31 December 2013

Writing Goals for 2014

Well, since it's the last day of the year, it's time to start putting together a list of the writing goals I'd like to accomplish in 2014. Of course, I also need to start getting back into the habit of reviewing these goals regularly, something I used to do with at least moderate success...

So, here goes:

1. Finish and publish my new Aston novella Fallen.

My novella Seeker has done quite well in the free download department, and it seems to help boost sales of my other novels. I haven't decided whether or not to make this one free or not (leaning toward a 99-cent download, and just keep Seeker as my one freebie), but I still like this story. Hopefully the fact that I'm racing through to finish the first draft by the end of this week won't cause me issues in the editing department later.

2. Finish and publish my new Aston novel Resurrection.

Those who've read Friends in Deed and Death Brings Victory know that a lot has happened in the Aston West universe (and if you haven't read them yet, get moving!). Building off of the events in my non-Aston  novel The Cure, you can likely guess what's going to happen, but part of the fun is finding out how the story transpires.

3. Publish another Triple-Shot.

I currently have three triple-shots out there, and the well has currently run dry in terms of new short stories (not in ideas for stories, just in stories completed). So I'll need to kick my butt in gear and finish at least three new ones this year to even have a shot at this goal.

4. Finish the next two novellas in the Max McCannor series.

Lyndon Perry and I have published the first in this series, Escape. The goal is to at least finish (although we're hoping to have them published) the next two by the end of 2014. Although I don't normally like to set goals that depend on other people (such as not setting a goal for sales of any of my books), I think this is something we can get done.

All in all, it's going to be a busy year. Thanks to everyone who's purchased a copy of one (or all) of my books, and I'm looking forward to bringing you even more great stories in the near future.

28 December 2013

Author Tag!

I was tagged by my friend Angie Lofthouse for this post, so here goes:

What am I working on?

I just finished a rewrite of Friends in Deed, in order to release it after my contract with Champagne Books is completed. I'm still planning on finishing up the first draft of my new novella Fallen by the end of next week. Then it'll be time to finish my next Aston novel.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Many people indicate that they don't normally enjoy sci-fi, but they love my work. If I was to hazard a guess, I'd imagine that's because my stories usually focus more on the interpersonal relationships between Aston and others, and less on the scientific aspects of Aston's universe. That, and I tend to write stories with high levels of action and dialogue, compared to a lot of sci-fi that's heavy into narrative.

Why do I write what I do?

I love to tell a good story. So far, I seem to be accomplishing that.

How does your writing process work?

It varies based on what I'm writing. Most of the time with novels (and novellas), I plot a general outline that covers scenes I'd like to include. I write the first draft using that outline, adjusting as necessary or when I see something that I need to add or remove. Then I edit several times before shipping it off to beta readers for review. Another edit or two, and I have the final product.

For short stories, I'll often write a one-page briefing for the story, covering such things as characters, locations and themes I want to cover. Then, I write the draft and edit as needed.

Whether I write longhand or go strictly on the computer depends on my mood at the time, as well as the availability of a laptop or netbook.

17 December 2013

Plans for the Break

So, it's been a while since I've put together a "goals" post, but with two weeks of time off coming up, it's time to put something out for what I want to accomplish. So, here goes:

1. Complete the first draft of my new Aston novella Fallen.
2. Complete edits on my re-write of Friends in Deed.

In other news, just a reminder to be sure and pick up a copy of my latest releases:

14 December 2013

Sales Update - December 2013

It's been around six months since my most recent sales update in June, and I have a few updated numbers. So, here goes:

Heroes Die Young has sold a total of 442 sales (print and e-book total), which means 16 copies have sold since June (for a total of just over 2 copies a month over the past six months). This compares to 9 copies sold in the November 2012 - June 2013 range, so sales are a bit up. The five-year anniversary for this one was in September, so we're now dropping below the average of 100 copies per year.

Friends in Deed has sold a total of 100 copies (print and e-book total), which means that 4 copies have sold since June (for a total of around 1 copy every four months). This compares to around 2 copies during the previous reporting period. This January marks the four-year anniversary of this one, so the average is around 25 copies per year. As such, I've decided to go ahead and let my contract with Champagne expire on this one come January. Still working out what to do with it after that, sp we'll see what happens.

I've decided to keep Seeker on the free giveaway list, so have stopped recording paid sales. On average, I seem to give away about 150-200 copies each month. Hopefully that leads to a few paid sales on the other titles.

Dead or Alive is still sitting at 83 copies, as I haven't received a reporting of sales since the last update. So, as such, the book is still running about 2-4 copies a month at last count.

The Cure has now sold 93 total copies (print and e-book total), so 10 copies have sold since my past update, compared to 16 copies during the previous update. This book has been out over 2 years (the anniversary was in July), so again I'm seeing a little over 40 copies per year.

Death Brings Victory was released two years ago this coming March, and 60 total copies have sold, meaning 12 copies have sold since the last update, compared to 11 copies during the previous update. This puts it on track with most of my other novels, at just over 40 copies per year. It will be interesting to see, depending on what I choose to do with the previous book in the series, how sales will be impacted.

I now have three Triple-Shot collections out, with the first having been released in November 2011, the second in July 2012, and the third in September 2013. 77 copies have sold, so 37 copies sold since my last update (versus 12 copies from the previous update). Breaking this down, 44 total copies of the first have sold, 23 of the second, and 10 of the third.

Now for the analysis of this latest period:

Things seems to have stabilized, and not in a good place. Since my latest update (June), I've sold 79 books compared to 63 books during the previous update for an average of just over 10 books per month.
And so I have a statistic when people ask (and quite often they do), the latest "total sales" number now stands at 855 copies (note: this does not count past sales of Seeker...).

And if we put together the last twelve months of sales, I see the following (not counting Seeker, nor DOA, which hasn't had enough records provided):

HDY: 25
FID: 6
DBV: 23
Cure: 26
Triple-Shots: 49

Not to bad, I suppose, to have 129 paid sales in a year...not good, but could be worse...

Alas, I still have a novella and a novel to complete. As you may have already seen, I do have a collaboration effort novella that should have a few sales as well. And although I won't be counting sales of the collection my short story "Ever Dark" is in, I'm hopeful that this will lead to sales of my other titles as well.

Thanks for stopping by!

13 December 2013

New Novella - ESCAPE

Just in time for your Christmas shopping...I have a new novella (a collaboration effort with Lyndon Perry) available in print. Although this isn't an Aston title, it's a great story (the start of a series) that we've put together.

Max McCannor and his friends all suffer under the cruelty of their orphanage headmaster. Finally reaching a breaking point and spurred on by the hope of finding his long-lost father, Max convinces the others to flee their captors and head west. But the headmaster has much to lose, and hires one of his former orphans to track the children down and return them to the orphanage before they ESCAPE for good.

04 December 2013

A Thorn in my Side

Although it hasn't been the only reason for a lack of writing production, my last several weeks (and to be honest, the last 14 months) have been plagued with kidney stones. In particular for these last few weeks, a staghorn calcium oxylate stone in my right kidney, measuring 11mm (or for those of us on this side of the globe, just under a half-inch) about two weeks ago. Below is what one looks like (although mine isn't quite this size, if I'm reading the measurement correctly) for those who've never been privy to the fun and joy they bring.

Needless to say, it won't be coming out on its own at this size, so surgery is coming up next week to break it up with a laser that takes the scenic route up to my kidney. Of course, it would have to be a laser blaster, for a sci-fi writer...

Sadly, this is not my first experience with these buggers, although they have varied in size (sometimes, they've actually made the long journey down themselves), location, and the method of removal over the past 14 years/10+ surgeries. Sometimes, the doctors use ultrasound waves from the outside...which is far less sci-fi-esque than befits my writer lineage (and in one case, left me looking like my back had gone fifteen rounds with Mike Tyson).

And in the last 13 months, I've had to go in for three of these surgical removals...as my urologist remarks, I'm a "stone-forming machine." Let's hope this is the last one, but after 14 years, I'm not too optimistic. I've read Paul's letters from the Bible which discuss the thorn in his side which God never seems to answer prayers about removing...and honestly, I've thought for the longest time that maybe he suffered from kidney stones as well...

In the meantime, be sure to check out the new Raygun Chronicles collection that my story "Ever Dark" is appearing in. It's always a joy to know that my work is lumped together with some of the more famous sci-fi authors out there.

And of course, stay tuned for a brand new novella series that Lyndon Perry and I have been collaborating on...should be releasing in the next week or two, just in time for Christmas! Although this isn't an Aston novella (which I'm also working on finishing one of those), it's a great new series that I've had a lot of fun in  creating with Lyndon, and have really loved the characters and storyline.

And if nothing else, at least my writing should be really entertaining while under the influence of post-surgery medications...

12 November 2013

A Brief Update - November 12, 2013

Since it's been about a month since I updated my site (sorry, loyal SFFS fans), figured I'd give a brief update on how things are going on all the latest projects...

Escape, my collaboration project with Lyndon Perry is nearly finished. Final chapter is in place, and editing is nearly completed. Cover art is getting the final polishes, and we're hoping to get it out for public consumption in the next few weeks. This is a departure from my usual Aston West universe material, with a steampunk/historical fiction bent. More info as the release date gets closer (and hopefully I'll get to post up some cover art before long)...

Sadly, most of my other work has been stalled out for one reason or another, with little to no progress. Still...

Fallen is about three-quarters of the way through the first draft. This one is another Aston West novella, along the same vein of Seeker and features Aston crash-landing on a planet where the natives mistake him for one of their gods. What could go wrong with that? Don't worry, Aston can always find a way. My hope is that I'll have it out early (maybe in the first quarter) next year.

Resurrection (although I'm contemplating a title change) is still only about half through the first draft. Aston meets up with some old friends, yet again...but with a little kick to keep things interesting. My plan with this one is to take the storyline from Friends in Deed and Death Brings Victory, and carry the ball across the goal line. With all the other projects (and life getting in the way), things have been extremely slow on this front. Still, hopefully I'll have it out sometime next year.

The only other item on my plate is one that I can't yet talk about...but I'm a bit excited about it, and hope that it boosts some sales...which I'll need to provide numbers for again before long.

11 October 2013

SFFS: Another Snippet From "Bait and Switch"

Welcome back, everyone! If you haven't already heard, my latest Aston West Triple-Shot is now out and available for purchase (for only 99 cents). Again, you've already seen snippets from "Downtrodden" in the past, so I'll continue on from my previous snippet of "Bait and Switch". And of course, if you like this snippet, head on over to my Collections page to check out this latest Triple-Shot. And be sure to check out all of the wonderful authors on the Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday blogroll.

“Audio only,” she alerted me.

Nothing but silence filled the compartment. I’d had enough of whatever this was. “I don’t know you, but I’m leaving.”

Finally, a high-pitched female voice responded. “No, please. I need help.”

“What seems to be the problem?”

“I don’t know. I think it’s something mechanical. It just quit all of the sudden, and won’t get going again.”

Aston and those damsels in distress...a wicked combination that doesn't usually end well. So, that's all for this week, and I'll try to bring out the continued installment next week. But why wait, when you can pick upt the entire Triple-Shot #3 (and the other two installments of three stories if you haven't already) over on my Collections page?

27 September 2013

SFFS: A Snippet From "Bait and Switch"

It's been quite a while since I've put up a snippet...but at least I've not come back empty-handed. And as always, never say never. I proclaimed a long time ago that a story I wrote would never see the light of day. But as with all things, opinions change, and my short story "Adrift" has been released as part of my latest Triple-Shot collection. But don't get too excited, for I'm going to be bringing out a snippet from another of the stories. You've already seen snippets from "Downtrodden" in the past, so I'll bring out a few sentences from the third of the stories in this installment, "Bait and Switch." Enjoy, and of course, if you like this snippet, head on over to my Collections page to check out the latest Triple-Shot. And of course, be sure to check out all of the wonderful authors on the Science Fiction Fantasy Saturdayblogroll.

As a setup for this snippet, Aston has come across a derelict freighter, or at least he thought so...

She obeyed immediately, and I felt thrusters firing as the ship moved toward the left edge of the screen.

Jeanie caught me off-guard. “Incoming transmission.”

“From where?”

“The derelict appears to have an occupant after all.”

This didn’t set right with me in the least. “Set a course, anywhere outside of this system.”

“Are you going to respond to their communication?”

My gut was telling me not to, but I’d experienced cold shoulders out here in the depths of space before, when I truly needed help. “Put it through.”

I don't know...I've known Aston a long time, and that gut of his usually has this knack for keeping him out of trouble. What do you expect, with all that Vladirian liquor he feeds it? So, in the meantime, be sure to check out the entire Triple-Shot #3 (and the other two installments of three stories if you haven't already) over on my Collections page.

23 September 2013

Cover Reveal - Downtrodden and Other Adventures

Those on my Facebook fan page have already seen this, but for those of who aren't over there already, check out the cover art for my latest installment of the Triple-Shot series, featuring the following three stories:

Continue reading this third installment of three short stories from the exciting universe of space pirate Aston West. Travel across vast worlds filled with adventure and intrigue, and enjoy the following stories:

"Bait and Switch": No good deed goes unpunished, as Aston discovers when he tries to lend assistance to someone in need. But never count Aston out...

"Adrift": The vastness of space travel can weigh heavy on any soul. When one has depended on liquid encouragement for so long, what happens when there's not a drop to drink?

"Downtrodden": Sometimes Aston learns more than he really wants to about the cargo he carries, and ends up facing a moral dilemma bigger than an entire galaxy.

Be on the lookout for this latest Triple-Shot, coming soon for all your e-book devices!

09 August 2013

SFFS: More From "Downtrodden"

Well, back in the saddle again this week. Last time we saw Aston in "Downtrodden" he was getting interrupted while stopping a pickpocket. Poor Aston never can catch a break, as anyone who's followed my snippets on Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday can confirm. We continue on this week with "Downtrodden" and as always, if you like this snippet (hopefully you've read the previous snippets), be sure to check out my current released Triple-Shots, shown below. Three short stories in each edition, all featuring space pirate Aston West in his various adventures.

And now, for the snippet (and the repeated disclaimer that this is mostly first-draft material):

I looked up, fury filling my heart at the woman interrupting my lesson in negative reinforcement. Then, I did a double-take at the pale-faced redhead just before she smacked me across the face. I released my grip on the boy, whom she snatched up from the ground. I couldn’t tell whether he’d successfully pilfered my funds, but wasn’t about to let this pair get away with it if he had.

Yanking my blaster out, I flipped the switch next to the trigger. “That’s fully automatic, in case you were curious.”

“Put that thing away!”

“I plan on searching that kid for my money.” I aimed the barrel at her face more for emphasis than anything. “So, if you’d care to hand him over...”

Aston taking the initiative? Well, now I've seen everything! While you're waiting for next week's snippet, be sure to go check out the rest of the Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday snippets and don't forget to buy some books. You'll be glad you did.

05 August 2013

Do Free Giveaways Impact Sales?

As many of you (hopefully) know, my e-book Seeker has been available for free since the last part of May on most sites. One of the benefits I've hoped for out of this experiment is to see a jump in sales of my for-pay titles. I will mention that as of the end of July, 591 copies had been given away on Amazon.

So, I'll take a look at some of the titles for which I receive instantaneous sales data (i.e., my self-published titles)...starting with my Triple-Shots, which are available for 99 cents each.

So, before Seeker was free, for the first 5 months of the year, these titles sold a combined 2 copies at Amazon. Fairly dismal, especially since they're relatively cheap to pick up. Perhaps people see the low price and assume that they're poor quality...that's another post for another time. But after Seeker was set to free, for the last two months or so, they've combined for a total of 17 sales at Amazon, a major jump in sales over a much shorter period of time. My impression is that folks read the free title, realize that I actually have the ability to spin a fine story, and then pick up the 99-cent titles.

The Cure, on the other hand, didn't seem to enjoy the same benefit. No copies sold the first five months of this year, and only 1 copy sold since. That's understandable, since Seeker is an Aston West novel, and The Cure isn't (even though it does come into play in my next planned Aston novel.

Death Brings Victory, another Aston-based novel, hadn't sold a copy in the first five months at Amazon, but has sold 6 copies since then. A huge jump, to be sure, but not as significant as the Triple-Shots mentioned earlier. Part of this is likely due to the larger price ($2.99 vs. $0.99), but another aspect is likely the fact that this is the third in the series, and readers likely want to try out the first two novels before this one.

Just off Author Central data, I did see an uptick in sales on those first two novels, but quantities won't be known for some time (waiting on royalty statements).

So, do free giveaways impact sales? Just from this data, I'd give a resounding yes...and if you're looking to help out your own sales, give it a try. One thing I will note is that the last two months have been a continuous streak of free giveaway days. I had a book enrolled in the KDP Select program previously, and the 5 days every 90 did not seem to have the same effect. Keep that in mind...

03 August 2013

Amazon Rankings: A Statistical Analysis?

Apologies for missing out on this week's SFFS posting...the week's been a mess with many things going on, and by the time I gathered myself together, I'd already missed the deadline for signing up. Hopefully, next week, we'll get back into my short story "Downtrodden" but for now, I wanted to post some information on a favorite topic of mine.

Those pesky Amazon sales rankings...everyone wonders how they come up with the numbers they do, and how they correspond to sales (especially for books where you haven't self-published through the KDP program, and you don't have instant access to your sales numbers, although things are a little bit better now that you can review historical data on sales rankings of all your books through Author Central).

Everyone (hopefully) knows the basics of sales rankings. The lower the number, the more copies you've sold. If a copy of your book sells, the number gets lower. As time passes without sales, your number gets higher. But how exactly do they determine the number? I've taken some sales numbers for my two Triple-Shot collections for about a month's period, and am going to run some analysis on those. The reason is simple. My books don't sell hundreds of copies a day (in fact, each of these changes takes place after a single copy of each sold), so it will hopefully give some insight into how sales impact the ranking.

Just for having all the facts, I'll mention at the time of this posting (and at the time of these sales listed below), DMF had two 5-star reviews, and Temptation had one 4-star review. Also, DMF has more total sales, but Temptation has sold 50% more copies this year than DMF.

So, let's first look at my first Triple-Shot, featuring "Dead Man's Forge." Each date range corresponds to the three-day period surrounding the date of purchase, and the rankings on each day.

18-Jun 19-Jun 20-Jun
621463 83959 158286
21-Jun 22-Jun 23-Jun
242962 116176 204661
24-Jun 25-Jun 26-Jun
270981 79911 185757
30-Jun 1-Jul 2-Jul
383636 91069 155854
5-Jul 6-Jul 7-Jul
346592 87791 166719
14-Jul 15-Jul 16-Jul
464262 82844 127117

And now the numbers for the second Triple-Shot, featuring "Temptation" (note: the first has four dates, as two copies sold, once on the 15th and another on the 16th)

14-Jun 15-Jun 16-Jun 17-Jun
1101143 100249 72888 159123
18-Jun 19-Jun 20-Jun
225398 79764 150470
21-Jun 22-Jun 23-Jun
227376 114281 200625
30-Jun 1-Jul 2-Jul
454136 91333 156508
6-Jul 7-Jul 8-Jul
389278 90126 205350
14-Jul 15-Jul 16-Jul
464331 82883 127182

And now for the analysis...

First off, notice that Temptation sold two copies on sequential days (the first line of the data), but yet the ranking on that second purchase didn't boost it much higher than the other times that a copy was purchased.

Notice also on those date ranges where copies of both books were sold, that the increase in sales rankings were not a matched amount, and that on the following days, the drop in sales rankings were not linear between the two (i.e., one book dropped faster than the other).

Also notice that on two separate sets of days, the starting ranking for Temptation was almost identical (6/18 and 6/21), but a single copy caused it to boost to different rankings after the sale.

Now I will mention at this point that Author Central gives you a daily ranking, but doesn't tell you when the book sold during the day. I've sat and studied it by anecdotal means, but there's no way to record such data that I know of. A copy sells and boosts the ranking, and immediately begins dropping, but the AC value usually matches up to a value somewhere along the path down.

So, what are we to make of all this? I have a theory I'd like to share:

I believe until you start selling multiple copies per day, that you're included in a vast range of numbers starting at some value determined by repeat daily sales-books (likely in the 70K range). When your book sells a copy, you're bumped up to the top of that list. The next single-sale book that sells out of the Kindle store moves you down the list (unless a book starts selling more than one copy per day, in which case it gets bumped to the next tier up), and each subsequent book moves you farther down the list. Author Central would then take a snapshot at the end of each day, which is the number that gets published to your ranking chart. The only thing I'm not sure about is whether reviews get added into the equation somehow...I have an additional theory that if books are sold at around the same time (perhaps in a 5-minute window), that the number and level of star-ratings boost a book higher than the other with fewer and/or lower ratings. I'm also not sure how a book that was selling multiples per day affects the rankings when it stops selling that many on a particular day, but my belief would be that it drops back down into that lower tier and pushes copies that had just sold a copy that day down.

This would explain how a book that was sitting at nearly one million in the rankings (as mine was) would immediately reach a value of about 100K, but then sell a copy the next day and only bump up to about 73K. 

This would also explain how books that sell on the same day ended up moving up to different rankings, because if they sold later in the day, their ranking would by default be higher than another book that sold earlier in the day.

This would also explain how a book drops faster than another, if a book drops down to the lower tier before another book sells a copy.

Obviously this is just conjecture on my part, so maybe one of you out there has a theory they'd like to share, or another comment to make of some sort. Suffice to say, that Amazon truly does have the market cornered on keeping around the most complex algorithm for sales rankings known to man.

Please, feel free to comment and discuss...

26 July 2013

SFFS: "Downtrodden" Continues

Well, Aston was still stuck in the middle of a crowded market during last week's snippet for Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday. We continue on this week with "Downtrodden" which I'm fairly certain will go into my next three-story Triple-Shot. If you like this snippet (hopefully you've read the previous two weeks' snippets), be sure to check out my current released Triple-Shots, shown below. Three short stories in each edition, all featuring space pirate Aston West in his various adventures.

And now, for the snippet (and a disclaimer that this is mostly first-draft material):

The sooner I was done with this assignment, the better. Tabor had been tight-lipped on what the cargo was, and normally that was enough for me. He was smarmy and disgusting, especially when it came to his personal tastes, but the lines he wouldn’t cross usually matched up well with my own.

I moved into a more residential area, and getting my bearings from the directions Tabor had given me, I stared up at numbered markings on the wooden shacks, when I was caught off-guard by a young child bumping into me. His hands pushed clumsily into my jacket pocket, and I snatched his wrists before he got himself into serious trouble.

“You don’t want to try that, little man.”

He looked up at me with the same empty eyes I’d seen on the sick family before and I wasn’t completely sure whether he understood the words coming out of my mouth, but he struggled against my hold. I pulled my jacket flap aside to reveal my blaster holster, to hopefully give him a little pause before he continued his attempt at picking my pockets clean of cash. His eyes went wide at the sight, but another voice made a smile stretch across his face.

“Get your hands off him!”

While you're waiting for next week's snippet, be sure to go check out the rest of the Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday snippets and don't forget to buy some books. You'll be glad you did.

19 July 2013

SFFS: Another Snippet from "Downtrodden"

Glad to see all of the feedback on last week's snippet for the weekly Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday posts. It sounds like everyone enjoyed it, so I'll bring another snippet from "Downtrodden" out for your perusal and enjoyment. And of course, I'm still determining whether this one will go into my next three-story Triple-Shot (perhaps this fall?). And if you haven't already picked up both of my current Triple-Shots, here they are below. Three short stories, all featuring space pirate Aston West in his various adventures. Check them out!

And now, for the snippet:

Fortunately for all of us, a family of travelers passed by in the other direction, dressed in far nicer clothes than my dingy leather jacket and pants. The crowd of salesmen rushed off to separate them from what little money they had left. I took the freedom to accelerate my pace and escape their barrage.

More shopkeepers hounded me from their stores, but didn’t want to leave their merchandise unattended, leaving me able to pass by quickly without risk. I heard loud coughs and turned my head toward a young mother and three small children, all huddled in a pile against the store’s fabric wall. Their faces were tight, leathery skin pulled against the bones. Their eyes were empty as all four clutched at each other in between coughing fits. A small can rested in front of the mother, a few gold-rimmed credits inside reflecting in the sun. I almost thought about tossing one or two more in, but feared another mob of salesmen would congregate if I started flashing money around.

Besides, I was here on a job.

Note that the bolding above was just so I complied with this week's "cue word" (a new feature of the SFFS snippets?). While you're waiting for next week's snippet, be sure to go check out the rest of the Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday snippets and don't forget to buy some books. You'll be glad you did.

12 July 2013

SFFS: A Snippet from "Downtrodden"

Apologies for the long hiatus between snippets for the weekly Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday posts. I will mention that I've been hard at work, trying to build even more tales for you to enjoy from the Aston West Universe. Today's snippet is from a short story that I'm hoping to put into the next three-story Triple-Shot sometime in the near future. Oh, you've never heard of a Triple-Shot before? Well, why didn't you say so? Three short stories, all featuring space pirate Aston West in his various adventures. In fact, there are two such Triple-Shots out there already. Check them out!

And now, for the snippet:

Stepping out through the sliding double doors, my first thought was a fog had rolled in. Then the rancid stench of bodily fluids hit me, and I realized I should be wearing a sealed pressure suit for this job.

Leave it to Tabor Yurick to send me on this sort of assignment.

I attempted to keep my breathing to a minimum as I stepped outside of my ship and off toward the commotion of shopkeepers pushing their wares on new arrivals.

“Close us up,” I told my ship’s computer, Jeanie. She immediately obeyed, gears grinding as the airstair hatch lifted off the ground and closed.

Not even two steps more, and I was mobbed by several sellers trying to ply me with worthless crap I didn’t want or need. Repeated shakes of my head didn’t seem to be doing the trick, and I almost thought I would have to pull my Mark II out of its holster.

I probably don't have to mention, at least to those who've followed the blog for a couple of years, where inspiration for this scene came from. But if you've followed Aston for long, you know that there's going to be something afoot before long, and it's not going to be persistent salesmen.

While you're waiting for next week's snippet, be sure to go check out the rest of the Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday snippets and don't forget to buy some books. You'll be glad you did.

01 July 2013

Trying New (and Free) Things

So, one of the interesting (I hesitate to call it exciting, because that insinuates a pleasantness that doesn't often occur with the publishing business) parts of publishing is that when you're in charge of your own promotional efforts, you get to try a lot of new ideas. Toss in the added benefits of self-publishing (which I've described previously on my blog) and the complete autonomy behind setting prices and other aspects of the bookselling side of the business, and you have a vast smorgasbord of interesting.

I've toyed with varying pricing of e-books in the past, but there really wasn't a lot of stability in the numbers to draw from. So, earlier this year (late March or April), I set my novella Seeker as a free e-book through Smashwords.

The distribution of this title reaches out to Barnes and Noble and Kobo, among others, so the title was free through those outlets as well. Amazon eventually price-matched, but it took them until late May to do so. The earlier sites report back to Smashwords, so the numbers of free giveaways off sites beyond Smashwords has a lot of lag (more so than titles sold for a price), so for the purposes of this discussion, I'll stick just with the last month's worth of information from Amazon (which has instantaneous numbers for both free giveaways and sales both).

In the past month (May 25 through June 22), Seeker has given away 407 copies for free. This is a tiny amount compared to some of the numbers I've seen for KDP Select authors (who can offer their books for 5 days every 90, but a program I've previously denounced as ineffective for my purposes). However, as a comparison, over the past 2+ years that Seeker has been available for sale, it has sold less than 100 copies. So, I'd venture to say that we can confirm from this statistic that readers love free stuff.

But giving away books for free doesn't make authors any money, right?

That's where most people (in my opinion) get it wrong. Because most people are thinking in the moment, and that moment is limited to the book they're giving away free. But for those (such as myself) who have multiple titles out there, a free giveaway is a means to an end, namely to sell as many books out of the entire stable as possible.

So, let's look at my other books, shall we? First, we'll look at the next step up, the two Triple-Shot titles I have. Both are priced at 99 cents, and have had mediocre sales since their releases (less than one a month, based on the stats from my latest sales update). How'd they do this month? Each sold 4 copies. Still not as high as I'd like, but it proves to me at least that the free giveaway of one title gives a full sample of your work to a reader. If they like it, they're more willing to spend (at least a tiny amount of) money for more of your work.

Unfortunately, for my two small press Aston West novels, Heroes Die Young and Friends in Deed, I don't have instantaneous sales numbers to compare. But I have been keeping an eye on the sales rankings through Author Central, and can attest that sales for these two spiked once the giveaway started on Amazon. Whether they checked those out after checking out Seeker, and then the Triple-Shots, or just Seeker, is anyone's guess. But I'd venture to theorize that sales happened on these because of the same sampling process I mentioned before.

Only time will tell if a continued giveaway (I'm planning on leaving Seeker free until after the year's end, and then we'll see how things go) continues to yield the same results, but I plan on riding this out until I find out. And of course, I'll have to remember to come back and present an update along the way.

In the meantime, don't be afraid to try new things, even if it defies convention...

21 June 2013

SFFS: The Final Frontier (or at least the final THE CURE snippet)

Well, we've come to the end of my snippets from The Cure as part of the weekly Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday posts. I hope you've enjoyed the snippets (although truthfully, I hope they've enticed you to pick up a copy of the book itself...and if you haven't, get to The Cure's page). I apologize for the overlap from last week's snippet, but if I'm given ten sentences, I'll try to use at least a majority of them...

The denial was getting tougher, now that she’d heard what they knew. “I don’t know what you’re...”

The woman’s voice grew cold and stern. “Kill Project Genesis. Today.”

“What is wrong with you people?”

The man and woman both stepped aside, allowing her an escape route. She pointed a long, bony finger at Mila, the nail filed to a sharp point. “Kill it today.”

And there you have it...or as a commenter last week mentioned, "Dun dun dunnnnnn!" Now to determine what I'll be producing a snippet from for next week's edition.

In the meantime, be sure to go check out the rest of the Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday snippets and don't forget to buy some books. You'll be glad you did.