Getting hung up on the wrong things

Further to the epic rant I shared last week, I listened to Mark Dawson’s interview with the mysterious Data Guy this morning. I got up at 4am, drove to the city to drop off my husband to the bus to Canberra (where he has a course this week, so has to start early), went back home (still very dark), walked to the gym (scared the bejesus out of a possum in the dark, or maybe it scared me), where it was still very empty at 5.15am. I always listen to podcasts at the gym, because gyms are boring and I can learn something while I’m there.

An interview with Data Guy is a real scoop for the show. I guess Mark knows who he is, but we’re all speculating. In short, every three months, he rents hundreds of servers for an hour or two and they crawl across the entire book section of whatever site he chooses (mostly Amazon US, but he’s done others) and collect publicly visible data. Title, author, publisher, ranking. He does this for an ever-increasing portion of the books for sale. He uses this data to create an immediate snapshot of the industry. The book industry at large is now beginning to see the value of this, because all of the data they can collect does not offer them as complete or immediate a picture.

Data Guy writes the quarterly Author Earnings reports together with Hugh Howey, and these reports give a lot of insight into what’s happening in the book industry. Too much to mention here, but everyone should read them, whether you have a publisher or are self-published. If you’re really keen, the data is publicly available, so you can download it and play with it.

Back to the podcast.

Apart from all the things I mentioned in the rant from last week (people don’t use ISBNs and those books are not counted; people buy even their print books online), I’d like to highlight this quote from the transcript (bolding mine):

James (interviewer):
Is there a particular area do you think you could point people towards they should be looking at?
Data Guy:
Absolutely, and that is marketing and advertising. What is conventionally understood by traditionally published authors to be important absolutely isn’t. Newspaper and radio ads, book signings at the occasional book store, they’re fun. They are enjoyable. I’ve done them. I’ve really enjoyed as an indie author signing at Barnes and Noble. But 70 books in a day in print, where you basically earn very little with your POD books, is not comparable to selling 1,100 or 2,000 books in a day, which is what you can do with an online promotion without too much difficulty if you plan it right. Focus the energy on what works today.

Yet, I see authors getting hung up on in-person sales, signings, presence of their books on shelves, con appearances etc. every day.

This stuff is FUN. It strokes your ego. For sales, it does diddly squat.

Next month, I’ll go to Supanova on the Gold Coast. It’s a tax-subsidised holiday. That’s it. It’s fun. Yet at these events I meet people who don’t even have ebooks. Or who have their ebooks farmed out to daft third party joints that are inflexible and expensive.

Selling print books at stalls or signings is successful when you sell 50 books or more. During my biggest sales day online, I sold 3046 books. In a single day. I can go back the next day and sell 1000, and the next day, and the next day, and…

Ebooks, online, that’s where it’s at. That’s where you should advertise.

Yes, it was still dark when I got home at 6.30. The possum was gone because the rubbish trucks were prowling the streets. We need the end of daylight saving, please?

What is coming up?

A little news post.

Sand & Storm went live on 24 June and the sequel, Sea & Sky, is set to release on 20 September. I’ve actually just received the final files today, but will probably stick to the schedule because the audiobook of Ambassador 1 should be dropping in August!

I’m writing the final volume of the Moonfire Trilogy, Moon & Earth, and should finish the first draft within a few weeks. I mean–I’ve “only” got 25k to write, and of course All The Freaking Plot Threads to be tied up.

When that is done (or, I should say, when I boot that one off to the editors) I will start on Ambassador 6: The Enemy Within. This will involve an ever-increasing party of varied people travelling to Earth for a trial. They will take two toddlers who get up to all sorts of mischief (no, none of them are Cory’s–yet). There will be spies (Klaus Messner), there will be shooting and there will be some very big ethical questions asked.

Tag line:

In order to save the earth, he has to betray it

There may or may not be New Zealand, and camels (you know I have thing for camels in books), but those things may also be moved to book 7, for which I lack a title. If I’m on a roll, I might write book 7 as well (providing I can come up with a title).

Anyway, I’ll start bugging Tom for a cover soon.

After that (and we’re talking 2017 now), I’m thinking to start the first set in my Ilk Urban Fantasy series. The book will be called The Hunter. There will be a Sydney setting, local councils, developers, corruption, murders and a guy who may or may not resemble Eddie Obeid 😛 There will also be “Ilk”: were-possums, were-ibises, were-frogmouths, were-fruitbats, were-kookaburras (basically, insert all obnoxiously loud local wildlife). And a journalist from Adelaide called Bindi Winslow who is looking for her slippery brother.

I’d like to start one totally new project every year.

Meanwhile, I’m taking part in some cross promotions, so don’t forget to sign up for the Ebookaroo newsletter.

The Ebookaroo lives!

Ebookaroo

Ever since I nicknamed my mailing list “The Beast” I got a lot more people joining. That mailing list is my personal author list, and has information about my books and my writing.

I take part in a lot of giveaways and cross promotions, and those attract another group of readers: people who like promotions.

These are really two groups of people, although there will be some overlap. People who are waiting for the next Ambassador book (it’s coming, I promise!) don’t want to receive all the emails about cross promotions. People who want bargain books don’t want to hear about my 5th book in a series they’ve never heard of.

So, here is the Ebookaroo, a list especially for those who like to hear about author-run promotions and giveaways which may or may not include any of my books. It will definitely include books of a lot of the awesome peeps I’ve met around here.

Click here or on the image to read more.

Adventures in audio

As some people already know, I’ve been getting ready to move into audio books.

This is not a decision to take lightly, because 1. it’s expensive, and probably only worth it if you have books that sell, 2. I’m in Australia, and I don’t have direct access to ACX, 3. You have to spend some time selecting a narrator and listening to examples to know what you want, 4. Quality really matters, taking us back to point 1.

In short, it’s not without risk and you don’t want to have to mortgage your house to do it.

ACX (the audio book exchange) is your gateway to audio. You upload a sample and narrators send in auditions.

First, you have to set up an account. If you’re not in the US or the UK, you can do this through this company.

Then you have to decide how much you’re willing to pay per finished hour of narration. A finished hour of narration will in general take the narrator a couple of hours to finish, record and edit.

You can also opt not to pay outright but share royalties with the narrator. Professional narrators are not interested in this option, because anyone who’s got money (= who sells well) will be paying outright.

Aggregated wisdom says that you should expect to pay at least $200 but probably more like $300 per finished hour for professional level narration.

Armed with all this wisdom, I uploaded a snippet of text from chapter 6 of Ambassador 1. Why this snippet? Because it includes dialogue and you want to see how the narrator handles it. It includes some made-up names and I wanted to see how the narrators interpreted those without pronunciation guide (if they’re close, they’re likely to be on my wavelength).

I was also happy that the snippet includes a bunch of swear words, because as it turns out–and I had no idea–there is a lot of difference in the capabilities of narrators to swear convincingly.

Accents. Aggregated wisdom said not to be too esoteric, but I flipped that the bird and asked for a New Zealand accent, and said in the comments that I figured it was unlikely to happen, and I was happy with a general British or American accent.

I got 42 auditions, all male, because I asked for it. Not to be sexist, but Cory is male, and the book is in first person. A woman would be just… weird.

Out of the 42, most were American. A good number were British. One or two I suspected of being Australian, and one stated that he was from New Zealand.

At this point, I found that a lot of other factors come into play. Voice quality varies a lot. Things like age, tone, speed of speaking all determine the type of character, and some just didn’t mesh with Cory. He’s of slight build, thirty-five, so you can’t have a narrator with a very deep voice who sounds like a gruffy detective of sixty. Just doesn’t work.

In the book, I also make a point of de-Americanising the world, and some had American accents that were just waaaayyyy too strong. I did put some Americans on the shortlist.

When you have voice quality, age and accent sorted, you need to consider the sound quality of the sample. Are there hisses or echoes and is the speech clear? This is determined by the type of equipment the narrator uses, and it needs to be professional.

After listening repeatedly to the best audition samples, I chose one, and I’m happy to say that he has accepted. He’s a Brit from London, trained as actor and his sample was near-flawless, the sound quality is great, his voice is not too deep, he speaks clearly without missing syllables (this is really common, by the way), and he knows how to fling an f-word or two without making it sound like a hot potato. He responds to correspondence in a professional way, and has assured me that the first book will be done by 19 August.

Watch out for further news!

Ambassador 5 is out!

Ambassador5Small

The next Ambassador book went live!

Read about it and get buy links here.

With the previous book, Coming Home, I finished the arc that I started at the end of book 2, involving the ancient ship. Blue Diamond Sky is a complete story, but at the end you will see that it leads into a bigger arc that I will spend the next few books exploring. We are going back to Earth. There is an election looming and things are looking dicey.

I am really enjoying the series. The characters are like friends to me and I know them very well.

My favourite character? There are a couple, actually.

Veyada, because he talks no bullshit.

Sheydu, because she talks no bullshit either, and because she is an older woman with a penchant for explosives.

Thayu, because Cory does not quite know the depths of her previous experience. He doesn’t really know what she did before she came to his household. He knows she has upper level spy training, but he doesn’t know what she did with it.

Asha, because he leads the most powerful army in the galaxy, because he finds Cory curiously interesting and toys with him like a cat with a mouse, giving him scraps of information or positions not normally available to outsiders to see what he will do with it.

More news!

I’m auditioning Ambassador 1 for audio production!

Supanova Melbourne: Come and say hello

I’m leaving tomorrow to go to Supanova Melbourne.

If you’re in Melbourne or are also coming, come and say hello. I’m in the Artists’ Alley at table 36.

We’re leaving tomorrow, because on Thursday, my daughter and I are planning a photography trip to the Twelve Apostles. Let’s hope the weather behaves!

It’s likely that you won’t hear from me on this blog until I’m back. I may or may not have internet. The accommodation says there is free wifi, but seriously, you know what free wifi is like, so I’m not holding my breath.

In other news, I just heard that Bookbub is finally taking Ambassador 1 on 11 May. This is going to be very, very big, especially since it’s so close to the release of book 5.

Galactic Empires set: cross-promotion, female SF writers

GalacticEmpiresFBbanner

A year or so ago, someone who organises a lot of very successful book bundles for writers made a bundle of space-based science fiction. I got really pissed off with this bundle, because somehow the organisers managed to find not a single female writer of Science Fiction to be included.

OK, the top 100 of the genre is a sausage-fest, especially in self-publishing, and when you remove the odd man-titty that wriggles its way into the genre, but I know several female writers of science fiction who could have participated.

So, I always thought I’d do a space-based science fiction collection. It would consist of free books, because I don’t want to have to deal with US tax declarations. I’d thought of doing an all-female or all-Australian collection. I could do the first but came up severely short for the second. Anyway, I’ve never been much of an agendas person, so and decided to hell with agendas and just include some varied books from a variety of authors who write space opera.

We released Galactic Empires late last month, with books by Mary Pax, Mark Cooper, Daniel Arenson, Jo Lalllo, Chris Reher, David VanDyke and Felix Savage and it hasn’t dropped out of the top 300 free since. The success of this set has astonished us.

Which is my long-winded way of saying:
– Cross-promotion works
– Readers of SF are really not that fussed about the gender of the author. Now let’s get more female writers actually *writing* it.

You can get this collection for FREE here


News and upcoming

PromoApril2016

Every month I’ve been running a promotion for alternately free or 99c books. Most of them are first in a series. This month, on 2-3 April, we have over 90 authors with free books. The promo runs on a subdivision of this site, but has its own mailing list, where you can enter your email address, and every month I send you the page with all the books and links, so you don’t need to remember when it’s on.

The selection includes mainly self-published authors, including some really high-profile ones. For example, this month we have Lindsay Buroker, J.C. Andrijeski, Christine Pope and Australia’s own C.J. Archer but every month, there have been a couple of presses taking part as well. Do NOT miss “The Aware” by Glenda Larke, originally published by Harper Collins, now through Fablecroft.

Other news:

Listen to me blather about self-publishing and marketing at the Self-publishing Roundtable Podcast

Pre-order Ambassador 5. Want a reviewer ARC? Let me know.

Read about Sand & Storm, coming out 24 June.

New blog!

Well, it’s actually the same one, but I nuked the other site and re-installed a new database over the top. Loads of stuff still to be updated. I think you can even comment now.