A Quick Update on the Status of The Inventor’s Son

thenewIScover2015Last week I had mentioned that I was switching out my permafree book. Well, since then, The Inventor’s Son: The Beginning is reverted back to a paid book on all sales channels (and I resumed putting it on Scribd and 24Symbols), and now I have gotten The Inventor’s Son free on all sales channels besides Amazon. Google Play books had the price changed first, soon followed by Kobo, then Apple and Barnes & Noble (who, I have to say, has really improved the price change turnaround times since last year). Now, I have to get Amazon to price match. This time around I will fight with them to get the price free in every store Amazon runs, not just the US, CA and UK stores. I always felt bad that they would not price match the other book in the AU store.

It’s been said that customers reporting a lower price elsewhere has a bit of influence. I will do what I can on my end, but watch this space. If I can’t get the price match in a certain country, I will let you know. If anyone is interested in getting the Kindle version from the Amazon store in their country, they should not be excluded.

Of course, there is one other alternative: it can get delivered to your inbox if you let me know where to send it! Yes, this book is one of the lead magnets, as well as being a permafree in stores! (Please let me know if you just love the rockin’ landing page I whipped up, would you?)

I’m working on a post about the virtues of permafree. I know at one point I was dead set against it, but I’ve come to a realization over the past month or so that really drove home the power it still has. Not to mention this really great episode of the Rocking Self Publishing Podcast featuring Nathan Van Coops called “The Power of Free.” The only thing I can nitpick about this episode is the fact that Van Coops has the one permafree and the other two books are in Kindle Unlimited. Okay, that’s kind of off topic for this particular blog post, sorry about that! :-[

Also doing some more remodeling on my website, but not this blog. I’m really quite happy with this blog just the way it is at this point!

 

Summer’s Nearly Over, So It’s Time For Some Changes

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Back before I published my first book, I had the idea that I would make a special book that I could offer for free. The Inventor’s Son: The Beginning was the book that evolved into what we in the indie publishing world like to call a “permafree” book. That is, it’s a book that anyone could download from one of the ebook retailers for free. And since August of 2014, I had made The Inventor’s Son: The Beginning available on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Apple and a little later on from Google Play Books for free.

This morning, I went to my dashboard at Draft2Digital (a digital book distributor I highly recommend) and set the price back to $0.99. And then I went to Google Play Books and did the same thing. Once the price change is in effect, I expect that Amazon will stop the free price match and reset the price to $0.99 there as well.

You might be wondering, especially if you are a fellow indie author, why I decided to take ISTB off permafree. The short answer is because I am initiating a few really exciting changes, and for this to work, I need to have ISTB back to it’s original price. I don’t expect it to sell that well, but that’s hardly what I’m after, to be honest.

The longer answer is because… Drum roll please… I’m going to work on making The Inventor’s Son my permafree book! I’m creating a new funnel, one that uses The Inventor’s Son, the full length Book 1 of the series, to get readers introduced to the series. I am at a point now where readers who liked book 1 can go on to buy a book 2 and a book 3. Soon there will be a book 4 as well.

ISTB fits into this in two ways:

  1. Readers who liked The Inventor’s Son can then pick up ISTB as a prequel novella and I think there will be far more appreciation of the book if it is actually read after IS.
  2. Using IS as a loss leader from Amazon and the other retailers can get people to sign up for my mailing list by offering ISTB for free if they sign up (even though it’s available at a cost from the ebook stores). I think this creates more value for the reader by offering a thorough introduction to the series, and also by being on my mailing list, I can keep in better touch with them about other upcoming events and goodies in the works.

I will work on getting The Inventor’s Son priced to free as soon as the changes from The Inventor’s Son: The Beginning have gone through. In the meantime, I have posted the first chapter of The Inventor’s Son on Wattpad if you are a member and want to take a peek over there. I’m going to be uploading one chapter every couple of days until the entire book is posted. And I will soon be setting up a mailing list segment that gets The Inventor’s Son for free by signing up for the list. Watch this space for that if you are interested!

How to create a great box set

All interesting ideas I hadn’t thought of when creating my cover for my box set!

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Kobo Writing Life

By Tara Cremin

Box sets are hugely popular on Kobo at the moment. Our best selling titles on Kobo Writing Life are nearly always ones that are part of a greater series. It’s important to note that we have no limit on the price that you can set your box set. You can set as high as you’d like and still receive 70% royalties! Here are some tips to help you create a great box set.

The Content

Whether your box set is three books or ten books, you should really spend time ensuring that it’s easy to navigate through your finished ePub. You want your reader to be able to easily go through each title so it’s important that you check your Table of Contents. Maybe you don’t need to include a specific link to your acknowledgments or about the author section for each book. You may want to consider…

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I Have Commitment Issues

Oh, lordy, all of the above sometimes! An awesome post!

These Writerly Conundrums

Hey everyone!

So These Writerly Conundrums has been on a bit of an unexpected hiatus… which is largely my fault >.> But this month we have some things in store for you, and I am looking forward to getting this blog back up and running again.

Now… the main reason this whole hiatus happened is because sometimes, I have commitment issues. I decided I was going to commit to this blog but then I got a little lazy and had the mindset of ‘I’ll add this to my list and get to it later.’ Which, evidently, I didn’t do. Until now.

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But that’s not the point of this blog post. Because, ladies, gentlemen and all my fellow writes – We all have commitment issues!

They come in all different forms and sizes. I’m going to run through a couple of them here, and then I will mention the solutions too.

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Steampunk VS Gaslamp Fantasy

steamvsgas(Also posted on my website http://www.sbjamestheauthor.com)

Recently I had come across the question of what the difference between Steampunk and Gaslamp Fantasy was. It started because I was telling people that I actually had written some Gaslamp Fantasy novels. It turns out that though people are actually familiar with what Gaslamp is, they aren’t aware of the name of the genre. So today, I’m going to outline the differences between Steampunk and Gaslamp.

Before I do that though, let’s talk about the similarity between the two related genres and figure out why they sometimes get confused. Steampunk and Gaslamp often have a similar outward appearance, and if someone looks at a picture of a character in a Gaslamp tale, they would immediately think of Steampunk. The top hats, the goggles, the corsets, the Neo-Victorian or Neo-Edwardian settings, and of course the gadgets and tinkerings and dirigibles… These all remind people of Steampunk. And Gaslamp Fantasy has all these elements as well.

But where they differ is subtle sometimes. Some people even consider Gaslamp as an offshoot of Steampunk. But it is actually a branch of the Historical Fantasy family. This link to the website Goodreads has a good list of Gaslamp Fantasy books, and this link to Goodreads that shows a list of Steampunk genre books.

Let’s select two books, one from each category, and examine the differences.

aeronauts windlassThe Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher: this book belongs in the Steampunk genre. Why? Look at the plot description:

Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator.Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.

SoullessSoulless by Gail Carriger: This book, though very well known as Steampunk, is quite frankly a Gaslamp Fantasy book:

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire — and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

Do you see the difference in the focus of the plot, just from the plot descriptions? In the case of Aeronaut’s Windlass, if you didn’t know that it was supposed to be a Steampunk book, you’d probably think the book was a space opera, with the focus being on a ship (dirigible airship in this case) that was damaged in battle (a space opera trope if ever there was one). The focus is on the technology, at least in this first volume of the series. Is there magic involved in this plot? Of course (this is Jim Butcher, after all), but as long as the scales tip in favor, plot-wise, on the technology and the gadgets, then it’s Steampunk.

In the case of Soulless, on the other hand, we see the words vampire, werewolf, supernatural, soul… If you removed the name of Queen Victoria, you might think this was urban fantasy! We see nothing about gadgets in the book description (though in the book, the reader is shown various examples of more advanced Neo-Victorian technology). In this book, the focus is on the magic, and therefore this scale is tipped toward Gaslamp Fantasy.

In the case of my own book, The Inventor’s Son, there are gadgets and tinkerings (and in the case of The Explorer’s Son, huge dirigibles). In the plot description, you can see there is some focus on those things:

thenewIScover2015The Inventor’s Son is the story of young Ethan Stanwood, whose father is a brilliant, but reclusive, inventor and scientist. Sickly and isolated, Ethan’s entire world revolves around his father and his work. He believes that this is all life has to offer him, in spite of the latent magical talents he’d inherited from his long-dead mother that are beginning to surface.

When his father flees London one Monday morning, Ethan’s quiet life is swiftly turned into a fight for his survival. His father tasks Ethan with bringing his most important prototype that he was forced to leave behind when he departed. Unfortunately, he has only left the vaguest of clues for Ethan to follow in order to find him. Ethan has to find his father, but he must also face his father’s foes who will stop at nothing to get Ethan and the prototype.

In my series, I have endeavored to make sure there was a fine balance between the focus on tech and the focus on magic, because Ethan is the child of an inventor and a witch. Because the focus seems to be on Marcus Stanwood’s prototype and the struggle to keep it out of enemy hands, you could almost call it Steampunk. But the books actually focus more on Ethan’s journey with the development of his magical abilities, especially in the later books. This is what puts my books in the Gaslamp Fantasy and Historical Fantasy categories more than Steampunk. For the sake of simplicity, readers have shelved my books as Steampunk, and that would not be incorrect, technically, but they do belong in Gaslamp Fantasy as well.

 
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A Writing Book I Recommend: Take Off Your Pants!

Take Off Your Pants! Book Cover

This book had been recommended countless times to me, and until now, I hadn’t gotten around to reading it. However, yesterday was destined to be a terrible writing day for me, because I woke up with one of those weather related headaches that linger all day. Once evening came, I was feeling a little better, but I knew the project I’m working on right now was going to have to wait, at least until today. But now, I’ve got a new assignment: Taking off my pants!

Okay, that’s sounding a bit odd, but the title is referring to the type of plotter I tend to be, a “pantser,” or someone who “writes by the seat of their pants.” I realized, after watching some of these 21 day novel challengers and their videos, that they’ve got this outlining thing down to a science, and my “outlining” was all done in my head. Libbie Hawker’s book, Take Off Your Pants! Outline Your Books For Faster, Better Writing is quite possibly going to be the cure for this “pantsing” problem!

And yes, pantsing is a problem if a writer wants to be productive. Pantsing tends to screw up plot, I’ve found. Pantsing can lead to lots of words written that end up getting discarded (like I had happen with The Explorer’s Son). Yes, during NaNoWriMo, pantsing can be fun, and yes, some of the material you get from pantsing can really get the plot going in a cool direction, but Hawker’s method for outlining helps keep the pantsing from getting out of hand. She reminds us that we need to keep the “Story Core” in mind at all times when developing an outline. And by the way, the outline she presents is not the one like they taught you how to do in school (although that sort of structure works well for some people). Her template for an outline is elastic enough that you can still pants some of your plot and not get into trouble. So long as you keep your character arc, theme, and pace in mind, the plot will begin to mold itself toward those aspects of the story you’re writing.

She uses examples of well known books like Charlotte’s Web, Lolita, Harry Potter, and she also uses her own book Tidewater to illustrate her techniques in action. I read this in one sitting, which Amazon estimates at about 108 pages long, and was able to start putting her methods to use immediately with my UF series (which was losing its way already), and I plan to use it with my other Inventor’s Son books.

No more pansting during NaNoWriMo! (Speaking of which, Camp NaNoWriMo is coming up in April, but I don’t think I will be taking part this year. I tend to have problems with the April Camps, which has nothing to do with NaNoWriMo, but it’s always bad timing for me.) 

I reviewed the book on GoodReads already and gave it 5/5 stars!

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Amazin’ Amazon? Or Unlimited Fail? Part 4

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The Amazin’ Amazon, or Unlimited Fail Series:

This is a part of what appears to be an ongoing series about Kindle Unlimited, the program Amazon has in place to take care of subscriptions. Authors who participate definitely tend to have better exposure, but at what cost?

Authors are now being paid per page, rather than per book, and for some, this has been a terrible change. Others, however, are able to take advantage in a way that Amazon had not forseen.

I myself have a collected edition of the first three books in The Inventor’s Son Series. If it was in Kindle Unlimited, and was borrowed and read all the way to the end, I would get about 465 pages read, and the payout would be fairly “decent” as far as standards for pages read payouts seem to go. And like most authors of collected editions, I have a Table of Contents at the beginning of he book. I felt to have a Table of Contents was essential for a collected edition, for a reader to be able to navigate, especially if, by some chance, they had read the first book.

Some people have been able to scam this experience, and the results are turning catastrophic, both for the program itself and for fellow authors participating in the program legitimately. Rather than use a proper Table of Contents at the beginning of the book, scammers have been advising readers, when the initially open the book, to “Click here for important information.” Readers then get taken to the end of the book through a link placed n the begnning, and because Amazon does not have the technology apparently to realize that the person borrowing the book has merely tapped a link, Amazon pays the author for a full book read.

The most unscrupulous of scammers take this one step further. Instead of merely writing material and having people go to the back on the book, they stuff the eBook with thousands of pages worth of scraped or stolen content, books in other languages, virtually anything they can find, and place all this material between the beginning and end, and the borrower unwittingly triggers Amazon to pay this scammer far more money than the book would have ever gotten had it been bought.

I will propose that this goes even further. Scamming Amazon has become so lucrative that these people band together, borrow each other’s books, and trigger massive page read counts and thousands of dollars in illegitimate payouts, putting each other on the Kindle Unlimited All Stars every month. This not only steals money rom Amazon, it steals money from honest authors by forcing Amazon to lower its Kindle Unlimited payout. The payout, as of February, has been something like $0.0041  per page read. When the program first made this change, the payout had been something more like $0.0058 cents per page read. If someone has lots of pages the lower payout rate is immediately apparent.

Amazon has slowly begun to try and crack down on this business, once it was brought to their attention. They have capped the KENPC to 3000 pages for any book. That still puts the payout at the present rate to $12.30 for a completed book (and now makes boxed sets like the one I have of the first four books of A Song of Ice and Fire extinct). Now, the presence of a Table of Contents anywhere than the beginning of the book seems to trigger Amazon to take the book down, as well.

So, a word of advice to any authors publishing books to Amazon’s platform; put the Table of Contents at the beginning of the book, regardless of whether you’ve heard advice to the contrary in the past, that have said that eBooks should have the Table of Contents in the back. This of course presumes that you’re putting an HTML Table of Contents in your book at all. Many authors, especially if they use Word to write their book and then upload it directly to Amazon, tend to be following this protocol anyway. With my method of using Scrivener to compile to EPUB, the “logical” Table of Contents is automatically generated, and I can opt to create an HTML Table of Contents and place it anywhere. I usually put it right after my blurb in the beginning and my title page.

I am uncertain if this will be the only changes Amazon makes to what we need to do in order to assure them we’re not trying to game the system. Some theories about what they might do include preventing links of any kind in eBooks on Amazon (which would destroy the user experience completely and would probably be impossible) to getting rid of boxed sets. Or, worst of all, limiting Kindle Unlimited in page reads. If a reader mistakenly borrows one of these scam books, and blows through their entire month’s worth of pages read on one book by clicking a link that shoots them to the end of a 3000 page long mess, you can bet that Amazon will hear the complaints!
For more information on this issue, I recommend David Gaughran’s blog post about this topic. I think he gets it more than most people.

My take on this may be controversial, but I’m now of the mind that Amazon needs to get rid of Kindle Unlimited. This may be unpopular for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that many of my author friends have adapted to a career which includes the program in their marketing and their income. But I cannot really see any sort of solution that will eliminate the scams that are hurting those very same authors’ income so badly. I am uncertain if this will be the only changes Amazon makes to what we need to do in order to assure them we’re not trying to game the system. Some theories about what they might do include preventing links of any kind in eBooks on Amazon (which would destroy the user experience completely and would probably be impossible) to getting rid of boxed sets.

Do you have any ideas about what Amazon should be doing to combat the trouble that has besieged their Kindle Unlimited program without doing significant harm to legitimate authors and their books? If so, I’d love to hear about them!

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