September 28, 2013

Amazon's Kindle MatchBook

Next month, Amazon is launching its Kindle MatchBook program, which will allow owners of selected print books to buy the Kindle edition for $2.99, $1.99, $0.99, or free. The e-book discount is up to the author/publisher.

As a reader, this is a great deal because I still like to read the paper versions of books, but sometimes I also wish I could upload them to my Kindle. Under the MatchBook program, I can do both at a lower cost than before. If I understand the description of the program correctly, the e-book discounts also apply to books you've bought in the past from Amazon! However, only a small percentage of traditionally published books are part of MatchBook.

The reluctance of some publishers to enroll their books in the program makes it exciting for me as a self-published author. If the big boys don't want to take part in MatchBook and indies like me do, that could give us an advantage over traditional publishers. As soon as I heard about MatchBook, I immediately enrolled the print versions of all three of my novels.

That's right. When MatchBook launches, if you buy or have bought print copies of George and the Galactic Games, In the Hands of Children, or Beyond New Eden, you'll be able to get the Kindle version for ... FREE! I want you to have what I want from a book -- the paper back and e-book versions for just the price of the paper back. Happy reading!

September 21, 2013

Book review: Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman? by Eleanor Updale

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When a petty thief falls through a glass roof while fleeing from the police, it should have been the death of him. Instead, it marks the beginning of a whole new life. Soon he has become the most successful -- and elusive -- burglar in Victorian London, plotting daring raids and using London's new sewer system to escape. He adopts a dual existence to fit his new lifestyle, taking on the roles of a respectable, wealthy gentleman named Montmorency and his corrupt servant, Scarper.

In Victorian London, after his life is saved by a young physician, a thief utilizes the knowledge he gains in prison and from the scientific lectures he attends as the physician's case study exhibit to create a new, highly successful, double life for himself.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

We're getting near the end of the alphabet for my Authors A to Z reading challenge, and there are going to be some letters where I'll have difficulty finding authors with last names that begin with them. The letter U is one of them. The only author I know of whose last name begins with U is John Updike, and I have no particular desire to read his books. So instead, I went with someone I'd never heard of, Eleanor Updale.

Montmorency turned out to be an entertaining book. It was fun to read about the transformation of the petty thief, whose real name is never revealed, into the high class gentleman named Montmorency and his servant Scarper. The idea may seem absurd at first, but with the way that the author described the steps involved, you almost believe that it can happen at that time in history. The details made sense to me as well as being engaging.

My only complaint with the book is that it reads too much like a biography instead of like a novel. There wasn't enough tension in the plot. Every obstacle that Montmorency encountered was easily solved within a chapter, so there was never any sense of a larger danger to his endeavors. Aside from that, I found the book to be a pleasant surprise and would recommend it to other readers.

I read this book as part of the Authors A to Z reading challenge. Next up: Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde.

September 14, 2013

What is success?

My idea of what it means to be a successful author has changed in the time since the publication of my first novel. Inspired by success stories like Amanda Hocking's, I originally thought that was my measuring stick -- to become an indie author who sells a million copies of his books. Obviously, I was misguided. As reality set in and I realized how hard it really is to make a living as an author, I've now come to appreciate the accomplishments I've already achieved.

They include:
  • Finishing and publishing a novel - I know it sounds like a lame accomplishment for someone who is an author, but I've been writing for most of my life, yet I didn't know if I had it in me to finish a novel until it happened. Now I can cross that off my bucket list.
  • Selling a copy of my book to someone I don't know - My first sales were the result of telling my friends and relatives, but I didn't know if anyone who didn't know me would buy my book. What a relief when it finally happened. I'm not sure when I made my first sale to a stranger because that level of information isn't reported, but I know I did because of the next accomplishment.
  • Receiving a positive review from someone I don't know - As gratifying as it was to sell my book to a stranger, I felt even happier when I received a positive review from one. Someone has actually read my book and likes it! As an author, reading a positive review makes me happier than anything else because I write so that I can entertain readers, and hearing that they like what I write is a reward in itself.
  • Receiving my first royalty check - Not only was the money nice, but my first royalty check made my feel like I was a real author, someone who could potentially make a career out of writing. Of course, I'm far from selling enough to quit my day job, but getting paid for my writing made it more than just a hobby, and I can now justify the time I spend on it to my wife. :-)

While I'm proud of my achievements so far, I'm still not where I want to be. I may have reached some level of success, but I still don't consider myself a successful author. I no longer aim to be rich and famous like Amanda Hocking. However, I do have a more realistic goal -- I want to sell enough books to have the option to write full time. I may not quit my day job when I reach that point, but it would be nice to have that choice. How much longer will that take, assuming it ever happens? I have no idea. But at least I'll be adding to my list of achievements along the way.

September 7, 2013

Book review: Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari

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A thrilling tale of adventure, romance, and one girl's unyielding courage through the darkest of nightmares.

Epidemics, floods, droughts -- for sixteen-year-old Lucy, the end of the world came and went, taking 99% of the population with it. As the weather continues to rage out of control, and Sweepers clean the streets of plague victims, Lucy survives alone in the wilds of Central Park. But when she's rescued from a pack of vicious dogs by a mysterious boy named Aidan, she reluctantly realizes she can't continue on her own. She joins his band of survivors, yet a new danger awaits her: the Sweepers are looking for her. There's something special about Lucy, and they will stop at nothing to have her.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

Ashes, Ashes should have been right up my alley. It's a YA post-apocalyptic story about the survivors of a virus outbreak, much like In the Hands of Children. The problem is that it never grabbed me. The novel wasn't bad. All of the required elements were there, but for some reason, the book just didn't resonate with me.

I think part of it was that there was a lot that didn't make sense. The premise is based on two big popular fears: global warming causing mass flooding and a pandemic that kills most of the people on the planet. I can buy both of those happening in the same story, and in a way, Ashes, Ashes is original in that it does. However, how the survivors live their lives afterwards was confounding, e.g., why Lucy doesn't raid stores or empty homes for more supplies, why the survivors don't try to evade the Sweepers. The math also didn't add up. According to the fatality rate of the virus, there should only be a handful of people alive on the planet, but there are hundreds alive just in the New York City area!

The last quarter of the book did pick up a bit, but the characters continued to make decisions that didn't make sense to me. It was just too hard to get into this book when I kept questioning why things happened the way they did while I was reading it.

There are a lot of YA post-apocalyptic novels out there. Ashes, Ashes isn't bad, but there are others that you'll enjoy more.

I read this book as part of the Authors A to Z reading challenge. Next up: Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman? by Eleanor Updale.

September 1, 2013

Writing what you enjoy or writing what sells

If you've scanned the best seller lists recently, you'll find that they have been dominated by three types of books:
  • Books by authors who are already wildly popular, like James Patterson or J.K.Rowling (even when writing as Robert Galbraith)
  • Books in a popular series, especially if that series is tied to a movie release, such as Divergent or City of Bones
  • Romance books
If you're an unknown author like me who's writing a new book, there's nothing you can really do so that your book falls in the first two categories. I'm not a famous author and none of my previous books are popular, and neither of that is likely to change before my next book is published.

That leaves #3. The hot genre right now is romance. It may have started with  50 Shades of Gray, or it may have been the case for a long time without my noticing it. However, nowadays, I can't help but see how many romance books are making the best seller lists. In the author forums that I frequent, I sometimes read about new romance authors who've published their first book wondering why it only sold 50 copies in the first week. It takes me months to sell 50 copies of a book! Elle Casey, an author who I admire and whose YA novels I've read, didn't make the best seller lists until she released her first romance novel, Shine Not Burn.

All of these anecdotes make me wonder, why aren't I writing a romance novel? Why aren't I taking advantage of the popularity of the genre to make more money by writing romance? The simple answer is, I don't like to. I don't like reading romance, I don't like writing it, and I sure don't know what goes into a  romance novel. One good thing about being an indie author, especially one who has a full-time job to pay the bills, is that I can write what I enjoy writing. I happen to like YA speculative fiction, and that's what my novels have been so far. That's also the genre that my current work in progress falls under.

That's not to say that I should shun popular genres for the sake of independence, but there's no reason for me to chase a hot genre right now to make a buck (or thousands of bucks). And it's not like YA speculative fiction is unpopular. It's just not nearly as popular as romance. The second most popular genre today seems to be thrillers. That's actually a genre that I like to read, but I've never written a thriller. I've thought occasionally of trying my hand at a thriller in the future. It may happen or it may not. In the end, I'll do so if I find that I enjoy writing one and if I feel that I can write a good story that readers will like.