Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Another guest blog post!

I'm guest blogging again on the SFR Brigade Page. My post is all about genre labels, especially as they apply in science fiction romance. Check it out if you're interested.

The SFR Brigade is a group of writers who all write science fiction romance. Their blog is a good one to follow if you like to read SFR.

Monday, March 12, 2018

How my recent promotion illustrates ebook market share

The Sixth Discipline, the first book of my two-book Haven series is always free, thanks to price-matching. Smashwords lets authors make ebooks available for free, and since that platform can also be used to push the book to iBooks, Nook, and Kobo, as well as smaller vendors (but not Kindle or Google Play), that means self-publishers can make books free on those platforms (and Nook now allows free books to be published on their platform, too). When an ebook is free elsewhere, Amazon will price-match the Kindle version. As you can see by the results below, the Kindle version matters a lot!

The Sixth Discipline was published in 2011, and had its big run in 2013 when I got a BookBub promotion for it and gave away 20,000 copies. Since then, its distrbution numbers (you can't call them sales figures when the book is free) have slowly dwindled. There are a lot of free books, many of them newer, and in a good month, I had been giving away maybe 20-30 Kindle copies, and 10-20 on all other platforms, combined. 

Update:  B&N reporting was very slow and just came in, so I changed the numbers from the original post to reflect those "sales."

The promotion consisted of paying for an entry in The Fussy Librarian daily "free books" email. That email lists links for up to five vendors. The results are in, and for the day of the promotion and the day after, I gave away this many copies:

Kindle =  377
Nook = 8
iBooks = 32
Kobo = 0
Google = 19

A few things jumped out at me. The most obvious is the dominance of the Kindle market. I gave away six times more Kindle copies than all the others combined. The lack of Kobo copies wasn't really surprising since  have never had big numbers on Kobo, but only 8 copies for Nook was telling. I do't think B&N is doing at all well with the Nook.  Also interesting is that Google Books' total was more than double Nook's, while iBooks beat out Google and Nook combined.

And of course, the whole point of paying money to give away a book is that I hope to sell the sequel, No Safe Haven.  Time will tell how that goes.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

SFR Brigade Showcase!

The Science Fiction Romance Brigade is a group of writers who write (no surprise!) science fiction romance (sometimes called futuristic romance). Periodically, they feature a showcase where writers can talk about their work.

I'm participating in the current showcase  showcase with this post, and I'm talking about my new release Alien Bonds. You can visit the showcase to see what other writers are featured this week.

Alien Bonds illustrates why I love writing science fiction combined with romance. When I want to create difficult, dangerous, or just plain awkward situations to put couples into, I don't have to settle for what's currently possible. I can go all out!

Alien Bonds: Marriage versus mating

This basic idea behind this book was inspired by my parents' divorce. My parents were married late in World War II. My dad was a career officer in the US Navy. Mom had a college degree, but she never worked after she married, because for one thing, she had to move every two or three years when Dad got new orders.  So, after 28 years, Dad found out that a woman he had always admired was now a widow, and he left Mom and asked for a divorce. 

My mom's situation was not great. She had married under one set of rules that said that marriage was pretty much forever, short of adultery or cruelty.  She got left under a different set of rules that said marriage was only a good thing if you both still wanted to be married. So, is it better not to be married if the other person no longer wants you?

This got me thinking about what it would be like not to have a choice. What would it be like to be unable to up and leave if you wanted, not because of social or financial constraints, but because of biology. If this were true, if you were tied to one person for life, would it be terrible or would—could this be a good thing? 

I created the planet Wakareno to find out the answer (BTW, I had never heard of Wakanda, the fictional African country in Black Panther, when I created Wakanreo. I'm so happy there's no d in my planet's name!). 

Wakanreans are humanoid, but they mate for life. And I do mean life. If a Wakanrean's mate dies, he or she might find companionship and even love with someone else, but the biological process happens only once in each lifetime. 

So, having predicated this biological process as being something that happens spontaneously, once two (or, rarely, more than two) pheromone-compatible Wakanreans come into contact with each other, I had to deal with a basic question: How would this kind of immutable, uncontrollable version of "marriage" affect Wakarenan societies?

One thing that seemed obvious to me is that society would be less stratified. Any kind of caste or class system is dependent on people choosing a spouse from their own order. If that can't be enforced then it would mean that a princess could mate with the boot boy or a king with a milkmaid, and no one could stop it. Also, being pretty or handsome would count for a lot less. If physical attraction is solely driven by pheromones, then a pretty face or a hunky build buys you nothing. 

As for whether mating for life is a good thing or a bad thing, it all comes down to the individuals involved. If someone is a bad person—cruel or selfish—it's difficult to see being tied to them for life as a good thing. On the other hand, if someone is kind, having an unbreakable bond with them would provide both comfort and security. So, biological mating (it's called shahgunrah in the book) is not inherently good or bad, but it is very, very different.

And then to mix it up but good, I tossed in a human woman who knows very little about the world or the people, but she finds herself experiencing shahgunrah.

For a brief visit to Wakanreo, here’s an excerpt from the beginning of Alien Bonds. Dina, the protagonist, is still very new to the world, and is on a blind date.

“That’s one of her local stars she’s sucking up to,” Erik went on. “That one is a singer, I think. God, I hope she doesn’t ask him to sing. Wakanrean music sounds like someone torturing small animals.”

“Really?” Was it just her, or was Erik rather wearing?

“I think the two in blue are wrestlers. That’s one thing I’ll give the Wakanreans. Their wrestling is superb entertainment.”

“That’s what Jared said.”

Dina had the satisfaction of seeing her date look dumbfounded. “Jared Harlingen? You know Jared?”

“Only slightly. Actually, I was wondering if he was invited tonight.”

Erik let out a breath of explosive displeasure. “Not bloody likely. The Ambassador can’t stand him.”

“He said that,” Dina said, wondering if she was being indiscreet.

“You seem pretty chummy with Jared.”

It wasn’t said as a question, but Dina detected a speculative note in Erik’s voice. “Is that bad? Is there something wrong with Jared Harlingen?”

“Nothing except he’s always beating my time.” He put down his glass and turned to face her. “Arliana said I should wait until later to ask you, but what the heck—Do you want to go to my place for a more intimate get together? I’ve got better food and booze than the Ambassador is providing, and I’m sure the two of us could have more fun alone.”

Dina felt her face flush red. She hated that she couldn’t control her tendency to blush. Ever since she had left the comfortable familiarity of her native world, she had found herself in such situations. No longer shocked, she still couldn’t stop herself from reacting as a Fantaran.

“I’m sorry.” She fought to keep disapproval out of her voice. “I have to be at work very early tomorrow morning.”

Erik’s eyes opened wide. “Oh, come on! You can’t possibly be offended. Arliana said you were married on Croyzan.”

Her mortification faded, and annoyance replaced it. “I fail to see that my life or my reactions are any business of yours.”

Erik’s jaw went slack. “What?”

Dina put her glass down on a nearby table. “It seems Arliana miscalculated in thinking we would hit it off. I think I’d better go.”

He blinked. “What century do you all live in back on Fantar? Arliana isn’t a prude about sex. How was I to know you are?”

Annoyance morphed into anger. She was trying not to judge him, but he had no qualms about judging her. “Well, it looks like Arliana’s miscalculation is now a certainty. Will you say good night to her for me?”

“You’re really leaving?”

“Certainly.” She nodded instead of offering her hand. “Have a pleasant evening. Although if that takes finding a woman who’s liberal-minded enough to go home with you after two minutes of conversation, I have my doubts. Good night.”

She turned on her heel and stalked off, not looking back until she was almost to the stairs.
By then all she could see of Erik was his retreating back. Dina felt a qualm of remorse. Obviously, his idea of polite behavior would never be acceptable on Fantar, but did she have any right to apply Fantaran standards here on Wakanreo? In any event, she had to explain her premature departure to Arliana.

She turned to survey the crowd again, looking for any sign of iridescent blue and silver. She didn’t see Arliana, but she noticed the silver-headed Wakanrean had left the Ambassador’s circle and was standing by himself in the middle of the room.

Dina wasn’t sure, but she thought he was staring at her. She took a few steps toward the stairs, and his eyes followed her so closely there was no doubt that she was the object of his scrutiny.

No, his animosity. He looked angry—furious, in fact. She had never seen a Wakanrean show so much emotion. His eyes gleamed with rage, and his nostrils flared wide. She took another step toward the stairs, and the Wakanrean began to walk rapidly toward her.

Dina fought panic. What could she have done to make him so angry? She hadn’t come close enough to any Wakanreans to offend anyone. She clasped her hands together to reassure herself that her gloves were on.

The silver-haired Wakanrean came closer still. Under his cape he wore a long, blue robe instead of the trousers and loose, tunic-style shirt favored by Wakanreans of both sexes. He was very close now. His golden facial and body fur combined with the creamy white of his crest reminded her of some Terran animal, but she couldn’t remember which one. Other than the dark blue trim on his robe and the diamond-shaped pattern that decorated his sandals, his only adornment was a piece of silver jewelry fastened at the base of his throat; she couldn’t tell if it was pinned to his robe or his chest fur.

Dina could feel herself breathing faster, her heart pounding hard. She should walk away. Why couldn’t she move her feet? She stood waiting by the mezzanine railing, as still as if she had taken root in the floor.

The Wakanrean stood in front of her. He glared down at her, his face contorted into a scowl, his amber eyes glowing with contempt.

“I beg your pardon.” Dina tried to keep the quaver out of her voice. “Do I know you?”

He was so close, she could feel the heat from his body. Either that, or the room had gotten suddenly warmer. Dina felt herself flush from head to foot.

He didn’t answer, but all at once it was as if his anger was a physical thing, an invisible mass, pushing against her. She stepped backward, stumbled, and almost fell.

She reached for the mezzanine railing behind her, and in the same instant, the Wakanrean grabbed her arm.

Dina froze, utterly baffled. The orientation had said clearly that Wakanreans would always avoid touching a Terran, and yet here was one not only touching her, but holding her firmly by the arm and helping her to stand.

The orientation had also failed to warn her that a Wakanrean’s touch was so warm it almost burned. Dina could feel a flush of heat on her arm where his hand still gripped it. She stood straighter and looked into his face. He had typical Wakanrean features—an arched nose, large round eyes, a wide mouth.

His expression changed as she watched. His anger faded to confusion. He looked almost stunned. His nostrils still flared, but from the way his eyes had opened wide, Dina knew he was surprised rather than angry.

Neither of them had taken a step since he took hold of her arm. Dina swallowed once, conscious of discreet glances and overt stares from those around them.

“I’m all right,” she said finally, wondering if she was speaking the truth. The dizziness had passed, but she still felt lightheaded. “Thank you, but you can let go now.”

He loosened his grip but didn’t release her for a few seconds. When he did, he brushed her bare arm with the back of his hand. Dina was amazed when it sent shivers of anticipation up her spine.

“This is unexpected.” His wonderfully resonant voice had a rich, warm timbre to it that made Dina’s shivers change from anticipation to yearning.

“Yes,” she said, unsure of what he meant, but afraid to give offense.

“Where do you live?”

“I have an apartment in the off-world sector,” she said, wondering why she was answering him. She fought the urge to close her eyes and just listen to that wonderful voice.

“My house is in the cliffs outside the city. Let’s go there instead.”

“All right.”

It took Dina a moment to realize that she had agreed to go home with him.

Get the book: 

Alien Bonds is for sale as a paperback.and as a Kindle book (it's free to borrow, as of now, if you're a Kindle Unlimited subscriber).

And don't forget to check out the current SFRB showcase! (Click on a writer's name to see their post) 

Monday, February 26, 2018

Amazon Exclusivity: What does it buy you?

The answer is, it depends. Mostly, in my experience it depends on your book. If you're self-publishing in the US, your biggest single market will almost certainly be the Kindle store. This is not to say that other markets should be ignored. Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple  iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, and Smashwords sell plenty of ebooks.

Pricing and Countdown Deals

However, selling a book is not always as simple as slapping a price on it and saying "For Sale." Amazon limits the minimum price for a Kindle book sold via KDP to 99¢. It encourages you to price the book between $2.99 and $9.99 by offering the maximum royalty percentage for books in that range. If you enroll your book in the KDP Select program, it means you cannot sell it in ebook form anywhere except the Kindle store (This doesn't apply to print sales). It also means Amazon offers incentives not otherwise available.  Specifically, you can run Kindle Countdown Deals where for the limited number of days specified, the book is available at a sale price (US or UK only). As opposed to you simply lowering the price yourself (which you could do at any time) the regular price still shows up, but it will be crossed out to show the book is on a limited time sale.

Kindle Unlimited (KU)*

The other big benefit is that your book is available in the Kindle Unlimited subscription program. KU subscribers are Amazon customers who pay a monthly flat fee. This allows them to read any book they want in the KU program. There's a limit to how many they can have at once, but not how many they can read. Amazon pays the author not a flat royalty per book, but a per-page-read fee. The amount is not guaranteed, but lately for the US KU market it has been running about 0.0048¢ per "Kindle edition normalized page"**. It is usually less in the foreign KU markets, but the US is usually the biggest one anyway. 

Genre, length, and readability will affect how much money your book can make in the KU program. My experience is limited since I have had only three books in this program. The enrollment is not a marriage; you don't have to keep the book exclusive forever. When you sign up, it's for a 3-month period and then you can renew again every 3 months, if you wish. If you don't renew, your book is no longer in KU and you can't run price promotions. With Saronna's Gift, which is a science fiction romance, I made enough with KU borrows to make it worthwhile to say in for two full periods, that is, 6 months. With Turnabout, a YA science fiction novel that is in no way a romance, I never made much in the KU program so I let it expire after the first 3-month period. Note that Turnabout is also considerably shorter-- only about 80,000 words, which meant less money per KU reader.

To sum up, I would expect a book that was a page turner, a romance, and fairly long would do very well in KU. And, for what it's worth, here's my advice:

  • Always start in KDP Select to see how the book does
  • Set a goal for KU borrows (say a third or maybe half of what the royalties are) and drop out when you go below your goal.
  • Once you're out of KDP Select, go for every market you can! 

* I am aware that KDP Select also gets your book into the Kindle Owners Lending Library, but frankly, I don't think this is nearly as big a deal as KU so I didn't spend any time talking about it.
** Amazon calculates pages in its own way, but Alien Bonds was 128,000 words and Amazon said it had 658 KENP pages. That's approximately 195 words per KENP page.

Friday, February 23, 2018

ALIEN BONDS is featured today!

Author Liza O'Conner is featuring my new book Alien Bonds in a guest post on her Multiuniverses blog today. Liza O'Conner is a science fiction romance author with several series in publication, including her latest SkyRyders.  She frequently hosts other authors' posts, so it's a good blog to follow if you're on the hunt for new SFR books..

Alien Bonds also got its 5th Amazon review recently, and as you can see, it was for 5 stars.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Win a Kindle copy of ALIEN BONDS!

I'm hosting another giveaway for Alien Bonds. This one will give away 4 Kindle copies!

Click here to enter!

p.s. Alien Bonds got a 4th review and it's a doozie!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Win a paperback copy of ALIEN BONDS!

I'm hosting a giveaway of Alien Bonds on Amazon! Every entry has a one in 250 chance of winning, so go here now if you want to enter, Hurry, though because these can go fast!

p.s. If you don't win, you can still pick up a Kindle copy of my always-free book The Sixth Discipline.


Saturday, January 27, 2018

Everyday Fangirl interviewed me and ALIEN BONDS got a second review!

The Everyday Fangirl site that had my guest post the other today has an interview with me up today. The questions cover everything from what makes me laugh to how I name characters.

And on a related note, Alien Bonds got a second review! It's 4.5 stars (technically 4 stars because Amazon doesn't allow half stars) but in many ways it's a more in-depth and favorable review than the 5-star one from yesterday.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Guest post today!

Today is my guest appearance on the Everyday Fangirl blog.   Author Patty Hammond runs that blog and often features posts by other authors as well as interviews with fans and authors.Today's post contains some info on how I came to write Alien Bonds and also an excerpt from the book.

Check it out!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

ALIEN BONDS has launched!

Alien Bonds is now for sale in the  Kindle store and in trade  paperback! If you're a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, it will be available for free for at least the next 90 days.

I'm very excited to launch this book with the new X-Ray feature available on the Kindle because it's the kind of book that can really make use of X-Ray

Once I was sure the X-Ray feature would work with the many Wakanrean terms I had added to it, I put a note at the front of the Kindle version of the book to mention it to readers.  You can see how it looks above, from the "Look Inside" view of the Kindle book. 

A lot of publishers don't bother with doing X-Ray setup because most readers don't use it. And most readers don't use it because they don't know it's there. I think one reason Amazon doesn't do more to inform Kindle users about it is because so many books don't have it available. They don't want to get readers excited about a new feature only to find out it's not there more than half the time. It's the classic chicken-and-egg situation!  I wish Amazon would alert readers whenever they open a new book with x-Ray enabled. This would solve the problem and maybe the X-Ray chicken would lay a lot more eggs!