Allies and Enemies: Empire (Book 5) is due out soon. Thanks to some diligent beta-readers, it looks like I’ll be able to publish well ahead of my original target deadline. Look for pre-order info by the end of this week (June 28th). I hate to leave things on a “cliff hanger” but book 5 should be well worth the wait.
Recently, I was contacted by Ken Picard of Seven Days VT who asked my insights into the seedy underbelly of indie publishing. (Ok, there’s really nothing seedy or underbelly-ish about my gig. Unless you take into consideration the dust bunnies under the desk in my office.) Check out the article here.
What do you think of the article? I’d love to hear from you.
Hey! This one goes out to indie authors. You’ve heard that advice to read a lot if you’re looking to up your game as an author. It’s a great way to learn your craft as you entertain your brain. (Not to mention support your brethren.) And, I don’t know about you, but I gain inspiration when I enjoy a well-written story. It’s some great advice. I read about 2-3 books a week. Not all of them are fiction. There’s some non-fiction writing craft stuff in there too.
Here’s a shout out to some books that I’ve recently “discovered” and don’t have enough good things to say about.
All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries) by Martha Wells – Refreshing POV narrator. Good world-building.
Disappearance At Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay – Fantastic style. Same author of A Head Full of Ghosts.
The Frozen Sky (the Europa Series Book 1) by Jeff Carlson – If Alien and The Expanse had a baby…
Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success (Helping Writers Become Authors Book 1) by K.M. Weiland – This writer’s energy and dedication to detail make we want to go take a nap.
How To Write A Novel The Easy Way Using The Pulp Fiction Method To Write Better Novels: Writing Skills by Jim Driver – Some good advice here.
Not all of them are science fiction. Reading outside of your customary genre is a great palate cleanser for the imagination. I hope you pick them up and enjoy them as much as I did.
And, just another mention in case you’ve not noticed or seen my earlier posts: Allies and Enemies is now available as a box set. This one includes exclusive content too!
I’ve become obsessed with landing a BookBub deal for Allies and Enemies. At the time of this writing, I’m still waiting to hear about my latest deal submission. (So, fingers crossed on that, ok?) Anyway, I owe some of this obsession to the recent post over at Dave Chesson’s Kindlepreneur site. [Excellent place to check out info on self-publishing and run by a super nice dude, BTW.] I can’t be alone when I ponder the questions: who is/are Book Bub? Why are they so powerful?
So let’s unpack this. I’m going to preface this by saying, that I based this post off the bit of research I did online. According to their own site, Book Bub (founded in 2012 and based in the US) is ” a free service that helps millions of readers discover great deals on acclaimed ebooks while providing publishers and authors with a way to drive sales and find new fans. Members receive a personalized daily email alerting them to the best free and deeply discounted titles matching their interests as selected by our editorial team. BookBub works with all major ebook retailers and devices, and is the industry’s leading ebook price promotion service.”
Their power comes from the ability to churn out quality recommendations on ebooks to its commanding number of subscribers (I’ve seen one reference that said it was 2 million and another that said 4 million.) The subscribers count on BookBub to pre-screen (through an increasingly arduous system) the books that they promote. This is admirable. No one wants to be spammed about book offers that don’t interest them and/or lack quality. So, from the avid ebook reader’s viewpoint, Book Bub is a great deal. You learn about great new books in exchange for BookBub knowing your email addy. BookBub earns its bread by charging publishers for access to a well-cultivated email marketing blast that translates to some pretty good sales numbers. The allure to the indie author is that getting a single BookBub promo can catapult your sales and shove you into some higher rankings on the ‘Zon. For an indie author, the prices of this service may seem steep, but the thought is that the results are truly worth it (cause we’re talking big sales numbers).
I’m not going to repeat the contents from the Kindlepreneur post. (You can visit the link above to check it out.) But I will say it’s all common sense. In order to get a BookBub for your book, you have to offer a quality product. Do you have a good cover? Is your book professionally edited? Those are just the basics. (There are a few more too.) The rest floats around in the realm of “stuff out of your control”. The folks at BookBub have to wade through a lot of other authors and publishers clamoring for their attention on a deal.
But there is one over-arching element to the whole process. Persistence. One indie author acquaintance whom I’ve chatted with suggests setting it up on your calendar “submit deal to BookBub”. If you have a quality book and you are honestly hitting all the “marks”, then it’s a question of patience. Good luck. (And wish me luck too!) Maybe I’ll see you in a BookBub, bub. 🙂
Yesterday, I read a somewhat mean-spirited post by one of my favorite authors. Throughout his tirade, he maintains that he was speaking to a particular subset of independently published writers that release poorly written stories with zero editing and bad covers. He’s known for these spittle-flecked tirades laced with gruesome metaphor and massive doses of 6th-grade humor. I’m told that he’s actually a very nice guy in person. But posts like this are his shtick. It’s what he does. I get it.
This post struck a nerve with me, not just because he called out indie authors, but because he came off as a bit of a bully. I know one when I see one. Anyone that’s survived high school does.
There’s a phenomenon in nursing culture called “eating your young.” The older, more experienced nurses bully the new nurses. I’ve seen it and have been on the receiving end of it—quite recently, in fact. Some might consider it a traditional rite of passage, like hazing. (It’s ironic, really. An occupation that’s meant to foster healing and solace in the vulnerable allows a subculture of lateral violence amongst its own.) But it’s destructive and generally, makes people feel crappy.
I’m a newbie to indie authorship. In my journey, I’ve approached a lot of accomplished writers to ask them for guidance or advice. Not one of them has ever turned me away. The environment of the indie world has been in my experience a supportive one. We may be competing for the same audience of readers, but we recognize that in the Upsidedown of indie authorship that there are no hard and fast rules. And the ones that do exist seem to do so at the whim of capricious gods. Supporting each other goes a long way compared to going cannibal on our cohorts. There’s no room for bullies here.
I choose to believe that everyone has a story to tell. At the heart of every “book cover gone wrong,” there is an intent to bring that into the light. Every misplaced comma is a chance to learn from our mistakes and do better next time. Some might choose to pick apart these foibles of the indie world, but I won’t. I know they exist. No system is perfect.
Maybe as the indie authorship market evolves, this will change and turn on each other like the ravenous undead. Until then, I choose not to turn to cannibalization. Any younglings that approach me are not on the menu.
Here’s a theory—Chihuahuas have the souls of larger dogs (most likely dire wolves) wedged into those tiny little bodies. It would explain why these tiny pups think they’re big enough to take on a cat twice their size or why they always seem to shake. (The shaking is actually their molecules vibrating with the effort to keep all that “big dog soul” energy contained in such a small package.) Like I said, a theory.
Consider short stories. You’re trying to package an entire universe, complete with exposition and world-building into this teeny weeny manuscript that shouldn’t be more than 30,000 words. Forget dire wolves, you need to build a Chihuahua with the soul of a great white shark. For someone that writes 90,000-word novels, keeping it under 30,000 is asking a lot. (Weird, right?)
If you follow me on Twitter (@selatyron), you might have seen my occasional tirade, joke or weakly veiled cry for help as I blunder through this process.
So, why am I trying to torture myself this way? I’ve been tapped to contribute for a sci-fi anthology coming out this summer. Cool, right? (I’d mention its name here, but I’m not sure if that’s ok or not. Suffice it to say, it’s got some really awesome authors in this group. I was very flattered when I was invited to join in.)
I had an idea already kicking around—a backstory of a minor character in the Allies and Enemies series. It’s not as dark as some of the military sci-fi I’ve put out. And, if a newcomer likes the story, they might want to further explore the series. Win-win.
And then I realized I had to actually write a short story, something I’d never really done before outside of the occasional middle school essay (and come to think of it, those were hella-long too).
My inner George McFly started to panic, so I sat down and researched how to write short stories. (Believe me, I realize how strange that sentence sounds.)
So, here are my top four takeaways from this surprisingly daunting process:
Short stories don’t necessarily have to have a beginning, middle, and end. They can be the turning point or “moment of truth” for a character that’s part of a larger world. It’s this moment that is the meat of the story and not necessarily the rest of it.
This is a chance to take risks. Change verb tenses. Write it from the antagonist’s perspective. Try a genre you wouldn’t normally consider. It’s a short story, so even if it flops, you haven’t actually lost too much of a time investment.
This forced me to try to write in a less sprawling style. I learned to try to be succinct with my word choice.
Telling is “ok” in a short story. (I know. I know. You’re supposed to “show not tell.”) But in this condensed universe, it saves time, words and page space. Just avoid too many info dumps because that can be confusing to readers.
To prep for this, I started listening to fiction podcasts that showcase authors who have mastered the art of the short story. (My fave is the one offered by Lightspeed Magazine on iTunes.) Listening as opposed to reading, helped me to develop an ear for pacing and tone. Not all the author’s voices are the same when you compare their styles and genres, but if you listen to them back to back, patterns start to emerge. It was a huge help in constructing my story’s road map.
[And you’ll be pleased to know that the ‘comments’ field has been re-activated. Take that, spam bots!]
I’m very happy to say that the third book in the series Allies and Enemies: Exiles is going to be available very soon. My stalwart editor is hard at work doing her thing to my manuscript. Before long I should be hard at work putting her edits into action. Then it’s ebook city, baby!
There are other authors out there that seem to churn out a book a month. I am not one of those, try as I might. However, in my defense, I will say that my first book took ten years to write, so I think I’ve shown incredible improvement if you’re judging current me against my prior glacial record. I have learned a valuable lesson when it comes to writing a series: Finish all three books first.
Here’s a sneak peak at the cover art created by the fantastic Alex Winkler. Look for pre-order on Allies and Enemies: Exiles in the days ahead exclusively on Amazon.
It’s not too late to sign up to receive an advance reader copy (ARC) of Exiles a week before the book is released into the wild. All I ask in return is your honest feedback on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Click here to sign up.
I’ve been going to science fiction conventions for over a decade now. My first one “barely” qualifies as a real con in the eyes of the true, hard-core convention goer. It was poorly attended, run by a company that charged crazy money for the pleasure of sitting in a room to watch some of my fave actors talk about their experience with Star Trek and its various spawned franchises. The dealer room was basically a closet and the food was ridiculously expensive. It sounds like a dreadful experience.
But, you know what? I was hooked.
It was like the mother ship calling me home. For the first time, I’d found a group of people with whom I shared a kinship. You could talk about something you loved (in this case ST: Voyager) without fear of ridicule. And, better yet, you were encouraged to wear a costume (I donned my smart looking Voyager-era Federation uniform) while doing it. It was a safe place for folks like me to share their passion for science fiction with other like-minded souls.
Since I was a kid, I liked to make up stories. (I was a fantastic liar.) It translated to writing stories as a young adult and became a hobby for me because I’d always feared what I wrote wouldn’t be considered good enough for public consumption. (There’s a reason I say George McFly is my spirit animal.) This fear told me that I needed to hide that passion. Being fodder for bullies at school only helped to reinforce that fear.
This past weekend, I attended Arisia which is one of New England’s largest fan-run conventions. It’s a yearly event that I look forward too with the same fervor others reserve for Christmas or Spring Break. I was thrilled to be on a panel (Marketing Your Book in the Digital Age). Hopefully, I was able to convey my insights and experiences in a way that enlightened others. (At least, no one ran away screaming.) It was the first time I was a panelist in this particular capacity. And, moving on, my model of exposure is to try to participate in a similar capacity for other cons. Granted, it does kind of sap some of the free time out of a con for me, requiring me to do more adulting than I normally would at such an event. But the experience was really gratifying.
Looking at it on this side of things, I have to wonder how differently my writing career would have been had I been exposed to a science fiction convention earlier. Would I have found my “peeps” and the source of my support then? Would my fears have been abated?
Everything happens for a reason. I’m a big believer in that. A lot of things (good, bad and horrible) had to happen to me in order to be in the place that I am now (which, for the record is good). But, I do think about that alternate reality me that got the support for her passion at an earlier age.
You stare at the blank screen. The little cursor is blinking away—you swear it’s mocking you.
You have to be witty, charming, appealing. You have to write your author bio.
Sure, you can talk about your book for hours, but when it’s time to talk about you, your muse clams up and slinks off to a desolate corner of your little mental cocktail party or maybe goes to bury herself under the thick pile of winter coats in the master bedroom.
You need a good author bio. It may seem unimportant: why would anyone care if you live in Montana? You write about Vikings for cryin’ out loud.
Believe it or not, there are readers out there that actually want to know about you. It’s your chance to make a connection with your readers. Also, you need one for your website, your book jacket, and your Amazon author page (and don’t forget Goodreads). It doesn’t have to be an arduous task. You can have a bit of fun with it. (And, it’s ok to make stuff up—kinda. Just check out Peter Clines’ bio. You’ll see what I mean.)
There are few tips on writing your bio. Maybe they’ll help you come up with a really entertaining one:
Keep it brief. It doesn’t need to be War and Peace. Aim for 200 to 250 words. Some spots limit you to 50 (ie a by-line).
Use third person to talk about yourself and present tense whenever possible. ( ie. “John likes to scavenge thrift shops in his spare time for vintage bowling shirts.”
Be relevant. Try to zero in on facts about yourself that make your expertise relevant to the subject matter of your books. For instance, if you write about genetic engineering run amok with killer species of watermelon, you might want to share that you’ve got a Ph. D. in genetics.
Here’s your chance to tell people how awesome you are when it comes to writing. Were you a finalist in a literary contest? Did you book rank in the top 100 on Goodreads in the “underwater basket-weaving category”? Great. Throw it in there.
If you’re still not feeling it, here are some great author bios that may inspire you: