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Publishing Science Fiction

IMG_9503Lots of exciting stuff is happening at my place.

First off, A World Too Far just got published! This is the first in a new exciting trilogy built around: The Ship, the Station and the Planet. I love to write about space ships and space stations. Our view of the universe has changed so much since I was in school. Yeah, yeah, I did learn the sun was the center, not the Earth, but black holes, dark matter, multi-verses– so much more has been discovered or speculated about over the last few years. I wanted to put some of that in my book.bk9_cover_a_world_too_far_ships_kindle

Next, I’m working on marketing… my style. This means I don’t have the funds for a blizzard of ads or the inclination to travel the country for low attendance signings. That gets expensive too. I haven’t built up a large local fan base, but my readers in Australia are amazingly enthusiastic.

Thanks, mates.

I want to go there some day. My daughter studied at Macquarrie for a term in Sidney and enjoyed the city. It’s on my radar.

I will be offering Caught in Time for free once more as a first in a series book on September 14th and on Free Kindle Books and Tips on the 15th. Here’s the link for Free Kindle Books and Tips: www.fkbt.com Check it out. I’d heard they were good and so far the process has been smooth and the cost reasonable.

The beauty of Indie publishing is that you can go back into the book and update to your current books in the front matter and give new links and information at the back. I also did another read through looking for punctuation and grammar corrections …and found a few. Fixed those.

I taught high school English, but commas still give me the fits.

Along with all this commotion, I’m writing the next book in the series and purely loving it. There are moments of panic when I wonder what is coming next, but the characters always come through with some new crisis that gets me scribbling away…er…madly texting. Human nature being what it is. Aliens being what they are–something always happens.

Also, I’m working on marketing A World Too Far and found a charming new reader who is a big science fiction fan. (my kind of guy) His son works at the Oilerie and just by mentioning I was an author, he showed interest, I showed my card…and the rest was fate. This is a shop that sells mainly olive oil along with a few other intriguing condiments. It’s become my go-to place.

Folks, real life is sometimes quirkier than fiction. And I’m richer for it.

I did a Facebook announcement and was overwhelmed by the response. Some of my former Bradford High School students that I taught back in the day in Florida, stay in touch. I get glimpses of their lives long after high school. It was also nice to reconnect with some of my earlier readers and catch up with them.

to-the-starsThis week I’m highlighting another ebook space adventure called To the Stars by Thomas C. Stone.

After a brief prelude, the story starts with the process of selecting a crew to go search for new worlds. Braithwaite Corporation is a conglomerate reaching out to develop new planets and they are sending out a ship. Our main character, Harry Irons, is put on standby but then gets selected for the crew through a suspicious death. So the flight starts out with some uneasiness with him wondering if a murderer is on board.

Of course, the crew doesn’t get along with each other. However, a serious romance develops between Harry and a smart, attractive girl named Kathleen. Their Captain, Fagan, has deep secrets and appears to be directing the expedition to a particular planet.

They land on a world that has large forests and a livable atmosphere, but questions concerning its evolution cause the explorers uneasiness. Then an indigenous species, very much like the aboriginal man, is discovered. There is a viewpoint shift as we see events transpiring through the eyes of two primitive men who are brothers.

But as the crew learns more about this world, another high-level species encased in a machine body shows up to hunt the humans.

While all this develops, tensions escalate among the human crew. Kathleen is kidnapped by the local cavemen where she learns about their primitive culture.

I enjoyed the description of traveling in space and the deepening mystery of the planet. Things were not fitting together, and it became more and more apparent through the character of Harry that their Captain, Fagan, had an undisclosed agenda and knew more than he let on.

I also liked the portrayal of the two different aliens. The plot moved along and the characters were believable. However, the cover could be better. Some readers didn’t like the treatment of other crew, calling it racist or biased, but I was fine with a varied crew, and I didn’t mind that it wasn’t politically correct for affirmative action bureaucrats.

It was not trendy scifi, but it was classic and enjoyable.

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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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Time to Read: Bone Clocks

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Interesting science news:

Currently I’m writing about space travel. It’s a story called Worlds too Far and has been a blast to write. I had the convoy of ships stop at an asteroid field for water and minerals…then I saw this great article on space.com.

Also turns out that oxygen has been found within a comet. There’s more out there in space than man can imagine…. except for we science fiction types.

http://www.space.com/30582-asteroid-mining-water-propulsion.html?li_source=LI&li_medium=more-from-space14-space-future-spaceflight

In the marketing information section:

This month I’m back to marketing. I will be trying out the Amazon Countdown for Caught in Time January 22 thru 29 and combining with Booksends on January 22 @ 99 cents and Bargain Booksy @ 99 cents on the 23rd. With Countdown, the price goes up every two days so get in early for the best price. I like that doing it this way encourages readers to act immediately rather than put off a purchase. Caught in Time is my first book, although often I’ve said that with time travel you can read any of the the first three and be fine. Each book in the series has a stand alone story. I’ve tried to model Lois McMasters Bujold’s concept of a series having a timeline with each book complete in itself.

November’s marketing strategy turned out well using Booksends for Cosmic Entanglement and carried over into December where I was too busy to do much marketing. Now’s a new year and I want to keep momentum going.

Figuring out marketing is difficult. Personal signings require a large local fan base and craft shows aren’t always successful. Having said that, one of the authors in my writing group sold 70 books at a local book fair over the holiday. So, you never know. The word got out.

Bone Clock D. MitchellBook Review:

This week I’ll report on one of my 2016 selections. A lot of people have read this to mixed reviews. It is different– Urban Fantasy with a background of paranormal.

Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

Voice. Sometimes a story has a character with a distinctive voice brought on by unique dialogue and particular behaviors.

Bone Clocks tells a story unlike any I’ve read in speculative fiction. Actually, it’s four sections told from different viewpoints that intersect each other, going from 1950 to the far future.

The start is the strongest part of the book, as fifteen-year-old Holly Sykes has a row with her mother and hies off to live with her boyfriend only to discover him in bed with her best friend. A fifteen year old, torn by betrayal, doesn’t stop to consider the dangers and struggle in store for a homeless and penniless young girl as she runs off aimlessly and grief-stricken.

But Holly is no ordinary girl. She hears “radio voices” and, as a young girl, was visited frequently in the night in her bedroom by a strange and ghostly woman who would have conversations with her. Something is going on behind the curtain, but Mitchell is shy about revealing all too soon.

We skip to Hughe’s part in the story. Hugh Lamb is the opposite of Holly. A rich kid at university with low morals and a clever mind, Hugh manipulates his friends, eventually causing one to suicide. In the end of the second section, he briefly meets up with Holly but selects to follow strange, shady beings who promise immortality and awesome power. We leave the dangerous Hugh tripping off with his new companions. The timeline then continues with Ed, a wartime journalist and Crispin, an embittered author, past his prime.

Eventually two factions reveal themselves in the background. One powerful and immortal faction fights for the survival of humankind; the other immortal aliens, are trying to consume humans. The ending is a bit of a let down and confusing for me.

However, the strange and powerful immortals in the background fighting for power while only certain human with psychic powers are aware was interesting.

Still, if you are looking for a different slant to a speculative novel, you might enjoy the Bone Clocks.

Some readers did; some didn’t.

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Science Fiction Series

IMG_9512I am serious with series. I write the Alysian Universe Series and several other author’s series are favorites of mine. I’ve been hanging around Powell’s lately. My volatile reading group read Dies the Fire by S.M. Sterling, which is a post apocalyptic novel that takes place here in Oregon and also the Idaho area. Because of that, it was interesting. With a bit of hand-waving, Sterling causes all electricity to stop and gunpowder to become a small puff. Planes fall out of the sky, cars stop on the highway…you get the picture.

Society reverts to earlier cultures. Medievalists and woodsmen may love this for the details of that life style. I may pull my English sword off the wall and consider lessons…just in case. Another major character is Wiccan, so that culture becomes important for survival.Dies the Fire

The response from my reading group was mixed. Several really liked the story; others thought it contrived. So, fair warning.

Then, last night I attended a Robin Hobb’s signing as she introduced her second book, Fool’s Quest, in her new trilogy. I’m currently reading it, so look for my opinion in the near future. I love her work, particularly the Assassin’s series and the earlier Fool’s and Tawny Man trilogies.Fool's Quest

Which brings me to Nemesis Games by S.A. James Corey. This Expanse Series has been a favorite since book 1: Leviathan Wakes where I wrote a positive blog a while ago. It garnered the Hugo Award in 2014 and will become a series on the Syfy channel in December 2015. Look for it.

Nemsis GamesAnd book 5: Nemesis Games didn’t disappoint. The crew of the Rocinante: Amos, Naomi, James and Alex have been through a battle (Cibola Burns) and their ship needs repair and refitting. They settle at Tycho Station, between the Belt and Earth. This massive complex is considered the pride of the Outer Alliance and Fred, a favorite character, runs it.

Soon everyone from the crew is restless and finds reasons to take off. At that point, the book splits as it follows each one to various ends of the solar system. Amos goes to Earth, Alex ends up on Mars, Naomi is captured by old acquaintances of the Belt, and Fred and James are put in peril as Tycho Station is attacked and the protomolecule stolen.

I enjoyed this part of the series as old characters came back on stage, action ramps up and the reader learns more about the personal lives of the crew. What starts off as an r&r gig, soon involves terrorist raining down rocks that massively damage Earth, betrayal and disappearing ships within the Martian military, and a kidnapping by a megalomania from the Belt. Chunks of Tycho Station are blown up. Enough action to keep most people reading.

Right now good space opera is hard to find and, for me, Nemesis Games delivered.

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New Authors in Military Science Fiction

IMG_9512New this month

I’m running a special on Caught in Time for three days after Mother’s Day. May 11,12, and 13th. I will offer this first book in the Alysian Series free, free, free.

The story concerns a time travel romance and adventure to medieval times, along the lines of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, except it takes place on an abandoned alien world rather than Earth.

Lots of adventure, intrigue and a pinch of romance bubble through the story.

Available on Amazon or through the Fussy Librarian. The Fussy Librarian is a new venue that I’m experimenting with, so I’ll let you know if it proves successful or not.Five Element Anthology

Also our Beaverton Writers’ Five Elements Anthology will also be free on Amazon for a limited time. (May 7-11) I have a short story in it called “The Peace Treaty” that was fun to write.

Furthermore, I’m excited that Ted Blasche has finally published The Rust Bucket Chronicles. Ted is ex-military and has a wicked sense of humor. He loves military scifi and often suggest books for me. Lois Bujold is one of my favorite authors, and Ted has that same flavor of military action, humor, and adventure with a touch of romance that has made her so popular.

Ted

The Rust Bucket Chronicles takes place on one of Earth’s long abandoned colonies. Russell Buckley is a back alley kid who loses his mother to the plague, but is saved by a medic of her Majesty’s Third Rifles. From then on, his goal is to join that special military unit. When he finally secures an interview with Queen Arrabella to qualify for the unit, he lands smack in the middle of a palace coup attempt where he is the only one left to save the young queen. Danger and narrow hiding spaces soon make them close companions as they thwart the rebels’ attempts of a takeover.

Rust Bucket ChroniclesWhile he sees Arrabella as the woman of his dreams, she sees him as a troubleshooter who she can use to solve her many political problems. Within six months, Rusty finds himself on the nearby world of Garbasso battling mud, incompetent officers and ten foot lizard-like aliens that are eager to have him for lunch. His courage, his daring and common sense help save him and his unit, while his candid observations and determination to change the system lands him in trouble. In anger, one of the officers call him “Rust Bucket,” and the nickname sticks to haunt him for the rest of his life.

This adventure is the first of many in this fun new series. Check it out on Amazon.

Another military series catching on is Ryk Brown’s Frontier’s Sagas. Often I recommend the first book in the series, but have little time to go back and read the rest. This time the first book Aurora CV-01 was so fast-paced and exciting that I was determined to check out others in the series.Rings of HavenAurora

So I just finished reading the second book, The Rings of Haven, which is calmer, as you are introduced to an alien planet far from Earth. Young Nathan Scott, son of a rich senator, finds himself Captain of a damaged spaceship far, far from Earth and home.

Having survived two unexpected battles with alien humans, he has guided his surviving skeleton crew and ship to a planet called Haven on the advice of dodgy alien rebels. His ship is running out of food and supplies, and he must somehow repair the ship and figure out how he can return them all safely back to Earth. The only way appears to be through the prototype jump drive that got them so far out in the first place. But nearby enemy Tarkans are very interested in such devices and would do anything to get their hands on it. Who can he trust? And how can he get his ship home?

While I liked this next episode, it didn’t have the fast-paced action found in Aurora CV-01. Still, the new world was interesting as Captain Scott and crew try to gain allies in order to find their way back to Earth.

Legend of CorinairSpread the word of my limited free offer for Caught in Time and have a wonderful May.
I love Spring!

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A Science Fiction Time Travel Series

IMG_9503Discounting or offering your book free…does it work as a marketing strategy?

When casting about as to what book to suggest for this week’s blog, I wandered over to my Kindle app to see what I had stashed in my library there.

Lately, a number of websites have emerged that offer free or discounted books. Every day I get an e-mail from Bookbub, Sweetfreebooks, Ebook Daily Kindle Freebi , and now Bookdaily. I also receive a number of Indie books asking for reviews. I specify the genre science fiction and fastasy, and that’s what appears in the e-mails. If I find a book that looks intriguing, I put it on my Kindle “shelf” for future reading.

When I went to look for this week’s suggestion, I was surprised at the number of books that I had accumulated. I picked out a few that had interesting covers and blurbs and started to read. After several chapters, a few didn’t engage me; so I moved on.

I think a lot of readers are finding new authors this way. It’s also a great way to introduce an interesting series at a reasonable price. If you have an author you love and know you’ll like the story, then go ahead and go retail. Sometimes, you want that book now, and you have the funds to indulge yourself. After all, Starbucks coffee is over $4.00 for a fifteen minute drink, and no one thinks twice about that, it seems…at least in my family. Or if you like that paperback, hardback feel, then click on that cart icon and bring happiness into your life. But for those new books that you’re not sure of, this is a way to winnow out those that match your taste from those that don’t when you’re not sure. And discover something new.

Time Travels of the 1800 ClubSo, when my brother requested a recommendation on a time travel book, I sorted through the time travel books at Amazon and latched on to a few. Slipped them on my “kindle shelf.” I kept an eye out for books in my e-mails from the various specials that involved time travel. Those I set on my “reading shelf.” A few days ago, I selected a few, opened up several, and sampled them. After plowing through a number of eBooks, I found a series that I’m now enjoying and want to recommend.

Time Travel Adventures of the 1800 Club by Robert P. McAuley has a very H. G. Wells flavor to it. It’s 2011, but a group of people dress up periodically to attend a dinner party to pretend for a night that it’s 1800. The rules state that you must stay in character the whole evening. Those that don’t are soon asked to leave.

Bill Scott enjoys his evenings at the club and is a stickler for keeping the verisimilitude of the 1800s. Then, the organizer of the club asks Bill to stay after and over drinks reveals that the club is a recruiting mechanism for time travelers. Their purpose is to travel back in time and repair events that are threatening to stray off the true historical path.

Bill’s first adventure is to disguise himself as Abraham Lincoln and give the Gettysburg Address. Seems Lincoln’s depression and drinking made him unreliable, and history needed the impact of the speech. So, off he goes.Time Travels of the 1800 bk 2

I use a similar idea in my first book, Caught in Time when I send Rowyna back to the Medieval Ages in order to make sure that certain events take place and keep the future intact.

Time Travel Adventures continues episodically with various famous people and events helped by the 1800 club. Not only 2011 becomes involved, but future travelers from 2066 visit to assign certain tasks to the members. Soon enough, Bill Scott takes over the leadership role of the club and is surprised to meet a future relative who confides that his family runs the club from then on out.

Time Travel Adventures of the 1800 club bk3The first book is free at Amazon. Much like Hugh Howey, the stories range around 157 pages and the subsequent episodes cost $1.99. There are quite a slew of them if you become an avid fan, and the reviews are good.

McAuley does a nice job with the story, providing an entertaining series based around time travel. He writes in a clear clean style. If you want gut wrenching emotion, so far I haven’t experienced it, but the situations and events are interesting and for time travel enthusiasts, it’s worth a peek.

 

 

 

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Science fiction: Time Travel and Robots

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Two books on robots and time travel…perennial favorites.

But first.

Are you curious about social media and want some hard numbers? Check out this interesting blog by Jeff Bullas as to, who and how many, are on our favorite websites.

http://www.jeffbullas.com/2014/01/17/20-social-media-facts

So robots and time travel:

While blogging about time travel recently, several readers commented that The Door into Summer by Robert Heinlein was one of their favorite time travel novels. I hadn’t read it.

So I did.

Door into Summer

And really enjoyed it. I recommend it strongly to time travel enthusiasts.

Dan Davis, a brilliant electronics engineer, creates the invention of a lifetime…a robot that does almost anything called Hired Girl. His best friend, Miles, becomes a partner and they hire a curvaceous Belle Darkin to handle the administrative side of the fledgling company. Dan immediately falls in love with her.

The salesman inside Miles wants to get the product out the door and make money right away while the engineering mind of Dan wants to make sure it will work. His fertile imagination already has two more robots on the drawing board: Windows Willie and Protean Pete, named after his sidekick cat, Pete.

Pete accompanies Dan everywhere. Well, almost everywhere.

And when Miles and Belle collude to take over the growing company, Dan nosedives into depression at their betrayal, and signs up with Mutual Insurance to take “the Big Sleep.” Then he changes his mind, but keeps the contract on him. Half drunk, Dan goes to confront Miles and Belle about their deception. After a scuffle and threats, Dan is knocked unconscious where the two discover his ticket and bundled him off into the cryo crib to get rid of him, sending him thirty years into the future.

Heinlein deftly uses cryogenics to get Dan into the future where he discovers a time machine that will transport him back into his past to right the wrongs done to him.

Time travel like this can be tricky, but Heinlein weaves a delicious story of revenge that satisfies at all levels.

The character of Dan is especially well drawn as he continually has new ideas popping into his inventive mind on how to make life easier for the average housewife, even years in the future. And the machinations of time travel and how to use it are a fun read. The exploits of Miles and Belle are also interesting as you read how Dan tries to thwart them.

Fruit of the Gods

Dan’s robots assist the ordinary person, making his or her life easier. They have no independent intelligence. However, in Fruit of the Gods by Gary Naiman, robots have evolved in intelligence and form the army that supports twelve global corporations called the Consortium.

This science fiction dystopia peeks into a future where nuclear war, political terrorists and a devastating earthquake plunge the world into chaos, poverty and starvation. Humans roam about unemployed, and economies have collapsed. Only the mining of algae off the seabed and conversion to a food called “manna” prevents worldwide starvation.

The Consortium is the ruling body that dispenses the manna and tries to run the world efficiently through robots. With all this unrest, underground rebels led by top scientists plan to bring down the Consortium.

To avert a takeover and bring down the insurgents, the current leaders bring in their top spy. Enter 0021, or Lucinda, and her robot companion, Gog, who are sent to ferret out rebel activities, but instead uncover the truth of what is really happening.

While Naiman’s Amazon reviews are glowing, it took me a little while to warm up to the story. It was well written, I just struggled to follow hints and clues as to what was happening.

Still, it moved along well and is an interesting story along the lines of IRobot by Asimov. If you like robots, dystopia stories and spy games, then you will like this.

 

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, artificial intelligence, Best selling science fiction, Classic science fiction, Disaster Fiction, Dystopia Earth, Post Apocalyptic, Robots in science fiction, science fiction, Science fiction thriller, time travel, Transhumanism, Uncategorized

The Fragmentation of Book Publishing

IMG_0174A quick note: Caught in Time is now being offered for a very limited time as a free download through April 15th. See side panel for summary and more information, or go to amzn.to/1mmNYLM.

And on to our blog…

Amazon, through the Kindle and the Kindle Digital Platform, exploded the world of book publishing and bewildered writers and authors are trying to make sense of the pieces flying about their heads.

Let’s say that you’re a new author with a good science fiction story. What are your options? What are the pros and cons of the various publishers?

Let’s start big.

For science fiction, the top dog is TOR (St. Martin’s Press) followed by Baen, Daw, Ace (Penguin Group), Del Rey (Random House–Ballentine Books), Pyr, (Prometheus ), Tachyon Publications, and more. A list is given in Wikipedia. For just ebooks: Double Dragon, Sky Warrior to name a few. (I don’t know these as well)

If you want to try the traditional way to publish, you first need to find an effective literary agent. Why? Because only a few of the larger houses will even look at a manuscript unless screened first by an agent. Good luck finding one. Hopefully you have a contact, an “in,” a brother or cousin in the business…thousands of fans who avidly read your novels.

No? Ah, well.

TOR is one of the few houses that still has a “slush pile” of unagented manuscripts and you can go online and peruse their submission guidelines. Then submit and pray.

Why do this?

The pros of going with a big name publisher are compelling. You will have professional editors directing your story, a cover artist who will produce a cover and a marketing arm that will help sell your book. If you have a robust “platform,” you may even get an advance. The money flows from publisher to author…hopefully.

Sound good?

Maybe too good.

Reality check.

Chances are likely this won’t happen, and you will waste years waiting for a response. Big publishers have a “no simultaneous submission” rule and can take up to two to three years to respond to your submission. Very few are taking first time unproven authors. You have to show there are reasons that you will sell big and make them lots of money. You have to have a “platform.”

But who knows? Maybe lightning will strike. And they offer you a contract.

However, large traditional publishers take years to get a book to the shelf. It’s long term. You could be making royalties somewhere else while you wait…which on average if you ever make up your advance and “earn out” could run less than 25% depending on the contract. Plus, you will only be able to take their word on what you sold and most likely receive your royalties months after the sale. They control that information also.

Because they are the publisher of record and hold your rights. You’ll need a contract lawyer to protect those rights, and maybe not the one the publisher offers to help you.

And your story and cover?

They have control over that and get to decide what it’s going to be. Not you.

That’s the traditional way.

Onto this scene has come several publishers who style themselves as “author friendly” but are really out to grab your money. Authorhouse is a culprit here. Beware! Many offer “packages” that for a substantial fee will edit, and publish your book. They may also take a percentage of royalties and claim your rights while doing little to market your book. The author spends large amounts of money with little to show in sales.

Other publishing houses offer editing services and a budget to do your cover, but require a minimum purchase of at least a hundred books at a retail price. The author finds her/himself with a garage full of books with little editing and mediocre covers. The cost has pushed the retail price way up if the author wants to make any money. They may also be required to give up a percentage of their royalties for a contracted period of time.

The plus side is that the author doesn’t need to worry about formatting, downloading or editing. They sometimes can work with the publisher and control the look of the cover and the flow of the story. They may even get to see a sales report. And for the first time author may be a way to “get their feet wet.”

But at a significant cost.

A number of other companies and individuals are jumping in and offering “a la carte services.” For the Indie author who wants help, CreateSpace under Amazon offers various packages for cover design and editing help. The author has to buy these services based on what they choose, but they retain control of their rights, final cover, story and royalties for ebooks are 35% to 70%. Still, it cost the author.

And, you are on your own for marketing and selling…although several companies are stepping into the breach to offer services on that front also.

Again, for a fee. With mixed reviews. The services provided and the fees demanded vary widely. Some are fair while others are outrageous and results disappointing. Check around first.

The fallout from the publishing explosion is so varied that the choices are proliferating wildly and causing confusion, and it’s author beware. You must tread carefully and take the time to weigh what you need against what you are willing to pay…if anything.

You can publish and not spend a dime.

Kindle, Smashwords, Nook, Kobo, and iBook, offer free ebook publishing for the author willing to organize his own editing, book cover, formatting, downloading and marketing. CreateSpace publishes for free, and automatically gets you on the Amazon distribution network. Lulu also publishes for free and puts you in the ibook store and other places.

Positives for this path is that you will be published within 24 hours of submission. If you want a paperback, CreateSpace will do that. Lulu will do both paperback or hardcover.

Free. However…

The cost comes in finding and paying for an editing solution. Writing groups, beta readers and hiring independent professional editors are several ways writers can accomplish this. Price ranges from $0 and up, depending on the difficulty and page numbers of the work. Authors join groups and edit each other through writing groups and co-ops. Covers the same way. You can learn to do your own or hire a professional graphic designer. Costs range from $0 to $1000.

Going this way you keep all your royalties and set your own price for your book. But be aware that CreateSpace sets a minimum price and takes a chunk for the cost of publishing a paperback, even though you are charged nothing and the burden is on the buyer. So a 388 page book has a minimum requirement of $13.75 with expanded distribution (libraries and bookstores).  If you retail your book at $14.20, you will make less than $2.00 per book, depending on where it sells. If you want to make more, you raise the price and hope that it is so good enough readers will be willing to buy it.

photoThe story is happier for the ebook solution. If you pick Kindle, in the US, you receive 70% of your retail cost….and you can sell easily throughout the world. Sell at $3.99 and make $2.74. I’ve sold in Great Britain, Canada, Australia, France and through their (Distracting cute kitten)  Digital Select Program, India, Japan and more. I sell many times over through the ebook channel than paperback.

Exciting. I’m a worldwide author.

And they offer various promotions to help you sell. The Countdown where you price your book free and each day it gets more expensive. Or KDP Select where your book is offered only on the Kindle platform, and in order to gather readers you offer your book free any five days out of the ninety days the contract runs. That’s what I’m experimenting with at the moment.

I started mine on Mother’s Day to run five days and within 24 hours had over a thousand books downloaded. I hope some will like my book and go on to buy the others in the series. (Which are pretty good too)

The catch to this self publishing path is marketing.And it’s a big catch.

Now I’m hearing about companies that are selectively taking on certain authors for three years and editing, designing covers, and marketing while letting the author retain rights. They call themselves Hybrid Publishing. http://www.ihpg.ca/about-hybrid-publishingBut they charge $10,000.

Too much for my pocketbook, but maybe not for someone who has it and realizes that putting in quality time, effort and money might generate enough sales to overcome the investment, and much more.

Ask a number of successful self publishers who are making a nice living of selling a variety of books…Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Dean Wesley Smith, J.A. Konrath, Hugh Howey and many others. But it took hard work and time.

We’ve come a long way from what publishing used to be. Thankfully. The system was broken. But, now the whole industry is fragmenting into various pieces and big name publishers who want to survive are morphing into something new in order to survive.

And the dust hasn’t settled yet. It may just become an even wider array of choices that the savvy author will have to pick his way through and choose what best fits his needs and his pocketbook.

Author tread carefully and choose wisely.

 

 

 

 

 

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What Comes Next? Science Fiction Series Conumdrum

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One of the things I try to do when blogging about a series I want to suggest, is to start with the first book in the series. The problem with that is, if I like the series, then I want to read the next book, and the next, and that gets time consuming. In addition to reading a book a week (or more) for my blog, I am writing and editing my next book in my own series…

Which brings me to another dilemma.

When someone asks me to tell them what book they should read first, I hesitate on what to suggest.

Of course, it should be the first in the series…which I like…but the first one is a very different book from some of the others. The first is a time travel romance with adventure. Fun stuff…but…

The second one is a young adult with flavors of fantasy while the third is espionage and mystery and takes place at Sunpointe Space Academy. And because it’s time travel, you can start with this book also.

In the fourth, all action is on a space ship and is more hard science, Star Trek and first contact while book five is genetic manipulation and alien invasion. Six is apocalypse and alien crystals with some romance.

See what I mean?

They are all science fiction, but they’re all very different, and yet they deal with the same characters along a timeline on the planet, Alysia.

And that may change too.

I’m thinking of going out to other worlds with my guys.

Meet new people, er, aliens, er whatever.

The second part of this dilemma is that over time, and through much work, I hope that I have improved in my writing.

Shouldn’t an author get better as he or she writes? If you care about what you are putting out to the public, then hopefully you are improving. (Although where to put commas still drives me crazy)

My writers group says this last one is the best one so far. Someone’s Clone is a mystery thriller with transhumanism. Starts off with a murder and the main character is hunted down and he doesn’t know why. To disguise himself, he undergoes a dramatic operation that equips him with an implanted computer and superhuman abilities. Think the bionic man. Then he is caught up in the middle of a conflict between the invading Terrans and the native Alysians for control of the planet.

So it’s hard to know what to say when they ask what they should read first. It depends on what their science fiction hot button is. This is the dilemma of the series writer. What is the best book to offer first so as to hook your reader?

Trilogy of Dune Sometimes, sequels don’t have the same dramatic impact as the original. Here I’m thinking of the Dune Series by a Frank Herbert. His son Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson have continued adding prequels and sequels to the original series and, for the most part, have done a good job. But the first book, Dune, is the best in my opinion. But now, it’s no longer the beginning in the series of their timeline, but more in the middle.

However, Lois Bujold has kept up the quality in her Vorsigan Series and her last one, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance was  unexpectedly good. The same could be said for Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liadon series. However, Lois has kept going forward along her timeline while Lee and Miller have hopped all around, offering earlier stories and later ones. It can be confusing except they’re stand alones with complete stories. Still.Captain Vorpatril's Alliance

So after a reluctant review of The First Blade by Joe Abercrombie, I found myself drawn into reading the second book of The First Law Trilogy. With a trilogy, you have to start with the first one to make any sense of what you’re reading. The action is one continuous story.

It wasn’t the writing as much as the subject matter and what the characters did that put me off the first book…like cutting off fingers and staggering bloody through mud, etc. One character reminded me of Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones, only instead of a dwarf, he is a crippled who was tortured by the enemy and now serves as Inquisitor for the king. Each step Glatko takes, each move he makes, brings pain, and the reader winces along with him.

However, the second book Before They Are Hanged was quite good. I found myself becoming invested in the characters. I grew to look forward to the biting wit of Glatko, the Inquisitor, and the evolution of his character as he actually shows courage, intelligence and selected compassion along with his torturing.

Each of the characters goes through a dramatic evolution. Jezel, the shallow, silly dandy of a Lieutenant becomes disfigured and assumes some humility and compassion. Logan, an ugly, scary, brute of a Northman, proves to be the most capable when the chips are down. Lieutenant West, the solid loyal self-made man, loses control after a devastating battle and commits the unspeakable crime. As each one struggles to meet what life throws at them, they change, adapt and as Logan constantly reassures himself with, “I’m still alive,” the reader is amazed along with him at the fact.

In this case, I’m glad I continued in the series and recommend it. Now, let’s see how it all ends with the final book.

Before I leave, I want to let anyone know that isn’t aware that we’ll have a total eclipse of the moon April 15 (some celestial comment about my taxes?)

The good news is that a full eclipse will appear in the western hemisphere. The bad news is that it starts at 2:00 a.m. for you night owls and goes to 4:00 a.m. or so. Here’s the link that gives all the details.

http://www.space.com/25390-total-lunar-eclipse-april-preview.html

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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, Best selling science fiction, fantasy, Liandon Universe, Lois McMasters Bujold, modifying humans, science fiction series, Science fiction world building, Self-publishing, Space opera, space travel, time travel, Transhumanism, Uncategorized

Debut Author in Fantasy Noir: Joe Abercrombie

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Being recognized as an emerging author can be tough nowadays. Although the powerhouse publishing houses are said to be having a rough go, I still feel they have a powerful advantage when it comes to marketing their stable of authors.

They know how the system works.

Many newbie Indie authors don’t or are intimidated by it. (Finger points to me)

Getting reviews is key for authors because often readers check out what others think about a book in order to decide whether they want to buy it or not. Knowing this, I still shy away from leaving reviews on Amazon and suffer guilt pangs later knowing how important it is for authors. I promise to do better.

Big publishing Houses, such as Tor and Baen, have contacts into channels for various important awards and distribution catalogs. They have an extensive network built up over many years of being in the business. They know that libraries and bookstores across the country rely on certain catalogs to pick out their next offerings and make sure their authors are represented.

Someone who is doing a wonderful job helping Indie authors understand the myths and realities of self publishing is Dean Wesley Smith. He pops ten myths of publishing writers believe.

See his blog: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=12014 The most recent blog talks about the myth of how only big name published books get into the bookstores and outlines how self publishers or Indie authors can put their books on bookstore shelves too.

It’s easy, and it isn’t.

If you want to.

For me to opt in to Amazon’s extended distribution, I would have to price myself almost too high for an unknown beginning author. With my 400-500 page books, the question for me is will I make more selling a few in bookstores or more selling a lot at a lesser price on Amazon?

Wide distribution is great if you’re going to sell, but not so great if no one knows you’re huddled on some back corner of a bookstore shelf and priced too high, leaving no margin for royalties–that is if you even get the attention of the buyer to be put there in the first place.

Being in the catalog is not the same as being in the bookstore. Only the buyers put you on the shelf.

And I’ve sat on Smashwords website with three books because someone argued that the concept of wider distribution means more sales…and I’ve sold very little there. I’m trying to find out where my readers are and target that area.

The Blade Itself2This week, I selected a debut novel to read and review to help push along a promising author. Joe Abercrombie’s trilogy: First Law is worth a look. The Blade Itself is the first of the trilogy and was published by Pyr. Pyr is a science fiction and fantasy imprint of Prometeus Books with a few surprising authors such as: Kay Kenyon, Ian MacDonald, Kristine Katherine Rusch, Mike Resnick and others.  Interestingly, the Blade Itself was published in 2007 and is now gaining momentum. So writing can be a long tail business that with patience could eventually pay off.

But I’ve mentioned that before. (Mantra)

This trilogy came to my attention by word of mouth and a hazy recollection of having seen it on an Amazon recommended list. They say you have to see a product name several times before you are prompted to buy. So when expert writer D. Wallace Peach extolled the book as the best writing she’s ever read, I had to check it out.

Fantasy Noir. Not really my wheelhouse, but then…

For me this is a new sub genre term. Think George R. R. Martin. The four major characters are: Sand Glotka, an imperial inquisitor crippled in an enemy prison camp and now giving back his own; Captain Jezel Luthar, an egotistical and shallow rich high society soldier of the king’s guard; Bayaz, a balding heavyset wizard that everyone considers a sham, until he does a few amazing things; Major Collem West, a stout-hearted commoner who fears he will turn into the brute his father was, but hard work and intelligence enables him to rise high in the Adua military and Logan Ninefingers, an ugly battle-scarred barbarian from the North who turns into a killing machine if pushed too far.

Everyone has a flaw, and everyone has a strength.

If you can get past the first several chapters where Glotka is torturing confessions out of fat and wealthy merchants because the head inquisitor or prime minister wants their business and family destroyed, then you should like the rest.

Somehow Abercrombie makes this motley collection of characters endearing as each struggles with the corruption and conflict around them. The insufferable soldier falls madly in love with Major West’s sister as he faces an important, possibly deadly, dueling match. The sister, Ardee West, is witty, charming, but drinks too much and has been abused by her father. After their father’s death, she seeks protection with her brother, Major West, of the high standards until he finds his sister slipping around with his friend Captain Jezel of the loose morals. To his horror, West discovers that he has become his father when in a fit of temper he hits Ardee.

Gradually, as each story is told, the group comes together, at odds with each other, but coerced by Bayaz to form a company to travel on a quest to the end of the world.

If you like fantasy with crunch and chew…interesting characters and the wild humor within their wretched condition, then you’ll love this series

And don’t forget we authors need your reviews if you like our books. Pass it along so others can enjoy what you like. Don’t be shy.

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Filed under Best selling science fiction, Book reviews, fantasy, fantasy series, Indie authors, magic, Marketing and selling novels, Noir Fantasy, Uncategorized, Wizards and magic