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...