Twitter for Authors

I love Twitter. I love Twitter a lot more than Facebook, because the latter likes to make decisions without my consent. Also, if you have an author page, Facebook doesn’t show your updates to all people who have agreed to see it. No, they only do that if you pay! What utter bullshit.

So I hang out on Twitter much more than Facebook. Everyone and anyone can see your posts. You can see everyone’s.

As author, I’ve found Twitter very useful in a number of ways:

1. Twitter is the most important and foremost source of raw, up-to-date news. I’ve seen pictures of things happening live that were only ever covered in retrospect by the major news services. I’ve seen scandals unfold. I’ve seen original tweets that were later deleted. I have a column called “News” and a bunch of news services go in there: A couple of science-related people, ABC news, Al Jazeera (the single best source of varied international news), the Rural Fire Brigade, traffic updates, a gossip columnist (gossip, however much it doesn’t interest me, is a GREAT source for characterisation). As author, news is the stuff you thrive on, and the more uncensored and pre-chewed, the better.

2. Twitter is great for asking questions. You know when you’re writing and all of a sudden, you can’t remember the word for that thing that goes in the thing that people do that thing with? Ask on Twitter. You’ll have your reply within five minutes.

3. Twitter is awesome for background information, too. People post links to blog posts. You discover a lot of interesting stuff.

4. Twitter is the go-to place for cat pictures. Or any other source of levity and goofing off. Sometimes you just need a laugh.

Noticed how I haven’t actually mentioned selling books yet? That’s because you don’t sell books on Twitter. If you want to descend to marketing-speak, what Twitter helps you do is “establish your brand”, and this is marketing BS for letting people know who you are and what makes you tick.

Those people might then follow your blog, because they like chatting with you. If you occasionally mention that you’re a writer, they may sign up for your newsletter. They may buy new books or specials. But that’s a secondary effect. Twitter does not sell books.

How do I know?

I tried. Two titles of mine have been part of tweet-bombs twice. Since you have to try everything at least once, I signed up for a Twitter campaign once, and once my book got picked up without me submitting it.

Both times, a couple of tweets with a  book link were tweeted and re-tweeted every couple of hours by various accounts. Copies sold as a result? Negligible.

It’s kinda fascinating to see a tweet bomb unfold. All these accounts retweeting the same thing. It’s amazing where these tweets go and who retweets them, and also, how long before the echoes of it die completely. I’m presuming that there are a number of authors using sites like TweetAdder to automatically spit out and pre-program hundreds of author promo tweets.

And why? Ye gods, why? It does not work. It clutters up my news feed. It annoys the shit out of everyone. It. DOES. NOT. WORK.

When you’re on Twitter, the “product” you’re “selling” is yourself. Be interesting. Be a real person. Please kill the auto-retweet feed.

 

Twitter for Authors was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

The Great Wall of Bleh

This week, I’ve been banging my head against this manuscript, and not getting anywhere much with it.

Sadly, it is a familiar feeling. Some people call it “horrible middle”, and it has hit me in almost every book I’ve written with very few exceptions.

It’s a “everyone will hate this” kind of bleh.

Or a “I’m sick of this” kind of bleh.

Or a “Can I go and write something else now?” kind of bleh.

Or a “I have no idea what I’m doing” kind of bleh.

It usually occurs just before a few pieces of the story fall into place. Often, I didn’t know the character motivations quite as well as I thought I did.

Re-reading the manuscript usually helps. So does making a diagram with who is related to whom and what their relationship is and what they want out of that relationship. The world of For Queen And Country has become a lot more complicated in three books. I don’t “do” simplistic worldbuilding. Within a country, not everyone belongs to the same church. Within the same church, not everyone takes all the teachings equally seriously. Within the group of people who do take it seriously, not everyone interprets teachings in the same way. Each of those people have different motives for believing and acting as they do. Throw into this mix a couple of different nationalities, a couple of ghosts and magic and a lack of communication (no internet in the 1600′s, people!) and you have a big mess. I like my worlds messy. I like there to be some stuff that makes no sense, things that people do just because they have always done them in the same way.

So,while I keep hammering at this manuscript, note that both Ambassador and Shifting Reality are at $2.99 or something close to that amount at most outlets.

The Great Wall of Bleh was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

By pattyjansen Posted in writing

Why I write: a major revelation

The question of why I write is one I have always struggled to answer. Usually, when writers are asked that question, they go into long-winded explanations of having to express their art and satisfy their inner gecko and other artsy-fartsy stuff like that. And that is just SO not me. As a consequence, I’ve always avoided answering that question.

(there are a few swears in this post)

Why I write? Because I want to.

But today, in the season where sales are shit and it is natural that you start to ponder the question “Why the hell am I doing this anyway?” I had a major revelation.

You see, a couple of years ago, an anonymous reviewer from Harper Collins told me publicly on Authonomy that my book Ambassador, known as Seeing Red was “well-written and well-plotted, but no one will publish this”. Seriously. That’s what he said. OK, I don’t know it was a he, but I’ve always assumed so. Certainly, this person had never read Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles series, and maybe this person had the idea that science fiction needs to be literary and about ideas (I’d argue Ambassador is about ideas, but they’re not in your face, and they’re not the kind of ideas he would have liked anyway).

Anyway, this morning, I logged on to find that someone had reviewed Ambassador and has been tweeting it all over the internet.

OK, so we come to another old chestnut of the “why I write” canon: because I want to be read.

Yeah, what absolute brilliant fucking genius. Everyone wants to be read. But being read is a result of writing. If you don’t write, you’ll never be read (I’ll probably receive a Nobel Prize for this statement). Why write in the first place?

Why write hard science fiction and space opera when you go to the bestseller lists in both genres to see that 95% of authors in the genre are male? Why persist?

Why persist in using Australian idiom and spelling, when you know ignoramuses will come around and say “this book is so full or errors”. Why do it?

Why persisting to write hard SF when an industry person tells me not to bother submitting because I’m a woman?

Why self-publish and do all that hard work without the marketing nous of a publisher?

Why do all of this?

Because all those questions, thrown-together as they seem, are connected.

Because I am not going to let anyone, any company, any literary reviewer, any public opinion, any tyranny of majority, tell me what to do. And I don’t believe any of you should, either.

I hate mindless actions. I hate the tyranny of fashion (in the clothes variety or in wider meaning). I fucking hate hype. I hate the tendency of people to be lemmings and follow each other off a cliff.

“Because xyz says so,” is never, EVER, a good reason to do something without further research.

When self-publishing wasn’t a thing, I often used to complain about hideous response times and writers being dicked about by publishers and agents. Often, fellow writers were trying to shush me up, saying stuff like “That’s how it is in the industry”, and “You’ll get used to it”. Well, yes to both accounts, and I did submit, and did get used to it,but I NEVER considered it acceptable, and never let an opportunity pass to tell the industry at large that as far as business relationships with their providers was concerned, they were a big fucking FAIL.

Just because something happens and people get used to it is not a reason to consider it acceptable.

Sure, you can go all huffy and not submit at all, or you can take part in the process and remind the industry at times that “Hey, maybe it’s time you pulled up your socks on this issue.” I’m someone of the latter variety. And much pulling up of socks has already happened (not that I think I had much influence, but it’s the big picture that counts).

And that, people, is why I write.

Because I believe that people should wake up, cut through the hype and bullshit, and use their fucking brains to make their own fucking decisions. If people spoke out about shit (being asked to sign crap contracts, workplace bullying, racism, being underpaid and overworked, the list goes on), a lot of it would happen less often.

I believe that this needs to be done within the frameworks of the environment you are trying to change (as opposed to from the outside, which is a much more antagonistic position).

Because “someone says so” is never a good reason to do or not to do something

This is a theme that, in some form, can be found in virtually all my fiction. It is why in Ambassador, Cory stands up to both President Danziger and Ezhya Palayi. It is why he antagonises one and befriends the other. It is why in Trader’s Honour, Mikandra stands up to her abusive father. It is why the book is called Trader’s Honour and not Trader’s Honor, because I fucking hate being told to spell American. It is why I’ll have the latest computers but don’t care about the latest phones. Because I’ve thought about it, and it’s MY decision.

It is why I exist, and why I write.

Why I write: a major revelation was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

Amazon vs Hachette: why I’m angry

And I’d toss an expletive in the title, too, but I’d probably get SEO-blackballed if I do that. There will be lots of swearing in this post, so click away if swearing is not your thing.

In the latest Amazon vs Hachette move, I just got this letter from Amazon KDP:

Dear KDP Author,

Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year.

With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.

Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.

Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.

The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.

Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.

But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books – he was wrong about that.

And despite what some would have you believe, authors are not united on this issue. When the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they titled their post: “Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors” (the comments to this post are worth a read).  A petition started by another group of authors and aimed at Hachette, titled “Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages,” garnered over 7,600 signatures.  And there are myriad articles and posts, by authors and readers alike, supporting us in our effort to keep prices low and build a healthy reading culture. Author David Gaughran’s recent interview is another piece worth reading.

We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies. Some have suggested that we “just talk.” We tried that. Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in our store. Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take authors out of the middle. We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Then we suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy charity. But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their revenues and they could easily agree to do so. They believe they get leverage from keeping their authors in the middle.

We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.

Hachette CEO, Michael Pietsch: Michael.Pietsch@hbgusa.com

Copy us at: readers-united@amazon.com

Please consider including these points:

- We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.

- Lowering e-book prices will help – not hurt – the reading culture, just like paperbacks did.

- Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take them out of the middle.

- Especially if you’re an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not united on this issue.

Thanks for your support.

The Amazon Books Team

P.S. You can also find this letter at www.readersunited.com

My first thought:

What bleeding heart fucking bullshit!

OK, I agree that $19.99 ebooks are ridiculous. I’d go a long way to avoid paying that. Actually, I’d go such a long way, that I’d buy the hardcover for $35. Are you listening Amazon? I’d fucking buy the hardcover. More money flows to the author!

Amazon would do well to stop pretending that their primary concern is ebook prices for the readers. Seriously, they’re in this business to sell stuff. Lower prices means they can sell more stuff. That’s all, people!

Then we have the bleeding heart buulshit trotted out by some self-published authors.

“Amazon gives me so many opportunities,” they crow.

Yup, sez me, and so does Google Play, Smashwords, Kobo and a whole host of other companies.

“Amazon provides all these services to us indies,” they crow.

Yup,and they charge 30% of the RRP for it. Fair enough. That’s a business relationship for you. And I fucking hate the term indies anyway. If you’re afraid to say SELF-PUBLISHED you shouldn’t be doing it.

“Amazon were the first to do this for us,” they crow.

Well, maybe they were. I don’t care. Maybe it was Smashwords who did this first. I still don’t care. Look, people, THESE ARE COMPANIES! Companies are in the business of making money. That’s totally OK. But do not, for one moment, confuse their making money with their loyalty to you. Because big companies have no loyalty besides trying to keep you as customer/provider so you can make them more money. This is totally OK, as long as you don’t let them pull the wool over your eyes. They are not emotionally loyal to you. They don’t feel anything towards you. This is OK. It’s a business relationship.

So please, people, stop it with the emotional bleeding heart fucking bullshit.

I am on Amazon, too, because I make money there. I decide whether to list my books there or not based on the economy of things. I have some books that are not listed on Amazon. When I bring out the Aghyrians series omnibus, it won’t be listed there because of the price cap. This is my decision.

I do not hate Amazon, but I have no mushy feelings towards them. I couldn’t care less about Hachette. I am certainly not going to play this dumb game and email their CEO because someone tells me that I should do this. In fact, I have emailed KDP (Amazon self-publishing) support to tell them that I do not appreciate my email address, which I have given them for business purposes, being used for this political game.

I think ebooks should be cheaper, but I also think that any publisher should be able to set whatever damn price they want and bear the consequences. I also don’t think that any reseller has any fucking business whatsoever telling other companies how to run their shop. If authors want to sign with Hachette and get 25% of ebook sales, that’s up to them. I don’t get it either, but it’s still up to them. It is not up to a retailer to tell people what to charge.

Regarding the above email, I am suspicious and am 50% thinking that KDP may have been hacked and that it’s a fake. I’m actually hoping so, although it would bring different worries. Part of me doesn’t want to believe that a company would send out something so daft. Because it is utterly daft, and utterly, utterly childish. And if they set up that readersunite site, why send the whingy email to authors? And why not slap the Amazon logo all over the site?

Why? Why? Why?

Amazon vs Hachette: why I’m angry was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

Comet or Asteroid: what is the difference?

Because looking up the difference between a comet or asteroid drives me nuts.

They are both:

  • Small chunks of “stuff” that hang around in the solar system. Most describe some sort of orbit, but some pass once and we never see them again.
  • The vast majority can’t be seen with the naked eye
  • They can be made from variety of materials, including rock, ice, carbon-rich materials or nitrogen-rich materials
  • They are much smaller than our moon, have very little gravity and therefore an irregular shape.

Comets are:

  • More likely to be made from water ice or have a thick coating of water ice.
  • The evaporating ice is what gives them an atmosphere that is not bound by the gravity of the comet (because the comet is too small). The water vapour gives them their tail.
  • They originate in the outer solar system.

Asteroids are:

  • Mostly rocky
  • They hang around in the inner solar system (anywhere up to Jupiter) which is also where they are thought to have been formed

But:

  • Some asteroids have also been found to outgas water, while some comets have passed the sun so many times that whatever water ice they had on the surface has gone, leaving the rocky core.

So yeah, there isn’t a clear line to separate between the two and no clear definition. For the sake of convenience, some people use the word asteroid for bodies that move in the inner solar system. The are more likely to be rocky.

Comet or Asteroid: what is the difference? was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

The Idiot King snippet

ForQueenAndCountry3 Because I can, here is a snippet from The Idiot King, For Queen And Country book 3. Expected out in late August/early September. Sign up here to be notified when it comes out.

Not much later, the Council of Nobles convened in the boat shed. It was not their usual meeting time, and Fleuris LaFontaine had to be hunted down from some place in town. He came into the boat shed muttering and protesting and sat down at the table with a heavy sigh.

His face was red from the wine he had evidently consumed with his midday meal.

Johanna had thought it wise to let Roald stay at the Lady Sara. He’d been teaching some boys how to catch butterflies without damaging them, and had gotten wet. He had sticks in his hair and smudges on his cheeks and when she called, had looked at her with such disappointment that she couldn’t bring herself to drag him along to a meeting, let alone one where tempers were sure to get heated. He hated it when people raised their voices, because he didn’t understand that they weren’t talking to him. He might start fidgeting, laughing or screaming, and that would be unacceptable.
So she had watched him trundle back into the reeds with his butterfly net, wishing she could be with him. Instead, she had changed into in her best dress, asked Nellie to put up her hair, put on the necklace, brooch and earrings that she had brought from Duke Lothar’s castle–much as she hated wearing other people’s property–and had asked two of her new guard escorts, who really needed uniforms, to walk her to the boat shed. Their names were Ko and Pieter, and they took to their task with a maturity beyond their adolescent years. Johanna took up the position at the head of the table that would normally be Roald’s.

It took her a lot of courage to do that, because Johan Delacoeur gave her a look icy enough to make water freeze. He was a powerful man, ex-army general with connections in armies all around the low lands. In their return to Saardam, he would be an asset, if she could win his support, no matter how reluctantly given. If.

The Idiot King snippet was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

Why I’m giving away free books

If you go to my Amazon page, Kobo page or GooglePlay page (or others), you will see that a number of my books are free. What you’ll see there will depend a bit on your geographical region, with Kobo the most reliable in whether or not a book is actually free when I want it to be.

People (especially traditionally-published authors) have other expressed dismay about this. BUT! They will say, Aren’t you devaluing your work by giving it away? You worked hard for these books. You should get paid for them. But you see, I am being paid for them, because giving away books means that I’ll sell more books. Usually, the free books are first in series or short works related to series. Think of the free book as sample. To appreciate the full work, you’ll need to buy the rest of the series. This works magic.

I’ll illustrate this with my tale of 3D software. There is a software package called 3DMax, that’s hideously expensive. It’s pro-level software and I would never buy it without being thoroughly familiar with what it does. There are also a couple of cheaper options that do a really decent job on a basic level. One of these is DAZ Studio. This software used to cost about $400, and I would also have to think hard about if I wanted to buy it. I would definitely not buy it on a whim or just to see if I liked it.

About two years ago, the makers of the software decided to give it away for nothing. Go have a look. It’s still free. It’s awesome.

With the package, you get some models, but not many. You have to purchase them, but now you’re familiar with the software and you can see why. I have since purchased a lot of 3D models. Not only that, but I’ve also purchased Terragen, another 3D modelling program that has a trial free option. I’ve purchased Photoshop and I’ve purchased a drawing tablet. All because the DAZ software is free.

This is how free books work. They draw you in,and if you like it, there is more. By that time you won’t mind paying for it. Currently, these books of mine are free in all or some places (hover to see where it’s free, click to go to the book’s page). They’re free for longer periods. At some point, they’ll probably go back to paid.

Watcher’s Web: This is one of my oldest books, and the one on which I’ve spent the most money, but now that the series is completed, making the first book free is paying off big time.

Fire & Ice: This has been free for a while and will probably get another boost when I start on the second trilogy.

Innocence Lost: I’ll be completing book 3 later this month, so making this free draws more readers into the series that’s still growing.

Shattered World Within: You can read this for free on the Giganotosaurus site, so why not make it free elsewhere?

Why different prices for different titles? Because it’s not easy to make your book free everywhere. Also, different things work on different platforms, and I try to work out what works best for each platform. Some platforms, like Kobo, don’t work at all for cheap books and I’m not sold on the free thing there either. Some platforms will also discount of their own accord, so it’s virtually impossible to have the same price on all platforms.

Why I’m giving away free books was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

What I’m working on next

ForQueenAndCountry3Now that Heir’s Revenge is done and the renovations mostly finished (except for painting and cleaning and moving everything back), I’ve started on some new projects:

1. The Idiot King, the third instalment in the For Queen And Country series. I’ve written about 29,000 words. I should be able to finish this in September.

Johanna, Roald, Nellie and Loesie have come to Florisheim finding many of their kinsmen there. The survivors from the burning of Saardam who have come here are the nobles who never supported the old king, and it is likely that they won’t support his son either, even if he was normal. They support his marriage to Johanna even less,and appear to be passively waiting for the Baron of Florisheim to sort something out with the magician who now rules in Saardam. They seem to have made a deal with the Baron, but admit this to Johanna, who speaks for Roald.

Johanna’s position as the new king’s wife would be improved immensely if she produced an heir, but so far that’s not happening.

2. The fourth instalment of the For Queen And Country series. I’m not going to tell you the title until I’ve published book 3, because it gives away something that happens at the end of book 3.

3. Ambassador 3. I’ve made the cover, which is awesome.

A generation ship with thousands of Aghyrians thought lost many years ago returns. To us, more than 50 thousand years have past. For them, it was only 400 years.  They’ve travelled close to the speed of light, thought impossible and, with the existence of the Exchange, unnecessary. But where the hell have they been and what do they want? Not only that, but what technology have the people who developed the Exchange 50 thousand years ago been able to create in another 400 years? And what technology have they learned from whatever they met wherever they went in the intervening time?

 

What I’m working on next was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants