Signed books

Our authors Tee Morris and Philippa (Pip) Ballantine are very active, traveling around attending conventions and signing books all over the country and around the world.

However there is only so much ground they can travel, and without question they cannot possibly meet all of their readers face to face. We’ve had many of those that miss out ask about getting hold of signed copies. Yes, even in this day of the digital download, many people still value a signed copy of a book.

So now we worked out a simple way to allow those that aren’t in an area Tee and Pip visit can get hold of a signed copy- that includes limited hardback editions. At the moment this only includes residents of the United States, but you can contact Pip at pjballantine dot com, to discuss getting a copy to your country and how much postage will be.

So visit Imagine That! Studios on the Square Marketplace. Books make great presents, and signed ones make an even more of an impression.

Pip’s newest releases, Kindred and Wings, and Harbinger will be available there too as soon as they have been released.

Harbinger

Latest Project: Book Trailer

After weeks of content, you may have noticed that Imagine That! went strangely silent. What happened?

We got busy, that’s what! In April and May, things shifted into overdrive with the launch of an ambitious Kickstarter project and production on a book trailer for award-nominated author PJ Schnyder.

Today, we present our latest…

This is one option we offer for video production services, built with stock video and royalty-free music. We also offer voiceover options for the titles as well. The cost of this production came out to $850 which includes the purchase of ten stock video clips.

Imagine That! offers a wide variety of options to make the best video presentation for your needs. Whether it is a Kickstarter project, an upcoming event, or a book trailer like the one above, contact us to find out what we can accomplish within your budget.

Free Friday – 31st May

This weekend’s Free Friday giveaway is;

Chasing the Bard

Use coupon code LZ45D at checkout but make sure to get it before Monday, 3rd June 2013!

Sive, the goddess of battle, hopes that William Shakespeare may be able to change the fate of her people. The Fey are dying, killed by something beyond the boundaries of worlds. But a dark power imprisoned by human and Fey, plots to destroy both worlds, and unmake all that they have created. Can the magic of word and imagination save creation?

Chasing the Bard

Five Signs that an Interview Is Done

Take a few spins around the Internet and you will find a good amount of blogposts on what to do in an interview, what to do after an interview, what can sink an interview, and what questions to ask at an interview. There are a good amount of these posts online; but from my own job hunts since 2007, I collected a few experiences that serve as my own warnings for when interviews and opportunities are not as promising as what they first seemed.

Consider the following as sure-fire signs you need to find a graceful exit, stage left.

1. The job description and actual opportunity are two different things. Everyone has a job, and some recruiters are resorting to tactics that are not necessarily illegal but highly unethical. I once applied for a job advertized as a Social Media Specialist position with an emphasis on marketing. When the recruiter replied to my application, I was informed that the position involved Social Media through marketing, promising fantastic commissions depending on my enthusiasm for the position. When I asked “So this is more of a sales position instead of a Social Media position?” the recruiter responded with “Are you interested in a career change?”

This tactic is a great way of showing a recruiter’s higher up’s how well they are performing, receiving and reaching out to a wide variety of potential associates. All it costs these recruiters are copious amounts of your time.

2. The recruiter is dropping buzz words left and right. I was approached by yet another recruiter that was interested in talking with me about a Social Media opportunity. Here’s how he initially described it:

“The candidate will tap into the ROI of his or her various networks, maximizing the impressions brought about from a like, a share, a re-tweet, and what-not. The idea of this approach to promotion and marketing is to tap into the potential of networks already established — namely your friends, family, Twitter contacts, and such — are then bringing those relationships into a client’s network and cultivating those to become testimonials to our clients.”

I paused and the asked “So you want me to turn to my personal networks and promote the client to them? Basically, you want me to be a Social Media telemarketer?” He “backed up” and explained the position in a different way…through a new plethora of buzz words, doing very little to make the position appear appealing.

If you need a dictionary of buzzwords to describe a position, chances are the position in question may test the boundaries of ethics. So you might want to re-consider a job that relies on double-speak to explain its requirements and duties.

(And yes, the recruiter really used “what-not” in the job description.)

3. Wining, Dining, and Power Playing. I was thrilled when the CEO of a PR group reached out to me to arrange a lunch meeting over an opportunity for their Vice President of Social Media Strategy and Training. The meeting was at a very fashionable restaurant in downtown Washington D.C. The CEO, two additional VP’s, and I had a terrific lunch, but my warning of what was really going on came when I was told:

  • The VP currently holding this position was not on Facebook, Twitter, or any other Social Media initiatives, and did not care for Social Media on a whole.
  • The current VP had come to an agreement with his CEO and fellow executives that he could running his own business on the side, and that original arrangement apparently wasn’t working out as originally planned by the PR firm.

So what did this tell me? This told me that the current executive wasn’t performing up to snuff; so as a power play, the CEO reached out to a potential replacement, and then held the interview in open company with two executives I had not met previously.

I was a scare tactic. Trust me — this is a place you really don’t want to be.

4. You need to bring the interview back on topic. Repeatedly. It might surprise you how many times I have struggled to keep the interview on track. The first time, I was in an interview where the president of the company was more fascinated with my time as a professional actor than what I can do with social media. If you find yourself trying to steer an interview back to the topic at hand, the truth of the interview is tough to swallow: they’re just not that into you.

black_hole5. Your time is irrelevant, and therefore worthless. I was scheduled for an interview with two directors and a VP, but had no idea exactly what the pay range was for this position. In the opening twenty minutes, an interview with the hiring recruiter, I asked the pay range of the position, I was given “That’s not my place to say. That’s the VP’s.” If this was a large organization, I’d understand but I knew from the recruiter this was an organization of seven people. When the VP finally gave me an appropriate time to ask this question, over two hours had passed; and this is when I discovered the pay range was not even close to what I would be asking.

Two hours. Gone. Not including the commute in and out of D.C.

This was a detail that could have been addressed within the first half-hour, but instead I had to wait for two hours. If this is how a prospect values your time in an interview, you have a good idea how your time is valued in the workplace. It also gives a good indication of how mismanaged time is in the work environment as well. After all, this was time lost for the job prospect as well as yours.

Exactly why is this kind of shoddy treatment happening? It would be easy to say “Oh it’s the economy, and employers are calling the shots…” but a job market with a seemingly endless talent pool to draw from is no hall pass for unprofessional behavior. Your time and your talent are still worth something. After all, this is why you’re interviewing for a position in the first place, right? Never forget the interview works both ways. Make sure to ask questions and keep an eye out for details. While the interview is a chance for a job opportunity to screen you, this is your chance to get an impression of a company as well.

Tell Me Everything: Why Your LinkedIn Profile Should Be Complete

linkedin-logoWhile I impress the need to be safe and to be selective in what to share, there are some times when a complete profile and sharing is imperative. Such is the case with LinkedIn. I myself have been using LinkedIn for a while now, but watching the professional networking site evolve into a more social experience, I have set aside more time to not only interact with its members but also take advantage of its options and benefits.

And if you haven’t, one advantage you should be taking advantage of is LinkedIn’s impressive mobile app, a terrific extension to what you can accomplish with LinkedIn working completely for you.

Herein lies the secret of LinkedIn — making it work completely for you. Even though LinkedIn is free, there is still an investment of time. When I found myself aggressively applying LinkedIn in 2012 for a job hunt, I knew I needed to give my online resume a complete update and overhaul, something I hadn’t done since 2009. I spent close to three days in re-writing summaries, collecting locations and titles, and updating employment history. That was when I notice a new feature: the “Profile Completeness” progress bar, located in the upper-right corner of my profile. I was only at 70%. I (can still) remember in college spending a solid week on my print resume, so another day or two to work on that 30% would not be so bad.

I hit the “100% completion” mark by the end of the day.

While I did feel a sense of accomplishment, I wondered why LinkedIn was suddenly focused on Profile Completeness? Wasn’t my degree and work experience enough? On a basic level, yes, but the basics alone isn’t what LinkedIn is all about. LinkedIn is a rare opportunity for candidates to get their name and experience in front of a physical person, and that can be a real challenge as resumes face a cyber-gauntlet designed to weed out candidates based on keywords. LinkedIn has evolved into the online initial screening and this is why a completed profile is important:

  • Completing a profile shows that you can finish a task. Think about it: you’re applying for a job and yet you didn’t feel the need to complete your profile, a trait that is visible when potential recruiters click the “View Full Profile” option.
  • Completing your profile showcases your writing skills. A skill essential to success in the corporate arena is strong writing. Your profile’s “Summary” is a first impression through writing, as well as a chance to pepper your profile with keywords that can improve your profile’s chances of being earmarked for consideration.
  • A complete profile goes more into the person behind the portfolio. While the basic one (or in those rare cases, two) page resumes give the details of you on the job, the complete LinkedIn profile offers you the ability to share published bylines, recommendations of peers and superiors from specific jobs, and honors and distinctions earned in the workplace.

Go on and invest some time in your LinkedIn profile. Set out to create a complete digital first impression that will keep you in front of potential clientele and employers. LinkedIn — when done right — can be your most powerful and impressive platform on which to build upon it a successful career.

The Power of a Share on Facebook

sharingAcross the social media board, perhaps the heaviest of heavy hitters in your online initiative is the house that Zuckerberg built — Facebook. Whether you run a Group Page that nurtures a strong community, a Fan Page granting your brand a new feed, or just a personal page where people can keep tabs on what you’re up to, Facebook remains the most popular of social media initiatives; and with all the up’s and down’s and slings and arrows of trips, stumbles, and “Why did they change that?!” protests, getting the most out Facebook is essential. In my time online though I have noticed a trend that tends to go overlooked. What I see are people stressing the importance of a “Like” on their respective pages. Don’t get me wrong — “Likes” are great and all. It is definitely serious bragging rights when you get a truckload of “Likes” for a posting on Facebook. What I stress to folks when it comes to Facebook — instead of people liking what they see, you really want people to share what they see.

What’s the difference? Quite a bit, actually.

First, you’ll hear many seasoned social media consultants go on about the importance (or, no kidding —ROI or Return on Investment) of a “Like” on Facebook. The “Like” is very important in that it is easily trackable. At a glance, you can see how many times your page or news item has been liked, and your own profile page lets your network know that you have liked something today.

This is where a “Like” on its own falls short. How? Let’s say a posting like “What’s Your Social Media Plan?” goes live on this blog. As you do, I post its link on Facebook, and you like it. The statistic shows up on the article itself and might appear on your profile page, depending on which “look” your Facebook timeline falls into.

Now ask yourself — how is that statistic helping to spread word about or bring new readers to your blog?

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When you “Share” an item on Facebook, you have a far more effective method to promote your brand. A “Share” will take the entire item — link, title, associated images, and more importantly its page of origin — and place it in both news feeds and profile walls. This way, not only is your link and Facebook home page appearing on their news feed and personal page, your links are now offered to everyone in their respective networks.

Sharing an item is just as easy as liking an item, provided Privacy Settings allow for sharing. Look at the options on a Facebook post, and you should see they read from left-to-right: Like, Comment, and finally Share. Click on “Share” and add your own note or comment to the item. (You don’t have to. Sharing an item without commenting will still share both your article and your Facebook homepage.) Now instead of just a public statistic, an item when shared is distributed throughout your network and, potentially, networks of your friends.

“Sharing” is tapping into the networking potential of Facebook; and with enough shares, it is very easy to see how quickly one story can go viral. This potential all starts with one person sharing. The more people sharing status updates, postings, and photos and videos, the more assurance you can take that your brand is extending beyond your circles and reaching new audiences. So the next time you are visiting brands you enjoy on Facebook, go one step further and “Share” that item. It may surprise you just how far-reaching that simple gesture will go.

Besides, it’s something we’re taught all through life — it’s good to share.

Keeping Things Simple when Planning

keep_it_simpleI am a busy guy. I’m a writer, a public speaker, a social media professional, and I’m a husband and father. Not necessarily in that order, mind you. Busy, busy, busy. On looking at my life in this nutshell, you have to wonder how I keep everything straight.

Rule out “day planner” as one of your options because, well, I have opinions about them.

It was in the early 2000’s when I purchased for myself this goal-tracking, life-prioritizing, project-planning, super-duper, all-encompassing, kill-a-velociraptor-sized organizer. (Serious investors in this day planner kit could get it in a leather-bound binder, but I opted out for the beginner’s level vinyl…although I did plan to level up in the future.) It had pre-formatted pages for specific tasks, elegant tabs that could be color coded, and even a set of strategies and instructions on getting the most out of it. I sat down one Saturday afternoon, with the kit’s instructions in front of me, and started planning out projects, prerogatives, and To Do lists.

When I was done mapping out the present day and upcoming week, I looked up at the clock. The sun had set. It was late. I had to go to bed.

“Well, that must have just been for the initial set-up,” you may think, but no. Oh no. It was recommended by this day planner’s “program that I haul this goal-tracking, life-prioritizing, project-planning, super-duper, all-encompassing, kill-a-velociraptor-sized binder everywhere I went. You know, just in case I suddenly got an idea, or needed a weapon when the zombie apocalypse happens (and, essentially, achieve my ongoing “living to see another day” goal).

But that really wasn’t the problem. The real problem came whenever an idea came to mind. Unlike that heady euphoria I enjoyed on new ideas or possibilities, I would be overcome with a sense of dread as this meant consulting THE ALL-MIGHTY PLANNER to see if I could fit any of them into my schedule. No, I could not merely “glance” at this calendar. No, I had to consult it, find out if I could fit this inspiration into my already-meticulously schedule, costing me even more time.

Here’s my issue with planners — they can easily devolve into timesinks. We can spend so much time organizing goals, projects, and To Do’s into particular categories, timetables, and spreadsheets, that we lose time in working on accomplishing goals, projects, and To-Do’s.

So how can you keep it all straight? Look at the tools you have on hand and keeping it simple.

For myself, the goal-tracking, life-prioritizing, project-planning, super-duper, all-encompassing, kill-a-velociraptor-sized organizer has been replaced by my iPhone and iCloud. If an event or an idea comes up, I access iCal and tap in a few details. Automatically iCal syncs not only with other Apple devices, but also with apps that are granted permission to access iCal (such as LinkedIn’s mobile app). Events can be assigned multiple alerts for multiple times, and these alerts are received across my Apple devices. iCal also allows you to send out notifications to other people, notifying them in an email of the event and any changes concerning it. All this from an app that is free on your devices.

iCal is a great way to keep it simple. Once you have outgrown it, set your sights on something more robust such as Evernote, a popular planner and organizer for students and professionals. Organization is essential in successful projects and careers, but make certain to keep your goal setting and day planning to the basics. By taking it easy and keeping things elementary in the beginning, you give yourself room to grow.

You can also make sure you’re getting things done, which is the whole point of being organized to begin with.

WHAT THE HELL IS A “HYBRID” AUTHOR, ANYWAY? from TerribleMinds.com

We at Imagine That! Studios are big fans of author, Chuck Wendig. With a colorful, no-nonsense, not-always-safe-for-work witticism, Chuck brings an honest approach to life as the modern offer. He has established an impressive bibliography of both traditional and self-published work, and he uses a term that we too have been using to describe our own publishing careers: the hybrid author.

But what exactly does that mean, or to put it in Chuck’s own words: What the Hell Is a “Hybrid” Author Anyway? And on his blog TerribleMinds.com, Chuck gives both the pros and cons of exactly what it means to be a hybrid author.

On this blog, I have shared my own thoughts on pursuing a career as an independent artist; but for a second opinion, have a preview of what Chuck Wendig breaks down as the pros and cons of being a hybrid author.

“Hybrid author.”

Sounds like we were made in a lab. A squirmy worm-mote in a test tube. Growing at an alarming rate. Genetics forged from a hundred different authors — Joyce, Woolf, Dickens, Rowling, King, a dash of Lee Child, a squirt of Neil Gaiman, an injection of Danielle Steel. A thousand books in our blood spinning, whirling, forming a helix-pudding of raw literary puissance. We swell. We burst from our enclosures. We run amok. We form tribes.

We create, and then we destroy.

Okay, maybe not.

The “hybrid” author is not so exciting as all that, I’m afraid.

The hybrid author merely looks at all the publishing options available to her. She is told she is supposed to check one box and move on — “Stay within the clearly-marked margins,” they warn. “Check your box, choose your path, then shut the door gently behind you.” But the hybrid author checks many, even all the boxes. The hybrid author refuses to walk one path, instead leaping gaily from path to path, gamboling about like some kind of jester-imp. She says no to coloring within the lines of a traditionally-published or a self-published drawing.

4 Things Independent Artists Should Consider when Pursuing a Career

inspirationIt doesn’t matter what the profession — public speaker, audio engineer, musician, writer, artist — there is a trend that if you want to be a professional creative, you’re better working independently. You are truly a working artist when you are free of agencies, publishers, or labels.

That is all well and good, but there is something to be said about being an artist and being a successful working artist. Sure, the battle cries of “Take control of your artistic career! Do it yourself!” and “Stick it to the Gatekeepers!” sound seductively empowering, but you might be destined for disaster if you don’t know what you are doing. Across a decade of writing, editing, and book layout, and reflecting on another lifetime where I was a professional actor, I’ve collected a few considerations for any artist — new or seasoned, corporately or independently creative — to keep in mind when it comes to managing a career.

1. Accept the fact that no matter how good you think you are, you need an objective critic. There are some authors I’ve met who have a real resentment when it comes to editors, and I can even think of one or two editors who have voiced their disdain for successful writers. I have always been a writer who respects the editor as well as the editorial process. Why? Because I know when I get to writing, I get attached to a story so objectivity is chucked out of the window. When you’re a creative you are human, making it difficult to take a harder, critical look at what your creativity hath wrought. Objectivity is not a curse or an unnecessary delay on your work. With the right critical point-of-view, your work becomes a diamond cut from a creative rough.

pennies

2. Giving Your Creative Work Away for Free (or Even for 99¢) Should Have a Plan behind It. So how often have you been asked to give a presentation in exchange for great exposure? How about creating a blog or website in exchange for compensation of equal value? And how about giving away your writing online for free in order to build an audience?  Back in 2005, I was one of the strongest supporters of free fiction. Now, over eight years later, I’m still a big advocate for giving ficiton away for free, provided there is a plan behind it.

Giving away free works has proven successful for writers like Scott Sigler and Cory Doctorow, but for whom else has this tactic worked? Even as author Chuck Wendig points out in his “Making Sense of 99 Cents” blogpost, it’s not the best strategy to price everything the same. Free can work as part of a larger plan, but remember when you are building a brand be it for a production or for yourself, you are placing a value on your creativity. Don’t short change yourself.

3. Some People Will Never Want to Pay for Your Work. In a recent episode of The Shared Desk, around 28:38, I made a really dumb remark: “A little bit of book piracy is okay.” I said this before receiving the Google Alert notifying me that The Case of The Singing Sword: A Billibub Baddings Mystery was being torrented. Not the podcast, mind you. A PDF of the print book.

So, to be clear here — a novel I am already giving away for free in audio was being pirated.

I also made that less-than-thought-out statement before I wrote this article on why I did not want people to pirate my book

The business model you set for yourself needs to include boundaries for your work and how you deal with Internet Entitlement.

4. Consider a Double Life for Your Career. My wife, author Philippa Ballantine, is insisting I use here her “Many streams make a river…” quote when talking about an artist’s income. In between developing creative works for a corporate setting, why not create your own brand as an independent artist?

Is it possible? With patience, time, and a strategy, yes.

Breaking into the mainstream can open doors that still remain closed to smaller to the independent; but being independent does offer a maverick freedom as well as valuable lessons in building a brand. I have been published in both mainstream (Wiley, Que, HarperCollins) and independent (Dragon Moon, and my own Imagine That! Studios) channels; and while it is extra time invested in the independent label, I’ve been able to leverage the independent work in order to promote the mainstream work.

The creative independent is not only possible, it is a reality; but there is a method to the madness. At the center of this methodology is patience and time. Financial success does not happen overnight. You invest time in researching your art, time to create, and time to produce. Be prepared to also spend time in finding out if your investment is indeed working. There’s no magic formula for success, but you will know when your investment is coming to fruition.

New Fiction Round-up

Imagine That! Studios has had a busy few months, with many pieces of new short fiction and some awesome collections. We hope all of you will find something to intrigue and delight in our catalog.

Steampunk Adventure from the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences

Collection 6
Tales from the Archives: Collection 6
by Dan Rabarts, Kreg Steppe, Tee Morris, and Lewis Hoban

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Constance Magee is not a street urchin, not a thief, not a lost soul in the street of London. She is a girl surviving Her Majesty’s Empire one day at a time, nursing a sense of right and wrong, And sometimes, that sense doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with the law. After being jailed for her latest stand against injustice, Constance braced herself for a long stay in Newgate. Today, though, she is extended an unexpected opportunity from a strange fellow named Doctor Sound…

allthatglitters
All That Glitters
by Dan Rabarts

AmazonNookSmashwordsKobo

Agents Lachlan King and Barry Ferguson are called to an isolated mining town to investigate the disappearance of a young Chinese girl. They found the town all but abandoned, and as they descend into the realm of Ruaumoko, the Maori god of earthquakes they find an explosive situation that will test both agents and their equipment sorely.

Lost Waters
Lost Waters
by Kreg Steppe
AmazonNookSmashwordsKobo

Ministry agent Daniel Pleasant receivers a message from the director along with travel orders for the United States. With the Archives in disarray, an inventory check has revealed two missing items: The Galileo Telescope and two power cells from a previous Atlantean excursion. He is partnered with OSM agent Elijah Paxton, and together the Englishman and American set off on the trail of a mysterious scientist bent on dastardly deeds in Charleston, South Carolina.

Taniwha of Ana Cove

The Taniwha of Ana Cove
by Lewis Hoban
AmazonNookSmashwords — Kobo

Doctor Josepha Blackwell’s love of strange fauna has bought her to the wilds of New Zealand to track down whatever is responsible for a rash of disappearances. Unfortunately, not only is her personal grooming in peril, but also her very life. When she discovers was lurks in the deadly cove, she may have to reconsider her role as a field agent.

 

Horror

Sweet Embrace

Sweet Embrace
by Jonathan Carter
Amazon

Some things don’t stay buried. Some people you can’t shake. Gary has both of those problems, but perhaps he is beginning to think they aren’t problems at all.

Science Fiction

The Thorns of Life

The Thorns of Life
by Philippa Ballantine
AmazonNookSmashwords — Kobo

A company decides to clone the first famous figures from the past, and they settle on the trio of Romantic Poets, Shelley, Byron and Keats. After all, how much trouble can a few poets cause? But the insipid Victorian view of the men has led the corporation astray, and they may live to regret their choice.

Fantasy

In The Beginning

In the Beginning
by Philippa Ballantine
AmazonNookSmashwordsKobo

This short story is set in the world of the Deacons of the Order, before the time of the novels, Geist (In Germany Der verfluchte Prinz), Spectyr, Wrayth and Harbinger. It tells the story of the first day of the Break, when the undead come in the world of Arkaym, and the horror they bring with them. One small village is caught in the chaos of that day. Some will live, and some will find new purpose.

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The Fey Collection
by Philippa Ballantine
AmazonNook — Smashwords — Kobo

Get Chasing the Bard and Digital Magic in one collection and save!

 

The Baddings Collection

The Baddings Collection
by Tee Morris
AmazonNook — Smashwords — Kobo

Get The Singing Sword and The Pitcher’s Pendant in one collection and save!