For Your Consideration . . . .

Hello and welcome, science fiction award board members, voters, and fans!  Please enjoy the canapes and wine being passed around.  The envelopes with your individual bribes will be under your chair in the main dining room after the presentation.  AFTER the presentation, sir.  Please wait until the end.  Let’s try to maintain some decorum, shall we?

There are a HOST of science fiction awards.  There’s the ones most folks know about, like the Hugo,the Nebula, and the two different Campbell awards.  There are also about 76 other awards given out on an annual basis.  The problem is, as a newbie and an ostensibly indie one at that, I don’t know awards people or awards voters.  But I am quite proud of my success in 2014, and I’d like to think I might be able to play in the big leagues with those who know and participate in award circles like it’s second nature.  It may be childish, but unlike some who eschew awards or believe sales alone are the only reward one needs, I do want that validation from the community (and I believe that recognition can’t necessarily hurt sales either).  Is my stuff award worthy?  I dunno.  I’d like to think so.  They’ve garnered rankings, reviews, and comments equivalent to those received by nominees and winners in the past.  But my worry is that my pro-sale stories were never seen (there is a LOT of stuff published in magazines every year), and my indie stuff carries the stigma of being indie/self published crap (there’s even MORE indie stuff published every year, both masterful and . . . less so).  So, rather than campaigning, I just wanted to get a reminder out there that I do have eligible works for consideration.  And if YOU have eligible works you’d like to see get more recognition, by all means plug-away in the comments below!

Eligible Short Stories – Pro-Market Published:

1. “The Rememberists” – Daily Science Fiction, July 15, 2014 – What do you do if you cannot escape your past, if things did not go they way they should have?  Hire a rememberist!

2. “Bumped” – The Grantville Gazette Universe Annex, December 2014 – An in-love mad scientist and a tough dame share a first date, only to be interrupted by three noir-ish baddies on a heist.  Collisions ensue.

Eligible Short Stories – Semi-Pro, Small Press, and Amateur Published:

1. “Within This Horizon” – Riding the Red Horse anthology from Castalia House, December 2014 – A damaged space navy officer contends with becoming “orbital debris,” relegated to the backwards, useless, bluewater navy, and must deal with both his own dashed expectations and the bitterness of a CO in the same situation.  (for a free review copy of my story or the anthology, e-mail me, private message me, or comment below)

2. “The 1011000-100110110000011010011 Truce” – Liberty Island Magazine, Alternative Holiday Short Story Contest Grand Prize Winner, December 2014 – The shift to automated warfare may or may not save lives in the end, but you’d never see a situation like the 1914 Christmas Truce of WW-I again.  Or could you?

3. “The Gaslight Consultant” – The Writer’s Arena, Reality Bites competition, October 2014 – Who better to drive someone crazy, or make them believe they are seeing ghosts than a team that may actually be crazy (or who sees ghosts)?  NOTE:  This was not my best story of 2014, but there are absolutely some stories on The Writer’s Arena that should be considered, especially the best of the year I saw there: “Words on the Wind” by Lu Whitley, a great soft-fantasy/magic piece.

Eligible Short Stories – Independently Published:

1. “Dogcatcher Blues” – REMO collection by Thomas A. Mays, April 2014 – A disgraced soldier is ordered to carry out a terrible punishment duty, rounding up man’s worst friend on a pacified rebel planet.  But picking up this cybernetic Hellhound is more problematic than others.  Rather than fetch a simple unintelligent feral, this dog is a deserter who will do ANYTHING to avoid going back.  I could simply name any story in the REMO collection as eligible (other than the previously published “Strategic Deployment”, but this story is my favorite and I kick myself for not submitting it for pro-publication before putting it in my collection.  (for a free review copy of my story or the whole collection, e-mail me, private message me, or comment below)

Eligible Novel – Independently Published:

1. A Sword Into Darkness – Stealth Books, January 2014 – 30,000 copies sold in 2014, 349 reviews on Amazon with a 4.4 star average, 3.88 stars on Goodreads with 33 reviews and 531 ratings, and great independent reviews on a number of sites (check out the book link on the right or down below if you are on mobile).  This was my pride and joy and a financial boon in 2014.  Is it literary or award-worthy?  Like I said, I don’t know.  I do know that if you appreciate a classic style and theme, if you like smart military sci-fi space opera with respectable physics, if you love pull-em-up-by-your-bootstraps, libertarian-leaning tales of space navies or overcoming alien invasion, and if your favorites include Niven, Pournelle, Heinlein, Clancy, or Ringo, then this is a book for you to vote for.  (Again, for a free review copy, e-mail me, private message me, or leave a comment below.)

So, we’ll see.  Chances are I won’t be remembered around awards season.  There’s just too much good stuff out there, but if you haven’t checked out mine, I think you might like it.

Plus, friends and followers of The Improbable Author, if you would like to plug your own work for award consideration, by all means let us know about it in the comments below.  I know that indie/self published shorts and novels have gotten nominations before (if rarely), and I would love to see one win, and if not mine, then another worthy indie.

Thanks!

300 Reviews and Audiobook Awesomeness!

Greetings, faithful readers!  If you are here because of my “The Last Ship” reviews, welcome, but this ain’t gonna be about that.

Nope.  It’s gonna be BETTER.

Last night, my independently-published military sci-fi space opera novel A Sword Into Darkness (a button for which you will find to the right or below) hit 300 reviews with my bestselling retailer, Amazon.com.  Upon hitting this somewhat arbitrary milestone, I thought I’d tell you all how the book was doing, and let you know about some BIG news as well.

First, the BIG news: the audiobook for A Sword Into Darkness (ASID) is now available for sale at Audible.com, Amazon.com, and iTunes (soonish).  Read magnificently by Mr. Liam Owen of SciFi-Publishing.com, this is a TOTALLY different and exciting way to experience ASID.  If you’ve read and enjoyed ASID, you owe it to yourself to re-experience it with Liam Owen’s amazing narration.  He has this gentle, yet authoritative voice that really delivers when it comes to military scenes and science fiction exposition, and his characterizations and voices for all my different characters just have to be heard.  Honestly, like me, I think you’ll fall in love with the story all over again.

If you have yet to read ASID, this is a great way to encounter it for the first time.  This unabridged edition can be listened to in just under 12 hours, and I think you’ll have a lot of fun with it (4.4 stars in 300 reviews level of fun).  Have a commute?  Do you work out or clean your house?  Do you commute to and from your work-out before cleaning your house?  If so, and you never have the time to read, YOU HAVE GOT THE TIME to try out ASID as an audiobook.

And if you’ve never tried out audiobooks before, this is a great opportunity:  enroll with Audible.com free for 30 days, and your first audiobook (like ASID, hint, hint, hint) is completely and totally FREE!  Even if you don’t keep the audible membership, the audiobook for ASID remains yours forever!

 

Concerning reviews, and specifically my Amazon reviews which have the biggest base to draw from, folks really like A Sword Into Darkness.  How much?  Well, as of this writing, I have 174 5-star reviews and 93 4-star reviews.  Of those who just “liked” it rather than “loved” it, I have 27 more critical 3-star reviews.  I think a 90% success rate for connecting with your readers is a pretty darned good return on your investment.

The math whizzes among you might note that 174 + 93 + 27 does not equal 300.  As the aphorism goes, you can’t please everyone.  I also have 4 2-star reviews from folks which gave me points for writing the book, but didn’t like it, and two 1-star reviews, one from a guy who prefers Christopher Nuttall’s books (which I have no problem with, Chris is prolific and a damn good writer), and one guy who hated on my book so hard, I think I actually made his day.  His 1-star dismissal was, in fact, the second review I received, and that made for a bad day, but the days have gotten notably better since then.

The buyers who have written reviews (and it works out to about 1 reviewer for every 100 buyers/readers) have also shared some damn-fine write-ups.  Praising, critical, questioning, or whatever, each thing they tell me and other potential buyers are gold.  My writing on ASID has been favorably compared to Tom Clancy, Dr. Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, Robert Heinlein, David Weber, and John Ringo.  I don’t know about all that, but each of those luminaries of genre literature are my heroes and favored writers, so if my book at all recalls them, I’m beyond honored.

What can you do?  Well, If you have not read (or listened) to ASID, today’s the day to give it a shot.  If you have read it (and/or listened to Liam’s narration), consider leaving your own review.  Either way, if you are in the market or are already a fan, I welcome you to peruse the reviews on Amazon and check whether you thought it was helpful or not.  The more upchecks the 4 and 5 star reviews get, the more favorably the Amazon algorithms consider ASID, which lets me do things like justify the time spent on working on its sequel, Lancers Into the Light.

And that’ll make everybody happy.  🙂

Amazon Speaks!

Taken from the Amazon Discussion Boards just now, their word on the kerfuffle with Hachette: 

The Amazon Books team says:

(AMAZON OFFICIAL)
We are currently buying less (print) inventory and “safety stock” on titles from the publisher, Hachette, than we ordinarily do, and are no longer taking pre-orders on titles whose publication dates are in the future. Instead, customers can order new titles when their publication date arrives. For titles with no stock on hand, customers can still place an order at which time we order the inventory from Hachette — availability on those titles is dependent on how long it takes Hachette to fill the orders we place. Once the inventory arrives, we ship it to the customer promptly. These changes are related to the contract and terms between Hachette and Amazon.

At Amazon, we do business with more than 70,000 suppliers, including thousands of publishers. One of our important suppliers is Hachette, which is part of a $10 billion media conglomerate. Unfortunately, despite much work from both sides, we have been unable to reach mutually-acceptable agreement on terms. Hachette has operated in good faith and we admire the company and its executives. Nevertheless, the two companies have so far failed to find a solution. Even more unfortunate, though we remain hopeful and are working hard to come to a resolution as soon as possible, we are not optimistic that this will be resolved soon.

Negotiating with suppliers for equitable terms and making stocking and assortment decisions based on those terms is one of a bookseller’s, or any retailer’s, most important jobs. Suppliers get to decide the terms under which they are willing to sell to a retailer. It’s reciprocally the right of a retailer to determine whether the terms on offer are acceptable and to stock items accordingly. A retailer can feature a supplier’s items in its advertising and promotional circulars, “stack it high” in the front of the store, keep small quantities on hand in the back aisle, or not carry the item at all, and bookstores and other retailers do these every day. When we negotiate with suppliers, we are doing so on behalf of customers. Negotiating for acceptable terms is an essential business practice that is critical to keeping service and value high for customers in the medium and long term.

A word about proportion: this business interruption affects a small percentage of Amazon’s demand-weighted units. If you order 1,000 items from Amazon, 989 will be unaffected by this interruption. If you do need one of the affected titles quickly, we regret the inconvenience and encourage you to purchase a new or used version from one of our third-party sellers or from one of our competitors.

We also take seriously the impact it has when, however infrequently, such a business interruption affects authors. We’ve offered to Hachette to fund 50% of an author pool – to be allocated by Hachette – to mitigate the impact of this dispute on author royalties, if Hachette funds the other 50%. We did this with the publisher Macmillan some years ago. We hope Hachette takes us up on it.

This topic has generated a variety of coverage, presumably in part because the negotiation is with a book publisher instead of a supplier of a different type of product. Some of the coverage has expressed a relatively narrow point of view. Here is one post that offers a wider perspective.

http://www.thecockeyedpessimist.blogspot.com/2014/05/whos-afraid-of-amazoncom.html

Thank you.

Sooo, a little more depth to counter the newspaper articles which seem almost uniformly pro-publisher / anti-distributor.  And DISCLAIMER, Amazon has been a great outlet for those who have chosen the Indie-published route when folks at the Big Six (Five?) publishers — like Hachette — wouldn’t give ’em a chance, that is, wouldn’t take a chance on books like A Sword Into Darkness  or REMO that have sold well and have been well-received.  I’d love to be in with the Big Guys, instead of sipping Kool-Aid at the kids’ table, but since I am there, it is some mighty fine Kool-Aid and I’m proud to thank my host.
 
Thoughts?
 

You’re Gonna Break Your Arm Doin’ That

Patting myself on the back, that is.  Yes, I am grotesquely pleased with myself, racking up 1600 sales, Top 5-10 Bestseller in three different sub-genres, 21 reviews and 4.5 stars in three glorious weeks.  But all I did was write the damned thing!  The people I want to thank are YOU, THE READERS, the folks that gave a no-name a chance and (for the most part) liked what you saw.  And the question repeatedly comes up on Twitter, Facebook, via e-mail and blog comments, and over and over again in the reviews, “What happens next?  When is the next one coming out?”

I’d love to say “Next week!”, but that just ain’t happening.  Unlike many folks out there, I don’t have a ready supply of sequels waiting in the wings.  I have to write one.  Hell, I have to THINK of one, but I’m not too far off.  Now that I know there is a demand, I can think about dipping back into that well.  So, there WILL BE a sequel (and perhaps more) to A Sword Into Darkness!

In the meantime, though, I have GOT to stop being overly pleased with numbers, stop continually refreshing my Amazon, Goodreads, and KDP pages, and GET BACK TO ACTUAL WRITING.  First, I invite you all to follow me as I continue to plot out the apocalyptic adventures of poor Josh Montgomery on The Ends of the World.  Pull for me as I wait to hear back on my short stories making the rejection cycles:  “The Rememberists”, “Bumped”, and “ILYAMY”.  Then, bear with me as I tackle my ever-shifting works-in-progress list, which includes Echomancer, two movie scripts, a short story or seven, and the ASID sequel. 

But I do what to fill out my bench a bit, so be on the lookout for an e-book collection of my military science fiction tales (gotta prove I’m not a one-trick pony!), as well as the ASID audiobook, and the ASID app/game. 

And check back here often!

Whups!

Apparently, every day being some sort of “BLANK” Day is a thing. Today, the 11th of February, is Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day, and no, I am not making this up.  Therefore, I am not going to cry over spilled milk, in that I am going to rally and soldier on after one of my plans failed to work out completely.

What plan failed?  A problem with the book launch perhaps?  Nope, that’s going swimmingly.  Reviews and sales are both rosy and I’m pleased as could be.  In fact, A Sword Into Darkness is CURRENTLY IN THE TOP 10 ON KINDLE FOR EACH OF MY SUB-GENRES:  Military Sci-Fi/Space Fleet, Alien Invasion, and First Contact!  I’m quite proud to be in the same Top 20 as one of my favorite books, Old Man’s War by John Scalzi, as well as a number of other worthies, all deserving a read (but me first).

No, the plan which (partially) failed was the distribution of my extra Advanced Reader Copies for the winners of the Zinger! contest.  Two Proofs and an ARC were indeed mailed out, and I’ve heard that the recipients are quite pleased with them, but the other two winners never sent me their mailing addresses.  So, here I am, with ARCs on hand and no one to give them to.  I KNOW:  LET’S HAVE ANOTHER CONTEST!

Nathan Kelley, Kris Muñoz, and Gordon Lee, the main characters from A Sword Into Darkness are intimately familiar with failure.  I won’t give away the specifics, but fate (otherwise known as me) kicks them in the ass on a regular basis.  They screw up, but then they always say, “Fuck it,” and soldier on.  So you tell me:

What was your biggest/funniest/craziest screw-up and how did you shrug it off to come out on top?

Answers can be anything from twitter length epics of perseverance or extended tales of incredulous/incredible whoa/woe followed by magnificent victory.  Drop me your answer here in the comments, Tweet me at @improbablauthor, or drop me a line in the Facebook or Google+ comments.  You have from 0000R (midnight Eastern) to 2359R on Feb. 11th, Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day.  I’ll pick my favorite two entries and you’ll each win an ARC of my kick-ass military sci-fi novel.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some milk to mop up.

Environment Established!

Office 1

Office 1

Office 2

Office 2

Here it is, the office of the Improbable Author, newly completed in our new (to us) house.  I was going for a sort of English Study, but The Wife thinks I overdid the green.  I dunno.

Surrounded by all the green, by the rich red and brown woods, by a rug that simply won’t stay unrumpled, I have high hopes.  This will not only be the office of mundane bill-paying and internet browsing.  This will be a creative space.

Now I have a suitable environment for writing.  No more “douchebag at the coffee-shop working on his next novel/screenplay” for me!

Nay!

Now I shall be the “douchebag at the coffee-shop taking his coffee to his new study (where he will likely work on his next novel and/or screenplay).”

See?  Personal growth!

 

Well, “DAW”n It. :(

After a great weekend working on la casa, having a patio and porch put in, and then painting and decorating my office/writer’s sanctuary (a future post with pics, to be sure), I both returned to The Job and snuck in a little writing.

Things are progressing well at The Job, in that I am learning the ropes and becoming more of a solver than one whom relies upon others for solutions, but so much of the work there consists of us being a clearinghouse for negativity. And in other locales which report to us at The Job, there was a great deal to feel negative about. This weekend, people were uniformly awful to one another, with many a heinous crime committed upon one another, and we get all the dirty (both literally and figuratively dirty) details.

So, needing a pick-me-up, I turned to fiction, specifically creating my own. I was able to chop quite a few more pages into the re-write of “ILYAMY” and I finally broke ground on the new “Strategic Deployment” script. I’m buoyed by both projects and hope to be able to show something here soon.

Refreshed and optimistic once more, I got home and checked the snail-mail out front.

Yep. Mistake.

I saw my own handwriting on a letter, the self-addressed, stamped envelopes from one of my ASID submissions. That’s never good. I’m pretty sure publishing contracts don’t come in slender business envelopes. Dreading the obvious, I opened it to reveal a lovely form rejection letter from Peter Stampfel of DAW books.

He thanked me for the contribution, it’s very hard for a new writer to get picked up and be successful these days, we don’t feel your manuscript would be a commercial success at the present, but we’ve rejected gold before, so don’t stop trying and remember us when it comes time to submit your next un-sell-able manuscript.

On the good side, that’s a pretty quick turnaround. I submitted the full manuscript to DAW by the regular post on May 1st. Give it a week for mail routing, a ten days to languish in a slushpile, 15 seconds to hate everything about all 116,000 words (or as far into the first page they’re willing to give it), a day to process the rejection letter, and then two to three days for it to show up in my box, then you can obviously see they gave it their full consideration.

Who’s next on the rejection train? Ace? Baen? Pyr? C’mon, I’m ready for it!