Changes in Publishing

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Publishing is changing, but you knew that. The problem becomes how is it changing right now, and what headlines are we to believe about recent trends. December and January are great months to evaluate the past year and forecast upcoming developments.

Unfortunately, several publishing headlines proclaimed facts that don’t present the true picture. Politics isn’t the only purview of misleading or fake news.

Thank goodness for Hugh Howey and Data Guy.

Articles claimed that ebooks were decreasing and paperbacks were on the rise. Turns out that the rise of paperbacks sales came from several sources. 1: adult coloring books in 2015-16 became wildly popular. 2: Traditional publishers winning against Amazon (remember the big battle for agency pricing?) hiked prices for popular ebooks to sometimes the cost of a paperback. Readers chose the paperbacks when Amazon discounted them almost to parity with the ebook. 3: Finally, the data for these articles came from Bolkers who issues ISBNs. ISBNS are used by traditional publishers to track books. One book could have three or four different ISBNS depending on its format. An overwhelming amount of Indie publishers don’t use ISBNS due to their high cost here in the United States. They are not required by Amazon to publish ebooks. Amazon provides for free their own ASIN to tag ebooks. Indie authors often sell the large majority of their work as ebooks on Amazon and use Amazon’s ASIN. I use both.

Thankfully, Data Guy has a software program that scrapes data from Amazon, and other distributors (Kobo, Nook, etc.) to provide a more accurate picture of what might be happening.

Jane Friedman writes a blog with some interesting comments on the state of publishing.
https://janefriedman.com/9-statistics-writers-know-amazon/.   Check her out.

I believe that politics has impacted sales for January and February by distracting readers from books. My sales have dropped off, and I blame lack of marketing and political distraction, but this is merely my assumption. What about you?

Surprising changes in publishing are Amazon’s foray into brick and mortar to sell books and their new traditional publishing style imprints that are popping up.

I live five minutes away from the mall that houses Amazon’s new brick and mortar store. It’s fresh and new and highly curated. All covers face out and most are selected from Amazon’s bestsellers lists. It’s clever because a reader is presented with books that are proven already successful in the marketplace. No prices are put on the books since Prime members pay less and prices may vary. Will this new Amazon strategy pay off?

As a friend of mine often says, “We’ll see.”

all-the-birds-in-the-skyThis week I read Charlie Jane Anders’ “All the Birds in the Sky.” The timing couldn’t be better as it has just received a 2016 Nebula Award nomination.

The story starts off with Patricia Delfine’s tortured years at Canterbury Academy. All the angst of junior high school are magnified. Cliques of girls harass her and call her a witch. True, she talks to birds and a rather important tree, but only in the woods where no one can hear her. Nature is sacred to her and often she tries to escape the cruelty of her life by going into the forest behind her house.

Not only is school traumatic, but when she gets blamed for mean girl tricks, the school calls her parents and they lock her in her room for days, only letting her out to attend school. Her younger sister brings her meals, but not before she has poured hot sauce and chili pepper all over it.

Sibling love at its finest.

One day, Patrica literally runs into Lawrence Armstead who also gets pushed around and ridiculed at the same school. He, however, is a computer genius, and through a schematic on the Internet builds a time machine in a wristwatch that can jump him ahead two seconds. It’s not much, but it helps when spit balls come his way. Eventually, he builds a robot from parts and hides it in his closet. Unfortunately, his parents don’t value his geeky genius and sign him up for the Great Outdoor Nature Adventure to get him away from his computer and experiments so he can be more like “normal” boys. He hates it.

Patricia and Lawrence become awkward friends. Patricia is talked into lying about his attendance at nature class in exchange for twenty dollars. Lawrence also provides her with a module so she can talk to his robot and “socialize” it. The AI, in turn, gives out good advice on coping.

The book skips forward to San Francisco and young adults Patricia and Lawrence. Both have survived their childhood…barely. Patricia actually saves Lawrence’s life and, after a traumatic event, Patricia is found by a magician and runs away from her family to magic school.

The second half of the book follows the reunion of the two where they both struggle with lovers, their jobs, current co-workers, and a growing threat to the world. It becomes apparent that Patrica represents magic and nature while Lawrence symbolizes science. Together the two, with their talents, might save the world from a looming doomsday threat.

This is a strange book for science fiction. The early lives of the two main characters makes for agonizing reading and points out the failure of society both in education and child raising. I find the Nebula has often nominated and awarded unusual books that dance between fantasy and science fiction. This is one of those books.

Although the ending rather disappointed, I still recommend reading the book for its vivid characterizations and emotional events. It has a bit of the flavor of the Magicians in it. The trials these two have to overcome endears them and is worth the read.

And while reading this book, if you’re an adult, you’ll be glad you are. If you’re a teenager, you’ll be grateful that your life is better than their early life was… I hope.

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Science Fiction Space Opera Selection: Peter Hamilton

IMG_9518I think as a country we are ready for Valentine’s Day…a day to focus on love and the appreciation of the special people in our lives rather than plot how to stab political enemies in the back.

Besides, all this politicking is distracting people from reading–be it a good science fiction or other genre. Stop trolling on Facebook and taking every slanted article in Flipboard, or other news, as fact. It’s sad that it’s getting hard to separate reality from what people claim is truth.

Step outside. Spring is coming. I saw the sun today and recently took this picture of a robin. A new wind is blowing and along with the fresh air, some debris is bound to shake loose. Deal with it in a mature and effective manner.20170211_162653

After reading various articles on marketing, I kept finding that successful authors recommend writing another book as the best strategy for success. They talk about building a body of work.

All righty then.

I have started a new series called the Terran Trilogy. The first book is a starship adventure (A World too Far), the second is about first contact, and the third will explore settling on an alien planet. Rather then aliens invading Earth, I have switched the viewpoint to Earthlings invading an alien planet. I may be forced to explore the concept of immigration from both the native’s point of view and the arriving stranger’s. Talk about topical!

The Terran Trilogy will eventually dovetail into the Alysian Universe Series. However, it is a stand alone and not a required read. But if one reads the earlier books, they will know a few delightful facts and events that the current characters do not. Sometimes, knowing situations and results that a character does not, is fun.

a-night-without-starsThis week I read Night Without Stars by Peter Hamilton. Be warned that it is a door stopper of 702 pages in the hardback version. Still, I wanted to escape.

There was a lot of snow outside with travel ban warnings. I wasn’t going anywhere.

But escape I did. This novel continues the story in The Abyss Beyond Dreams, from Hamilton’s popular Commonwealth series and provides fast-paced action, interesting aliens, and a well written plot.

Yeah, I know. Those kind of books still exist.

After centuries of being trapped inside a strange void, the planet Bienvenido is expelled into space millions of light years away from the Commonwealth that knows nothing of its existence.

Humans and Fallers fight for control of the planet with humans looking to lose. Fallers can shapeshift and have managed to infiltrate deep into the fabric of human society. There is a prediction of a Faller’s Apocalypse.

Then a routine space flight, jars loose a Commonwealth ship from an orbiting Faller Tree. The ship carries within it an unusual baby that must be hidden until it matures. The baby carries Commonwealth knowledge and grows at an abnormally fast rate. As the Fallers take over the planet, this fast developing human becomes humankind’s best hope for survival on the planet.

Sometimes science fiction suggests events or objects long before their existence. Recently I have become aware of mysterious black, empty areas in space the scientists are calling voids. Yet, Hamilton has written about a mysterious area in space that he called the Void for several years now.  http://www.space.com/33795-cosmic-voids-fill-in-blanks-universe-mysteries.html

Interesting.

Anyway, I enjoyed this fast-paced adventure and want to recommend it to those readers who like deep, complex, and exciting space opera stories.

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Publishing Wrap-up 2016 and Five Scifi Selections for 2017

IMG_0174January has certainly gotten off to a contentious start. How does that affect book sales? I would imagine that readers are turning on the television to get the latest incendiary news distortion or taking to the streets to loudly voice their opinions…

…rather than quietly reading.

Kristine Rusch has a lengthy blog that talks about Indie publishing as a business and some current trends. She discusses the fact that sales were down in 2016 and the reasons why. Publishers say there was no breakout novel. Election noise took away reading time. The ebook publishing business is leveling off.

My sales were good until November, and then, I also saw a downturn. I’m seeing it in January, but I’m blaming politics and a lack of marketing enthusiasm. I’m a bit burnt out on marketing at the moment. I need to catch up on my writing and fill up the piggy bank because having the necessary funds to see you over the down part only makes good business sense.

She mentions that also. Here’s the blog: http://kriswrites.com/2017/01/18/business-musings-2016-disappointments/

January is one of the most fun months of the year for my blog because I get to select books to read for the year. Sometimes a book doesn’t meet the publication date (Thorn of Emberlain ) and sometimes I decide the book isn’t up to my standards and don’t mention it. (Split Second) However, it’s a way to prime the pump and get enthusiastic about reading. I have found lately that good science fiction is hard to find. There’s a mishmash of books out there but very little in the “got to read” category.

Anyway here’s my next five:

all-the-birds-in-the-sky1. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders. I keep seeing this on recommended lists. I have avoided it because I really don’t like apocalyptic novels. They tend to be downers rather than contain interesting science. There’s always a struggle with the environment, and too often zombies show up. But this is about a young girl who is involved in magic. A long ago geek friend she knows from Middle School gets back with her. Also, it takes place in San Francisco, and I lived in the Bay area for eight years. So, it’s on the list.

2. The Unquiet Land by Sharon Shinn: I’ve been waiting on this one. I’ve read the previous books in the series (Elementals) so I know I will like this. (Rubs hands together)the-last-year

unquiet-land3. The Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson. New release. Time travel. Amazon best list. Charles Wilson (Spin) I’m in.

4. The Traitor ‘s Blade by Sebastien De Castell: Peter who works in Powell’s at Cedar Crossing has been their science fiction expert for a long time. He’s the liason for our Science Fiction Book Club. He knows his stuff, and when I whined about wanting a good book, he stuck this in my hand. Of course, I bought it and put it on the list.traitors-blade

5. Night Without Stars by Peter Hamilton. A hardback library find. Well, I’d actually been seeing this on a few a-night-without-starsrecommended lists. I’ve read earlier novels in the series also. It’s a big book which means it will take a while to read, but this is a far future space opera, and I’m ready for that.

By the way…don’t forget the second season of the Expanse starts on television tomorrow night February 1, Syfy channel. Watch that rather than the political insanity. Or, maybe the politics of the future there will look frightening familiar, and you can get a two-for-one.

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Survival in science fiction

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This has been one of the snowiest winters I’ve ever experienced in the northwest
Which means I can stay in and read or write.

Yeah

The writing has slowed down as I’m trying to figure out how to get the the next series of events down on the page in an interesting fashion. Debates rage in writing circles on whether to be a pantser (writing by the seat your pants) or an outliner. For me, I do a broad outline and then charge ahead, putting myself in the head of my characters. Often they present surprising twists and turns in the action. I’m involved in one now and scrambling to see how my main characterIMG_0174 is going to get out of the pickle he’s got himself into.

It all makes writing fun.

I’ve been reading too. I usually put together a list of ten books to read throughout the new year, but this time I’m having difficulty coming up with an exciting list. I keep going back to authors that I have enjoyed in the past. I made a conscious effort to try new self published works last year and kept getting disappointed. Giving reviews became frustrating, particularly since I was not getting reviews myself.

I’m wondering what’s happening to book marketing. If you’re not tied to a large publisher with a big fan base, then book signings are not worth the time, expense or effort. I found add sites very effective for a while. Lately, not so much. As a reader, I’m not seeing exciting offerings and as an author, there are some I have used several times and my return on investment isn’t as rich as it used to be. It feels as if ebooks are becoming more and more devalued.

We probably brought it on ourselves with all the giveaways and promotions. But, hey, you have to get out there and offer something worthwhile to pique a reader’s interest. If you don’t put your name out, no one will know about you. I really feel these are great stories that readers will enjoy if they got to know about them.

As for other books… I still feel it is important to suggest good science fiction and, occasionally, fantasy. I want to keep a dialog going.

castaway-odysseyThis week, I read a book that caught my eye when I was library browsing. Publishers price new books expensively and often make them only available in hardcover for the first year. But, of course, those books are often found in the library for free. I picked a new book co-authored by Ryk Spoor and Eric Flint. Both are well known midlist science fiction authors. Their most recent book, Castaway Odyssey appears to be a later book in the Boundary Series, but I had no trouble with reading it first.

The story goes: Sergeant Samuel Morgan Campbell finds himself in a desperate situation when their starship the Outward Initiative shatters and disappears, leaving him and four boys on board a lifeboat during a practice drill. Outside on the hull, inspecting their actions for the drill, Ltd. Pearce Halley sustains life-threatening radiation exposure. Unexpectedly, the Sargeant and his untrained crew find themselves stranded in the depth of space, light years from any known colony, and with all electronics dead on the cramped lifeboat.

Boys ranging from Xander, recently graduated at the academy, to Francisco, who is an emotional nine years old, Sergeant Campbell has to calm and manage the occupants in this life-threatening situation.threshold

For fans of McGyver, this book is packed with interesting science written in an easy to understand manner as the novice crew has to repurpose equipment and find a way to survive far from any help. The second half of the story continues the survival theme once they discover and land on an unknown planet. Here, the reader gets a taste of the Swiss Family Robinson story as the crew now battles a dangerous alien planet that throws several lethal surprises at them.

I enjoyed the book as a light read with a YA flavor. It is always interesting to see what an author considers important in a survival situation in space. It does not have the detail and intensity of The Martian, but may appeal to that audience, nonetheless.

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New Year Science Fiction

IMG_9512Welcome to a new year 2017.new-year

This is the time everyone decides to improve their life; whether it be by dieting, more exercise, more family time, or finding a new job. Having a point in time to evaluate your situation is always good.

This year I plan to complete book two, Somewhat Alien, in my new series called The Terran Trilogy and write at least half of book three. I’m midway through the writing of book two and am really having fun with it. Also, I’m blessed in that I’m not reliant on my writing to pay the mortgage. However, I make enough to keep me busy and add to the family coffers. (A Snickers anyone?)

Usually, I pick out five books the first week of the new year and five books the second week that I plan to read sometime during the coming year.

But first, I want to mention a blog by Written Media that makes ten predictions for 2017 in the publishing world. Check it out : http://bit.ly/2hVpPOQ

You’ll notice at the bottom of Written Media‘s blog is a link to Mark Cocker’s 2017 predictions. He has a lot to say but is very anti-Amazon. My only comment is that I tried to sell through Smashwords for four years and sold one book. They are a distributor that did nothing to help me promote or sell, even though they put your books out on various platforms.

Amazon is constantly trying to figure out ways to help authors promote their books. Unfortunately, scammers have leaped in and given valid authors a bad rap. And, in trying to weed out the miscreants, Amazon has hurt a few legitimate authors.

Nonetheless, I sell very well through Amazon. After fifteen years of writing and submitting to traditional publishers, I’m thankful to be able to publish my exciting series through Amazon.

Enuff said.

Thorn of EmberlainMy first pick to read in 2017 is The Thorne of Emberlaine by Scott Lynch. Why does that title sound familiar? Because I picked it last year when they said it would be published. Didn’t happen. Rather than being upset, I’m actually relieved that such a famous author from a traditional publishing house would be so late. I always angst when I run behind schedule, but I’m realizing others do so too. (You hear me Pat Rothfuss and George R. R. Martin?)

My second pick is a library find called Castaway Odyssey by Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor. I haven’t mentioned these two well known authors yet, and the story of survival on an alien planet after crash landing there intrigued me. Rather a Swiss Family Robinson with a twist.castaway-odyseey

Kevin McLaughlin has graciously offered his expertise and advice on LinkedIn time and again.

Thanks, Kevin.

accord-of-honorI have found your comments accurate and helpful–especially during my early days of self publishing. So when Kevin came out with a science fiction book with a cover that featured an awesome ship against an alien planet, I was in. I even paid money. Accord of Honor by Kevin McLaughlin is my third choice.

However, I am guilty of grabbing free or discounted books off of add sites at any moment. (I’m just that cheap) Actually, I have built up an embarrassing library of books I plan to read any day now. That’s great, except Amazon keeps e-mailing me and asking how many stars I would give to books I haven’t read yet. Since I do like time travel, I’m choosing Split Second by Douglas E. Richards and whittling down the stack.split-second

Finally, my fifth choice is part of a series that I discovered last year. The title drew me in and the book proved entertaining. Dome City Blues by Jeff Edward delivered a combined detective and science fiction story. My two favorite genres. So, I’m planning on reading the next in the series, Angel City Blues.Angel City Blues

I feel that my writing has improved, and the later books in my own series are even better than the first ones, but everyone wants to start with the first book. I’m not sure how to overcome this situation, except with time and discovery. It has taken me a year to get to the second book in Jeff’s series. So, as I often say to my daughter, “Patience is a virtue.” Usually, I just like the scrunched-up face she makes when I say it.

There you have it. It’s only a rough plan, and as you know, subject to change. I always add in other books as they come along. I’ll add five more next blog.

May 2017 be a fulfilling year where you enjoy lots of good science fiction.

I’ll help you with that.

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Military Fantasy

IMG_0174The holidays are almost upon us. I thank all my readers for becoming a part of the Alysian Universe. This yearhas been an adventure, and I was glad so many came along for the ride.

For December, I advertised through Book Barbarian, a science fiction and fantasy adsite. The cost was low, but it has proven the best of sites this year for return on investment. Several readers bought the whole series.

2014-12-17-14-20-22A blog I recently read that writers might like is a blog by Judith Briles. It talks about a check off list of important elements to consider before publishing your book, or even after publication, if sales are lagging and you want to investigate why.

https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2016/12/does-your-book-suck-or-soar/

Then another important link is a blog by Katie Force that offers some startling data concerning Indie authors. With a response of 2000 authors, over half Indie, half hybrid, 1543 or 49% averaged 0 to 5 books per day. At the other end of the spectrum, eight or .43% reported selling over 1000 per day on an average day.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

Most were women between 41 and 53 years who responded and wrote in the romance genre. Still an interesting blog on the current state (as of October-November 2016) of genre Indie sales.

http://www.thepassivevoice.com/2016/12/survey-indicates-indie-publishing-is-pot-of-gold-for-some-work-in-progress-for-many/?

Cursor's furyLast week I wrote about binge reading and offered several series that were my favorites. This week I want to also mention Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. I reviewed the first two books earlier and just finished the third called Cursor’s Fury.

The story of Tavi continues.

King Gaius recognizes a coming war with the power hungry high Lord Kalarewho makes a pact with the Canin, a savage beastlike enemy of the Realm.

Gaius pulls Tavi out of the Academy and sends him under an assumed name to a newly formed Legion with inexperienced soldiers who are poorly equipped. The unit is sent supposedly out of harm’s way. But a surprise invasion of thousand of rabid Canin set Tavi’s ragtag unit square in the forefront as the only means of protecting the Realm.

This is a very military action book with interesting strategies and surprising twists and turns. You discover Tavi ‘s secret origins and get a little romance along with ferocious battles and non stop action.

I liked it a lot, and it made a great escape from some of the holiday madness.20161222_160215

I have two busy snowshoe Siamese cats who delight in holiday decorations and presents. Keeping an eye on them is a full time job, but they are fun to watch as they deal with all the commotion.

Hope your holidays are filled with lots of fun commotion and writing or reading success.

Christmas horn

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Twelve Authors to Binge on in Science Fiction and Fantasy

img_1018Santa will soon be sliding into town and my rushing around to get ready is taking time from writing and reading. But in attempt to get you ready for the holiday doldrums, I’ve come up with twelve binge reading ideas.

Because once the hooha dies down, there may come days in a row where you are tired of parties and company and would like to do a little binge reading.

I’ve picked out twelve authors randomly (for the twelve days of Christmas) who offer a good binge-reading experience.

1. Frank Herbert’s Dune Series. Dune is a classic with incredible world building and intriguing characters. After Frank Hebert’s death, his son, Brian Herbert and fellow writer, Kevin Anderson, added a number of readable prequels and additions to the storyline. Just out in September 2016 is Navigators of Dune that tells about the strange ship navigators that can fold space.

Fool's Quest2. Robin Hobbs and all her Realm of the Elderling books are good. Start with the Assassin’s Apprentice and read on up to her current Fool’s Assassin.

3. William Gibson’s Sprawl Series. William Gibson is the father of Cyberpunk. Neuromancer is his Hugo winning start, but the rest in the series : Mona Lisa Overdrive, Count Zero Interrupt, Zero History etc. are interesting, particularly if you look at the dates when they were written and current technology and events.

4. Lois Bujold’s Vorsigan Series. Read how the irrepressible Miles Vorsigan deals with life. I even enjoyed the more recent Captain Vortapil’s Alliance and Miles wasn’t the main character. Bujold has won numerous awards for this series and others in the fantasy realm.Barrayar

Visitor

5. C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner Series. Start at the beginning, but her latest, Visitor is seventh in the series and an amazing study on how to handle first contact with an alien race. Also, Cherryh has an Alliance-Union Series of merchant ships caught in the politics of war among planets. My all-time favorites of Heavy Time and Hellburner are in this series. Rimrunner, Merchants Luck, and the Hugo award winning Down Below Station are stand alone stories that also take place in the Alliance-Union Universe. I also want to mention a good fantasy series of hers called the Fortress Series

Expanse Collection6. James Corey’s The Expanse Series. Recently this exciting series hit television with some interesting visual effects. In January, the second season is due to fire up and continue the storyline. Start with Leviathan Wakes and read up to the new Babylon ‘s Ashes just published December 6. Space Opera at its best.

7. Joe Abercrombie ‘s First Law Trilogy. A fantasy trilogy that you won’t be able to put down. It starts with The Blade Itself, Before They were Hanged and ends with Last Argument of Kings. If you’re a delicate reader, this one gets gritty… Fair warning.First Law Trilogy

8. Brandon Sanderson has several series. His Mistborn Series breaks into two trilogies. The most recent just out is Bands of Mourning. (See my blog on it) Also his The Stormlight Archive with Way of Kings and Words of Radiance is quite good. Doorstoppers, both of them.

The Lies of Locke Lamora9. Scott Lynch and his Gentlemen Bastards series has also been a favorite of mine. The first is The Lies of Locke Lamora, then Red Seas Under Red Skies and The Republic of Thieves. Soon to come out is The Thorn of Emberlaine. Great adventure in the life of Renaissance swindlers.

10.  L. E. Modesitte has written sixty books! His Saga of the Recluse Series is very popular and his Imager Series just had its seventh book released today called Treachery’s Tools. He has several other series that are more hard science and futuristic. One of my favorites is Gravity Dreams and the Octagonal Raven. Lots to binge on with this author.   Imager

Ender's Game

11. Orson Scott Card. Can’t forget his Ender’s Game, one of the most popular science fiction books of all time. (made into a movie) Spin offs from this series are still popping up, so start now and be on the look out.

12. And last but not Least…Sheron Mccartha’s The Alysian Universe series. Now you knew I would have to mention it. For all the books in this series look right and see my listing.

These are just a few series or large books to binge on over the holidays when you want to escape the madness of the holiday or the frenetic relatives. There are more equally as good I haven’t yet mentioned (and might). Do you have any favorites? Let us know.

Until then,

May the Christmas Spirit be with you.

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