on the film. Most of the characters are based on real people involved with the film, including; Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Peter O’Toole, Diane Kruger and the director Wolfgang Peterson.
To let people know this is not journalism, this is farce, we added a sub-title on the cover, “A satire about the movie Troy,” and we added a disclaimer on the copyright page stating, “This is a work of satire. All characters and events in this story, including those based on real people, are entirely fictional.”
To write the story, Rich and I adopted a technique we used when we were teenagers. I wrote a scene of the story, sent it to Rich, who wrote the next scene, and so forth.
What began as a project to poke fun at Troy, became something else as the story progressed. I’m not sure how it happened, but as we were writing we began drawing parallels between what was going on in ancient Troy and what was going on in Donald’s personal life.
The end result, particularly the ending of the story, was a surprise to Rich and I, as it concluded with a scene we had not foreseen when we initiated the project. Chalk it up to the magic of writing. Sometimes delightful things happen that you hadn’t anticipated. What started out as comedy, ends with something poignant to say about relationships.
Decision to Place only on Amazon
The story appears only on Amazon. At this point, I see no reason to place it on Barnes & Nobles or Smashwords, as neither book seller yields anywhere near the number of readers as Amazon. From what I’ve noted over the past year, Amazon truly is king.
One additional note. It appears that Amazon’s ‘free book’ promotion is drying up. It’s no where near as effective as it was a year ago. In April 2013, when I offered The Wandering King for free for five days it yielded approximately 900 downloads. When I did similar with the short story Inherit the Flames early in 2014, it yielded about 150 downloads. Stealing Helen yielded only 75.
From what I’ve read, Amazon has woken up to the fact that they don’t make any money by offering free content. So it seems they’ve changed their mysterious algorithms related to book rankings yet once again. Where in the past, after offering your book for free it ended up placed high in its book category, now there is no lift at all after the book’s free promotion is concluded. Which gives authors one less reason to give their book away.
What Amazon is now pushing is their new ‘countdown deal’ promotion. Instead of offering your book for free, this new deal enables you to lower the price of your book for 5 days.
I imagine these changes will help Amazon accomplish its goal of eliminating the mountains of free content on their site, and make them more money.
My apologies for not posting something here in my blog to let people know when Stealing Helen was free. If you are interested in reading an amusing short story, the good news is that it’s only .99 cents. That’s a bargain in any historical epoch.