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Query Status ~ Week 2

It’s been two weeks since I sent out the last of thirty-six queries for my (as yet) unpublished book Troubled Space. The spate of instant knee-jerk rejections now seems to have ended. I got half as many over the last seven days as I did on the first week, now making a total of twelve. The bright spot is that two-thirds of the agents I queried did not instantly reject it. I can only hope that some of them may actually consider representing me. Who knows? Stranger things have happened.

Of course I’m not just waiting around for some unknown agent to acknowledge my existence. I’m also not diving into to writing my next book. I’ve decided instead to take time to produce new editions of my Warden’s World stories. There are a few reasons for this. The first is that they need new covers. I have five novels set in this world, and the covers don’t look much alike. I think they should, and soon they will. They also need a bit of revision. These were the first novels I ever wrote, and I was pretty nervous about publishing them. Before I did, I reviewed as much guidance as I could about the whole process, and I ended up following a lot of bad advice. Basically, I over-edited and ended screwing up the tenses and making the prose choppy. My goal is to correct the corrections I made trying to follow the ‘rules.’

The first book to get a makeover will the An Android Dog’s Tale. It’s a prequel to the others and probably the shortest of the bunch at around 75,000 words. It may also be my best seller. I’m not talking bestseller as in toping anyone’s charts, but it’s either in the top (or possibly the second top) sales spot for my books. It’s currently getting over 100 Kindle downloads per month and a few more in other formats. The revised version is almost done and should be out within the next month. (I considered showing the new cover in this post but decided against it. I have a proof copy of the new paperback sitting on my desk. Take my word for it; it looks damn good.)

So, that’s my writing time accounted for until at least the end of the year. I’ll be revising five books, creating new covers for them, and releasing new digital and trade paperback editions.

Oh, and I’ll also be waiting to hear back from agents.

Submissions are Futile

I write something every day. Most of it is work on my next novel, but I also write ten or so (normally short) book reviews for Goodreads every month. What I don’t often write are blog posts. After all, why should anyone care about the idle prattle of an unknown indie writer? Other indie writers might, I suppose, but even then, I can’t offer them any advice about how to achieve fame and fortune. I haven’t.

Still, there’s no point in having a blog if I don’t write something for it, so here’s an update on my attempt to turn my writing hobby into a vocation. In my last blog post, I told you that I submitted queries for my ninth novel to 28 agents. Ten of them have replied. I don’t expect any more will. All the responses were generic rejects. None of those 28 agents, not even the ten who had the courtesy to respond, ever read my manuscript. I doubt they even read any sample chapters. They based their rejections entirely on my query. (I’ll put a generic version of the query letter at the end of this post as an example of how NOT to write one. I’d loved to tell you what’s wrong with it, but I can’t. I don’t have a clue.)

I sought an agent first because very few traditional publishers accept unagented submissions. Some do, and I submitted queries to two of them. I waited six months. Neither of them responded.

So, my ninth novel will be indie published like all my others. That’s not so bad. According to reports from Amazon, downloads of Kindle editions of my books have been increasing steadily. They’re now up to 500 per month worldwide. That may seem a lot, but most of those are freebies. My books are also available from Apple iTunes. As best I can tell, they add another 30 or so downloads per month. Since most of my ebooks that aren’t free retail for 99¢, my monthly royalties seldom total over $10. That would be depressing if I was doing this for the money.

Of course I haven’t just been waiting around this year, hoping for agents and publishers to notice me. I’ve been working on my tenth novel. The protagonist of this one is an indie writer. I figure I know something about them.

~*~

*This is the query that did not work*

Dear AGENT (get the name right, and tailor the introduction and concluding paragraphs for each agent),

I hope you will consider representing my latest unpublished novel, The Elsewhere Gate, which combines elements of contemporary science fiction in an urban fantasy setting with likable young characters and a unique magic system. An underlying theme of wealth disparity provides real-world relevance. The novel is complete at 90,000 words.

Hurled from a private laboratory in Florida to a world where magic is money and airships fill the sky, a young man with dreams of college, together with the sensible daughter of a quirky professor, must flee a covetous moneylender who is convinced they hold the key that will open new worlds for him to exploit. Tom and Amanda don’t know where they are. It’s definitely not Florida. It’s not even Earth. It’s a place of magic, which is dangerous to use if you don’t know what you’re doing. Tom’s first attempt lands him in the care of three witches who run a soup kitchen. They help him recover and then hide him and Amanda from Lord Wilcraft, grandmaster of the moneylenders’ cartel and leader of the Syndicate, the closest thing to government this place has. Its sole purpose is to promote business and increase profits. Under Wilcraft’s direction, the Syndicate is building its own Elsewhere Gate. Wilcraft believes Tom holds the secret that will finally make it work and sends his enforcers to capture him. Failing to do so quickly, Wilcraft turns his unwelcome attention to those who have helped him and Amanda. Tom is determined to save his new friends, but the leader of the Syndicate has extreme wealth, unrivaled influence, and powerful magic. What can a poor college freshman from Elsewhere do?

I am the author of eight independently published novels, which have had several thousand readers across all books and outlets. These stories continue to receive excellent reviews, enjoying average ratings well above four stars on Goodreads as well as on U.S. and U.K. Amazon sites. My writing style is distinctive, but the tone and mood are similar to that of John Scalzi with considerable influence from Sir Terry Pratchett. It appeals to readers who appreciate Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation and Redshirts, the work of Jasper Fforde, or the last twenty or so Discworld novels.

I am providing … (Some agents allow you to provide sample pages or a synopsis, which I invariably did whenever permitted.) Thank you for taking the time to read my query.

Book Review – Whim: In the Beginning by Andy Close

WhimAndyCloseTitle: Whim: In the Beginning
Author: http://www.andyclose.co.uk/
Publisher: Andy Close
First Published: 2013
Genre:
Science Fiction

What first struck me about this book is how excellent the prose is. The writing, for the most part, is very good. The next thing I noticed is that it needs another round of editing and revision. That’s not a knock on the book. As a first novel from a self-published author, this one stands out. Subsequent editions may correct the issues I noted when I read it (September 2013).

The novel takes the form of two stories, which seem to have little to do with one another until the end, and then the connection is more implied than explicit. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s different, which is good, and it paves the way for a sequel that may make the connection clear.

One thread of the story follows the building or a spaceship that is intended to take a sample of humanity from an environmentally depleted Earth to other stars to ensure the survival of the species. The ‘Chairman of the Board of the World Committees of the Ship’ is responsible for seeing the ship launched. He is a nasty, self-serving piece of work, but I was never entirely clear about his motivations other than that he wanted fame.

The other thread of the story follows a likeable lad by the name of Bruno. He lives in a fairly backward land with little by the way of technology, but there is a mysterious ‘barrier’ beyond which no one can go. He decides that life as a farmer (the main occupation of the place where he was born) or of a Trader (his father’s line of work) is not for him. His older sister left their village years ago, and he decides to follow in her figurative footsteps. He journeys to a town on the coast in search of a way around the Barrier and, ostensibly, to find his sister.

There were a couple typos (e.g. ‘see’ instead of ‘seen’), a few sentences with missing words, but most of the copy edit errors I saw were punctuation irregularities. There were also formatting issues. The text was double spaced and paragraphs were not indented.

A couple other things related to content caught my attention. One had to do with a game, which gets Bruno back on track on his mission to get around the Barrier. More said on this would be a spoiler, but until he is in town, I don’t believe this game is mentioned (unless I missed it). That makes its appearance just when he needs it a bit too serendipitous. I think there should have been a foreshadowing of this game earlier in the novel. The other thing that I thought did not seem right was when the Chairman mentions cubits to the ship’s chief engineer, and the engineer does not know what a cubit is. When the Chairman tells him that the AI for the ship looks like an Altar of Incense, however, he either knows what that is or doesn’t ask the obvious question, WTF is an Altar of Incense? I would expect that an engineer would be far more likely to recognize that a cubit is an archaic unit of measure than to be at all familiar with an Altar of Incense.

In any case, the prose alone is refreshingly good enough to make this an enjoyable read. As it stands now, I would give the novel 3.5 stars with greater potential with a bit of revision.

Why Indie is good for Fiction

BookstoreThe traditional publishing business is, above all else, a business. Like every business, its primary purpose is to make money for its owners and investors. It does this by selling books.

In the past, a large publisher’s most profitable strategy was to publish a relatively small number of different books with wide appeal, those for which they believed there was a large market. The large volume offset the cost of editing, cover design, printing, and promotion. This made perfectly good business sense. There were a few predefined genres, and books that fit the currently popular trends in each of those were what ended up being published and displayed on the limited shelf space in bookstores. This model worked well for the publishing business, but it didn’t provide much variety for readers.

When I was a kid, I read mostly space operas and sword and sorcery epic fantasies. That’s what the stores sold, and for speculative fiction, that was about all they sold because that is all the traditional publishers were publishing, which they did because they sold…

These books were often very much alike. If you tore out the title page, there is a good chance you would not be able to guess who wrote the story. They were as generic as fast food hamburgers and for the same reason—mass appeal, low cost, predictable content, and reasonable quality.

It seems that traditional publishers are still working to this model, and if you really want to read a new post-apocalyptic, dystopian, paranormal, vampire romance with demons, zombies and a teenage wizard, they’ll have one for you.* They’ll probably have dozens, in fact. That kind of stuff sells. They know this because they’ve already sold a bunch much like them. This doesn’t mean any of these books are good, nor does it mean all of them are bad, but it does mean that readers who want something completely different are going to have a hard time finding it.

Fortunately, the constraints of limited shelf space and mass appeal no longer apply, although I don’t think traditional publishers know this. Many authors and readers may not, either. Things are changing, though, and the change is good.

Online retailers do not need to be concerned about shelf space. This allows them to follow a different model. They can offer a wide variety of items to suit different needs and tastes rather than focusing on a relatively small number of currently popular items. Amazon may have been one of the first to adapt this idea to books, and they quickly came to dominate the book market because of it.

Then they went a step further by creating the Kindle, which made them the leader in digital books as well. They further expanded their eBook selection by encouraging writers to bypass traditional publishers and sell their books directly to readers (who had Kindles). I’m sure this wasn’t out of some altruistic concern or even due to some sense of duty to rescue the art of fiction from the doldrums. They are a business after all, and the primary business of business is, as we know, to make money, and I suspect Amazon is making a respectable profit from digital book sales. I have no idea how many eBook titles they now have available, but I imagine it’s a lot. They probably don’t sell many copies of most of these, but a few here and a few there can add a very large pile of nickels and dimes to their bottom line.

I did not realize how truly limited my book selection had been until I received a Kindle as a gift two years ago. In the years BK (Before Kindle), I got books from the library, brick and mortar bookstores, and online, but all of those books were published on paper through the gateway of a traditional publisher. I had no idea what I was missing. In the years AK (After Kindle), I have found many books that were fresh, different, that defied genre and convention, and, because of this, they were great reads. But they didn’t come from traditional publishers, which are still working to the old model of formulaic fiction for mass audiences. Many of the most enjoyable books I read last year came from small, independent publishers or were self-published by the authors.

The rise of indie publishing makes more books available to readers. But quantity is not what makes indie revolutionary. If all it did was increase the number of new vampire romances or zombie apocalypse stories released each year from a hundred to ten thousand, it would hardly be important. The greatest contribution of indie publishing is that it makes many different kinds of stories available to readers.

For a publishing business, the purpose of producing books is to make money. For many (but not all) indie writers, the purpose is simply because they have a need to create and share stories that are not like those coming out of the big publishing houses. Sure, indie writers would love to make piles of money, but few expect to, and I don’t think it’s why most of them write, especially those who are consciously not following the mass-market book trends. What this means for fiction readers is greater variety, more books, lower prices, and a better chance of finding a book that is fresh and wonderfully different.

I used to read about twenty new books a year. Now I read about seventy or eighty. The main reason for the increase is that I can now find more books that appeal to me. And, if this wasn’t enough, ‘indie’ eBooks tend to be much cheaper than their traditionally published counterparts. Many indie books are free. Not all of them are good of course, but not all the books published by traditional publishers are, either.

I have come to view traditional publishers as something akin to fast food chain restaurants. They offer items with wide appeal and consistent quality. I’ve found that some traditional publishers of speculative fiction tend to do this better than others do, but their variety remains limited and the difference between them is like that between Burger King and McDonalds. Indie publishers are more along the lines of local mom and pop diners. Some are good and some are not, but a few offer great things you cannot find anywhere else.

This is a good time for fiction writers. They can write stories they believe in and offer them directly to readers. It is a good time for readers whose tastes do not match those of the crowd. It is still difficult to find great books that match our individual tastes, but, because of the rise of indie publishing, those books are far more likely to be out there. What is now desperately needed is a way to sort through the many thousands of indie books available to find those that we’ll absolutely love. Variety is great, but it can be overwhelming.

 

*This is a slight exaggeration. Most popular books won’t have all of these elements. There is only so much, um, ‘stuff’ that will fit in any one bucket.

 Related Posts:

Book Review – Few Are Chosen, K’Barthan Trilogy: Part 1 by M T McGuire

Few-are-ChosenTitle: Few Are Chosen, K’Barthan Trilogy: Part 1
Author: M T McGuire
Publisher: Hamgee University Press
Genre: Lighthearted Science Fiction

This is a cross-genre story that feels like it should be classified somewhere between Doctor Who and Discworld. I’m calling it science fiction rather than fantasy because at one point the ‘magic’ is described as the clever application of the strange effects of quantum mechanics. This is no more outlandish than the Doctor’s TARDIS, although instead of the unlikely time travel of Doctor Who, this story includes travel between our reality and an unlikely alternate dimension.

It’s an interesting place.

This alternate Earth is run as a police state, and our reluctant hero, The Pan of Hamgee, is a Goverment Blacklisted Indivdual. His existence is therefore illegal, and the fact that he has survived as a GBI for five years, which is about four and a half years longer than normal, proves that he is very good at not being caught. This talent comes to the attention of Big Merv, a major crime boss who recruits him as his new getaway driver. For the Pan of Hamgee, this is good news for two reasons. As a GBI, no legitimate employer will hire him, and Merv’s other option was dumping him in the river – with cement overshoes – but these are details we don’t need to go into here.

This story has flying car chases, a bad guy you love to loath, likable gangsters, and a hero you can really identify with since, like most of us, he’s not terribly heroic – at least not intentionally. He reminds me a bit of Rincewind in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. He’s a professional coward whose talent for getting into unintended trouble is only exceeded by his talent for escaping from it. All he wants is a simple, normal life, but the universe seems to have another fate planned for him. The book also has a few laughs, a lot of smiles, and even a bit of political and religious satire. There are far too few books like this. Great characters, interesting setting, humor, and cultural satire, with a genuinely good plot providing a framework holding them all together is a hard blend to achieve and an even more difficult one to do well. This book does.

The prose is well executed with just enough description for the reader to visualize the scenes. Backstory, where needed, is integrated seamlessly into the narrative. Dialog is believable and suitable to the characters and to the situation. Grammar, spelling, formatting, and other of technical requirements of the storyteller’s trade that sometimes pose a problem for the independent writer are executed professionally in this book.

It passes my personal 5-star test. In addition to all the basics needed for a well-told tale, it has that something extra that would prompt me to read it again. I enjoyed following the misadventures of The Pan of Hamgee, a likeable sod thrown into an uncomfortable situation in an imaginative world that has certain parallels to our own. I highly recommend it to readers of lighthearted speculative fiction or anyone who may be looking for something a bit different and a lot of fun.

A list of indie book reviewers

Last week I posted about the importance of book reviews and I promised to provide a list. After data mining the internet, I found 87 sites that review indie books. The list of those is provided below. I have not queried all of these. Some are not applicable to my genre. Some are closed for new submissions, and others I simply have not had time to contact yet. Since I had the data, though, I’m sharing it because others may find it helpful.

One thing to keep in mind when contacting prospective reviewers is to be mindful of their submission requirements. If they only review Romance, don’t ask them to review your Fantasy novel. If they want a synopsis, provide it. If they want the first three chapters, send them. There is no “standard” format. Each review site will have different requirements. These reviewers are doing indie writers a favor, and we need to be courteous by not clogging up their email with things their submission guidelines say they are not interested in seeing.

Good luck to all my fellow indies. I hope you find this list helpful.

Since it does not show well in the HTML below, it is attached here as an Excel spreadsheet: ReviewSites

Review Site Site URL e-Book? Genres
3 R’s Reading Den http://rjscafe.wordpress.com/ N Most – see guidelines
A. F. Stewart’s Blog http://afstewartblog.blogspot.com/p/my-amazon-associates-store.html Y ePub Fantasy, Paranormal, Science Fiction, Poetry, Mysteries, Historical Fiction, Historical Non-Fiction and other Non-Fiction.
Adarna SF http://adarnasf.com/ Y Science fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, horror, pulp etc.
Bab’s Book Bistro http://www.babsbookbistro.net/blog/ Y Mysteries, Cozy Mysteries, Thrillers, Western romance, Romance, Historical Romance, Some erotica, Suspense, Some dramas, Children’s books
Big Al’s Books and Pals (currently NOT accepting unsolicited review submissions – March 2012) http://booksandpals.blogspot.com Y All
Bonnie Humbarger Lamer – Author and Review Page http://bonnielamer.blogspot.com/ Y Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Political satire, Humorous fiction, Chicklit, romance
Book Vacations (Not taking new submissions – March 2012) http://bookvacations.wordpress.com/ Y All
Book’d Out http://bookdout.wordpress.com Y All
Booked Up http://www.tc-bookedup.blogspot.com/ Y All
BookedinChico http://bookedinchico.blogspot.com/ Y Literary fiction and world literature
Bookhound’s Den (NOT accepting books for review at this time – March 2012) http://bookhoundsden.blogspot.com/ Y Horror, crime, noir, suspense, mystery, and thrillers
Books are Better http://booksrbetter.blogspot.com/ Y Fantasy, Steampunk and Post-Apocalyptic
Books for Company http://www.booksforcompany.com Y Fantasy, YA, Dystopia
Books Like Breathing http://bookslikebreathing.blogspot.com/ Y Romance, YA, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
Books on The Knob http://blog.booksontheknob.org/ Y Fantasy, SF, mystery and suspense. Check guidelines.
Bored Books http://zzzbooks.blogspot.com Y All but prefers Paranormal YA
Breakout Books Reviews (not taking new submissions – March 2012) http://breakoutbooks.blogspot.com/ Y All
Butterfly-o-meter (Submissions closed. Last checked 20 March 2012) http://butterflyometerbooks.blogspot.com/p/review-policy-submissions.html Yes Closed for submissions
Can’t put it down http://readitreviewit.wordpress.com/ Y Horror, Mystery, paranormal, YA, thrillers, fantasy, crime, detective. No erotica, prefer e-books
Clover Hill Book Reviews (not taking new submissions – March 2012) http://cloverhillbookreviews.blogspot.co… N All
CS fantasy reviews http://csfantasyreviews.blogspot.com/ Fantasy, speculative fiction
Cup of Tea Reviews (Not accepting requests -Last checked 20 March 2012) http://cupofteareviews.blogspot.com Y All, except novels with overly religious tone, won’t review erotica or any adult novels. Only review ebooks with PDF format.
Daily Ebook Reviews http://www.dailyebookreviews.com Y Science fiction, horror, fantasy, and thrillers – though we will consider all types of fiction.
Dark Readers http://www.dark-readers.com/ Y (but paper preferred) romance, supernatural/paranormal, fantasy, adventure, mystery and thriller
Dark Side of the Covers http://www.darksideofthecovers.com/ Y Steampunk, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Speculative Fiction
Dear Author http://dearauthor.com Y Romance
Demon Lovers Books & More http://www.demonloversbooksandmore.com ? historical romance, contemporary romance, erotic romance, crime/mystery, fantasy/sci-fi and young adult paranormal
Ebook Reviews by Elizabeth Swigar Stephen http://elizabethswigar.wordpress.com/ Y All – especially historical fiction
Enter The Portal http://www.entertheportal.wordpress.com Y SF & Fantasy
Everything to do with books http://everythingtodowithbooks.blogspot…. Y All but no pure romances, Westerns, and erotica.
Fantasy Book Critic http://fantasybookcritic.blogspot.com/ Y Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, YA/Children
Five Alarm Book Reviews http://fivealarmbookreviews.com N Limited – see guidelines
Flying with Red Haircrow http://flyingwithredhaircrow.wordpress.com/ Y SFF mostly – see site
Forbidden Passions http://forbiddenpassionsreviews.blogspot… Y Fantasy, YA paranormal, excluding Christian, Self Help.
Got Fiction? http://gotfiction.wordpress.com/ YA and Contemporary Romance
I Heart Reading http://booklog.eternalised.net/ Y Paranormal romance, fantasy or historical fiction. Check guidelines.
Indie Book Blog http://indiebookblogger.blogspot.com/p/review-sign-up.html Y Mainly SF/F but all except Romance or Erotica
Indie Book Podcast http://www.indiebookpodcast.com/ Y All
Indie Corner http://indiecorner.net/review-policy-rating/ Y steampunk, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, fantasy, dystopian, chick lit, mysteries and suspense
Indie Paranormal Book Reviews http://indieparanormalbooksreviews.blogs… Y Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy
IndieReader http://indiereader.com/author-promotional-opportunities/ Y All indie
Kate Policani http://katepolicanisreviews.wordpress.com/about/ Y All except Horror, Erotica, Manuals
Kindle Book Review http://thekindlebookreview.blogspot.com/ Y All
KindleObsessed http://kindleobsessed.com/ Y All
Letters Inside Out http://www.lettersinsideout.net/ Y YA
Livin’ Life Through Books http://dream-wish-live.blogspot.com/ Y Young Adult (No Fantasy)
Marie Violante http://violantewrites.wordpress.com/ Y fantasy, horror, science fiction, and magical realism
Milo’s Rambles http://milorambles.com/ Y Crime, Thrillers, Suspense, Mysteries, Historical Fiction, Historical Crime, Humor, Sport, Memoirs and Biographies
MotherLode http://www.gracekrispy.com/my-review-policy/ Y All
Night Owl Reviews http://nightowlreviews.com/nor/ Y All
Novel Opinion http://novelopinion.org/ Y All
Paper Mustang http://www.papermustang.com Y All
Papyrus http://papyrus.calebblake.net/ Y All
POD People http://podpeep.blogspot.com/ Y All self-published
Popcorn Reads http://popcornreads.com Y All fiction
Quills and Zebras http://quillsandzebras.wordpress.com/ Y All
Rainy Day Ramblings (Heidi) http://rainydayramblings.typepad.com/rainydayramblings/review-policy.html Y All except erotica, graphic horror and any book that pertains to animal cruelty or abuse, religious books, self help, business etc.
Reading Between the Lines (not taking new submissions – March 2012) http://cynical-believer.blogspot.com/ N All
Review Haven – Note: free reviews are not given for ebooks. http://sfandfantasyreviews.blogspot.com/ N Science-Fiction or Fantasy
Science Fiction Addiction http://sciencefictionaddiction.blogspot…. Y Science Fiction
Science Fiction and Other Oddysseys http://sciencefictionmusings.blogspot.com/p/request-guidelines.html ? Science Fiction & Fantasy
SF Book Reviews (not currently accepting new review requests – March 2012) http://sfbook.com Y SciFi & Fantasy
Sift Book Reviews http://siftbookreviews.blogspot.com/ Y science-fiction or fantasy
Soul Unsung http://soulunsung.blogspot.com/ Y Fantasy, young adult, sci-fi, steampunk, paranormal romance, dystopia, horror, urban fantasy
Stories of my life http://roncnofficial.blogspot.com Y Fantasy, Young Adult
The Book Buff http://thebookbuff.blogspot.com/ Y All
The Book Hookup http://thebookhookup.com/ Y Fantasy, Romance, Paranormal, Young Adult, Erotica, Historical Romance, Dark/Urban Fantasy
The Book Vixen http://thebookvixen.com/ Y Contemporary Romance, Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Erotic Romance, GLBT, Historical Romance, Mystery/Suspense, Paranormal Romance, Romantic Suspense, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult (YA)
The Canary http://thecanaryreview.com Y YA, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Romance,
The Consumption of Books http://consumethosebooks.blogspot.com/ ? YA
The eNovella Review http://enovellareview.blogspot.com/ Y 30k word max
The Fairytale Nerd http://thefairytalenerd.blogspot.com/ Y YA (mostly)
The Indie Book Blog Database http://hampton-networks.com/ Y All
The Literary Mind Bender http://theliterarymb.com/?page_id=12 Y
The LL Book Review http://llbookreview.com Y All
The New Podler Review of Books http://thenewpodlerreviews.blogspot.com/ ? literary, science fiction, fantasy, horror, suspense, humor, mysteries and the occasional thriller
The Novel Blog http://thenovelblog.com/index.aspx ? Site does not specify
The Scattering (Closed to new review requests – March 2012) http://thescattering.wordpress.com/ ? Speculative Fiction
The Secret Life of Books (Lucy) http://lily-bookhaven.blogspot.com/ ? Adult Fiction, Romance, Paranormal Romance, Historical Romance, Erotica, Young Adult, Fantasy, Humorous
The Write to Make a Living http://www.thewritetomakealiving.com/ ? All
This is from my Heart (Janiera ) http://janieraeldridge.blogspot.com/p/contact-me.html Y All except political, biographies, Erotica, and historical romance
To Publish or Not To Publish http://topublishornotto.blogspot.com/ ? Fantasy
To Read or Not to Read http://www.2readornot2read.com/ Y All except erotica
Tomes of the Soul http://tomesofthesoul.blogspot.com/ Y All except erotica
Tracy Riva http://tracyriva.com/guidelines-for-review/ Y All
Web Weaver http://webbweaver-zelda555.blogspot.com/ ? Almost All
Writer’s Fun Zone http://www.writersfunzone.com/blog/ Y YA novels by women about girl heroes

Book Review – Crystal Eyes by Allen Donnelly

 My Rating: 4.8 Stars

The people of Earth have achieved, if not a utopia, then at least a reasonably comfortable existence. There is still a great divide between rich and poor but no one starves. Everyone can get medical attention. No one has to live on the streets. Humans are just beginning to break their ties with Earth and establish a foothold in space. But then a massive and inexplicable solar flare erupts, destroying all electrical equipment out to the farthest reaches of the solar system and irradiating the Earth, causing mutations both hideous and fantastic.

But life is tenacious and humanity goes on. A new religion is born, the Solanists, worshipers of the Sun that has wreaked its vengeance upon mankind. They become dominant, at least in the portion of North America in which the story is set. They impose order and, with a religious fervor not seen since the Inquisition, seek to cleanse the world of evil.

It is in this post-apocalyptic, Wild West world that Christine is born. She’s a demon. At least that is what the Solanists call her and the other mutants. Unlike many others, Christine’s deformities are not immediately obvious. Other than a ghostly pale complexion, one would not know she is a demon – that is, not until she opens her eyes of dark, faceted crystal.

And that is all I will say about the plot to avoid spoilers. Now I’ll talk about what I liked about the book and what I think might be seen as detractors.

First of all, the characters are wonderful. You immediately feel sympathy with the main character, Christine, who will eventually be known as Crystal or Crystal Eyes. She is the heroine of the story and becomes almost a mythic and inspirational figure to those oppressed by the rigid Solanists. She has amazing abilities but she is not invincible. To compare her to comic book heroes, she is more Spiderman than Superman. She is a loner until she meets up with two companions, a relatively suave but impetuous rogue named Drake and a quiet and thoughtful giant of a man named Tarak. They remind me of Inigo and Fezzik from The Princess Bride.

The prose style is remarkably good with just enough description to convey the look and feel of the setting without going overboard into literary extremes. This is an action adventure but the author wisely avoids graphic descriptions of the violence. He is not out to shock or disgust his readers. There are several scenes of violent and deadly confrontation but he does not dwell on the dripping blood and gore that result. There is no need. The story is more than strong enough to hold your attention without urging you to toss your cookies.

Which brings me to the plot once again. This is your basic good, oppressed minority fighting against a strong, oppressive majority kind of story.  Yeah, that’s been done thousands of times but when the story is imaginative, when it has likeable characters, when the setting is believable, then it’s the kind of story we enjoy reading. This one is.

Okay, now for the stuff that might be considered detractors. The book begins with a prologue that provides the backstory of what human civilization was like before the solar flare. This is seldom advisable but I think it may have been necessary for this story. It heightens the reader’s appreciation for what has been lost. Still, there is a fair amount of backstory, interesting though it may be, to slog through before chapter one.

At the beginning, the Solanists are almost too evil. They seem to have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. But as the story progresses, the author starts to humanize them. They are no longer cookie cutter bad guys.

The only other thing of note on the negative side that I saw was a few typos that escaped the editing process. There were not enough to detract from the story and, given that this is a self published novel and that it carries an extremely low price because of that, I find these easy to forgive.

I am not normally a big fan of post-apocalyptic fiction because it is often fairly depressing. This is not. Yes, there has been a catastrophe and humanity is being held under the thumb of small minded and often sadistic zealots but there is resistance and most people are portrayed, realistically, as fairly decent folks just trying to get by. When the last page is read, you feel hopeful that the world described in the prologue can eventually be reborn.

My overall rating for this book is 4.8 stars and I recommend it.

 

Full disclosure: I was given a free download of this book by the author with no strings attached. I am doing this review because it is a damn good story. I hope he writes more.

My Self Publishing Adventure – Episode Six – The Importance of Book Reviews

 It has only been two weeks since my last post in this series but I have some updates to share.

Last time I said there were two things I needed to try. The first was to get more Twitter followers, not just anyone, but people who might enjoy the types of books I write. The second was to find people willing to review my books.

To accomplish the first, I used Twitter to search for people who read e-books by some of my favorite authors. My books are not “like” theirs but there are commonalities in style and genre. My assumption is that people who like the books I like to read will also like books I write. The authors I picked were Terry Pratchett and George C. Hines. Both write humorous fantasy. My books aren’t fantasy; they’re science fiction but they share the more important factor of a satirically humorous tone. I used Twitter to find people who have tweeted “Kindle” and “Pratchett” or “Kindle” and “Hines.” I followed those who seemed appropriate and some followed me back. I have gained over fifty followers in the last two weeks (315 from 253) but none of these contacts resulted in any book sales as far as I can tell. One thing I am beginning to suspect is that Twitter is not a very good way to promote books. It seems to be a good way to connect with other indie writers though.

The second thing I said I would do is search for people willing to review my books, or at least the first one. On thing traditionally published books have that indie books don’t is the publisher’s implied guarantee that their books are quality products, that they are coherent, consistent and relatively free of typos and other errors. The only thing an indie writer really has that is comparable is book reviews. Even these are no assurance of quality because reviews can be bought or traded but I think they are the best we have at this point. So, with that in mind, I searched the web and Goodreads for reviewers. I avoided any that charged for reviews or any that implied they would provide positive reviews in exchange for other positive reviews. I wanted only objective reviews. I found sixteen sites that indicated they might be willing to review e-books by indie authors on this basis and I sent requests to all of them.

Most of the sixteen sites had specific rules to follow to request reviews. A review request should be treated much as a query to an agent or traditional publisher. If you are requesting a review, you need to follow those guidelines. I used a draft query letter I had prepared before I decided to self publish as the basis for my review requests. All wanted a free copy of the book, which I was more than happy to provide. So far I have received seven positive replies. Here is a list:

Although most of these indicated that it may be months before my book reaches the top of their queue, one has already completed theirs. I was extremely pleased to see it was a five-star rating. It is here if you would like to see it: Marie Violante’s review of The Warden Threat. Shortly after this review was posted to Amazon, I got one sale at the list price of 99¢. I don’t know if this is directly attributable to this review or not but the timing suggests that.

My plan forward from this point is to put less focus on Twitter as a means to promote my books and keep an eye out for additional reviewers. I am also continuing work on my third book. The first draft is almost complete.

Two things I am still debating are the prices for my already published books and the publication strategy for the third. At this point I plan to delay increasing the price of The Warden Threat and The Warden War until next year and leave the introductory price of 99¢ in effect until then. What I am less certain of is whether to self publish the next book, The Warden Pendant, or send queries to agents and publishers. Fortunately, I still have a few months to make that decision. Much depends on whether the first two books gain any kind of following.

 

Related Posts:
My Self Publishing Adventure
Beyond Genre – Tone And Mood

My Self Publishing Adventure – Episode Five – Gaining a Following

   In February of 2011, I decided to turn my writing hobby into a vocation. In addition to spending time completing the two novels I had in draft, I joined a writers’ group, read several books on the craft of fiction writing, and I did some research on what publishing is like in the 21st Century and how it is changing. Based on what I had read and heard, I decided that rather than seeking a traditional path to publishing by querying agents and publishers, I would self publish my novels as e-books. The advantages seemed to outweigh the disadvantages although this puts extra responsibility on the writer. Whether this was a wise choice or not remains to be seen but one of the first things I learned was that I needed a “platform.”

Writing books is only part of a new writer’s job and, I have learned, not the most difficult part. The hardest part is letting people know they are available, attracting their attention and encouraging them to give them a try. This is where traditional publishing seems to excel but I felt confident that once people read my books, they would spread the word about them and want more. After all, my books are good. I know. I’ve read them and I have very discriminating taste.

But this strategy relies heavily on gaining those first readers, which means the author has to somehow accomplish four things:

  1. Attract readers’ attention.
  2. Get them to download the books.
  3. Persuade people to actually read them.
  4. Encourage them to write reviews and tell friends about the books.

I seem to be stuck at steps 1 and 2 right now. To attract attention, I started this blog and opened a Twitter account in May.

The blog has evolved since then. I began by writing short posts on some of the things that influenced my writing. Then I began sharing my experiences on writing and self publishing thinking these may be of interest to others who may be contemplating this path. Recently I’ve also been posting short reviews of books I just finished reading if they warrant four or five stars (on Amazon’s five star scale). Occasionally I also do a post on other topics as well. I try to do at least two posts a week. If I get comments on any of these, I try to respond.

The blog seems to be gradually attracting some following. These are the stats on the number of ‘hits’ it has received since it began.

  • May – 26
  • June – 42
  • July – 83
  • August – 96
  • September – 226
  • October – 308
  • November (so far) – 180

Twitter, the other major focus of my platform building effort, is less focused. I try to do at least ten tweets a day but these are fairly random, from clever quotes and quips to blatant self promotion of my blog or my books. As of today, I have 253 followers. I try to engage those I follow by retweeting tweets I find interesting or clever and I try to thank anyone who comments on mine or follows me.

So, has any of this turned into book sales? The short answer is, “No.” This table shows my book ‘sales’ to date.

 

 

 

 

By making a few assumptions, what I have leaned from this is that attracting attention, step 1 on my list, is difficult but not impossible. I have Twitter followers and people are visiting my blog and these numbers are gradually increasing.

Step 2, getting people to download my books can be done by offering them for free. My ‘beta’ version of the anthology Defying Fate came out in July and I offered it to friends and relatives for free. None had e-readers but some did download PDF versions from Smashwords and commented favorably. In September, I published the two books separately and offered the first for free on Smashwords for a month. During that time, 157 copies were downloaded. I then raised the price to 99¢ on Smashwords to match the price on Amazon. There were no sales after that on Smashwords.

Step 3, getting people to read them is where I’m stalled. I have no idea how many of those 157 free copies have actually been read but I have seen no comments or reviews on Smashwords as a result so I am assuming few, if any, have been. One five star review has been posted to Amazon though and I am extremely grateful for it. I am hoping it is the first of many.

I have learned that a low price by itself does not attract buyers. I thought it might but there are many books by new indie authors priced at 99¢ and mine are just two out of thousands. Because of comments I had received from other indie writers saying mine were priced too low for what they were, I had planned on raising the prices of my books this month but I am putting that off for now. Raising the prices, I fear, might make them less attractive and I’m really not in this to make money anyway. The main reason to charge anything at all is to give me a way to explain to others why I spend so much time with this.

My plan forward in addition to completing my third novel, is to try to attract more Twitter followers by targeting those I follow. I will also look into seeing if I can find book bloggers who may be interested in looking at my first book and doing a short review. If you are a book blogger or reviewer and would like a free copy in exchange for an honest review let me know.

For all of the other new writers out there, consider this encouragement not to give up. Once your first book is done and available, it is likely to take quite some time to get noticed. If you find yourself frustrated that it has not been, don’t be discouraged. You are not alone.

 Related Posts:
Why I Chose To Self Publish
My Self Publishing Adventure – Episode One
My Self Publishing Adventure – Episode Two
My Self Publishing Adventure – Episode Three – Building a Platform
My Self Publishing Adventure – Episode Four – Managing Expectations
Ten Things For Aspiring Fiction Writers To Consider

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