If you haven’t heard of, or read, Hugh Howey’s sensation, Wool, then you’ve probably been living under a rock. I emerged from under my rock a few weeks ago, when the book I was going to review went south so fast it left me somewhat dizzy. Since it is my policy not to review poorly written books, I desperately scrambled for another. I had Wool on my pleasure reading list, not my UBR review list, but decided to give it a try anyway.
First, Wool doesn’t need another review. The award winning sci-fi series has transcended the membrane between indie and traditional publishing and become a sensation. Secondly, (gulp, ugly confession time) I thought Wool had always been a traditional publication, and didn’t know it started as an indie short story.
The Wool phenomenon began as a brief tale about a post-apocalyptic underground colony, and one man trying to reunite with his exiled wife on the surface. To do this, he must follow her into exile. Essentially, he must ask for a death sentence. That’s
basically the plot. Since its release its spawned sequels, fan fiction, and an omnibus edition from Random House. Wool is now a universe of its own.
Wool is well written, so let’s take that as a given. There are legions of well-written books in the indie-sphere, most of which languish with anemic sales. Well-written indie lit does not always equate to successful indie lit. Besides good writing, what are some lessons Hugh Howey can teach us about successful indie lit?
Lesson One: Good characters are everything. Wool opens with a man walking up a flight of stairs...to his death. And yet the world around him in the silo apparently doesn’t care. Boom! The reader is instantly invested. Some may say the real lesson here is to have a
good “hook”. Hooks need bait, and smartly crafted characters are the best bait of all. In the first few paragraphs, the weight, internal conflict and remorse this man carries in his heart while climbing those spiral stairs instantly drew me in.
Lesson Two: Keep the plot simple. Wool’s plot essentially boils down to the protagonist trying to leave the underground silo in the hopes of finding his wife. The outside is bad, and will kill you in minutes. That’s the plot, but it’s plenty for Howey to hang lots of conflict and tension. From one end to another, Wool is a lesson in simplicity.
Well-crafted characters and simplicity dovetail into Lesson Three: Keep the appeal as broad as possible. Wool is accessible to readers in all genres, and most age groups. Almost anyone can relate to it. It’s science fiction, but not hardcore science fiction. It’s
dystopian without even bothering to explain why this world is dystopian. In an era of a thousand niche genres, sub-genres, and sub-sub-genres, Wool casts a wide net.
In Wool’s case, I believe these three factors combined to prime the pump for this story’s ultimate indie success. Sound characters, simple plot, and broad appeal empowered readers to quickly communicate to one another across social media their love for this story. For example, I detailed the plot for you in only 44 words. How many of indie authors out there can explain their plots in only 44 words? In the digital age, Wool is
the ideal story.
These are the three big lessons I gleaned from a little short story that spawned a big indie phenomenon. Indie authors often hear they should always be reading in order to become better writers. Agreed, but if we wish to evolve into successful indie authors, we must also ask ourselves why some books skyrocket and others don’t.
Brian Braden is an assistant editor at UBR and author of the historical epic fantasy Black Sea Gods.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. UBR supports Curesearch and the efforts of other organizations to find a cure for all pediatric cancers. We are asking you, our readers to help.
About this time of year, we at UBR take a break from our love of indie literature and make a pitch for our favorite cause – fighting childhood cancer. Actually, it’s my favorite cause, but the wonderful UBR staff lets me use our shared stage during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
How do I describe cancer for those who’ve been fortunate enough not to have it touch their lives? I’m not trying to be cute or flippant – I’m deadly serious: I liken cancer to a zombie attack on your body, except from within. Zombies were once normal people, but “turned.” Cancer used to be healthy cells, but they also “turned.” Once a cell goes zombie, it attacks other healthy cells, and then spreads. Like zombies, some cancers are slow and easy to kill. Some are World War Z fast and deadly.
Doctors have three tasks when battling cancer: 1) find a way to kill the existing zombie cells, 2) keep more cells from being turned, and 3) stop the zombie cells from coming back. Doctors wish they had the proverbial “bullet to the head,” but instead, they are often forced to use medical “weapons of mass destruction,” such as chemotherapy and radiation – the equivalent to nukes, which kill a lot of good cells with the bad. Like zombies, cancer cells can hide and lie dormant for months, or even years. You think they are all gone, and then one emerges from a dark place, starting the grim cycle all over again.
Right now, over 40,000 children are actively battling the monsters eating them from within. The toll on their young bodies is devastating and they, and their families, are forever changed. No one deserves cancer, but there is an infuriating unfairness about childhood cancer. Kids are never “guilty” of those actions or personal decisions society normally associates with getting cancer. They didn’t do drugs or eat too much red meat, smoke, or work around hazardous chemicals. One day they just didn’t feel good, or suffered a persistent fever or headache. Maybe they felt a strange lump, or had a limb suddenly stop working. After a few trips to the doctor the horrible moment arrives when mom and dad learn their child just won life’s most unfortunate lottery.
It’s a lottery in which one out of five of these children will die, making cancer the leading cause of death from disease among U.S. kids over one year of age. It kills more children than cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, AIDS, asthma, and juvenile diabetes combined. These aren’t just statistics, these are real children. I’d like to introduce you to three extraordinary kids from my hometown of Enterprise, Alabama.
Meet Corbyn Wile. This amazing young lady battled a rare soft tissue cancer all during high school. She’s in remission, and is attending the University of Alabama. At a rally against childhood cancer at our local high school last year, she spoke about her fight. I’ll never forget when Corbyn bravely removed her wig in front of 1300 high school kids to show how chemotherapy had ravaged her body.
Standing next to Corbyn in this photo is a little boy named Jacob - my kid. Diagnosed rhabdomyosarcoma at birth, by the time Jacob turned one he’d endured several major surgeries, extensive chemotherapy and radiation directly to his spine. Jacob made it, but not without a heavy price. Jacob also spoke at this rally, which was held in support of Brendon Franco, another Enterprise child fighting cancer.
A great baseball player, a dedicated boy scout, and cross country runner, Brendon’s initial prognosis of liver cancer gave him only 72 hours to live. He fought on for another fifteen months, and went to heaven the night before the rally in his honor. I’m blessed to have known this young man. Brendon’s parents are the bravest people I’ve ever met. Only hours after their son passed, they attended the rally to thank the city of Enterprise for its support.
Children like Corbyn, Jacob and Brendon are not statistics. Their battles are real and they need your help. Doctors are reluctant to try experimental drugs on kids and few pediatric patients are eligible for early clinical trials. Relatively few companies are interested in the older, generic “hand me down” drugs, which means most pediatric cancer drugs are in short supply.
With all these facts, you can understand why I’m asking for your help. Here are four ways you can join Corbyn and Jacob to fight childhood cancer and honor Brendon’s memory.
1) Go to Curesearch.org and
donate. About 95 cents of every dollar you give goes to research and helping families of pediatric cancer patients.
2) Support a local Curesearch Walk for the Cure
. You can find a walk near you this month by clicking here
. If you can’t find a local walk, you can support Team Jacob in his walk in Birmingham, Alabama on 28 September.
3) You can also support the Brendon Franco Foundation.
4) Finally, you can purchase an e-book or paperback copy of Carson’s Love
on Amazon.com. 100% of all profits go to Curesearch.
One in five is too many. It only takes a few dollars and a few minutes to help a lot of really great kids fight the monsters trying to kill them from within.
(Note, during the writing of this article I learned Corbyn’s doctor discovered a disturbing growth on her lung. Please pray for her and her family.)
Jake Vyper of Fantascize.com
Let's face it: Many authors want to get their books discovered by legions of readers in the world, and social media is a powerful marketing tool that could potentially boost sales, but self-promoting books is not just merely spamming people's Facebook pages and walls with blurbs
and Amazon links. There are hundreds of thousands of writers who are doing the same easy thing–posts in as many social media outlets. Below is a list of five common social media mistakes that authors make when promoting their books. I've seen them a plethora of times, and although some of these “bad moves” may not deter good results, in most cases, they're unproductive and unprofessional. 1.) When Authors Promote Their Books in the Wrong Groups
I see it all the time: authors promote their books in various author groups in Facebook, hoping that the other members in that group would click their links. Although you might find some people who care, most of the members in these types of groups are also authors who are too busy promoting their own books. They joined the group not because they are searching for other books to read. Sure, there may be some readers lurking in these groups, but that's not the common case. If you want more readers to discover your work, don't focus on marketing in groups that are mostly bombarded by authors. Market to readers.
Cut the borderline between mainstream and indie, and you'll reach a wider audience. Just because your novel isn't as popular as mainstream works, it doesn't mean that you'd restrict yourself only to indie readers. There are thousands of readers online who are looking for something fresh, and it's your job to deliver that. For instance, on my Fantasy & Sci-Fi page- http://www.facebook.com/fantasyscifi
, when I promote books, I reach more readers because this page is not exclusive to just people who are focusing on promoting. Many of the members are searching for books that would appeal to them; they are not a part of this community for the sake of competing with other authors just as many of these book promotion groups do. 2.) Terrible Choice of Domains for Their Blogs or Websites.
It's beneficial for authors to have their own blogs or websites where they can publish content about their books, but if they want to appeal to a larger audience, they have to make sure that their websites look professional. I notice a lot of authors use free sites to promote their books like blogspot or wordpress. If you're a serious author, invest some money in your own domain and hosting. (It's not that pricey.) You can get a domain from Godaddy for cheap.
And when you choose a domain, make sure it's catchy, meaningful, and relevant to your books. Don't choose a generic name. Another common pitfall is when authors make a lengthy URL. A domain is not a blurb for your promotions; it's simply a domain; you want it to be memorable to your visitors, so don't come up with an eight-syllable domain. Try to keep it concise. Two to four syllables. When I was thinking for a name for my website, I knew I had to create a unique domain that would describe what the website is about –Fantasy and Science Fiction. It was a challenge because a lot of them were already purchased, but fortunately, “Fantascize.com” was available. Why Fantascize? Obviously, it's a wordplay with “fantasy” and “sci-fi” and it's short and memorable. Sure, this is not my personal author site, but the point is that websites are seen as more professional if you choose a domain that people will like and remember. 3.) When Authors Promote Books With Bad Cover Art
Front cover artworks doesn't determine the overall quality of your book, but it matters a lot; Like it or not, a book is judged by its cover. It's the first thing that people see, and like a knight trying to woo a maiden, you have to make your first impression count. I've seen so many authors trying to promote books with generic designs and amateur artworks that make their book look cheap and drab. And they expect people to buy their books? I've read books that have decent stories, but they fail to reach more readers because their covers suck.
Pretend that you have never written the book you're trying to promote, and evaluate your cover by asking yourself: would I read this book just by looking at the cover? Does it pique my curiosity and interest? If your answer is yes and yes, then you're ready to market your book; If “no”, find another artist. And if you have to invest some, then go for it. If you care about the quality of your cover, then most-likely, more readers would care about what you have to offer. 4.) When Authors Don't Engage With The Community
I know, I know. Many of us, introverted authors have the tendency to seclude ourselves from the public so that we can concentrate on our works, and of course, during this period of writing, it is necessary: we need our own space, time, and peace. But when it comes to promoting our books, we have to engage with our audience. And I don't mean that all you do is shove your book to their faces, telling them how awesome the premise is. Engaging means being immersed in a conversation, not your self-centered monologue about your creation. Encourage discussions; welcome feedback–both positive and negative; ask them what they would like to see in the sequel; run a contest; give away some free stuff; connect with your readers and fellow authors; and don't be an egotistic, stuck-up figure. You are not just marketing your books; you are also marketing yourself, and who would give a damn about an author who cares nothing but his own works. Enjoy the community!5.) When Authors Are More Focused on Marketing than Improving the Quality of their Writing.
Just like in any type of business, there's no secret technique or quick formula to marketing your products. Sure, you can learn social media tactics and get the best advertisements for your niche, but the most important aspect in marketing books isn't “marketing” at all; it's about the quality of your book. A lot of authors spend so much time and money advertising their books, not knowing that their books are “not good enough”. There are millions of books being promoted online, and you don't want to be just another generic one. Before you even think of marketing your book or getting the coolest cover art, you have to focus on developing it to the best that it could be. Ask yourself–Is this a novel that your readers would recommend to their friends? When you write a book that's worthy of reading, and when readers discover the excellence in your craft, most-likely, they would tell their friends about it, spreading the word like a virus. The power of word-of-mouth referral may surprise you. So take your time, don't rush your novel into the market if it's not ready yet; you will eventually get there. The key to having a breakthrough novel is by focusing on the craft itself, rather than the sales.
Using short stories to promote a novel is a rising phenomenon in digital publishing that print media cannot touch. For only pennies, an author or publishing house can give readers a juicy, self-contained story tied to a greater universe. Authors use promotional literature (I call it promolit) like breadcrumbs leading readers to the main course, a full-fledged novel or series. If written correctly, promolit should stand on its own as a satisfying short story.
Promolit is a trend deserving its own attention, its own niche, its own format. To be successful it must accomplish two goals: function as a quality, self-contained piece of short fiction and, secondly, convince the reader to buy the companion novel. That's why UBR is using a different rating scale for promolit. The short story will get two “yes” or “no” recommendations, one for the story, and one as a recommendation to try the companion novel.
Underground Book Reviews dives into two promolit short stories this week as part of our Short Fiction Series: Robert Bevan D&D inspired comedy Cave of the Kobolds and the D.E.M. Emrys’s battle tale From Man to Man.
Promolit Title: From Man to Man
Companion Novel/Series: It Began With Ashes (Wroge Element Series)
Author: D.E.M. Emrys
Length: 39 pages
I almost passed up reviewing From Man to Man
. In the crush of submissions I receive every month I initially declined to review it, but kept it on my desktop. I can’t say why, but From Man to Man
kept drawing me back. Every once and a while I’d open it, read a few paragraphs and think, “That’s not bad.” Unfortunately, I had a lot of outside distractions pulling me off the story. As the weeks passed by, I kept comparing it to other works I was serious considering for review. Eventually, I admitted to myself I’d been too hasty with From Man to Man
, and dove into it.
I’m sure glad I did. There isn’t anything extraordinary or glitzy about this short story. It’s a direct, no frills fantasy story about Draven Reinhardt, a mercenary trying to start all over as a common villager. He’s wants to leave the sword behind, but those around him recognize Draven for what he truly is, even if he denies it. Eventually, he breaks down and takes a job protecting a local tax collector. Battle and mayhem ensue.
I overlooked From Man to Man
the first time around for one critical reason – it wasn’t what I expected. I expected typical action-based fantasy, but what I found was character based fantasy. Yes, there is action, well
written action. But what makes this 39 page story fascinating is how quickly Emrys breathes life into Draven, making him both sympathetic and believable. I didn’t see anything extraordinary about his fantasy world, perhaps Emrys is saving that for the novels. But after 39 pages, I wanted to know more about Draven, and that’s good enough.
Is From Man to Man
worth reading on its own? Yes. Does it make me want to read the companion novel? Yes. From Man to Man (Wroge Elements) on Amazon
D.E.M Emrys website
Promolit Title: Cave of the Kobolds
Companion Novel/Series: Critical Failures (Caverns and Creatures Series)
Author: Robert Bevan
Publisher: DeadPixel Publications
Length: 24 pages
THE RUNDOWN Cave of the Kobolds
didn’t come across my email as a submission. The author found me via Twitter marketing. He didn’t even push his book, I just looked over his profile and found it. Cave
had a straightforward and original pitch, so I read the sample. In about two minutes I was laughing. So I read some more. And then I bought it. And then I decided I had to review it.
Nerdy males who grew up since the late 1970’s who played D&D will “get” this book. Otherwise, maybe it won’t resonate with you. This is a story about a group of goofy, likely virginal, teenage boys who get magically sucked into their Dungeons and
...ahem...I mean Caverns and Creatures
game. They’re even physically transformed into their characters. Well, almost. They still think and talk like their actual selves, and this is the source of most of the humor. In Cave
, the party takes on a “level-1” dungeon full of kobolds. Its Keep on the Borderlands
(Google it) meets Monty Python
(the non-suckie Python) meets Revenge of the Nerds
. Battle and hilarity ensue.
Bevan writes some seriously funny stuff, if
you understand the role playing sub-culture. If not, you’ll probably scratch your head wonder what’s going on. I knew exactly what was going on and loved it. My only issue was the excessive (way excessive) use of the F-bomb, only because I cannot in good conscious recommend it to younger audiences. And that’s a shame, because I really wanted to. Bevan nails the experience of playing the game until sunrise on a Friday night with your best friends, of getting lost in the characters and the scenario, yet letting the real world bleed through...basically, some of the best times of my life.
Is Cave of the Kobolds
worth reading on its own? Yes. Does it make me want to read the companion novel? Yes. Cave of the Kobolds on AmazonIf you enjoyed these reviews follow Underground Book Reviews on
Facebook and Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter.
You can also follow Brian Braden on his blog, Facebook and Twitter
and buy his books, Black Sea Gods or Carson's Love.
I’ve often thought the term “biographical fiction” (or, biofic) sounded like an oxymoron. Literally, it could be translated as “true make-believe,” giving the impression that an author has completely repackaged history for the sake of entertainment. But as a writer who recently spent almost three years conducting exhaustive research on the Wright brothers to pen a novel about their woman-shyness, trust me, I wasn’t earning about relative velocities, bicycle repair and wing warping to simply do some entertaining. It’s all about sharing your interpretation of that history. So if you’re an author dipping your toe into this pond for the first time, here are three of the biggest questions you might ask: Why write biofic? What’s so rewarding about it?
It’s all about learning something new about the people who most intrigue you. When you peek behind the curtain to find out who those people really
were and what made them tick, you feel like you know something special. And when you know something special, you feel compelled to share it. In the case of the Wright brothers, what struck me most was their bachelorhood. I wanted to know why they never married, dangit, and why they felt nervous around women to the point they avoided them. In other words, I believe biofic is rewarding because it’s all about “digging deeper.” And authors are the kind of people who like to do that sort of thing. What are the challenges?
Research. Research and more research. Some authors may find this cumbersome and tedious. I find it fun--thus there are over 3 single-spaced pages of resources listed at the end of my Wright brothers novel. I’m not trying to scare a prospective biofic author from wading into the pond by saying that. I fall into obsess mode when drafting a manuscript and probably enjoy the learning experience more than the writing experience. I spent time pouring over ads from the year 1900. I even looked up late nineteenth century CPR, dental care, the stitches used in five-gore skirts, you name it. You don’t have to go to this extent! But if research of this caliber doesn’t drive you crazy, it sure makes the descriptions pop on the page.
The biggest bear for me--and what other biofic authors have said--was weaving the fiction within the facts. Caesar DID cross the Rubicon. Washington DID become America’s first president. Lincoln WAS assassinated and the Wrights DIDN’T marry. I couldn’t take two love-shy bachelors and turn them into philandering womanizers. I thought it would be disingenuous and at first, I found “the facts” too confining. It was imposing limitations on my imagination. But the longer I worked, I began to find it helpful, like framework. So I suggest putting your imaginative energy into filling in the details, crafting the dialogue, describing the emotions and building the world.
I’ve written historical, literary and women’s fiction, and hands down I’d say that writing biofic is probably the hardest genre to write. But I’d also say that laboring through my biofic novel was also the most rewarding experience I’ve had as an author. Why is biofic so hot?
There’s no doubt that biofic is one of the best selling genres. We simply love learning about people, especially well-known people. As a reader of biofic myself, I enjoy learning some new, overlooked tidbit about a famous person. Something small, but yet something that substantially defined them, their accomplishments and their lives.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s all about interpreting history, too, casting and seeing it in a new light. Someone reading about Thomas Edison, for example, might think he was one of the most brilliant inventors who ever lived, and thus portray him as a genius in a novel. Someone else, however, could come away from the same research thinking he was a brute who ignored his wife, cared little for his children, and treated Nikola Tesla like trash. In that case, he’ll be portrayed more as a jerk than a genius. And biofic fans value those different perspectives.
But most important (at least, for me), biofic lets readers and writers experience
real history. It’s the closest we can come to actually “being there” or “accomplishing that.”In fact, knowing more about the people who made such impacts on the world, in turn, inspires us to do a little more dreaming, ourselves. About Tara Staley Tara Staley
is the author of Conditions Are Favorable
, biofic about the Wright brothers during their years experimenting with flight at Kitty Hawk. The book will be published April 23 in paperback and ebook formats and has been blurbed by nationally bestselling author Caroline Leavitt. Her debut novel Need to Breathe
was selected as a “LitPick of 2012” by Twitter’s popular forum @LitChat, and Underground Book Reviews named it a Top Pick this past January. She lives in NC with her husband and two sons, a cat, and too many cardinals to count.
Here at the Underground, our goal is to promote as many quality indie authors as we can. Toward this end, we are introducing Author Spotlight Thursdays. Please welcome Jeri Walker-Bickett. 1. Tell us about your new book.
My books contains literary short stories adhere to realism and feature characters down on their luck, yet stubborn enough to move on. A tryst between a carnival worker and a pretty high school student begs the question of who takes advantage of who. A young man’s encounter with a drug addict finds him striking out on his own in hopes of a better life. An English teacher publishes literature deemed inappropriate by a Mormon community. A mother goes on a quest to get rid of the family’s aggressive pet. Finally, New Orleans provides the backdrop for a stroll with a psychotic housewife. Such is life!
Four of the stories were written years ago in graduate and undergraduate workshops, and the newest story, "Not Terribly Important," marks my return to creative writing after years devoting my existence (70+ hour work weeks) to being an English teacher rather than pursuing my original passion for writing. 2. If you had a writing motto, what would it be?
Two mottos apply to my writing and all of life in general. "Let's learn together!" reflects my belief that we can learn more from each other than we can alone. My other motto, "What do I know?" is also the title of my twisted book blog, as well as a throwback to the motto that guided Michel de Montaigne's personal essays and outlook on life. The best experts never stop learning, and the true bravery comes from fully exploring one's own mind. 3. What is one thing you want audiences to know about you?
I've got mad skills. Really. Academic scholarships were plentiful in my past, so I've had the joy of studying the craft of writing for many years and in many different contexts. Now I am turning my experience as a teacher of college composition, secondary English and creative writing into a newly forged career as a freelance editor and author.
The novel I am currently working on is titled Lost Girl Road. It's a psychological suspense ghost story that takes place in the woods of northwest Montana. Alas, my
drafting process is not a fast one, but nor do I want to be a writer who rushes into publication. The draft will let me know when the time is right. 4. What character in your book do you most relate to and why?
Hmmm, at this point in time I'm most like the English teacher in my short story "Not Terribly Important." Suffice to say, the themes explored in that story reflect much of what I find myself mulling over regarding the state of education in America and why I could no longer be a part of such a broken system. Back in the day, I would liken myself more to Julie, the teenage girl in "Pretty Girl" who is a bit of a wild child.
5. What is the best kept secret you've discovered in regard to indie publishing?
I'm still new to learning about marketing, and I read tons of great blogs. Personally, what has worked best for me is to use my blog to build a network of professional contacts I can learn from. Certainly, I wish I had taken some marketing classes in college rather than say, The History of the Personal Essay, but then again, being an academic bum made me into the person I am today.
All that aside, I'm still on the fence on what path to publication to pursue for my
novel. Time will tell. I will be attending the Pacific Northwest Writers' Conference this July in Seattle and am quite terrified of the agent pitching sessions! Either path to publication is wrought with lots of hard work and its own sets of pros and cons. I just want to make the right choice for me.Such is Life on Amazon.
While I’m far from the master of Goodreads, I am a computer guy as well as an Indie Author and have used the site for two years. I’ll offer my two cents as to certain features that work for me.
1. Register for the author program
. Pretty obvious, and Goodreads has their own FAQ here: http://www.goodreads.com/author/program
2. Make sure your books are properly listed
. Create entries for each edition of each of your books. Upload covers, set the ISBNs and ASIN. Although it is one of the best book sites, Goodreads isn’t the best programmed site on the web (hopefully this will change with the Amazon acquisition) and has more than its share of quirks. One mysterious one, is the difficult process of actually buying a book you’re browsing. Particularly given that affiliate referrals probably represent substantial income. For ebooks, the author/librarian can chose to list by ISBN or ASIN. It would make sense to use the ISBN, but so lame is GR’s generation of external sales links that ISBN based ebooks do no link very smoothly to their Kindle editions – so I use ASIN.
. I find the giveaway module (easily located on your Author Dashboard) to be excellent bang for the buck. You can run one giveaway for each book at any given time. I offer them for 2-4 weeks and create a new one as soon as the old one finishes. This will generate 1200-1800 submissions each time, which creates engagement with your titles. And Goodreads charges nothing, you just need to provide and mail out the books. I experimented, and you get the same volume of interest REGARDLESS OF HOW MANY COPIES you offer. So I suggest giving away 1-2 copies per giveaway. I ran one with 20 once, and all it did was cost me a lot of money and time to ship them all out. Now I always run with two copies. Ten successive giveaways with 2 copies each will generate more traffic than one with 20. I also open it up to the entire world. Shipping costs more internationally (remember to use book rate), but otherwise you cut your audience and turn off international applicants. The reader or potential reader is your customer, and I always believe in treating them with consideration.
4. Self serve advertising
. Goodreads has a self serve pay per click ad service, available on your dashboard. The per click price isn’t great, usually requiring a $0.50-0.75 bid – and inventory is terribly constrained (many days your ad won’t run at all). It’s also a tiny ad with a microscopic picture and very short copy. Still, I find it useful. The click thru rate is abysmal, which actually means that if your ad IS running, it generates a lot of impressions. Since the billing is by click, the terrible CTR isn’t a big deal. There is extremely little direct PURCHASE action on GR, partially because of their wretched external linking, so I always link the ad directly to my Amazon Kindle page. I include an affiliate referral code for a modicum of tracking. Conversion is about 5%, which is much better than the approximately 1% I get off Google advertising. It is also possible to link your current giveaway into the ad, giving you a second link for
5. Large scale advertising
. I once ran a more extensive campaign using a larger flash ad. The CTR was much better, but GR charges by CPM (impressions) at a rather“aggressive” rate. It has been my experience that CTR based advertising offers poor value and CPM based abhorrent value. Still, my GR campaign lead to real sales, just not even close to the cost of advertising. It was about 25% effective in that the money from direct sales was about ¼ of that spent on advertising. Surprisingly (and you can tell I’m no fan of the ad biz) this was actually one of my best ad experiments. There is a general conspiracy by ad sales groups to withhold statistics, particularly conversion stats – presumably because of their inefficient and wretched performance. All that said, I’m considering trying one of these campaigns again, as there are relatively few ways for authors to reach their audiences.
Andy Gavin is the author of the indie historical fantasy hit The Darkening Dream and his latest novel, Untimed. He studied for his Ph.D. at M.I.T. and founded video game company Naughty Dog, Inc. at the age of fifteen, serving as co-president for two decades. There he created, produced, and directed over a dozen video games, including the award winning and best-selling Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter franchises, selling over 40 million units worldwide. He sleeps little, reads novels and history books, watches media obsessively, travels, and of course, writes.Your portal to the Andy Gavin universe begins here!
Ten things I look for when choosing and E-book.
That was the working title UBR gave me for this piece. Problem is, I can’t really come up with ten things. I am a pretty simple person with a pretty simple process for picking a book, especially an e-book.
First is the cost. This is my most important consideration, primarily because I am old fashioned.....and cheap. I just can’t shake the idea that a book, especially one I have spent more than $10 on, should have physical substance. It needs weight and texture, I should be able to hold it, to turn its pages, smell that unique book smell. Most of my e-books are freebies, none of them cost me more than $5. Also, it frustrates me when I am shopping for a book and find that the electronic version is priced close to the print version. In my mind, e-books should be cheaper than the print version (also, if the zombie apocalypse starts and the power is lost forever I want some real books around to keep me occupied until they get me, not just an expensive paperweight!). Like I said, I’m cheap.
My next criteria is subject. While I have been known to read anything in a moment of boredom (cereal boxes at the breakfast table, the back of a newspaper or magazine of the person across from me at the doctor’s office) I do have genres that I prefer. So, tell me what is the story about? Mystery? Drama? Fantasy? Science fiction? I'm not really into biographies or anything too grounded in reality. I read to escape. I want to lose myself in a world of make believe. I have heard people complain about this story or other "it's too unbelievable, too far out there". To my mind, there is no such thing. I am willing to follow the story anywhere, willing to accept as reality the most unrealistic details if it makes sense within the context of the story.
The last thing I look for is the reviews. Now, I will be honest here, in the past reviews never meant that much to me. I never looked at bestseller lists or read "professional" reviews. I always assumed to professional review couldn't be trusted, that money was changing hands somewhere. But that changed when I started reading more E-books. I have found many reader reviews on Amazon (and more recently Goodreads) to be very helpful. And of course, there is this newsletter. I found it through a friend whose book was featured in a review, and I have been a subscriber ever since. Once again, it is the honesty and open opinions that matter to me. Just the insights of another book lover. That being said, I am not a fan of reviews that pick apart and criticize every aspect of a
story. In fact, my perverse nature will sometimes cause me to choose a story just because I read a particularly mean review and feel compelled to find out for myself how bad or good the story really is. Funny thing is, I usually come away from the story wondering what the reviewer was so upset about. Maybe I’m just a less demanding reader?
Who knows. I can only tell you that when I review a book, I tend to keep it simple and direct. I liked it, here’s why. Now go read it a decide for yourself. That is my kind of review. And that’s it, cost, subject, and reviews. Nice and easy. But whatever system you use in choosing an e-book, there are literally thousands of great books out there, so you should never be without something to read. A new story is just a click away.
This week’s guest writer, Tamara Tipton, is what we term here at UBR a “power reader.” If she isn’t reading, listening to an audiobook, or watching TV (books with moving pictures!) she is likely unconscious. She has 2 blogs, writes reviews of the hit show Castle for fanbolt.com, and is a contributing author for The Falling Skies Blog. When not looking for the next great novel or blogging she’s a certified pharmacy technician, a wife, and the mommy and chief litter box cleaner to a herd of furry felines.
Underground Book Reviews writer and assistant editor Brian L. Braden
is pleased to announce the publication of BLACK SEA GODS
, his first full length novel.
As a way of saying thank you to all our UBR readers and authors, BLACK SEA GODS
is free today and tomorrow on Amazon
as an e-book.
A fresh, new direction in historical fantasy, BLACK SEA GODS
transforms recently re-discovered Black Sea legends, possibly the root of all Eurasian mythology, with ancient Chinese mythology to create an unprecedented epic fantasy series.
***The fish have disappeared from the sea. The animals have vanished from the land. All humanity, and even the gods, tremble under the specter of a pending cataclysm. The demigod Fu Xi races home from the edge of the world bringing news of a looming god war, but finds his land under attack by monsters he once called his children. He discovers a terrible curse has been cast, one intended to destroy the gods and all life. To his shock, Fu Xi learns mankind’s hope rest solely on him, a simple fisherman and a banished slave girl.
Beset on all sides, Fu Xi knows he must act quickly and races west to rescue the saviors. Unaware of the real doom that awaits, Aizarg the fisherman and his party begin a perilous journey across a dangerous steppe. They seek the last of the Narim, the legendary Black Sea Gods, who hold the key to their salvation. Leading them is the rescued slave girl Sarah, the only one among them who knows the path to the land of the god-men.
Over seven days the defining struggle of gods and humans begins under the onslaught of a powerful force whose true objective and origin remain a mystery. Fu Xi knows the secret to victory resides in a fisherman and a slave girl, whose lives he must protect, even if it means the rest of the world must perish.
Keep up with the latest updates on Brian Braden’s
writing projects on his blog
. If you miss the free promo, you can still buy his books, Black Sea Gods or Carson's Love
, on Amazon.
Here at the Underground, our goal is to promote as many quality indie authors as we can. Toward this end, we are introducing Author Spotlight Thursdays.
1. Tell us about your book.
The Daguerreotypist is much more than the typical paranormal romance. Although it has all of the essentials for the die hard paranormal fan; the devil, time travel, and of course a few people dying along the way, it is much more than that. The overall theme of The Daguerreotypist is about loving what you have and being careful for what one wishes for. Too often we all yearn for something more, something we can’t have and we end up being miserable because of it. Like the Buddha and the four noble truths, this book will remind you of what is truly beautiful and necessary in life.
2. What is one thing you want audiences to know about you?
My love for my family. I love to write and work everyday to be the best that I can be at this craft, but nothing comes close to my family. Whether or not I sell one book or a million books, whether I am successful or not, my family is still and will always be number one.
3. If you had a writing motto what would it be?
Write because you love it and need to, not to gain fame and fortune.
4. What book character do you most relate to and why?
I believe that although I can relate on different levels to both my protagonist Rachel and my antagonist Isaiah that I relate to Isaiah the most. In no way do I relate to the cold blooded killer part of Isaiah. What I relate to with him is his dogged effort to perfect things around him. Too many times I’ve railed against the wrongs of society as Isaiah Whitfield does in The Daguerreotypist. Thankfully I found my wife and happiness before I lost all hope. Whether or not Isaiah is able to find the same joy in life I did, well that you’ll have to read the book to find out.
5. What's the best kept secret you've found in regard to indie publishing?
I would have to say freedom. Before I went indie I would spend too much time sending my books off to agents and trying to write the perfect pitch. Now I worry about writing. One still has to worry about marketing like a writer would if he or she went traditional, but overall I get to spend much more time creating, and at the end of the day that is what it is all about. Writing shouldn’t be about pleasing some uptight agent; it should be about the word on the page and the happiness of the reader.
Chris Savio was born in Anaheim California and spent his life bouncing back and fourth between Southern California and New Jersey. At a young age it was discovered that he had dyslexia. Not only did he overcome that disability and gain the ability to read and write, he became a special education teacher to try and repay the debt he felt he owed his teachers.
You can find Chris at Scary Reads
and on Amazon