Ended on June 5th 2023
Become one of The Three Hundred
Greetings. My name is Herb Mika and I need both your money and you.
I need your money to publish my book and I need you to become one of my long-term distributors. Since I don’t have the nature to ask for donations without giving something back, I had to devise a way of rewarding those who support my venture. In the process of working out a suitable reward structure, I also came up with an interesting idea: make our relationship long-term. With that in mind I will refer to those choosing involvement as supporters rather than donors. That will change in Section (5), but for the better.
Becoming a long-term distributor is NOT mandatory. If you just want an excellent book to read (I’m biased) that’s fine. The distributor option will remain available in case you change your mind. It’s part of the reward for supporting this campaign.
Jill, the CEO of ReadyFundGo, gave me some pointers on what can make a successful campaign. One bit of advice was to get to the point quickly. Don’t waffle. So let’s cut to the chase. We’ll do this in 6 stages; the first being the most important, at least initially. For those who have no patience with the written word, you might want to bail out now. Since the reward is two or more books, you won’t miss out on anything you would want. Should you choose to read on, and in the interests of full disclosure, the following information is basically a business pitch.
(1) What you get for your money.
(2) Campaign outline.
(3) Product description.
(4) Product sample (this is where you decide if you like it or not)
(5) Future options.
(6) Personal (who you would be dealing with).
Cautionary Warning: The book uses gender-specific terms such as man, woman, boy, and girl. If you are uncomfortable with such terms, stop reading now. I have no wish to rankle anyone of sensitive disposition.
(1) What you get for your money.
Apparently the most successful campaigns give supporters an average of 9 options to choose from, depending on the level of outlay. The least successful have an average of 7.5 options. Unfortunately, for this campaign 9 options are not viable. As a compromise, after much calculation, revision, and what if’s, I settled on 5. Initially it was 4, then it became 7, but after much more recalculating and “what ifs” it reduced to 5. Going beyond that was impractical since it pushed the campaign target higher. The reason will become apparent when we discuss how the funds are spent. Since the purpose of this campaign is to publish a book, it’s no great surprise that the reward for your support is books.
The options are: (in Australian dollars)
Option Books Outlay % Return Comments
1 2 $120 -1.4% almost break even
2 3 $158 +3.3% better than break even
3 4 $198 +6.8% better still
4 5 $234 +9.6% good value
5 10 $432 +17.5% for the truly keen
The % Return is calculated on books plus packaging and shipping costs. It is an approximate figure since the exact costs will not be known until we go to print. I have quotes now, but prices, including shipping are starting to inflate on just about everything so it seems prudent to factor in possible rises.
The observant will notice that there is no 1-Book option. This is not a mistake. The 1-Book option was not viable for either supporters or me. When I did the worst-case calculation, it proved unworkable. Worst case probably won’t happen, but it has to be factored in, just in case it does. I am a firm believer in Murphy’s Law. (If something can go wrong, it will go wrong in the worst possible way)
For those wanting their books signed, I will try and sign one book per order. This may cause a slight delay in shipping the signed books depending on the campaign’s success and how many books we print. Along with the delay will come the snarling. The printing company will be unimpressed if I hold them up for more than a day or two. Shipping out unsigned orders ASAP will hopefully lessen their animosity. A highly successful campaign will give me several all-nighters and the possibility of writer’s cramp, if not RSI. A printed signature seems impersonal.
Three words of advice:
(i) If you have friends who are also interested, combine your resources and go for the higher book-number options. They are better value.
(ii) Please do not choose an intermediate value since you will only receive books at the lower option. The margins are tight. I would prefer you get full value rather than making an involuntary donation.
(iii) Think carefully about the 10-Book option. You will hate yourself for buying 10 books you dislike. Your taste in literature may not be similar to mine. However, to give you some indication, I have included an extract from chapter 5, “Wolf Packs of Danos”. It’s located in section 4 under “Product Sample”.
Shipping is within Australia only. Shipping overseas is prohibitive and the cost would not be viable for either of us. I would love to receive your support, but would be unable to reward you with any books. The best I can do is to acknowledge your support in the acknowledgment section of the to-be-recreated website. I’m not sure that a mention on a currently-blank website for supporting the debut novel of an unknown author is much of an incentive. And if the critics are unfriendly, you may not want your name anywhere near it. You never can tell with those guys. However, it’s your call. Local supporters who receive books can also choose to have their names included in the acknowledgements, or not, depending on their view of risk taking.
(2) Campaign outline.
The target figure is AUS $25,000
That may seem a lot, and to most of us it is, but when you do the maths and include likely what ifs (especially the worst-case scenario), it gives what is needed plus some extra as a buffer against unexpected expenses. Having run my own business for decades, I can assure you that the unexpected is to be expected. It would become really uncomfortable to have received your funds and then discover they were insufficient to provide all the promised rewards. I would end up out of pocket and suffer some serious tongue-lashing from an angry wife; scenarios I would prefer not to embrace.
To explain the high target, the following is a guide to where the money goes.
Out of every dollar received, ReadyFundGo takes a cut. This pays for their costs in providing the platform, banking facilities, and people to bring you and me together. It’s a modest fee (roughly 6.75% of the amount you pay), but has to be included in the calculations. It’s money I never see.
After receiving the funds from RFG, and before going to the Printer, money has to be set aside for various costs in getting the book printed and shipped to you. These are as follows:
(a) Postage or courier charges. By the time I receive the funds, I will know who wants how many books and where they are to be delivered. This money cannot be used for printing books.
(b) Strong packaging materials. This is a necessary cost to ensure you receive the books in the same condition as they came back from the Binders. It is also where some of the greatest uncertainty lies. They are custom made to fit the books and the minimum quantity is 100 cartons of each size. If only one person chooses a particular option, I still have to order 100 cartons. I did ask the Printer about using some larger cartons for the smaller book numbers and filling the void with packing material. They advised against this due to the size and weight of each book (more about that later). The risk is that the packing material gets crushed allowing the books to move around in the carton and get damaged. My experience of couriers has been that some are careful, some are cavalier, and some are downright dangerous! In the interest of supplying prime quality goods, I am following their advice. They do not make the cartons so have no vested interest in providing that advice beyond not wanting to see their books get damaged. They value their reputation.
(c) Packaging labour. Since I have no idea of how many people might get on board, it seemed prudent to organise shipping so that you get your reward sooner rather than later. The company doing the printing will also do the shipping. Fortunately they have limited storage, so cannot sit on boxes of books waiting to go out. This is also the reason for snarling at me if I cause shipping delays. They have the incentive (and staff) to ship promptly.
(d) Reward GST. According to the Australian Tax Office, all funding rewards are subject to GST which currently sits at 10% of the reward value. Of all the costs, this is the last one you want to renege on. From what I’ve heard, the ATO tends to be unforgiving and relentless.
(e) Printing GST. When the books are printed, GST has to be paid on the printing charge. Fortunately, this becomes a credit to offset part of the reward GST.
(f) Finally the printing. This cost consists of two parts: an initial setup cost and then a unit multiplier. The setup cost pays for the time to prepare the press and everything else needed. It doesn’t come cheaply. The unit multiplier is the cost of each book printed thereafter. The two costs combined, divided by the number of books printed determines the final printing cost of each book. The more books printed in a given print run, the less expensive is each book. I know I can get books printed cheaper overseas, but I’m old school. I want an Australian novel to be printed in Australia. It also means we won’t have to wait forever for books to arrive from overseas. International shipping delays are becoming legendary and costs eye-watering.
(g) Extra books. To allow for books lost or damaged in transit, extras have to be printed. I being able to claim on parcel insurance does not help you if there are no extra books to replace those wounded, killed, or missing in action. There has to be a backup plan. The extras are that plan.
Since there is a degree of uncertainty about prices by the time we go to print, other than that they will rise, I had to guess at an inflation factor. Not even our Reserve Bank can get this right. The best I could do was guess pessimistically. So what happens to any surplus cash if my costing predictions were too pessimistic? The short answer is: SRE Systems (the company used as the publishing platform) keeps the cash. This will be used to reimburse me for the cover illustration cost (already paid for), help with the cost of re-working our website into something suited to our new direction, and as seed capital for future print runs. If there is still some left over, I get a reward for all the effort expended.
Another Important Note:
This campaign is for us to test the book. Will you like it, or will you hate it. Admitting the possibility of failure as an author is not pessimistic, it’s simply embracing reality. A lot of first-time authors fail. That’s life. If most people hate it, there is not much future in pursuing further print runs. However, if most of you think it’s a good read and want to become a distributor, the real action starts and the rewards for all of us improve dramatically. You can read the details in section 5, “Future Options”.
To keep the project financially viable after adding in the uncertainties, there were 2 basic choices: significantly higher outlays on each option or a higher campaign target to allow economies of scale to kick in. A higher target means more supporters which mean more books at a reduced unit cost. Since this campaign is meant to create long-term business links, by carefully balancing the 2 options, I could minimize your outlays and still avoid an overly optimistic target. If the target proves unattainable, we all walk away, chastened, but otherwise unharmed, mostly. I will feel bad, but life usually does that to everyone at some stage. Get over it.
Note: If the project goes ahead, the books sold in Australia will always be printed in Australia, not overseas. I haven’t given any thought to international sales at this stage. Optimism has its limits.
The campaign will run for 60 days .To be successful, you will need to help. I don’t have a social media presence, but I do emails. To those interested, spread the word. In this game, numbers do count and the more people that become aware of the campaign, the better chance we have of reaching our minimum target. I deliberately avoided involving friends and family because this venture needs to be entirely voluntary, unencumbered by any sense of obligation. On this point as well, I’m old school. You don’t exploit people, especially not your friends and family. Be innovative, but honest. Stick with the facts.
This has to be an all or nothing venture. Undersubscribing makes it financially unviable. Oversubscribing is no problem, we just print and ship more books. Just to be on the safe side, I checked with the Printer on how many books he could print, pack, address, and ship for any given print run. He replied that he could print and ship as many books as I needed, to anywhere in Australia. The good news is that all who are interested can benefit. The bad news is that if we don’t reach our minimum of $25,000, the campaign is a flop, you don’t commit any money, and I hang my head in shame. I will also have to deal with the inevitable “I told you so!” from my wife. Normally she is supportive, but my writing venture is straining her forbearance.
My email address is email@example.com. SRE Systems is the company that will do the publishing. My wife, son, and I own it and it will be the platform from which the book is produced. It has the appropriate ABN and TFN. The website (www.sresystems.com.au) is currently being revamped. It was initially created (as a .com) to sell some of our embedded processor and communication products (designed, built, programmed, and tested by us). Selling books is a new direction and once the new website is running, it will need to adapt with time. Fancy websites cost more than adequate ones. I’m aiming for functionally adequate because your financial support is earmarked primarily for printing and shipping.
Another Important Note: If the project is a goer, patience will be needed. You will NOT get your books the following week. Printing takes time and the Printer has advised me that getting supplies during Covid was at times difficult. Things have improved somewhat, but delays can still occur. You will naturally be kept in the loop with regular updates, but if you’re looking for quick gratification, this is not the way.
(3) Product description.
As already mentioned, the product is a book, a novel, science fiction to be precise. It’s the culmination of years of wanting to write a novel but not having had the time to do more than dream (and that only intermittently). Eventually circumstances changed, opportunity beckoned, and the book was born. However, the birth was not without complications.
Unexpected characters came out of nowhere. The plot took off in its own direction and the ending surprised me. The finished product was about as planned as a lightning strike. But it’s good and I thoroughly enjoyed the journey. On weekend afternoons when I had nothing pressing to distract me, I would sit at my computer with one stubbie of Coopers stout and write. I had no deadlines, no editor screaming for results, and could take as long as necessary to get it right. And I did get it right. Using a word processor also saved on paper. The countless revisions and polishing didn’t result in reams of paper in the recycle bin. No trees were harmed in the writing of this book, beyond perhaps losing a small branch or two. Our society is not entirely paperless.
So, what exactly is this marvellous tale all about? Initially it was supposed to be a single love story between a battle-hardened warrior and the woman he loves, but unexpected secondary characters popped up that demanded lives of their own. This resulted in a number of interlocking love stories set against the background of a vast interplanetary war. It’s not Romeo and Juliet stuff, but if you like romance, the book won’t disappoint. Having an interplanetary war as a background means there’s plenty of action, but it’s not non-stop action. I find that tedious and like quieter periods interspersed with the battle scenes. It allows me to catch my breath. Diverse personalities and their interactions allow for humour as well as passion and mayhem. The fiction part of “science fiction” is not way-out stuff. I like physics and did my best not to trash the known laws, merely extending some of them beyond current frontiers. In fact, readers will even learn some fascinating (and real) physics along the way, but without the equations.
It’s also a feel-good book. I hate sad endings! Life throws up enough problems without the need to read depressing books. For entertainment I want something to lift my spirits, not crush them. The novel is also thought provoking. It wasn’t planned that way, but it happened nevertheless. The critics might can it because it doesn’t wallow in misery, self-pity, or victimhood, but so be it. Who wants to wallow? Not me!
The book chronicles the struggles of those who choose freedom over subservience and are prepared to fight for what they believe in. It’s actually something we should all do. It includes character studies of people and their reactions when forced to work together under pressure. The original planned couple also took off in their own direction, unexpectedly, and without permission. Their road is actually more convoluted and interesting than the path I had originally mapped out; so much for an author’s tight control over his creation. It seems the story wanted to be told and I was merely the chosen scribe.
Because of its high word count (in excess of 1,188,000 words) the prospective Printer threw a wobbly and said it couldn’t be done as a single book. That necessitated it being split into multiple books. I tried various combinations and eventually decided a five-way split worked best. The break points fitted in well with the story line, without creating cliff-hangers. At the end of a book, I like a certain amount of closure and that was what I did when devising the break points. The word count of each book was manageable and roughly the same. So we actually have 5 books in the series, all written, and all almost ready to go. Covers for the remaining 4 have yet to be finalized. The novel is called “Storm Rider” and Book 1 is called “The Talons of War”. It’s a good read.
What happens if the book is successful? Our section 5 reveals all.
(4) Product sample: (this is crunch time)
Extract from chapter 5 WOLF PACKS OF DANOS
Year 5952 (Standard Valan Chronology)
Sardan carefully scanned the terrain below. The sounds of battle several hours earlier had drawn him to the area, but he had arrived too late to change the outcome for the resistance fighters caught between three converging patrols of Yangan hunters. Four bodies, scattered among the low rocks, belonged to the Wolf Pack destroyed by the invaders’ overwhelming firepower. The Yangan hunters were the enemy’s latest attempt to crush the resistance. They were not Danos collaborators who formed a local militia and normally guarded the camps and scoured the mountains, nor were they the Doranian troops deployed to keep their militia allies compliant. They were elite assault troops, efficient, brutal, and deadly. Their primary function was to precede the Doranian ground troops during an invasion and break their victims’ ability and will to fight back. For these troops to be deployed here on Danos showed how seriously the enemy viewed the continuing resistance. The Yangan hunters had lost eleven of their own men, which clearly demonstrated the Wolf Pack’s fighting ability. However, such an exchange worked in the enemy’s favour. They had the numbers and could afford to lose three to one and still consider the engagement successful.
However, what Sardan did not know and would not learn for some time, was that this perspective, although common among Doranian commanders, was not readily embraced by their Yangan troops, especially when those Doranians remained protected within the safety of their bases. With few exceptions, Yangan troops held Doranians in low esteem.
Sardan had been comfortable in the simulators learning all he could about the terrain in which he was to fight. Nevertheless, he preferred to keep his feet securely on the ground. Rather than volunteer as a Hunter pilot, he had chosen to take part in the guerrilla campaign and had been on Danos for about a month. He knew the terrain as if he had lived here. Every crack, crevice, gully, cave, or other geographical feature able to provide cover over his entire area of operation was firmly etched in his mind after countless hours on the terrain simulator. This knowledge now stood him in good stead. He knew eleven of the enemy had died. He knew three groups of ten had been involved in the fight and he could see where sixteen of the remainder were hiding. That left three unaccounted for. He scanned his memory for the features of this small mountain valley and recalled five locations where the missing Yangan might be concealed. A quick check via the scanner on one of his battle probes located the remaining three, just where he was expecting.
Having concluded that the Yangans were setting a trap, most likely for other resistance fighters, he watched carefully for several hours, determined to change the outcome of the next round in this battle. The Yangans had concealed their own dead and had deployed well, but had left their victims’ bodies exposed. Only a highly skilled person would be able to detect them and avoid contact. But even then, anyone getting too near would be vulnerable to the three missing hunters who formed the main jaws of the trap. Sardan had relayed his position and tactical situation to the other members of his hunting group who by now would have established the barrier through which he could retreat, but which would prove lethal to any pursuit. Their usual missions were find-and-destroy. Today it would be lure-and-destroy.
As he watched and waited, his patience was rewarded when one of his battle probes warned him of a new arrival. The probe’s sensors had picked up an intermittent contact, and although unable to identify the target, it told Sardan something else was out there. Visually scanning the far ridge indicated by his probe, he eventually detected movement. A single person was moving slowly and with exceptional care and skill toward the scene of battle. He noted with interest how each of the sixteen Yangans was detected and avoided, and their failure to respond to the newcomer’s presence convinced Sardan that their scanners were not detecting him. This was interesting and partially explained the tenacity and effectiveness of the Danos resistance. Scanner detection would normally make an effective resistance difficult and in most cases, impossible. However, Danos was an exception. Perhaps he was about to find out why.
The newcomer was competent and he found it difficult to keep him in sight. Even the scanners on his battle probes were having great difficulty in tracking the man and on several occasions lost him completely. On coming to within two hundred paces of one of the bodies, he stopped, waited momentarily and then started to retreat back the way he came. Apparently he had identified them and now sought to distance himself from the enemy.
“I think you have gone too close,” he thought.
His misgivings were verified when an explosion near the newcomer knocked him down. At least one of the three missing Yangans must have caught sight of him and promptly revealed his location. An instant later, nineteen Yangan began to converge on the stunned man. Sardan activated his battle probes and moved to engage. To his surprise, he saw one of the Yangan fall over backward, with an arrow protruding from his throat. Two others fell before a second explosion once more threw the newcomer to the ground.
Yanni was desperately trying to recover her balance, but the dreadful ringing in her ears made it difficult and her right leg would not move. She looked at her leg and was shocked. Such an injury precluded escape. For her the war was over. To avoid giving away her people’s precious secrets, she activated the self-destruct mechanism of her stealth suit. It was important that the enemy did not capture an operational suit and learn how to counter its technology.
Waiting for the end, she berated herself for being careless. The explosive shell had been fired by someone she had not even detected. These new troops were good, cutting short her contribution to the war. As she tried to fit another arrow to her bow, rough hands seized it from behind and wrenched it away. A hard blow to the side of her face stunned her and within seconds she was shackled hand and foot, her wrists and ankles locked together behind her. Her ears were still ringing from the blasts and her face burned from the blow. She was dragged roughly to level ground and was quickly surrounded by six of the surviving Yangans. The remainder deployed just in case other rebels were in the vicinity. Although their scanners revealed nothing within range, they did not trust their equipment.
Yanni knew she was finished. The Wolf Pack to which she had been assigned as companion lay dead and she had been captured by Yangans. She only hoped they were angry enough to kill her now.
“Well, what have we here?” their leader asked as he surveyed the prisoner at his feet. “This is one of the rebels’ women. Headquarters will be pleased when we bring her in.”
“Blast headquarters! If they get her we will never see her again!”
“Hako is right, Galtis. Why do we always miss out?”
Galtis thought for a moment and then smiled. “We are not going to miss out this time. Headquarters can have what is left.” As he said that, he reached down and roughly turned Yanni’s head to look at him. “Anything you want to say before we start?”
Yanni looked into his eyes and then spat in his face. Galtis jumped back, his rage obvious as he pulled his leg back to kick her. The kick never came. Yanni saw his shocked disbelief as he stared at the heavy, black arrow protruding from his chest. A red fountain gushed from his mouth and then he slowly toppled over.
“That was not possible,” she thought. “Arrows could not penetrate their body armour!”
The other five raced for cover, shouting warnings to their fellows, but arrows were already cutting them down from at least four directions. After a brief engagement, only seven were still alive, desperately trying to locate the hidden archers. When three more died where they were sheltering, the remaining four bolted for the forest edge a hundred paces away. Two fell as they ran, with black arrows in their backs. Yanni strained to see what would happen to the two who were already halfway to the trees. As she watched, an almost invisible, hooded figure rose directly before them, stepped forward and with two lightning fast blows of a curved, two handed sword cut them in half, even with their armour.
It was several minutes before the man approached her with great care, and only after he had verified all the Yangans were dead. Yanni did not know what to expect. Nothing in her training had prepared her for such an encounter. She could not imagine who the stranger might be, but he was certainly not Wolf Pack. However, the destruction of the Yangans was a good sign, or so she hoped. As she lay there waiting for whatever end was in store, she thought of the Wolf Pack she was to have joined and which now lay dead. She wanted to weep for them, but tears now might be unwise. As she waited, she was almost overcome by the terrible pain in her right thigh where a rock fragment had ripped through the muscle. At least it took her mind off her aching face. Finally the man stood over her, but she found it difficult to focus on him. His clothing seemed to reflect and blend in with the surrounding terrain. Even when he was directly above her, it was hard to distinguish any clear details.
Sardan looked down at the shackled figure at his feet and was surprised to see it was a woman, young and barely out of girlhood. The skill she had displayed, and her ability to bring down three Yangans with throat shots, had made him think he would find a man. He was not accustomed to seeing fighting women, except among his own people, the Wanderers. Riana was an exception and he had not thought to meet her like too often. As he looked at her, he saw the ugly leg wound and how the side of her face was red and swollen.
“That will have to be seen to soon, or she will not use her leg again,” he thought.
As he studied the shackles which bound her, Yanni said to him, “You cannot release me. The metal cannot be broken and the hunters do not carry keys. If you wish to do me a kindness, kill me cleanly before more arrive.”
Sardan withdrew a small laser cutter from his belt and within seconds had her hands and feet free. “Do not be in a hurry to die, girl. There is no return from that road.”
As he studied her, he was struck by how beautiful she was. Even with the dirt on her face, one side of which was red and swollen, the terrible haircut, which made her look more like a scruffy man than a woman, and the rough and utilitarian camouflage clothing, she was still the most beautiful woman he had ever encountered. What really surprised him was the strong attraction she elicited. The young women he had encountered on Valantium had never stirred him like this girl. “She is worth taking a risk for,” he thought.
He was brought back to reality by the pain evident in her eyes. As he contemplated how best to help this girl, the thought message from one of his three battle probes spurred him into action. He had less than ten minutes before more of the Yangans arrived. A combat group of one hundred was rapidly approaching. One of the Yangans must have transmitted a distress signal before he was killed. He looked at the Yangan weapons lying on the ground and decided he did not have time to collect and hide them. He would come back for these later. But first he had to get this girl to safety by reaching the barrier. He sent a revised battle plan via thought to his probes, one of which would transmit the message to the probes of his fellow Wanderers. Their probes would then transfer his thoughts to them. It was effectively mind-to-mind communication and the probe-to-probe transmissions, being encoded and decoded by the three-dimensional neural signatures of his group members, were indecipherable to any mathematical code-breaking algorithm.
Sardan looked around and saw the girl’s knife lying where it had been thrown by her captors. He picked it up and restored it to the sheath on her left leg. “If things go badly, you can use it to go down into the void.”
Yanni was not familiar with his strange reference, but she understood he had given her a way to avoid being taken alive, should the need arise. “Thank you, stranger.”
Sardan then gently opened up the leg of her breaches to allow him to tend her injury. The wound was ugly, but at least the bone was undamaged. Before starting, he gave her a sip of a pleasant-tasting liquid which quickly eased her pain. Next he smeared a reddish paste into the wound then sealed it with a liquid that congealed to form a skin as soon as it touched the flesh. Having done what he could, he scooped her up, carefully slung her over his shoulder and said, “We must leave now, the enemy is close.”
As he started to run for the trees he mentally focused on his battle probes and checked their weapons systems. They had only seventeen arrows between them. Since he could not afford to use their laser weapons or particle rounds at this stage and with his own weapon reduced to seven arrows, he only had twenty four missiles for a hundred targets. Those odds were terrible. His only viable strategy was to run. Using the Yangan weapons was not an option until they had been checked and defused. In the hands of other than its owner, or a pre-programmed substitute, at least a third of the weapons would violently self-destruct. Of those not exploding, half would send out a targeting signal to draw in Doranian airpower. Less than a third were safe to use, probably to tempt desperate people into a dangerous gamble. It was not a risk he dared take.
He relayed the situation to his companions and deployed his probes to cover their flight. Then he started to run as never before. He had to reach the barrier before his arrows were expended and the enemy caught them. Although the Danos militia used low-calibre particle weapons, the resistance had never reciprocated. An arrow was silent. Particle rounds could be heard from far off and too easily betrayed a marksman’s direction. And if the enemy had deployed their latest acoustic sensors, they could triangulate a marksman’s position with sufficient accuracy to kill or capture him, even if the weapons had noise suppression.
To use other weapons at this stage would compromise their mission, something he was not prepared to do. He ran. His route was uphill and he could feel his heart pounding as he struggled with his load. During their preparation he had cursed Ghan and Kendar for insisting that even Wanderers had to undergo their fitness training. It was obscene how those two slavedrivers could so pervert language. Anyone forced to participate called it mindless brutality. Now he mentally thanked them as his body held together up that gruelling climb. There was nothing mindless about Ghan’s programs after all. When he returned home, if he returned, he would personally thank them both.
Yanni was amazed the stranger had carried her so far, but she could feel him tiring. “You cannot outrun them carrying me. Leave me!”
“Will you stop telling me what I cannot do! Make yourself useful and keep your eyes open!”
He ran on. After about a half hour, his breath came in great gasps, his legs were feeling like lead and his back ached from the load. Still he ran. Images from his probes began to sound alarms in his mind. The enemy was slowly gaining. He stopped momentarily, focused on his centre probe and fired off three arrows in rapid succession. Three of the leading Yangans were slain, one pinned to the tree he was passing. The others dived for cover. Sardan ran on. As he felt his lungs bursting and his rubbery legs about to give out, his probes told him that the enemy was fanning out and beginning to outflank him. He was surprised they seemed able to locate him since his camouflage suit should have made him all but invisible, even to their scanners. Then he thought about the girl. Her clothing would make her hard to detect visually, but for some strange reason, seemed no longer immune to their scanners. They must be tracking her and he wondered what had changed.
“Did the explosion destroy your suit’s stealth function?”
“Why are their scanners picking you up now?”
“I activated the self-destruct circuit so they would not capture it.”
He shifted his left probe to higher ground and unleashed two arrows. Two more Yangans fell. The others momentarily took cover, wondering how many hidden bowmen lurked among the trees. Their scanners revealed nothing but their primary target, but the arrows had to be fired by someone. Reluctantly they obeyed orders and moved out. More than one of them wondered if they were being led into a trap. It was a common Wolf Pack strategy. One man would be the bait, the others would fight a running battle as they hunted you invisibly from the flanks. Even the quarry was dangerous and you never knew when he would turn and hold his ground. When that happened, more men died. To successfully engage them, you needed a significant numerical advantage. A hundred men should have been enough to send them all scurrying to their lairs. The current fight was uncharacteristic and screamed danger!
Sardan ran on, heading ever higher. He dare not stop. Once they had him pinned, either he compromised the mission, or the two of them would die. Death held no appeal, but revealing the presence of foreign troops on Danos would seriously undermine the Council’s strategy. He had to get close enough to his companions to avoid any of the Yangans escaping should he be forced to engage with weapons not previously used by the resistance.
The probe to his right now indicated a threat requiring immediate attention. The enemy had forged ahead and five were closing in fast. His right probe had five arrows remaining. After setting it to automatic fire, he veered further left. The probe took out the five Yangans at five-second intervals, delaying his pursuers sufficiently to prevent encirclement, at least temporarily. With his right now depleted, he knew they were running out of time. They were nowhere near close enough to the barrier to guarantee a total kill.
As he struggled with his load, he tried to visualize the terrain ahead. His memory brought back an image of a cleft in a cliff face. The cleft was not straight. If he could reach it, it would give them cover and prevent the enemy from outflanking him. The pursuit either had to follow him in or else go the long way around. Within the cleft there was bound to be some means of delaying the Yangans. Either way, they would gain time. He pushed harder. He expended three more arrows to slow his pursuers, then reached the cleft and dragged his screaming body through. Ten paces inside, it turned sharply to the left and hid them from sight. Sardan struggled up the uneven slope. Boulders and logs, fallen there over the ages, slowed him. At one point, after having negotiated a particularly steep section he was forced to stop and catch his breath. He lowered the girl behind a large boulder sitting precariously close to the slope’s edge, stopped from rolling down by a few small rocks jammed hard beneath it.
While struggling to catch his breath, he took the opportunity of informing his companions of his current predicament. When he heard the sound of voices, he peered carefully around the boulder and could see the Yangans no more than fifty paces below. To his satisfaction, he saw they were having as much trouble climbing the slope as he was, even without the load he carried. To gain more time and a much needed breather, Sardan decided the boulder had been too long on the slope’s edge and was due for relocation. But first he picked up a dead branch and hurriedly fashioned it into a crude spear. Then he took his laser cutter and started carving apart the rocks holding the boulder in place. A moment later, he felt the boulder start to move. A little gentle assistance and it hastened to meet the Yangans climbing toward it. Shouted warnings were quickly drowned out as the boulder rolled and bounced its way down the cleft. The two leading Yangans were crushed instantly. The third thought he had survived as the boulder bounced over him, but Sardan’s spear quickly changed his mind as it thudded into his throat.
The next five had nowhere to hide and were flattened. By the time the boulder reached the cleft’s corner, it had gained sufficient speed to smash into the wall with brutal force. The wall held, but the boulder shattered and continued on its downward journey. By the time the dust settled, another nine Yangan had been struck, four of them fatally. The Yangan commander decided the five injured would not survive until their medics arrived and personally ended their suffering. Then he gave the word and the hunt resumed.
Sardan was satisfied with his tally and when silence returned to the cleft, he picked up his burden and forced his protesting body to head for the summit, some three hundred paces ahead. The short rest had done little to restore his strength, but the boulder made his pursuers extra cautious and they followed more carefully and more slowly. Since there were no more large boulders to use, he sent a few smaller rocks rolling down the slope, but apart from catching one of the Yangan in the face, shattering his visor, they did little to further reduce the odds. When he emerged from the cleft, he headed for the trees above them. He expended his last four probe arrows on the leading Yangans as they emerged from the opening. None that actually saw him enter the woods survived. Again he ran, although to Sardan, it felt more like a tired shuffle. He broke out of the trees into a wide clearing. As he raced for the opposite side, he could hear the hunters behind him. He put all his effort into reaching the other side. His mind focused on his centre probe and he obtained a mental image of their deployment. As he crashed through the trees, he spun and fired off six of his last seven arrows. Six more Yangans were cut down. Scanning the ranks of men pouring out of the trees, he caught sight of the one directing the chase. His last arrow took him through the heart.
Sardan started to run again. To stand and fight so many with only a sword would guarantee their death. He needed to be closer to his companions before using his laser weapons. If he could keep running, they had a chance both to survive and save the mission. The ground was reasonably level and he found it easier to keep going, but try as he would, he could not stop them gaining. He used the trees for cover as much as possible. As long as the Yangans could not see them, they could not shoot them. At last he ran out of the trees and was running as hard as he could across an open meadow with waist-high grass. The original barrier was another thousand paces away. His companions would be moving toward him, but he had no idea how close they might be. Assuming the worst, he probably needed to cover another five hundred paces before making his stand.
When the Yangans emerged from the trees and caught sight of them, they began to fan out. Sardan started to weave as randomly as possible to try and avoid the laser blasts that were starting to kick up dust and debris around them, but he knew once sixty or so men got a clear visual on them, no amount of weaving would help. The blasts did however create sufficient smoke and dust to partially obscure them.
In an attempt to keep out of sight, Sardan dropped as low as possible but quickly realized that his legs could not long endure the strain of trying to waddle like a duck while carrying the girl. As he desperately tried to think of a way out of their predicament, without ruining his mission, a thought thundered into his mind. “Get down now and keep your head down, brother!” Sardan was surprised by the order. He had not expected his companions to arrive so quickly. Dropping to the ground wearily, he rolled over to cover the girl. He could do no more.
(5) Future options.
As already mentioned, this campaign is to publish the first of the 5 books in the series. If successful, it can bring all of us a modest income. The “all of us” is the key to what happens next. A book, regardless of how well written, is not much use without readers, and to gain readers a book needs distributors. It goes without saying that for anyone to become a distributor, there has to be something in it for them.
Since any normal author would rather his book was widely read than gathering dust in a drawer, he (or she) needs people to distribute it. Unfortunately, there are many more books written than there are publishers willing to take the risk. An aspiring author needs an edge, something that can propel him (or her) if not to the front of the line, at least far enough along to get noticed. Lack of notice leaves only the drawer.
It’s hard for an old guy, the wrong side of 70, to claim any sort of edge. Unless already well known, the end of the line beckons. That being the case, finding a different line is mandatory, which basically means creating one yourself. It also goes without saying that a line of people requires more than just one person. How often have you seen someone standing alone and thought, “That’s a short line they’re in.” It’s not rocket science to say that a personal line requires other people willing to be part of it.
And that’s the key to the matter: willing to be a part of it. From here on, my aim is to give you enough information so that you can decide whether or not “my line” interests you and ultimately becomes “our line”. In fact, you no longer become a supporter, you become a member of a team with a common goal: get a good book into the public domain and make some money along the way.
What happens if the novel is successful (i.e. most of you like it)? Here is where you come in, again. If you like the book and see potential for making some money, we do another print run dependent on how many of you want books and how many books you think you can sell. You get to purchase books at the discounted wholesale price, normally in cartons of 5 or 10. Team members get an additional benefit mentioned further on. You sell the books at whatever price you choose, but you might want to stay at or below the recommended retail price. That’s better PR for establishing yourself long term with your customers. The fine details we will discuss later, but here is a promise: you will NEVER be undercut on wholesale price by any big players should they want to sell my book. Neither will they be offered credit or on-consignment. Everyone is in the same payment boat, with NO exceptions. The big boys do not get to dictate the terms.
Here are the Terms that apply to EVERYONE who purchases wholesale.
(a) Those who purchase wholesale after a print run receive NO discount on the wholesale price of the books. Payment in full is required before an order is shipped. Established retailers will be able to purchase wholesale, but must provide proof of being in the book retail business. Purchase options are limited to the 5 or 10 book cartons. No proof of being in the retail industry is required from team members. Supply is subject to availability.
(b) Those who pay the full purchase price per carton (including packing and shipping) before a print run receive a 12.5% discount off the wholesale price of the books. Packing and shipping is at the undiscounted cost price that SRE Systems has to pay. Again it is open to
all resellers, but again, proof of being in the retail industry by non team members must be provided. Supply is guaranteed.
(c) Team members who pay their full purchase price per carton (including packing and shipping) before a print run receive a variable discount on the wholesale price of the books. Packing and shipping will be at the normal cost price paid by SRE Systems. This discount will be calculated from the difference in price between the undiscounted wholesale price of a book and what it actually costs to print. The discount increases with the number of books printed in any given print run. It will always be better than 12.5%. Team members do NOT have to provide any proof of being in the retail industry. Supply is guaranteed. Option (c) is a type of profit sharing with the brave. As ecomomies of scale kick in, we all benefit.
For those who decide to pay prior to a print run, you place your order, but send no money. Once we have enough orders to make the print run commercially viable, I will let you know and send you an invoice. That is when payment needs to occur. If we don’t get sufficient orders, you don’t send any money and I avoid the hassle of refunds due to a lack of interest. Once all payment are received, the Printer is given the go-ahead.
These terms are non-negotiable and make certain that team members can always receive the best discounts. It’s your reward for taking that initial risk by funding the first print run. It remains a life-time advantage and is not negated by failure to participate in any given print run. Team members are free to come and go as they choose. The terms also put smaller and independent book retailers on an equal footing with the large players, at least when dealing with SRE Systems.
Ideally, I would like 300 or more supporters. It means that not everyone has to be involved in every print run. You can take a break and then re-join the team later. Once you join the team, you will always be invited (but not pressured) to participate in the latest printing, unless you change your contact details and forget to tell me. To allow for such a possibility, print runs will be advertised in advance on our website which is currently being modified.
If you decide to regularly order and sell books, you might want to talk to your accountant about registering for GST. You might not need to register, but asking is better than the ATO tapping you on the shoulder with a “please explain.” I am reliably informed such a scenario is best avoided.
What about another publisher wanting to take over the publishing and distribution of the book? In Australia that won’t happen unless you all bail out. If we have come that far together, why change a good thing? As for overseas distribution, I have no idea at this stage. Should that possibility arise, I will be open to suggestions.
The initial printing for this campaign will be in Paperback format (it costs less) and is basically putting our toes in the water. If successful, other print runs will follow and depending on the level of success, we will offer both Paperback and Hardcover formats for each of the 5 books. It’s not inconceivable that we do multiple print runs on each book if the demand is there. We might even offer them as complete sets.
The books sold on the SRE website will fall into 2 categories: wholesale and retail. The primary focus will be on wholesale. Any surplus books (hopefully very few) that SRE sells retail will be at the recommended price of AU $45.00 (inc GST) plus shipping costs.
$45 is the chosen price for Book 1 (paperback). It’s around 656 A5 pages printed locally on good-quality paper and well bound. It also weighs about 0.83 Kg, hence the need for substantial packaging. The retail price for subsequent books will be determined by the circumstances prevailing at the appropriate time. Any books SRE sells retail will always be at the recommended retail price prevailing for that print run. SRE will NOT undercut your retail price. There will also be a list provided on the website of my resellers (you). Inclusion is voluntary.
Normally SRE will sell wholesale in cartons of 5 or 10 books. Team members (you) get the option of buying in smaller quantities subject to carton availability. If enough of you want a particular carton size, we can always order more of that size. This option does not apply to those non-team members wanting to purchase books at the wholesale price (like bookshops). They are limited to cartons of 5 or 10. Before getting too excited about being able to purchase wholesale in smaller quantities, please remember that there is not much variation in carton costs for the different sizes and the packing cost is the same for all cartons. Postage is not a multiple of book number. Current Australia Post parcel rates are $16.65 for 1-3 Kg and $20.05 for 3-5 Kg. Shipping 1 book for $16.65 is not as economical as shipping 5 books for $20.05.
Word of Caution: This is an opportunity for you to generate a modest income, but it will never make you rich and work is involved. You have to sell the books you buy. If you can be satisfied with modest and effort, our venture can reap rewards.
(6) Personal background
Jill also advised me to provide some personal background information plus a couple of pictures. Since she would know, I followed her advice. I chose 2 pictures that I felt best convey who (or what) I am.
The stump was the residue of a huge paperbark that I planted decades ago, in the wrong place. After years of creating foreseeable problems, it was time to reluctantly remove it. Since it was only about four metres from the house, a lot of care was needed. Professional tree loppers don’t come cheap so we decided to do it ourselves. I was already removing a large Cadagi from beside the shed (even closer at just under two metres from the building) so wasn’t a complete novice. In fact I used the two trees as aids to progressively remove each one. They were about thirteen metres apart with nothing between them so I could run a flying fox rope from one to the other. With a lot of patience, care, multiple ropes (sometimes it looked like a huge spider had run amok), a large bull bar, and physics (vector analysis), we took it and the Cadagi down without damage to the house, shed, or surrounding shrubs. Personal injuries were also avoided. It was a slow process, but economical.
That should have been the end of it. The stump could have stayed as a feature. This it did happily for a year or so. But no, the wife eventually decided it had to go. We argued (sedately) for months, but finally she hit on a winner: it would become a haven for white ants and endanger the house. She had me there. My son helped me and now we have flowers instead. It seems women have a thing for flowers rather than an old stump. I must admit that the flowers do look nicer. This picture was chosen because a picture of me trying to look photogenic was bound to fail. This way, people tend to see the stump. It also indicates a high degree of tenacity, which is important in any business venture.
The second picture is me setting up a tree-friendly sling from which to hang a kick bag. I used to go to a local gym, but Covid and a huge hike in membership fees (mandated by the higher-ups) stopped that. Since I had been a long-term member, Mark, the local manager, kindly gave me a bag that was being retired. I’m not sure what it’s supposed to demonstrate, but in the interests of full disclosure, I thought it appropriate to let you know who you might be getting into line with. Also in the interest of full disclosure I should mention that one of my former gym instructors (Deb) once called me a crazy old man because of the exercise I was doing. To her, anyone over 45 was old. When I complained to my wife about her comment she wondered why it took her so long to work it out. Don’t you admire the sympathy?
When my son and I put up a second shed, the bags (I bought a second one) now hang in it. This means I don’t have to hang and remove the bags from the tree every time I want a workout.
What about my work experience? Does anything there remotely equip me to manage a book launch? Maybe. I’ve had many jobs over the years, some were bad, some indifferent, some good, and two were outstanding. Of the bad, I think the brief period working as a cosmetic chemist was the low point of my entire working career. The outstanding ones were both at the University of Queensland: one in the Agriculture Department, the other in Chemical Engineering. They were both research positions and I was given a free hand to solve the problems. Over the years I’ve worked as a labourer, landscaper, window cleaner, tutor in maths and physics, bouncer at teenage discos (I was young and stupid back then), industrial chemist, Security and Access Control technician, factory foreman, building site foreman, hardware and software engineer and also did a stint as a night mail sorter. I even had the opportunity to drive a hired bobcat on a mate’s landscaping project (before they introduced tickets for everything, even scratching your nose).
Recently I added tree lopping to my paid endeavours. These tend to be infrequent and small pocket-money jobs for local people who can’t afford the normal prices. In the early days I also worked on my in-laws’ farm between jobs, and sometimes on weekends when needed. I learned how to plough, rip, and harrow, how to erect functional fences (although working with high-tensile barbed wire can be challenging), how to muster cattle (on horseback), and even became the official executioner (my dad had taught me to shoot straight). One job I particularly enjoyed was horse bending (a gentler approach than breaking). It tends to teach you patience. Of the farm jobs, being a midwife to a cow calving would have to be the worst, only slightly better than the cosmetic chemist. I won’t go into the details, but they’re not good.
The good jobs were a pleasure, the bad a necessity. Having a wife and three young kids didn’t allow much opportunity to be picky. During all the time I ran my own business, I never once defaulted on a legitimate payment, never went bankrupt, employed an honest accountant, and never took anyone down. It didn’t make me rich, but I sleep really well.
For those interested in formal qualifications, I do actually have some.
Unsurprisingly, I graduated from primary school.
I then successfully completed 5 years of high school.
From the University of Sydney I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Chemistry and Mathematics. After taking a year break and working, I went back to the University and completed a Master of Science degree in Physical Chemistry majoring in Surface and Electro-chemistry.
Over the years I learnt a lot from many people: how to take orders, how to give orders, how to get the best out of myself, and how to get the best out of those under me. I learnt how to manage finances in the good years and how to tighten my belt in the bad. Another important lesson was that everyone knows something and nobody knows everything. Listening can reap rewards. Ironically, I learned that while working as a cosmetic chemist. Through it all, I had this insane idea of writing a novel. It surfaced in my early thirties and I toyed with numerous plots and characters. However, the responsibilities of daily life never allowed for more than toying. In March of 2000, circumstances changed a bit and I had a little more time. Great! I can do this!
You can ponder over involvement from a number of perspectives. The first is to help an old guy (or better put, elderly) fulfil his dream. Personally, I hate this perspective and strongly discourage it. Second is to make sure a good book sees the light of day (drawers are dark places). I’m OK with this. Third, (and my preferred option) you want to be part of a team involved in a long-term, mutually beneficial, and worthwhile project. You want to be one of the 300.
That’s about it.