Category Archives: Amazon publishing

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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Filed under Amazon publishing, artificial intelligence, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, ebook marketing, Hugh Howey, Indie Publishing, Nebula nominations, Robots in science fiction, Wizards and magic, young adult science fiction

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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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, Amazon publishing, Best selling science fiction, blog information, ebook science fiction, Marketing and selling novels, Science Fiction Detective Story, Science Fiction Mystery, Space opera, The future of publishing, time travel

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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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, Amazon publishing, Best selling author, ebook marketing, fantasy series, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, Military in Fantasy, Science fiction world building, Self-publishing

More than Science Fiction Novels

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Science fiction is not always about books. I was watching Orphan Black, wondering what I would talk about in my next blog and suddenly realized that I was looking at it. While I’m finding it hard to dig out good hard science fiction or space opera novels, there appears to be a blossoming of science fiction on TV and in movies.

20160721_153915I recently attended David Levine’s signing at Powell’s in Beaverton where he read from, and sang about, his debut book Arabella of Mars. Arabella of MarsQuite the entertainer. David is a long time friend from when I used to be in a Portland Author’s lunch group with him. He said that he had a hard science fiction book about Mars that he was shopping around and the traditional publishers didn’t accept it, telling him that science fiction didn’t sell well.

What!

Definitely this was before the best seller The Martian...and, by the way, a well done mMartianovie with a powerhouse actor. (I did a blog on the book)
No wonder it’s hard to find science fiction out there. The gatekeepers have slammed closed the gate. So to keep a writing career, David offered a fun Steampunk novel, and got accepted. Now, however, I fear the Steampunk fad is fading. Still, I recommend Arabella as a fun read…but even David admits the science became fantasy when he had billowing sailing ships plowing the space lanes.

Meanwhile, TV and movies are flourishing. I want to just mention a few you may or may not know about and, in this day and age, with streaming video, you may still be able to access some earlier seasons if you have missed them.

Currently, I am following Kill Joys on the Syfy channel. This is space opera. Think Firefly. They are kickass mercenaries with attitude and shadowy world corporate figure after them. They are hired on for jobs that occasionally are not what they first seem to be. A tough bunch that gets it done across the universe.

Orphan BlackAnother series is Orphan Black on BBC. Clones, clones, and more clones all done by one amazing actress. They are being hunted and have a dreaded disease for which they are desperately trying to find a cure. One line is female, and there is an alternative line of males. A unique series.

The Expanse will be starting season II soon. This is a well done series based on James Corey’s (Abramson and Franck) novels in the Expanse Series. (See several previous blogs on the books) I recommend you read the books first or the TV series can be confusing. Still lots of interesting sets of space stations and star ships.Expanse Collection

Dark Matter is another TV series I’m enjoying. This has a collection of humans on the run from shadowy corporate bad guys. One is a cyborg with mysterious powers, the other an angry mercenary, a young girl with mysterious background, a downloaded holographic with personality…you get the idea. The mystery is who is after them and why.

Let’s not forget the fairly recent movies of Independence Day 2, Enders Game, Hunger Games series, X-men: Civil War, and other super hero movies that are currently very popular.

Okay, I know you have more you want to mention, but that’s a taste.
I want to save room here in order to mention two very important blogs that I’ve recently read.
The first continues  Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s blog on publisher contracts and what to watch out for. Critical information for any author, Indie or traditionally published, and especially, if you are submitting to publishers big or small.

http://kriswrites.com/2016/07/20/business-musings-other-evil-clauses-contractsdealbreakers/

The other is a blog by my friend Mary Rosenblum who works with self-published authors to help them launch and sell their books. It’s a scary account of how one of her clients got wrapped up in the Amazon effort to clean up reviews. In their enthusiasm to get reviews, authors need to be very careful of new rules and oversights by Amazon or they might find themselves out in the cold. Being booted out by Amazon can be a career killer.

http://www.newwritersinterface.com/amazon-bites-author

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On a more upbeat note, I’m now going to pop off to the local Ponzi vineyard for some wine sipping and a plate of cheese and crackers on the deck. My newlywed daughter will provide charming company and insights into Pokemon.

Pokemon2                          Oregon summers are a delight.                  pokemon

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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, Amazon publishing, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, Clones, downloaded personalities, fantasy, gene modification, genetic manipulation, Hunger Games, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, Mars, Science Fiction Mystery, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Space opera, space travel, Transhumanism, Uncategorized

Zany Alternate Reality Science Fiction

Image 1Is it me, or are characters are not behaving properly nowadays?

By this I don’t mean loose morals, heavy sex, betrayal and murder. That’s been going on for centuries. I mean jumping out of books or TV shows within a book—not staying put in their storyline .

In 1969 John Fowler wrote The French Lieutenant’s Woman and offered up three different endings—reader’s choice. I hated that. For me, what had been a rich believable story got flattened into fiction when the ending became optional.Redshirts

Now John Scalzi’s wins the Hugo for…spoiler alert…Redshirts, a story in which the protagonists discover they are merely characters in a TV show whose lives are manipulated by the writer. A parody on Star Trek, anyone found wearing a redshirt on an away mission should count himself in grave peril.

So the main characters hie off to Hollywood to take back control of their scenes, er, lives. For me, the book got a little silly.

Now this week I read the Eyre Affair and ran into a similar theme—but this time it had a lot of silly in it.

Jane Eyre Affair

Thursday Next is a member of Special Operatives in literary detection known as SpecOps. She’s like FBI for literature. The story takes place in a surreal future in Great Britain where time travel is routine and cloning commonplace, although the big cloning feature are pet Dodoes. Of course, Thursday has one. Naming the main character Thursday Next should have been the first big giveaway.

In the story, literature is taken extremely seriously, and forging Byronic verse is considered a felony. A continuing argument is who really authored the Shakespearean plays, and audiences participate in certain well-known theater productions, such as Hamlet. Thursday’s aunt Polly actually gets lost in Wadsworth I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, and the big bad corporate villain searching for the ultimate weapon is named Jack Schitt, no shit.

 Thursday Next is called in when the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewitt is stolen and a character is rewritten throughout every subsequent copy. Archeron Hades is the main villain out to extort money and mayhem by threatening to change famous literature. Thursday confronts him during a robbery, but he gets away.

As you might guess, Jane Eyre becomes a target, and Thursday Next finds herself trapped in the story, trying to track down Hades and his accomplice, Felix. Felix gets killed a lot, but keeps wearing the same old face on new bodies. Meanwhile, there is a side romance that rather parallels pieces of Jane Eyre involving Thursday and her ex-boyfriend.

Okay, so you have a taste of the zany story where characters, such as Mr. Rochester, step out of the story to help Thursday while the narrative is elsewhere in the original manuscript.

There are readers who love this chaos, so I am mentioning the book for them, but I’m more of a traditionalist and want my characters to remain in their stories. I struggled through this one.

Lost in a Good Book

As a writer, I must admit that my characters often take unexpected turns and sometimes grow bigger than called for in my original plot. There is an organic quality to my writing, although I outline ahead of time and know what my ending is going to look like. But everyone stays in the story. No one walks through my office door and demands a rewrite.

Do you control your characters or do they run lose throughout your story?

If you need help, and who doesn’t, Jay Lee, runs the Choosy Bookworm and has forty websites that he recommends. Several I have already mentioned in previous blogs, but they are worth mentioning again.

If you’re new to the game, hbpublications has a comprehensive blog on book launching marketing methods that might offer some helpful ideas.

https://choosybookworm.com/resources-for-writing-marketing-books/

http://hbspublications.blogspot.ca/2014/03/your-book-launch-marketing-methods-and.html?m=1&utm_content=bufferbcd0b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

My new banner is of the deepest image ever in the universe. The Hubble Telescope took a totally dark spot in space and pointed its telescope there for an extended period of time. Thousands of galaxies we had never noticed appeared.

Makes you think.

Enjoy your spring.

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Filed under Alternate Reality in Literature, Amazon publishing, Best selling author, Book within a Book Science Fiction, ebook science fiction, Hugo winners, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, science fiction, Science Fiction Detective Story, Self-publishing, Writing Tips and Lectures

An Author’s Outrage

IMG_0193Outrage.

Several Linked-in discussion groups and bloggers are outraged at Amazon for requiring the table of contents be located at the front of all their books.

Holy Mackerel, where else would you put it? The table of contents purpose is to give the reader an overview of the contents of a book.

Hummmm…turns out scammers are putting the table of contents at the back to get a large page count so they will be paid by Kindle at a per page rate through the Kindle reading platform.

Blog rantings and ravings at big bad Amazon are appearing.

What?

It costs nothing to fix if you are self-published, and if you aren’t, you shouldn’t care because you aren’t getting paid–your publisher is. Put it at the front where it belongs or just skip it.

Sounds like the same kind of people who complained when Amazon took down paid and associated reviews that plumped up the ratings. Authors were swapping reviews with each other under promises of five stars whether they read the books or not.

Screams and yells erupted when reviews were pulled. And yes, a large number of honest reviews got axed. Me included. The honest, paying once again because of scammers. Gee thanks.

Save us from those who are trying to scam everyone nowadays. It’s pervasive. I’m tired of receiving annoying phone calls from someone with an Indian accent claiming they are from “windows” and I need to fix the virus in my computer right now…and if I just open my computer, he will help me.

Right.

Not to mention the “IRS” calls, the bogus credit card offers, the email attacks… need I go on?

Now we have scammers stuffing junk, copied material from anywhere, putting on a cover and title and publishing it in order to reap the profits from KNF. And they are reaping large profits out of a set amount that is divided up by other authors. In other words, if the amount is, say fourteen million, that pie is divided out among the Kindle Unlimited qualifying authors who get less per page if the count is big. One blog did a screen shot of over thirty thousand in royalties for one month by a fifteen year old kid.

And authors are yelling at Amazon?

Bottom line is, dear authors, most likely you wouldn’t have a book published if it weren’t for Amazon, or have you forgotten what publishing was like ten years ago?

It’s a shame our free society gets punished by charlatans out to weasel a buck from the unsuspecting public who, in turn, point to the self publishers and accuse them of putting out shoddy books. It gives self-publishers a bad rap.

Then when Amazon tries to fix the problem, authors set up a hue and cry.

Is any one else getting tired of these scammers and ripoff artists? Or tired of ungrateful authors who don’t have a publisher grabbing out a large chunk of their royalties because they can now publish free through CreateSpace? Remember editors turning down tons of good manuscripts because of the flood of submissions they encountered every month in their inbox, never accepting do-agains.

Unfortunately, Amazon is the target because they have revolutionized the publishing industry by providing an alternative and cheap way to publish.

No longer do new writers have to jump through hoops of query letters, finding agents, and a system where only a small percentage of eager writers get to make it through a very subjective process.

All I have to say, as an author with nine books and counting, is thank you, Amazon.Bands of Mourning

I appreciate you trying to fix the problems that deceptive people create so that readers (me) can get a true picture of what they’re buying, and authors (me) receive a fair portion of the Kindle kitty.

See the books at right? Real stories. Most near four hundred pages with honest reviews. Unfortunately, not enough….but I didn’t pay for a one.

Once again, thank you Amazon, for making them possible and providing a way a modest income author can fulfill her dream.

And next week when I catch my breath, I hope to review Brandon Sanderson’s new book, The Bands of Mourning. Stay tuned.

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Filed under Amazon publishing, blog information, Book reviews, ebook marketing, ebook science fiction, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, science fiction, Self-publishing