Monday, August 03, 2015

Season Avatars News--Free Book and Cover Wars Contest

A couple pieces of news regarding my fantasy Season Avatars series:

1. I've decided to make Seasons' Beginnings free for August. My goals for doing so are hopefully to gain some more reviews for this book (since it's hard to promote a book without good reviews) and to pique interest in Scattered Seasons. Seasons' Beginnings is currently free on iTunes, Kobo, and now Barnes and Noble. Time to ask Amazon to match them.

2. Scattered Seasons is part of the August Cover Wars for Masquerade Crew. You can vote every day (see the link in the sidebar), and you have up to 25 votes. Obviously I'd appreciate it if you could support Maria Zannini's wonderful cover for Scattered Seasons; however, since you can vote for multiple covers, there are some other great ones there too. (I qualify for additional promotion by the Crew if I feature other covers in this post beside my own, which is why the competition is included here.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Amazon Bestseller Status--Empty Brag or Not?

Yesterday, one of the science fiction authors (who shall remain nameless) I follow on Facebook posted a mini-rant about how some (presumably "indie scum") authors claim bestseller status from Amazon sales when those numbers don't compare to the ones needed to make bestseller status in the NY Times or USA Today. I didn't post a response then because I needed to focus on my writing and not argue with someone on his own Facebook page, but I think the topic merits further discussion.

Lyon's Legacy has made Top Ten in the Time Travel category on Amazon a few times, mostly when I put it on sale and advertised it on Book Gorilla. The first weekend it was permafree it also moved a lot of units without paid ads and reached #170 on Amazon overall for free books. Granted, each time there were only a few hundred units involved, and of course after a few days the novella slipped down the charts again. Other works of mine, such as "Letters to Psyche," Life at Seventeen Syllables a Day, and even SF Women A-Z also made it into the best-seller list for more obscure categories briefly with only a couple of sales. So, yes, I will grant this author the fact that Amazon bestseller status for an hour or two for a subcategory does not necessarily match numbers with bookstore sales generated over a week.

Is Amazon bestseller status misleading or meaningless, though? The author who complained about this is a well-known, award-winning author who shouldn't feel threatened by indie authors like me, who only make a handful of sales each month. For me, it is exciting to see a book climb the charts, even if I know it won't last. (However, when overall sales are slow, Lyon's Legacy can still linger for a while on the free Time Travel bestseller list with few sales, albeit near the bottom.) I do list Lyon's Legacy Top Ten Time Travel bestseller status in its book description on Amazon since I think that is a significant accomplishment. Maybe it came about after an ad, but then publishers pay bookstores for prominent placement of featured books, so they also invest in that status.

As for other bestseller lists, they can be gamed by people who know which bookstores are counted when compiling those lists, and the list-makers have been known to manipulate the lists to keep eBooks and the Harry Potter series off of the lists. Barnes and Noble has been accused of deliberately suppressing the ranks of indie books in certain genres so they don't compete with traditionally published books. Amazon can be gamed too, but in my opinion, it is the most honest, transparent store when it comes to its bestseller lists.

Bestseller status is important to big publishers and their authors, since they profit most when they sell lots of copies of a single title in a short time. Indie authors with lower overheads can make money off of fewer sales sustained over a long period of time. While it looks nice to be a bestseller, in the long run, I would like to have sustainable sales supported by true fans and word-of-mouth. It may take a lot of sales to many different people to reach my target audience, however.  I will only mention bestseller status for my works in the book description if it makes it to the Top Ten of its category. And while it's hard to avoid comparing yourself with others, for my own career, I'd rather focus on writing and publishing the best books that I can. As a reader, I'm too independent to read something just because it's a bestseller, but I realize others might value that popularity.

How do you feel about bestseller status for books? Does it matter to you as a reader? Do you care how the bestseller status was earned?

Monday, July 27, 2015

How Much Character Pain Can You Read About?

I started reading Jo Walton's All My Children last week, but after I started it, I put it aside for a couple of days. There was a section that I didn't want to read because the protagonist was trapped in a miserable marriage. Fortunately, once I got past that section, her life improved. Still, it got me thinking that while we as writers are supposed to make life tough for our characters, it's possible to put them in so much emotional pain that it becomes uncomfortable for the reader. Two writers who really inconvenience their characters are Jim Butcher and Laura Resnick. It's not enough that their characters have to fight some bad guys, but oftentimes they have to do it while being up all night, dressed in something inappropriate, and needing to use the bathroom, all at once. Sometimes I find the trivial issues (like the wrong outfit) distracting from the major conflict. As a mother, I don't like reading about kids in jeopardy either.

Are there types of conflict or emotional pain that you don't care to read about? Feel free to discuss them in the comments section--if you don't mind doing so, that is.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Popcorn Ideas

While I give the first draft of Chaos Season a chance to breathe (or my brain a break from it), I'm working on two shorter works. Or at least I'm trying to. I have been working on "The Unnumbered World," the next story in the Catalyst Chronicles universe, but I haven't done much with Young Seasons, a short story collection featuring the heroines of the Season Avatars series. However, I have already drafted the first chapter of Fifth Season, the next Season Avatars book. But I'm also getting ideas for a holiday Season Avatars story (I'm still not sure where it would fall in the series), an old short story I never finished, and new short stories. (Don't ask me where all these ideas are coming from. Maybe it has to do with my chronic sleep deficit, or maybe my mind is secretly trying to distract me so I don't finish a single story.) All this, especially combined with the rest of my Real Life To-Do List, makes my brain feel like this:

(Thanks to Kristine Katherine Rusch for introducing me to popcorn kittens on her blog.)

I guess I need to jot these ideas down, review my project list and decide what priority they should be. I also need to learn to write faster so I can complete more stories and get them out of my head.

What makes your brain feel like popcorn kittens are bouncing around your skull?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Ingredients for a Great Series

Lois McMaster Bujold was one of the many authors I featured during my April A-Z Women in SF Challenge. At that time, I wasn't very far along in her Vorkosigan Saga. I've been working on it and now have only one more book to read before I'm caught up. Going into this reading project, I wouldn't have expected I'd enjoy this series so much. Here are a few things about this series that IMO make it compelling:

It spans genres: This series is a mix of everything: military SF, mystery, romance, and more.

Its setting: This saga is set in a universe where many different planets have been colonized. Each planet has a different culture, which allows for not only interesting world-building but also conflict.

Its characters and their challenges: Most of these stories feature Miles Vorkosigan, who suffers a variety of physical challenges (for those of you who haven't read the series yet, I won't detail his issues or how he acquires them). However, his problems have led him to develop great ingenuity and persistence. There is, of course, ample evidence in the early books that he may have inherited those traits. Although Miles may be dominant, he's not the only noteworthy character in this series. There are important secondary characters who get turns being the point-of-view character, and there are several quite memorable minor characters who help flesh out the books.

Going along with the characters themselves are their character arcs. The events in this series span decades. Characters go in and out of different careers and relationships and learn from their mistakes. This education can be hard-won at times, and the characters suffer, but it helps make readers care about these characters too.

Humor: Along with all the action and intrigue are touches of humor. I think the book with the best humor so far is A Civil Campaign.

The interrelatedness of the books: Each book can work as a stand-alone, but as many early locations and characters reappear, there are a lot of references to earlier events, especially in the later books. I remembered a lot of the references since I read the books so close together, but there are a few times where I did lose track. However, it was nice to be able to reconnect with earlier characters. The chronological order of the stories (not all of them are full-length novels) isn't the same as the publication date, so it's wise to read the series in chronological order if you're not familiar with it.

Have you read the Vorkosigan series, or any other works by Bujold? If so, what did you think of them? Feel free to share your opinions in the comments.

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