Category Archives: Best selling author

Authors Using Technology: Blessing or Bane?

Technology : Blessing or basin of authors.

There! Right there. I typed bane not basin. My computer decided I meant something else.

I love the ease of Swype where I can glide my fingers effortlessly across the keyboard, but it comes at a price. I often face a battle over how to spell words and even what words I’m writing. I can’t fathom where my computer finds these words. Sometimes, I try to write a very simple word several times, and computer boy wants something else. Yelling and shouting at the keyboard does no good. It’s deaf.

Many times, I have threatened to leave the program. But like a bad boy you can’t give up, the program reactivates, and I come slinking back just for the feel of the glide on my fingers and the ease of typing. And like a bad boy, I have to keep an eye out and constantly check up on what the program is saying for fear of some outrageous word cropping up… Like basin for bane, and then name, and then… until I’m pounding the keyboard in frustration.

Does technology do that to you? Do you bless and curse it all in the same breath? What technology do you use as an author that helps you?

As my writing circle shrinks, I’ve been exploring editing programs. I’m now familiar with Grammarly, Ginger, and Prowritingaid. Autocrit, Hemingway, Slickwriter, and Scrivener are a few others.

Of the three I use, the most value from the program for me comes from Prowritingaid. For forty dollars a year, I bought the premium version. It’s fairly easy to use, but can be overwhelming. It offers a critique summary which tells you your reading level, grammar mistakes, word repetitions, spelling, sentence lengths, punctuation and much more. I feel there is too much, but then I pick and choose what I want to change, and my writing is better for it.

Next I like Ginger. This editing program has a free version that is quite adequate. You import your section, and it tells you grammar errors, punctuation problems and offers a fix. The free version has limited word count of five hundred words at a time, but you can do it  piecemeal. If you have the patience, what Ginger has that the others don’t, is a program that goes sentence by sentence and offers several alternative words and sentence structures. Often, they will suggest a word that makes the meaning sharper. Instead of she walks, they’ll offer she ambles or struts. Sometimes, like my Swype program, they’ll offer a total off-the-wall suggestion. One of the choices might say: The queen rained. You just blink your eyes and move on.

Grammarly is also good and very popular. There, too, you can get a free version. Just be aware that you must put up with the constant sales pitch, and slyly, they won’t tell you all the errors, saying you must upgrade to their thirty dollars a month version to get a full critique. I don’t feel the upgrade is worth it.

Still, the free version does an adequate job, even though it harps on my use of articles for various nouns, or rather my lack of them, and my negligence in adding commas between compound sentences while completely ignoring the lack of punctuation at the end of a sentence.

I never liked Hemingway’s compact and sparse prose. I’m more of a Faulkner writer with his long involved sentences and intricate descriptions. Juicy. So, I didn’t explore the Hemingway editing program.

If you use an editing program or a writing program, which one is it, and what do you like about it? What is your opinion–technology: blessing or bane?

This week I want to suggest reading two of my favorite books : Heavy Time and Hellburner by C. J. Cherryh.

I’m now having fun writing the third novel in my Terran Trilogy called The Weight of Gravity. Previously, I’d become stuck in the middle of the story as often happens to writers. I knew I wanted to write about the conflict between Alysians and Terrans as the Terrans try to settle on Alysia. I wanted to add urgency to the story with the threat of an attack, and that’s when I remembered reading Hellburner.

But I had to start with Heavy Time because Hellburner was hard to find, and also because Hellburner happens earlier and continues the story with the same characters. Rimrunner also takes place in the same universe.

Heavy Time has strong political overtones and tells about the struggles the small independent spaceship miners have against the big company asteroid mining conglomerates. Pilot Paul Dekker is discovered drifting in a tumbling mining spaceship and half dead without memory of what happened. His crew appears to have been murdered, and he is the number one suspect. Paul is half out of his mind and keeps calling out for his lover and crewmate, Cory. With great reluctance, Ben Pollard answers his distress call and brings him in, complaining about the cost and inconvenience. Paul ‘s constant frantic rantings after his missing girlfriend annoys Ben, and he abuses Paul in order to stop it.. Once on station, Paul’s former fellow crewmate, Bird, takes pity on him and is the only person who tries to clear his name, but it doesn’t prove easy.

Hellburner continues Paul’s story.

After testing Paul to see what skills he might have, the military discovers through an incident that he has extraordinary piloting skills. A powerful executive in the Mars Company, Cory’s mother, is out to crucify Paul as she believes he is responsible for her daughter’s death. She tries to bring him off station to Earth to try him for murder.

But the military has a secret warship in development and needs Paul’s skills to pilot their prototype. They offer him refuge from prosecution if he will pilot the ship. However, within the various divisions of the military, conflict develops as to who will control the program, and Paul ends up right in the middle of the fight with several murder attempts aimed at him. Against his will, Ben is pulled in to bring a drugged Paul back to sanity where he uncovers a secret plot within the military.

Fast-paced, the story is typical Cherryh. Told in various first-person viewpoints, it’s solid science fiction with a lot of emotional heat. She keeps you guessing as what is really going on until the very end.

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Filed under award winning scifi, Best selling author, Best selling science fiction, C. J. Cherryh, Classic science fiction, military science fiction, Science fiction thriller, Technology Authors can Use, Writing Critique groups, Writing Tips and Lectures

Time Travel Review

Spring arrived in Oregon and the tulips were blooming. Perfect weather dawned on Sunday with the Tulip Festival in full swing. A spontaneous decision…we should go. What could go wrong? Fresh air, beautiful flowers, and wine all sounded lovely.

Unfortunately, half of Oregon came to the same conclusion.

Rolling along at the breakneck speed of three mph behind a congo line of cars, we enjoyed the passing country scenery–for hours.

Lots of colorful tulips covered the fields as far as the eye could see, and the swarming mass of humanity reminded me of the huge reader potential out there. I just had to figure out a way to tap into it.

Maybe offer a tulip if they purchase a book? Nah… Tulips are tender.

Nevertheless, there was a party atmosphere, and we had a fun time.

Authors face life circumstances such as this that unexpectedly interrupt their writing schedule. After all, they have family and a life outside of writing, but it means they have to be aware of such events when they set their schedule and build in flex.

Another situation taking time away from writing was the book I chose for this week. Neal Stephenson ‘s D.O.D.O. jumped off the library shelf into my hands, causing me to stagger backward. Eight hundred and fifty some pages is a doorstopper of a novel, and a novel that may stop a lot of readers from picking it up .

It brought up the topic in our writing group : Just how long should a novel be?

The expected answer is : As long as it takes to finish the story.

However, Nathan Bransford, who writes a popular blog, lined out suggested lengths.

Chapter Books (i.e. pre-Middle Grade) – 5,000 – 20,000
Fantasy – 80,000 – 120,000
General Fiction – 75,000 – 100,000
Historical Fiction – 80,000 – 120,000
Literary Fiction – 40,000 – 120,000
Middle Grade – 30,000 – 60,000
Mystery – 75,000 – 90,000
Novella – 20,000 – 40,000
Romance – 50,000 – 90,000
Science Fiction– 90,000 – 120,000
Thriller – 80,000 – 100,000
Young Adult – 60,000 – 80,000

I felt the length of D.O.D.O to be too long and it really didn’t end satisfactorily. The story is about how a collection of individuals work on a top secret program that uses time travel to try to bring magic back into the world. Set in the near future, they go back in history to collect witches that they use to send and bring back selected people who fiddle with history.

Different chapters use letters, memos, transcripts, and various forms of communications to reveal the different viewpoints in the story. There is hilarity in the differing perceptions.

You have your bright, intelligent main character who is a linguist and your handsome military undercover male. They form a romantic interest. The arrogant professor wanting control and the headstrong witch who doesn’t put up with anyone ‘s nonsense provide humor. Trying to keep everything under control and under wraps is the strong military brass. Of course when you start messing with time, trouble happens…and then compounds.

How Stephenson handles time travel is also interesting. He has many dimensions side by side that vary slightly. As the one traveling changes circumstances, they create other different time dimensions.

I enjoyed it because I like books on time travel, but toward the end, I felt the story dragged.

There will obviously be a sequel as nothing was really resolved. I’m not sure I’m ready to put in the time.

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Filed under award winning scifi, Best selling author, Best selling science fiction, time travel, Wizards and magic

Ten Indie Publishing Trends You might Want to Know

We are trying to survive the drippy days of a Portland winter, but thank goodness we have no snow like the East Coast. Still it’s hard to keep cheerful spirits when all outside is gloomy and gray.

So here’s a fun piece that I wanted to include in my blog to raise the mood.
It’s a summary of the different social media platforms.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN VARIOUS SOCIAL PLATFORMS?

Funny, but true (kinda): • Facebook: I like donuts. • Twitter: I’m eating a donut. • Instagram: Here’s a picture of my donut. • YouTube: Watch me eat a donut. • Vine: Watch me eat a donut for six seconds. • LinkedIn: My skills include donut eating. • Pinterest: Here’s a donut recipe. • Google Plus: I’m a Google employee who eats donuts.

It really clarifies the various functions of the bewildering array of media platforms out there and offers you a smile.

January is the time when seers and prognosticators appear on the publishing scene. Written Word has gathered ten publishing trends they see for 2018. As an author, you may find it helpful to see which direction the business might go. I encourage you to read the blog in its entirety, but I have a few comments to make on it. bit.ly/2DjqULH

Of the ten listed, a few caught my attention. The first is that marketing is getting more expensive with poorer results. Ad sites now talk about “stacking” your book or offering the same book on several ad sites on the same or consecutive days. This can get expensive if your royalty is a few dollars per book or you’re offering the book for free. Just about all ad sites require a discount on your book of some sort, if not free. Add to that the idea that readers are getting more selective in their downloads and picky about price, and author’s margins are squeezed.

However, serious Indies are continuing to build their catalog. Perseverance is key in the writing business. It’s a long game. Here’s what Written Word says to give authors hope :

“Ever year we (Written Word) conduct a survey of authors to identify what high-earning authors are doing to achieve success. In 2017 the number of authors who reported making over $100,000 from writing grew by 70% over 2016. The percentage of authors making between $5,000 and $10,000 per month doubled year over year. Indies who persevere and continue putting out books slowly increase their earnings over time. Is it easy? No. Will it take time? Yes. But there are plenty indie authors who are making money. They will continue to grow their businesses in 2017 and a new batch of high-earning authors will join their ranks.

What this means for you: Successful indie authors see themselves as entrepreneurs who are running a business. And they are. Their product is their books. Successful authors are those that focus on their business and manage the ups and downs. In 2018 be honest with yourself. What are your goals? Are you writing to pursue a passion? Are you writing to supplement your income? Are you building or growing a business? Then align your efforts with your goals to achieve what success means for you.”

The last comment from this blog I want to point out is “Everyone will talk about going direct to reader.” Several efforts and young companies are causing even more disintermediation in the publishing business. Publica.com talks about direct transactions between authors and readers via blockchain and could very well be the next step in publishing. Stay tuned on this idea and check out their website for more information.

I have five more books to put on my 2018 reading list. (The first five are on my previous blog)

In the absence of blockbuster stand-alones this past year, I’ve added several follow-up books in a series to my 2018 reading list. To address a title that is on most science fiction lists and traditionally published, I have chosen Artemis by Andy Weir. The Martian was a smash hit, both movie and book, and now Weir writes an adventure involving the moon. I expect this will be good.

Next, I selected Helios by N.J. Tanger. I read and reported on the first in this series, Chimera, and now I’m ready to read the next. The story trends to YA since the main characters are teenagers.

Summary: A distant planet colony no longer receives supplies or transmissions from Earth, and after several years, they are running low on resources. The colony tries to reactivate the sleeping AI and repair the colony’s ship in order to send it to Earth to find out why they have been abandoned. Five young people are selected to crew the ship. The first book tells that story and the conflict of relationships among the candidates for crew.

Now in Helios, the story continues as an exchange ship breaks through fractal space to arrive on the planet. Celebrations break out, but collapse when all on board are found dead. More than ever, Stephen’s Point Colony wants to send the ship to Earth and find out what has happened.

Sounded interesting. So, I included book two.

Everyone tells me how great Neil Gammon is, but I couldn’t finish reading American Gods, in spite of all its acclaim. Now the Powell’s Reading Group has listed Neverwhere to read. They have assured me that I will like it, so I’m willing to give it a chance.

I loved the Merchant Series by Charles Stross, so when I saw Empire Games continued this interdimensional espionage and political science fiction romp, I put it on my to-read list.

I’ve had the book cover of Remnants of Trust on my desktop ever since reading The Cold Between by Elizabeth Bonesteel as a reminder to read this next in the series. The blurb says, “A young soldier finds herself caught in the crossbar of a deadly conspiracy in space.” Here was my military space thriller, then, and the final selection on my list.

Here’s these last five with the caveat that I add additional interesting books throughout the year as they catch my attention or pop up on my list of books that I think readers will like. I encourage you to try any of them and let me know what you think.

 

 

Artemis Andy Weir
Helios N. J. Tanger
Remnants of Trust Elizabeth Bonesteel
Neverwhere Neil Gammon
Empire Games. Charles Stross

Have a great 2018 reading year.

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Filed under Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, Alternate Universe Stories, Best selling author, Best selling science fiction, Discovering New Worlds, ebook marketing, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, military science fiction, Novels that take place in the moon, Political Science Fiction, Portal fiction, Publishing Trends, science fiction series, Science fiction thriller, space ship, The future of publishing

Possible Publishing Future

cat-rainIt’s rainy and chilly outside. Welcome to winter in Portland.

On the other hand, I have hot news. Josef Marc worked with my husband for several years and is a longtime friend. He recently left GrayMeta where my husband works to become CEO of a new start up called Publica.io.  https://publica.io/

He claims he got the idea from me when he visited a while back, and I was complaining about the publishing process.

Evidently, words have power and I need to watch what I say.

Nevertheless, he just raised one million dollars in an ICO (initial coin offering) to launch a company called Publica. Publica uses blockchain technology to ease transactions among readers who want to buy books, authors who want to sell books, and vendors such as editors, formatters, cover artists who want to offer their services for compensation.

Here, let me quote a recent article that explains it better:

“Publica will be a platform for authors, readers, books of all kinds and the people who make them. And for smart contracts to carry all kinds of transactions and exchanges for the publishing economy.

Publica will fuel an ecosystem of the third parties necessary to publish and promote high-quality and high-value books–editors, cover artists, illustrators, marketers and so on. By backing their ecommerce transactions on the blockchain Publica will bring trust and liquidity to the ecosystem. Peer-to-peer.

To ignite the ecosystem, Publica is a platform for authors to offer their own token launches for their new books (crowdfunding). Each token sold in a book’s token launch represents READ access to the book in an e-reader.

Authors will be able to set their own advance payments for their books negotiated with their fans and institutional backers. They’ll retain creative and financial freedom while having the means to remain independent.”

So, I’m giving you a heads-up. The community will be looking for authors to provide content, readers to be customers, and vendors to grease the publishing wheels, all using block chain technology.

Will it work? The future is evolving and it appears to be headed in Publica’s direction.

Stay tuned.

Last week I read the next book in Anne Bishop’s Black Jewel series, Queen of Shadows. I’m trying to figure out why I get so engaged with the characters since they are fantasy and play off the whole dark magic theme with Satan, his sons, witches and walking dead. Not usually my genre, but I’m hooked on this story.

The series deals with a magic system based on jewels. The darker the jewel, the more power the wielder has. Only those of the Blood carry these jewels that give them power over others. A prophecy in the web of dreams tells of the coming of Witch, a most powerful queen who will protect and unify the land. Whoever controls her will hold immense power. So, Book one, Daughter of the Blood begins the story of Jaenelle Angelline and of political intrigue, betrayal, and magic where the weapons of battle are love and hate. As a child, Jaenelle and others are confined at an institution that portrays itself as helping wayward children, but in reality abuses them in an effort to control them.

The next in the series Heir to the Shadows continues the story of Jaenelle as a maturing woman who is rescued and taken in by a loving guardian. Nevermind his name is Saetan, high lord of Hell. Although her physical wounds are healed, her fragile mind can barely protect her from horrifying childhood memories.

And now in, Queen of Shadows, Jaenelle must gather her strength and wait for the coming of Daemon, her consort who struggles back to sanity out of the twisted way. Only with his love to stand by her can she overcome her enemies or go down in defeat into the dark abyss forever.

I found myself enjoying the drama. Although there is much fantasy, with winged dark angels called Eyrien warriors, talking wolves, and even unicorns, currents of loyalty and love are pitted against greed and hate to make it all very relatable.

Strong themes defining the differences in gender provide a constant tug of sex. Males are strongly protective of their queens, and most females are feisty and tend to talk back or create trouble. It’s a story with a wicked brew that certain readers are bound to enjoy.

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Filed under Best selling author, fantasy, fantasy series, Future of Publishing, Indie Publishing, magic, Marketing and selling novels, Publishing Trends, Self-publishing

Ad Survey for Self Publishers

Happy Autumn!

As my blog readers know, I often talk about marketing. I do this not because I’m any marketing guru, but because I like to share information in the hopes it will help other authors out there. I occasionally use ad sites. When I don’t, sales slump, and when I do, sales do better…depending on the effectiveness of the site.

That’s why over the last two years, I have participated in Jason B. Ladd’s survey on results authors have found for various ad sites. Before I was buying blind on whether they were effective or not. Even though his samples are small, they do shed light on some of the sites and their effectiveness.

Of course, genre plays a role. Robin Reads appears to favor the romance writer whereas Book Barbarian is limited to science fiction and fantasy only. Bookbub is the clear winner for garnering most downloads and sales, but very expensive and practically impossible to get accepted unless you have a million five star reviews. Also, I notice lots of famous author’s backlists show up there, most likely supported by traditional publishers. Amy Tam has listed and Isaac Asimov, Gordon Dickson and others listed recently. I’m not in that league … yet.

So, Jason and helpers took all the results of ads sent in by self publishing authors and compiled the results to see if the promotions are worthwhile. He asked the question : Is spending money on ad sites worth it? Here’s a good look at how the ads broke down by genre and what you can expect to pay and what you can expect to receive in downloads and sales.

Here’s the link : http://www.jasonbladd.com/run-book-promotion-numbers-say-yes/

In addition, he has published a book on how to get reviews called Book Review Bonzai. I need reviews, but when I read the method, it looked like a lot of difficult work. It involves using software programs that scrapes the internet for reviewers, putting information on a spread sheet to keep track, and batch e-mailing them to ask for a review. It works, but sounded very time-consuming.

Besides, I’m a reviewer who likes to choose what I review rather than be hounded into writing one. Nonetheless, this may just be what you are searching for to pump up your reviews. Having a good number of reviews is important as often certain advertisers require a minimum number before accepting your novel. This could be the very tool you have been looking for to increase your reviews.

This week for my science fiction suggestion, I’m returning to a favorite author.

Catherine Asaro has just released the next in her Skolian Saga called The Bronze Skies. This is a stand alone in the story of Major Bhaajan who comes from the Under City of the City of Cries. She calls it book eight in the Skolian Empire series but it follows the more recent Undercity title published last year.

The story:

Born into the slums below the City of Cries on the planet Raylicon, the orphan Bhaajan broke free of her crushing poverty and joined the military. There she rose in rank to become a military officer with the Imperial Space Command. Now she is retired and offers her service as a private investigator. Undercity tells the story of her first investigation, which I reviewed last year.

The Bronze Skies continues her story, as she takes on solving an odd murder witnessed by the Ruby Pharoah.

The House of Majda rules the City of Cries and Cries rules the planet Raylicon. Three formidable sisters hold power in the house of Majda. The oldest, Vaj Majda, serves as the General in the Pharaoh’s Army which makes her joint Commander of the Imperial Space Command. The youngest, Colonel Lavinda Majda, is a high Commander in the military, and the third, Corejida Majda  runs the finances of the empire.

The Ruby Pharaoh, Dyhianna Selei (Skolia), is descended from the Ruby Empire, a far-flung civilization that at one time stretched across the stars. It collapsed, and now an elected Assembly rules. Dyhianna, as the Ruby Pharaoh, controls and monitors the interstellar meshes that tie humanity together. The meshes even extend into a different universe, Kyle space. You couldn’t visit the Kyle but you could transform your thoughts there if you were a trained operator with proper enhancements. This enables instant communication light years across interstellar civilization. The Ruby Pharaoh has to have a certain genetic lineage to give her this ability.

The murderer is Jagernaut Daltona Calaj who walks into the financial office at Selei City on the planet of Parthonia and shoots the aide Tavan Ganz. Jagernauts are thought to be unable to murder like that.

Major Bhaajan gets involved when the Ruby Pharoah claims to have witnessed the murder and suggests the AI node implanted in the jugernaut’s spine may have been corrupted. And now, the murderer, Calaj, is on Rayliccon and suspected of hiding out in the Under City—Bhaajan’s old stomping grounds where very few upper level humans can survive.

The Under City is a place of scavengers, of a hidden people who never see the sun and live a brutal existence. For ages, they have been ignored by the upper class citizens of Cries who live on the surface, and only recently recognized. Because she was born there and lived a brutal childhood there, Bhaajan knows the lingo, the culture, and the people. The crime boss of an illegal brothel and gambling house is her lover. So she is uniquely qualified to track down the illusive culprit who is said to be hiding there. Her search into the underground and where the trail leads makes the story more than a simple murder.

I found the story appealing on various levels. Bhaajan is an interesting character with conflicting emotions concerning her background and current status in a highly stratified society. This is an involved universe, so be prepared for clumps of background information to be dumped into the story to keep you up-to-date.

Bhaajan has an implanted, sentient AI that has formed a close bond and they have an ongoing conversation with each other, which I find delightful. Her body has been augmented, making her powerful physically. Her relationship with Jak, who grew up with her, is a sensual one and conflicted, although her one goal is to better the people of Undercity. This society is rich in culture and forms an intriguing storyline in and of itself.

But most interesting is the desert ruins outside of Cries, hinting of a long gone civilization and visitors from the stars that originally colonized the plant, and then mysteriously disappeared. Within these ruins, she discovers powerful AIs who are maintained by a mysterious cult of cloned telepaths…and one rogue AI that awakens from a crashed starship and is out to destroy all humans

At the center, is Dryhianna, whose mind grapples with the artificial intelligence within the mesh and Kyle space, and discovers this hidden and powerful AI that wants to wipe out all humans.

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Filed under artificial intelligence, artificial nature, award winning scifi, Best selling author, Best selling science fiction, Clones, downloaded personalities, genetic manipulation, Implanting humans, Marketing and selling novels, modifying humans, Nebula nominations, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Transhumanism

A Space Opera Selection

Who do you listen to when you write?

Dean Wesley Smith has written more than a hundred books over many years along with his wife Kristine Kathryn Rusch who has written equally as much. Both are Oregon Coast writers who know what they are talking about when it comes to writing and publishing. So it was interesting to read a blog where Dean advocated not having Beta readers or even writing groups.  https://www.deanwesleysmith.com/killing-the-sacred-cows-of-publishing-beta-readers-help-you/ His point was that in the cacophony of advice, the author ‘s voice may be lost among the mumble of suggestions, and the story damaged or diluted.

I work with both a writers’ group and Beta readers because I find their input helpful in making my story stronger.

But he has a point. A very good point.

Some writers want to polish each word to a literary high gloss, while others encourage a stampede of action and excitement to keep their readers turning the pages. Others drench their characters with emotion much like a teenager in the throes of first love. And you, as the writer, may be pushed and pulled by their suggestions.

In The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon  (mentioned in my last blog) I delighted in brilliant metaphors and similes until it became too much and felt like every third sentence was a finely crafted metaphor to show off how clever the writing was.

I love Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels Series, but the strong emotions of the characters take center stage, leaving descriptions and action to tag along.

And anyone reading space opera science fiction or a series like The Expanse knows that action is paramount. Authors are told to have the first chapter start bang with strong action that hooks the reader and fill out the characters and setting later.

So a writers should decide what his or her voice is, or it could become a hodgepodge of other people’s suggestions.

Make no mistake, suggestions are helpful and often make for a stronger work, but only after asking the question : Do I know what my voice is and is this suggestion consistent with my voice and how I want my story written?

In my last blog, I mentioned the international aspect of blogs. Writers are blogging with other writers from all over the globe. It’s quite international. But now we have come to a whole new level when Google translate can instantly translate a blog into many different languages. My friend Diana Peach wrote a guest blog today for Christopher Graham. (copy/paste)

https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2017/10/03/world-building-from-imagination-to-reality-guest-post-by-diana-peach/?c=128961#comment-128961

The blog was excellent, but what attracted my attention was the ability to tap the drop down in the upper right hand corner and immediately have Google translate the blog into a bewildering number of languages. Take your pick.

Think about that one.

I return to space opera this week for my science fiction suggestion. David Drake is a prolific writer of science fiction with several series, and I have been meaning to read him for some time now. Written in 1992, Starliner came out in trade paperback this past June with additional content.

Third officer, Lieutenant Ran Colville, receives his staff side position of making sure all goes smoothly on board the newest and largest starship, the Empress of Earth. Even with the efficient help of the attractive lieutenant Wanda Holly, politics, greed, young love and war threaten to disrupt the orderly passage of the luxury ship with its high class passengers. And Ran’s job is to see they are happy and safe. Different chapters describe various landings on interesting worlds, each one presenting a challenge to the ship. All through the story is the threat of pirates or a military fleet from a warring planet that would love to add this majestic ship to its fleet. Jumping through wormhole, exploring exotic world, dealing with dark politics, and fending off panting women all keep Ran hopping.The Spark

Drake writes a fast-paced story but keeps in mind his characters and their various emotions that drive their actions. This book is a stand alone, but I’m certain to try out other of David Drakes stories having read this one.  Maybe this latest one.

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Filed under Alien worlds, Amazon publishing, Best selling author, Marketing and selling novels, Political Science Fiction, science fiction space opera, Writing Critique groups, Writing Tips and Lectures

Comments on Mark Coker’s Smashword Survey

Mark Coker’s Smashwords survey is in. Smashwords is a distribution service for ebooks. You download a Word document and their famous meat grinder formats and distribute your work to a wide variety of vendors. IBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords are the bigger names. Smashwords is in competition with Amazon so they distribute very little there. The author gets an 85% royalty. 127,000 authors with 437,200 ebooks comprise the current Smashwords catalog.

Sales of 87.5% make up up the fiction category and of that 45% are romance writers. So, romance dominates Smashword’s sales. Only 3% of the top 200 bestsellers are science fiction while 73% are romance.

Pre-orders appear to be a new marketing tool to use to launch a new book. However, only 12.23% of books released during the survey were born of preorders. In the top 1,000 sellers, 61% used preorders, so this is a marketing tool to consider.

Box sets are also becoming popular. 90% are single author box sets. Multi-author sets are also being used, but I wonder how the royalties are divided out. You can expand your readers through other authors’ promotions, but don’t expect to reap a rich monetary reward. And taxes could be a headache.

When studying pricing, free still gets the most downloads by a wide margin, but $3.99, $9.99 and $4.99 yields the most earnings. It was interesting that $3.99 and $4.99 got more downloads by a slim margin over $.99.

The average word count for the top 70 best selling romance books was 113,803. So the longer book is still popular. That surprised me. This may depend on genre.

Having a series helps sales. Top best sellers show they are likely to come from a series. A series with a free starter book boosts sales of the whole series. In the top 100, a free starter book increased sale of the series by 80%.

Data on title length once again urged authors to keep it fairly short. Twenty-four characters titles are in the top 100 while 37.11 characters were in the wider top 1000 range. So those with less sales had longer titles on average. There are always outliers.

And where did Smashwords sell the most? The United States garnered 69% of the sales, far out-distancing all other countries. Lesser sales were in Great Britain (8%), Canada (11%) and Australia (5%). This jives with my numbers, except that I have a strong Australian contingency.

Hi Ya Mates!

All of this is interesting to me as an author, but I write science fiction. For years, I tried to sell on Smashwords (they call it “going wide”), but I don’t sell there. To be eligible for Amazon Select, you cannot list on Smashwords, or any other platform. This has created tension between Amazon and Smashwords, but I decided to go where I can sell well, and that is Amazon. Amazon helps with innovative marketing and has a bigger pool of readers. The bottomline is that I sell so much better there.

Still, this data gives food for thought on several ways any author can market and provides a good snapshot of one section of the ebook market.

For you data geeks, here’s the link: http://blog.smashwords.com/2017/06/smashwords-survey-2017.html

This week I’m reporting on Babylon’s Ashes by James S. A. Corey. While I have been enjoying the Expanse Series, both the books and the television show, I kept waiting for something exciting to happen in this book.

A violent group of Belters called the Free Navy has cobbled together black market spaceships and reigned terror on Earth by throwing rocks that have seriously damaged the planet. In addition, they are attacking colony ships headed out through the gate to the new worlds and plundering their supplies to redistribute to Belter communities. So it is up to James Holden’s crew of the Rocinante to stop them. Politics make former enemies unite (Mars, Earth and others) in order to combat this threat. Be ready for several twists and turns.

In this book, the protomolecule takes a backseat to a Belters and inner system war. It felt like an interlude that cleaned up a problem brought out in the previous book. This was not my favorite book in the series, but still I consider it a good read, considering the dearth of good new science fiction out there. The usual characters appear and a number of other voices are given center stage. Marcos Inarcos, leader of the Free Navy, (and Naomi’s former lover) is seen as one who champions the oppressed Belters, but then turns strident and vicious, not caring who or how many get killed as he grasps for power. Naomi’s son, Carlos, also heads up several chapters. At first, he is his father’s right hand man and believes in the “cause,” but gradually as the losses accumulate, and Marco’s excuses for them sound lame, he begins to wonder if his father really has a plan or the Belter’s welfare at heart.

Orbit has bought three more books for the series, so it should be interesting how Corey (Abraham and Franck) continue the overall plot.

For those readers who want an update on my upcoming book, Somewhat Alien, it is in the works. I’m still waiting on a Beta reader and the delivery of a proof copy. Because of that, my publishing date has been pushed out a week or two. I want to make sure this one is polished and complete as it is one of my favorite stories. Lots of good stuff happens, and I want it to be an exciting adventure for you.

So stay tuned.

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