The Power of Visibility

Since I’ve liberally invoked Harry Potter’s business model, I should probably point out an excellent example of the power of visibility from my experiences studying the market for anime generally and Sailor Moon in particular. This applies to every market from children’s books to political thrillers, but it is most apparent in our school-age markets because it combines all the things we’ve just learned into a very powerful practical history lesson.

When I was working for DIC Entertainment as a marketing consultant, one of my key responsibilities was projecting and/or tracking the success or failure of various initiatives for the English-language adaptation of the series. Sailor Moon premiered in syndication through a distributor called The Program Exchange. It debuted in 1995, before Pokemon and before many of the more successful anime series had an opportunity to build their own audiences.

One of the interesting conditions that led to Sailor Moon’s ultimate success was the fact the original Japanese animated series already had a large and growing fan base in the United States even before the show was adapted for the U.S. market. The manga also had a readership, even though it was necessary for some of the books to be translated digitally and distributed to fans without authorization by Kodansha, Bandai or Toei. Some episodes of the show were subtitled by other organizations, also without permission. This only served to increase the demand up to the point where the original syndication package was released by DIC.

While the relationship between the “subs” (fans who preferred the Japanese version) and the “dubs” (fans who preferred the DIC adaptation) is probably best left a subject further studied in my book, the fact is Sailor Moon’s syndication deal is a conclusive example of what happens when a commercial product has limited to no visibility. The key problem with the DIC version of the show in 1995 was that syndication left scheduling up to individual television stations. Sailor Moon wasn’t on a network in the U.S., so episodes could be (and were) scheduled at what could be generously called “haphazard” times. Many fans complained they had to set their alarms for the dark and early hours to keep up, as their favorite show was on at 5AM or some other unpopular hour.

Remember this was a billion-dollar property with tremendous success in Japan, Hong Kong, Italy, France and Spain. The risk of the show producing sub-par ratings was minimal, especially considering the already established fan base and their widespread and growing activity online. Nevertheless, because the show wasn’t visible to its key audience, it struggled to the point of near failure for the two years between 1995 and 1997.

A number-one property was driven to the brink of total failure because nobody could find it. It was invisible. Recall Shane’s Laws of Bookselling. If your book is invisible it will not sell. If your book doesn’t sell, it’s because it is invisible. If your internationally-famous legendary animated television series is invisible it won’t sell either.

But then something happened.

Because of changes in the U.S. broadcast markets in the mid-1990s, new shows were having much better success when they were on network television. In Canada, for example, Sailor Moon was on YTV, which was a nationwide network. Here in the U.S., the show eventually found its way to Cartoon Network, and became the 4PM anchor series in a block of programming called Toonami.

Within three years, the series had expanded to four seasons and saw its ratings triple. It had a #1 movie on Amazon, and it helped kick off an anime revolution that is still influencing home video, streaming, interactive, merchandising, television and American culture more than 20 years later.

Consider this for a moment. There was no difference between the show that failed in syndication and the show that helped turn Cartoon Network into the #1 cable channel in America. It was exactly the same product. What changed?

When Sailor Moon was on Cartoon Network at 4PM weekdays for two years, it became visible. That made it possible for DIC’s series to make history, help kick off the $4.3 billion dollar anime industry and help vault Pokemon into a market worth 11 figures.

When Sailor Moon was in syndication and being scheduled at five in the morning, it was invisible and it accomplished nothing except to upset its fans and drift to the brink of total disaster.

That, my fellow authors, is the power of visibility.

Fat Guys on Tricycles with Bazookas!

This is an excerpt from my upcoming work of sophisticated literature — Shane

Sergeant Migby’s goggles were top of the line. He adjusted them again, even though by now they were tight enough to leave semi-permanent divots in his face. The elastic band pulled the sides of his mouth up into an unsettling grin. The word “HUNT” was shaved into a patch of short hair on one side of his head.

He rested his considerable weight into the wide and deep bucket of his chopper’s seat. The bike was almost nineteen feet long. The forks were extended far beyond practicality, but this mission wasn’t about practicality. Neither was the nitrous-oxide. Or the booster rockets.

Migby wore ceramic-fiber armor, “over-easy.” That was Tricycle Force’s term for wearing half of their body armor inside-out to stop the aliens’ adaptive explosive kinetic rounds. Some weapons seemed to explode on a “detected” impact instead of an actual impact, and so front-facing armor was compromised much faster. Armor was expensive.

On his shoulder was mounted an Oni Model Eight quad-tube rocket launcher. It was a ripple-fire weapon, designed to overwhelm a target with multiple birds instead of one large, easily destroyed warhead. It was overloaded with eight rockets, wired together like a combination science project and sound studio.

Hog Nine was perched on a rise not far from Jefferson Street along the western edge of Collins Park. The late day sun cast ominous shadows along the ground ahead of its twin six-foot-tall racing mag tires. The trike’s forks were a good 12 feet from handlebars to front wheel. Its engine towered over the sergeant like a metal fortress. Migby yanked his goggles down. The band holding them tight slid across the block number nine shaved into the hair on the other side of his head. He punched the chopper’s ignition.

Migby’s enormous attack chassis came to life like a coughing dinosaur. Within moments the “lub lub lub” sound of its 700-horsepower engine was shifting the surface dirt in the park for sixty yards in every direction. The sergeant wasn’t concerned about the noise. The nearly-invisible alien spacecraft hovering next to the Tree Shores Performing Arts center didn’t seem to notice, and even if it did it wasn’t getting away. It didn’t see the trike’s driver arm the four-barreled meta-cannon on his oversized shoulder either.

“Hog Nine standing by.”

The sound of his patch mike thumped like a refrigerator door closing, followed by plastic bag crackle. He gunned the chopper’s engine.

“Affirmative Hog Niner. Your green scene is range three hundred yards bearing one six zero true. Confirm coordinates.”

The blazing red threat icon on his visor’s heads up display matched his chopper’s console radar system. The words “TARGET LOCK ACQUIRED” blinked. There were a lot of things in the world Sergeant Migby of Tricycle Force was able to tolerate, but invaders disturbing a bunch of senior citizens trying to enjoy brunch was not one of them!

“Target confirmed, HQ.”


At the opposite end of the park, the cloaked alien spacecraft hovered at an altitude of perhaps ten feet, waiting patiently for course data to be uploaded to its navigational system. While it waited, otherworldly creatures gathered critical information on the dinner party. It was a lovely evening after all.

Couples walked lazily around a small duck pond. Strolling violinists gathered in the gazebo. A hot dog vendor barked under the soft lights along the walkway. Nobody could see the spacecraft, or correctly identify the roaring engine sound coming from the other side of the hill.

Sergeant Migby bared his teeth as the sound of the beastly engine shook the nearby concrete. He picked up his boot-clad feet and slammed them home into the forward metal stirrups before releasing the air brake and clutch. Twin tires raised a devastating pyre of white smoke before the heavily-armed cross between a completely impractical motortrike and a technologically advanced ground assault vehicle screamed out the chain link gate and towards the building complex.

The front wheel lifted high as Migby banged the chopper into the curb. He grunted and lunged as the powerful engine hammered the trike forward. The vehicle bounced eight feet into the air and landed squarely on the gentle sloping grass, ripping dirt and greenery into the air at rapidly accelerating speeds.


Hog Nine cleared the hill airborne as the thump of its rocket booster echoed off distant storefronts. The hot dog vendor’s jaw dropped as he saw the mass of wheels, teeth and targeting lasers accelerating towards him at an apocalyptic velocity. He dove howling into a chrysanthemum patch, avoiding the leading edge of the chopper’s front tire by perhaps inches. Migby snagged a kielbasa off the cart just before the shockwave blasted the hot dog stand several feet in the air and tore it into twisted metal ribbons.

Migby ripped the hot dog in half with a hearty bite before grabbing the nitrous activator on the chopper’s handlebars. He could see panicked ducks, scattering feathers, flapping lily pads and at least one soon-to-be-pulverized cracker dispenser scattering beyond the speedometer reading of 115 as he heard the telltale whine of his second booster. Hysterical park-goers ran in all directions as the meaty black mag tires plowed through the lake, throwing rooster tails of water, mud, pieces of wood and blobs of algae the size of small elephants skyward.

“OPTIMUM RAAAAAANGE!!” Migby screamed as the last pieces of the hot dog bun were yanked out of his fingers by the violent air blast. Mustard blasted all over his goggles. He positioned his launcher and maxed the throttle.


Hog Nine peaked at 139 MPH before Migby pulled the triggers for all four rockets at a suicidal range of six yards.

Matilda passed the beets to Gertrude. The Neighborhood Beautification Society dinner party was just lovely. The elaborate buffet was attended by only the most concerned citizens. On their lawns no children were allowed. In fact, nobody in the neighborhood was permitted to speak above a whisper lest home values drop. Humans younger than 40 were apparently expected to barricade themselves in isolation until they qualified for special pricing at the neighborhood chain restaurant. A game of street football was organized once. As of the date of the dinner, reports of the police response were still being used as a training exercise for helicopter patrol pilots, national guard recruits and pursuit dogs.

The average age at each circular table was well in excess of room temperature. Large arched windows provided a nice view of the park. The conversation was boring enough to be considered both a prescription sedative and a hostile act in at least three jurisdictions.

Matilda was reaching for a croissant when the universe exploded.

One rear tire, an engine block, pieces of an Oni quad-casing, three mustard-stained onion chunks, two ducks, a violin case, roughly 22 pounds of grass and soil and Sergeant Migby himself blasted a scorched two-hundred square foot hole in the side of the building, pulverizing three dozen tables and tossing pieces of chairs, flower arrangements and silverware in all directions. Dark smoke filled the entire facility. Shouts and gasps of horror were heard.

Over the sounds of panic, Migby reached up with one potato-salad-covered hand and retrieved his mobile comm unit.

“HQ, this is Hog Nine. Confirm target status.”

“Hog Niner, this is HQ. Target destroyed!”

A mustard-stained fist rose silently from the wreckage of table eighteen.

How to Read an Electronic Book

When most people think of electronic books, they think of trillion-dollar companies and mobile tablet devices. It might surprise you to know the electronic book was invented long before our modern notions of e-commerce and mobile devices became popular. For example, the epub can trace its lineage back to 1999, when the OEB was first established. This happened only six years after the PDF format was first released.

Epub is the format I use for all of my works. It is not proprietary. It is easy to author and distribute and it is easy to read. I also make my books available to my readers without DRM, so you can install and read them on the device of your choice. All my electronic books validate to the epub3 standard before they are made available for distribution, so they should function identically on any device that can read them.

What is an ePUB?

An epub format book or “ebook” is technically a web site (made up of html pages, css styles and web-compatible images) contained in a specially-formatted zip file. You could extract the archive and open the book with your web browser if you prefer, but there is an easier way.

The best way to think about electronic books is that the epub (a file with an extension of .epub) is just a document. You use an e-reader application to open it in much the same way you open a .doc file with Microsoft Word or a PDF file with Adobe Acrobat.

The good news is there are numerous high-quality free e-reader applications available on both mobile devices and on PCs. If you have an iPhone or an iPad, everything is pretty much done for you. The Apple Books app uses epub as its native format. If it doesn’t open the book for you right away, just e-mail it to yourself. When you tap and hold on the attached book icon, you should have the option to share it to Apple Books.

On Android devices, you can use either the FBreader or the Moon+ Reader apps. Both are quite popular and give you many options for organizing your digital library. The Google Books App also uses epub as its native format.

On PCs (Linux, Mac or Windows), you can use the Calibre application. Once installed, Calibre will make all your .epub files double-clickable which will open them in a desktop e-reader. The application also has a multitude of other functions which will make your electronic books much easier to manage.

If you have a Kobo or Nook device, you can read epub format books on them as well.

If you have a Kindle device, you can read epub format electronic books on it. PC World has a helpful guide. Note that importing your epub to Kindle will convert it to a proprietary format which you likely won’t be able to convert back, so be sure keep a copy of the original.

My store has a cloud-based e-reader service called Bitbook, where you can read ebooks purchased from Getabook.Today without having to download or import them to a local e-reader application. For most titles, the downloadable epub and the Bitbook edition are delivered together, so you have the choice.

For the record, as copyright holder to any epub distributed by my bookstore at, you have my permission to make copies of books acquired from my store for personal use and to install or import those books to the device or devices of your choice. Why, you even have permission to share my books with your friends and family! (within reason, of course). As always, if you have questions, use the link above to e-mail. Black out.

Starships Universe Officers Club

How do you join the Officers Club? Simple. Use the comment area to respond to this post with your review of any of the sixteen Starships Universe books available on Selected reviews will be posted on book pages and linked to your listing in our new Officer’s Club Headquarters. Certain quotes just might end up in one of our upcoming video trailers.

In your review, please include your e-mail in the appropriate field (it won’t be published publicly), the name of the book and your rating from one to five. Decimal values are acceptable.

The only requirements are you have to be a subscriber and you can’t quote anything you’ve posted about the book elsewhere on the Internet. You are also granting me perpetual and universal permission to publicly perform, publish and display your reviews.

What do you get? Glad you asked! You get to choose your branch of service: Fleet or Marine. You get to choose which faction you want to join: Terran, Proximan, Sarn, Yersian, Kraken or Heretic. Officers will be issued a rank. Each review earns you a battle star. The more books you purchase, the more awards and promotions you’ll receive. When you reach a command rank, you get your own ship. Higher ranks get more powerful ships.

Everything you receive will be displayed for all to see on the Officers Club Headquarters. You’ll even get your own unique link so you can show off elsewhere on the web.

Rank has its privileges. Black out.

Digital Bookshelf Subscription Idea

As you all know, running a web server comes with regular expenses in the form of bandwidth, CPU usage and storage costs. For the time being, the Digital Bookshelf will be free. My intent has always been to offer my new Digital Bookshelf as a free service, but I also have a subscription model for it.

If I charged you $5 a month to be part of a premium readers club, and made the bookshelf one of the perks, and gave you a free book every month alongside an enhanced newsletter, would that be something you’d subscribe to?

Tell me what you think in the comments.

Introducing the Palace in the Sky Cloud Digital Bookshelf

Sideloading is a thing of the past!

Long have authors and bookstore owners searched for a way to get digital publications from their stores on mobile devices without putting their readers through the technical challenge of copying files from computer to phone or tablet. While some PC manufacturers make things easy, most don’t, and navigating your way through the file system on a phone or tablet can be perplexing even for someone with a lot of technical experience.

Those days are over. The Palace in the Sky Bookstore is pleased to introduce one of our new featured cloud services, The Digital Bookshelf.

We use a technology called the Open Publication Distribution System to maintain a list of books purchased by our bookstore customers. We make that list available to customers using reading apps like Moon+ Reader.

OPDS works very much like an RSS feed. When you buy a book from our bookstore, you get a personalized feed from our cloud server containing all your books. Your feed is automatically updated with each book you’ve purchase plus any free offers you’ve redeemed. You can read your books online or download them to your device.

Moon+ Reader is an excellent choice for reading our EPUB3 premium digital books on Android devices. It works well on phones and is particularly impressive on all flavors of Android tablets with a side-by-side reading mode and high-definition display. Our books have never looked better!

Like most EPUB reader apps, Moon+ also has a catalog display feature which is seamlessly compatible with our new Digital Bookshelf. Readers can download books from their cloud bookshelf and then import them all at once or one at a time. Imported books show up in your catalog and can be read offline at any time.

If you have an iPhone or an iPad, your titles should download from the Digital Bookshelf and be automatically imported by iBooks. I haven’t had a chance to test this yet, however. If you have an iPhone or iPad and you’d like a free book or two, drop me a line and help me test the service!

Our Digital Bookshelf Cloud Service is now in beta. The Palace in the Sky Bookstore can now do everything the big retailers can. When you buy a book, you can download it immediately. It will be automatically added to your Digital Bookshelf if you would rather download it later.

We’re including a Digital Bookshelf trial with all purchases for a limited time. If you’d like to try it out, send me an e-mail and we’ll get you signed up! For updates on this and all bookstore news, be sure to join my mailing list!