Sunday, February 28, 2016

Reviewers - An Author's BFF

         One of my favorite fans - Daniela
Whenever you meet authors at conferences or conventions, what is one thing we always say, besides the heart-felt THANK YOU? I think it goes something like this:

"I hope you love it. And here's my card and information, so you can follow what I'm doing. If you can, write a review. I'd love to know what you think."

I like to take time and thank those who invest in me as an author. I couldn't be more sincere in my appreciation for choosing my series over the sea of other authors - and I mean every word. As crazy as this sounds, I didn't start in this business to sell books, but to create art and find readers and keep them coming back. However, selling is the inevitability, or authors will cease to exist. Books are art, a creative expression and collaboration, but they are also a business, and artists like myself are losing.

There is a price with selling, and not just the cost of the book. I've said many times that authors are the worst at selling their books. Unless they have a knock-out elevator pitch, they frankly know too much about the story. Where should we start? What would grab their attention? What part would they like most? I think they'd like all the parts. And like Tommy Boy, we inevitably, kill the sale.

So, when I have someone interested, and I know they will absolutely love it, and YES, they bought a book - it's a celebration. I have a new best friend, a fan, and they are so precious to me.

Many of my readers I meet at cons or author events, where I'm present to sign their books and talk with the readers one-on-one. Many are teens and aspiring writers. I love that interaction. I'd never trade it.

12039499_10101364253906231_2632341432076338814_nBut, here is the problem that I have, it doesn't translate to sales on Amazon.

Amazon is a juggernaut, driving sales of our products and controlling a lot of what we can do as authors. The truth is we have to play the Amazon game in order to show PROOF we are a validated author. The main way on Amazon to prove our validity is through reviews. If someone buys my book on Amazon, an email will be generated and asks for a customer review. If you buy an ebook, it's an easy click to review and you're done.

So, as much as I love meeting and talking with readers, it doesn't turn my rating on Amazon.

Amazon is so big that a small fish like me is not going to matter that much to them. I am in the invisible bottom-feeding ocean, along with the other creative creatures that flounder, making their own way to survive. I've been swimming in the ratings around hundreds of thousands for a while, until I learned a few secrets. There is a magic number of reviews, if you didn't know, that needs to be met in order for Amazon to pay attention to you. Once you hit that number Amazon is like, "Hey, this might make us money. Let's pair it with this and see if we can get more hits?" Do you get those emails or bottom scrolls that show you this? It's a game of numbers. As an author, I have zero control over this. It's completely in reviewers' hands.

Goodreads, owned by Amazon, has become a good friend. Readers love networking with other readers and authors- it's a symbiotic relationship existing in an internet realm all about books. Several of my readers are a part of this world as well and celebrate their thoughts in this cyber-community. But, I'm having the same kind of breakdown with my readers, not because of the cultivation, but because of the age - several of my readers are not on Goodreads or Amazon, because, candidly, they are not old enough.
Isn't that a funny conundrum?
There are other ways to break the Amazon code, but several I don't have control over. Sell a lot in one day, Amazon pays attention. Kindle-Unlimited is an amazing tool if you have control of your books. Setting up a FREE book through them could spike your rating to INFINITY, but being with a small press, I don't have that freedom or control either. There are so many circumstantial variations to this game, what works for some, doesn't always work for others. Nothing is going to work the same for everyone, so please don't hurry and run out and sign up for these programs thinking you'll be an overnight success. But what I am coming to understand is my limitations with control when it comes to Amazon - you have to play or you drown.

So, I've come up with a plan...

As a reward for finishing the hardest book I've ever written, my third and concluding novel to my series, EVERSTAR, I thought about rewarding myself. I wanted an art piece, something I could frame and display in my home, a reminder of this staggering accomplishment. I contacted Khai Vinh of Ghost and commissioned a painting of my world. What he came up with is beyond stunning. He drew for me Southwick, the southern most point and the capital in my world of Parbraven. He captured it at the most pivotal point in the series, simply put - at the end. The artwork is full of secrets only a fan would notice and I decided that this couldn't be just for me, this needs to be shared.

And this is where all of you come in.

I'm giving a print of this beautiful painting exclusively to those who place a review on Amazon or Goodreads. It seriously is something I'm so proud of and special to me. To share it with you makes me warm inside. I had a parent post for her son, who loved my books, but didn't have an amazon account, so it's still possible if you want your kids to have some wall art in their room. 

Click here: WRITE A REVIEW

This link will take you to my page where you can fill out your name, email, and where you posted. I'll follow up and send you one of these posters FREE! I'll even sign it if you like. I'm looking for honest reviews, of course. Fives stars are wonderful, but I know that my book is not everyone's taste. Readers needs to know if this book is for them. This is my THANK YOU for taking your time and sharing your thoughts on my art.

Authors need you. Regardless of where you bought the book, reviews are IMPORTANT. They are an essential part of a delicate author ecosystem, like algae to coral reef, a sustainable resource that can keep us creating, producing, and gifted back to you. The only way we survive in such a huge ocean is with a little help from our friends - you, our readers.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Kingdom City Revolt - Discussions with author Ben Ireland

Smarmy Aussie Author Ben Ireland
AUTHORS speak the same language, the complex language of creation. I love talking with authors who speak this language, especially those new within my circle. I can’t say Ben Ireland is new, since we are both in the Fantasy anthology MOMENTS IN MILLENNIA, but his friendship is new. He moved to my state and very close to my city, and he received a quick education about my working and writing relationships within the community. I’ve liked his work as an author, and it’s fun to put the narrative voice to a face.

MEET BEN IRELAND – Author of the KINGDOM CITY SERIES with the newest release REVOLT available January 31st. Don't let the last name fool you, he's a native of Australia, (WHOOO!) which automatically makes him charming like Hugh Jackman, growing up with dingoes and didgeridoos and listening to Men At Work. He delves in the Urban Fantasy realm - imagine a mash-up including Mistborn, Dresden Files, and the Fifth Element—solid, action-packed, complexity. AND has one of the coolest maps I’ve ever seen in a series. (Yes, map snob - right here!) Check him out here:

Map of Awesomeness
Let's get to know a little about Ben, shall we?

Do people think you're so cool and fascinating because you're Australian? I know I do.
Strangers often ask me to say things like ‘Throw a shrimp on the Barbie.’  If you ever hear me say that, you know I like you. A lot.

Talk to me about your KINGDOM CITY series and about this newest book REVOLT.
Kingdom City: Revolt is part two of the Kingdom City series. Without meaning to, it’s sort of ended up like Star Wars—meaning I started telling the story from the middle. Think of the Kingdom City: R books (Resurrection, Revolt, and for now, Retribution) as the main arc. To fully flesh out the world of Kingdom City, I wrote a lot about how it came to be, and the inevitable fallout of the R arc. Those scribblings have become the outlines to the prequels and follow up novel.

Revolt follows Paul and his fellow police officers dealing with the aftermath of the events in book one. Half of the city has been sealed off by Representative Brian Shuman, and he’s systematically imprisoning the population in order to subject them to excruciating cyberization operations. Paul is torn between protecting the people fighting for their lives, or trying to save his family.

Where did you get your idea for Kingdom City?
I knew I wanted to write something and I wanted it to be cool. I thought, ‘what’s cool? Epic swords. Epic swords are cool.’ One thing lead to another, and now I have a complex dystopian series that covers almost 1000 years. Sorry, that was a bit spoilery.

And I love your covers. They have a very graphic novel appeal. Who did your art work?
Luke Spooner of Carrion House

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Not in so many words. I’ve always had the compulsion to be creative and it’s come out in a lot of forms over the years. I enjoy writing most of all because reading is what really got me through my tumultuous teenage years. I hope that my stories can help some kid like me escape whatever he’s dealing with for a little while. To help him know that there is someone out there that gets what he’s going through.
Look! There we are together

What started your journey in writing? 
I’ve always loved books and escaping into them. Kingdom City is what started me writing more than ten years ago. I came up with the idea and wrote a movie script. When I was done I looked at my wife and said ‘what the hell do I do with this?’ she replied, ‘turn it into a book.’ She’s regretted that ever since.

Who helped inspire your path? Any books? Authors? People?
Early on, I loved The Hobbit—it was the first big-kid book I read twice (One Fish, Two Fish,Red Fish, Blue Fish was the first little-kid book I read more than once). I read a lot of Azimov growing up, too. Just prior to my writing really taking off, I fell in love with Harry Potter. JK’s world is so colorful and engaging it’s hard to not fall in love. Today I’m an avid fan of Harry Dresden. The engrossing characters and deep, beautiful world that Butcher has created is something I’m constantly trying to emulate.

What makes you happiest in life?
Kisses, hugs, my kids, my wife, popcorn, chocolate milkshakes. Not in that order.

Ben is an outstanding guy and a fantastic writer. It has been very fun getting to know him better, a breath of fresh air in my dull writing existence. One of my goals in life is to have a convincing Australian accent. Knowing someone with one is nearly as good.

Check out Kingdom City Series: Resurrection and Revolt published by Xchyler Publishing.

Follow Ben on his International Blog Tour and enter the Rafflecopter for a really cool art from Spooner himself.

Saturday, 01-30 -
Sunday, 01-31

Perpetual Chaos of a Wandering Mind

Monday, 02-01
Tuesday, 02-02 
JD SPero, Author
Wednesday, 02-03
Thursday, 02-04
Friday, 02-05
Saturday, 02-06