Category Archives: Marketing and selling novels

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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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

A Science Fiction Author Greets the Holidays

IMG_0165The holidays are upon me.

Christmas horn

I’ll never get everything done.

I say this every year and, somehow, Christmas happens…but right now, I’m overwhelmed and my feet hurt. Once a year, my daughter and I do a Christmas window shopping excursion at the mall complete with a tasty lunch, laughter, and lots of gift suggestions. Everything she tries on, she looks great in. This year her mother-in-law, Nancy, joined us and made it even more festive.

We don’t buy, we just take notes. Then I go back and pick out what I want to give her/them.

Why am I telling you this?

I haven’t been reading, and I have barely been writing. I am finishing up edits and working on marketing in addition to the usual household craziness.

I’m makingChristmas horn excuses for a late blog.

Since I’m writing the next book in the Terran Series provisionally called Somewhat Alien, I’m focused on writing tips. I could go on a rant about all the current rules of writing…especially “show don’t tell.” Critiques concentrate so much on the details of writing that often they miss the forest for the trees.

Luckily, I have an author in my writing group who questions pacing and the overall balance of plot and characters. Sometimes it’s good to back up and get a viewpoint on your overall story.

A recent blog on this that I just read is: https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2016/11/rhythm-and-pacing-of-writing-the-final-flourish/

Read through to remind yourself to back up and look at the overall story as you are writing.

On the marketing front, on Cyber Monday, I offered Someone’s Clone for free on Booksends. I figured lots of people would be checking their e-mails for deals, and there I’d be.

The results were disappointing for all that brilliance of thought, the follow-on sales thin, although follow on results have just begun. I don’t know if this is due to the ad site or mostly how busy everyone is. This book is rarely offered free, so if anyone else has used Booksends, I’d be interested in their results. Not long ago, I mentioned Jason B. Ladd’s website where authors are recording results from various add sites to compare which works best. Of course, the book itself plays an important part in success or failure of the effort.

http://www.jasonbladd.com/indielisters/

However, not to be dissuaded, I’m once again offering my first in a series, Caught in Time on December 19 on Book Barbarian. For the price, it got good results recently. I’m thinking people will be buying new tablets as gifts and will be looking to load exciting stories onto them. Then on December 26, I’ll offer it again. Readers should be done with parties and want a quiet read. I’ve picked Fussy Librarian as my ad booster site then. It has gotten good reviews with a low cost.

I’m not doing book fairs or signings. In the past, they have been expensive and not cost effective. If they have worked for you, tell me how…I’m interested.

tinkers-daughterThis week I’m going to mention a suggestion given to me by another avid science fiction reader. Ted Blasche has written The Rust Bucket Chronicles, a military science fiction with humor and romance along the lines of Lois Bujold. He e-mailed me and suggested I read the Tinkerer’s Daughter by Jamie Sedgwick. When I went looking for an Amazon best seller, there it was.

Breeze is an outcast, born of an elven mother and a human father, who is recalled to a war between elf and human that has been going on for a thousand years. The safest place he could leave her is with a tinker who makes noisy inventions and dangerous machines. Kids at school bully her, and she has to hide her elven ears to protect herself from the townsmen who see her race as the enemy.  Then, she gets an idea that could stop the war and save the planet if it works. If it doesn’t she could be hunted down for treason and killed.

Mixed reviews suggest you consider whether this is your style of story, but my friend gave it two thumbs up, and I plan to read it soon.tinkers-war

If you’re looking for other ideas, there are a number of series that I haven’t had time to follow up on : Chris Rehner, (Catalyst), Bella Forest (The Star King), any Sharon Lee and Steve Miller in the Liaden series, and maybe you might consider my Alysian series. The later books get even better. Or scan through my two years of blogs on great science fiction reads.

Whatever you have time for, I hope your holidays are filled with fun and good company. Laugh, love, visit with friends, and have a good time.Christmas horn

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Filed under Best selling science fiction, book fairs, ebook marketing, fantasy series, Liaden Universe, Marketing and selling novels, military science fiction, Political science fictionLois McMasters Bujold, science fiction, science fiction series

Science Fiction Thriller

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I was studying Data guy’s new report on author’s earnings to understand the influences on total book sales, both paperback and ebook.

http://authorearnings.com/report/october-2016/

The data suggests that ebook sales have declined recently. However, keep in mind that more and more Indie and self published authors are using ASIN numbers rather than the more reportable ISBN number.

Also, the report mentions the influences that heavyweight Bookbub has on sales. Traditional publishing houses are paying the large fee to drive up their ebook sales and squeezing out the smaller fry. While Bookbub protests that it is fair, it really isn’t. You need a lot of reviews to get accepted and the cost is high. It’s also a matter of the higher number of sales and reviews you get, the more likely you will get more in the future. As an independent publisher, I struggle to get reviews. Sales are good, but reviews are few.

Price as an issue is also discussed. The traditional and mid-sized houses are putting high price tags on ebooks and that drives down sales. Discounting paperbacks results in selling less ebooks and more paperbacks. The popularity of coloring books that are counted as paperbacks was also a factor in the paperback sales bump.

Version 2Also, I’m concerned about the increasing availability of free books. Bundling is also a new marketing ploy that enables a reader to get a number of books for a lowered price. However, as an author, when I offer my first in a series, I get a lot of follow-on sales, so offering one free is well worth it for me and part of my marketing strategy.

There is also mention of Amazon’s recent changing of algorithms. Scam artists have infiltrated Amazon to manipulate the page reads in the Kindle Unlimited program. A number of innocent authors have been hurt in the crossfire. Since Amazon doesn’t disclose how they count these pages, authors rely on Amazon numbers for how many pages are read…and these numbers have changed dramatically recently.

There’s a lot of data and graphs to look at and some interesting comments on the current state of the business. So, take a look and draw your own conclusions.

blended-humanThis week I’m talking about The Human Blend by Alan Dean Foster. This is part of a completed Trilogy (The Tipping Point Trilogy)  that deals with extreme genetic manipulation of humans. I picked this because it is near future science fiction that is different than my usual fare. Also, the book is by a well known author that I haven’t discussed before.

Whisper is a thug who has chosen to alter his body to extreme thinness. His partner in crime is Jiminey Cricket who has long legs and can jump far. They attack a supposed tourist in an alley to harvest his hand to sell. Whisper is attracted to a hidden shimmering silver thread that he pockets. Not long after, shadowy figures start hunting them.

The book is a chase through strange environments and even stranger people. At first, the two run, thinking it is the hand that their pursuers want. Then, after they split up to throw off their trackers, Jiminey disappears. Whisper calls forth everything and everyone he knows to evade whoever is after him. And some of the characters are pretty strange…such as alligator man.body-inc

After he is shot with tracker bullets, Whisper ends up at Dr. Ingrid Seastrom’s clinic, desperate to get the bullets removed where he shows her the thread. He hopes her advanced equipment will reveal what he carries so he will know its worth. Unlike Whisper, Ingrid is an attractive Harvard educated natural. Investigating the thread leads to a startling discovery, and it appears to be connected to a quantum entangled nanoscale implant she took out of a young girl’s brain recently. The silver thread is a data storage device made from an impossible bit of material not from Earth. Her scientific curiosity wants to know more about the strange material, so together they form a partnership.

the-sum-of-her-partsBut their pursuers appear to have a lot of clout and skilled assassins to call upon in order to retrieve the stolen thread. The result is a wild chase through a disturbing world where what it means to be human is a very blurry line indeed.

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Science Fiction Specials

IMG_0174A one day special…today!

To kick off my new book A World Too Far, I have partnered with Free Kindle Books and Tips to offer a special discount to celebrate the new release.

This starts a new Trilogy that remains in the Alysian Universe, but presents a whole different viewpoint and characters. Offered on Amazon or through FBKT, grab this .99 deal because it’s going away tomorrow.

http://smarturl.it/awtf or http://amzn.to/2cgqU6O

I don’t usually go into writing on my blog, but Thomas Weaver of North of Andover gave a good explanation of an irritating grammar point–the em dash. Here it is if you’ve been wondering.

https://northofandover.wordpress.com/2016/09/09/sometimes-he-tries-to-explain-how-to-use-the-em-dash/

Are you a Firefly fan? If you think I’m talking about flickering flying insects, you couldn’t be more mistaken.

I’m talking about the kickass series of odd job spacers who fly around the stars from episode to episode running from the government and it’s secret operation and trying to pick up various dangerous jobs in order to survive.

And starring hunky Nathan Fillion. Oh, so now you know what I’m talking about.

Well…

dark-runIf you like that style of science fiction, then, Dark Run by Mike Brooks may just be your cup of kauf.

The Keiko’s crew are smugglers, tarnished soldiers of fortune, ex-pirates, and con artists who want their past to stay secret. It’s the code of the ship to not dig up a fellow crew member’s past. But the past has away of coming back and biting you, so Captain Icabod Drift is abducted and blackmailed into taking a job by an old corrupt employer who has revenge on his mind and wants to use the Keiko to deliver it. For a cool hundred thousand up front and another after delivery, Captain Drift and crew must deliver three crates to an exact location at an exact time.

Scrambling to make the deadline, several obstacles force the ship into various fraught situations. Their female Chinese pilot flies the ship through impossible maneuvers and the huge Maori named Apirana serves as bodyguard and protectorate. Drift and first mate, Tamara Rourke, form a special bond. (romance here) Crew member Micah has his own secrets and a past he’d rather hide. And the pilot ‘s brother Kuai lurks in the engine room muttering at his sister’s recklessness and trying to protect her.

But as events unfold and the deadly, mysterious cargo is discovered, hidden past identities begin to unravel and surprising identities are revealed. The most shocking is the true identity of their once trusted Captain. As the revelations unfold, the crew must decide if they want to remain together and continue with the close fellowship they have experienced over the past several years or split for new horizons, now knowing the truth of fellow crew members.dark-sky

But each feels betrayed by what happens and revenge becomes a strong glue that keeps them together as they seek out to destroy the powerful employer who set Drift and his crew up in the first place.

Definitely a fun ride with all the elements of an action adventure science fiction story in place and ready to be enjoyed.

Flicker on firefly.

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