Things I Learned from My Kindle Scout Campaigns

I think Kindle Scout is a great avenue for authors to pursue. In the process of my own campaigns, I’ve come to know several other authors. I’ve been selected twice and honored to promote many books, Scout titles and otherwise, on my promotion site readper.com. Throughout, in both running Scout campaigns and observing the campaigns of others, I’ve had the opportunity to learn some things and pick up what I think is useful information.

The purpose of this post is to encapsulate some of the things I’ve learned and pass them along to others who might be considering Scout for their own books. I’m focusing here on authors who are primarily used to self-publishing, with Scout being their first experience with a publisher.

With that in mind, to win a Scout contract authors should consider the following points. Some of these points are also applicable to self-publishing as well.

1. When submitting to any publisher, realize it’s not about you.
The first thing to do when coming from a self-publishing mindset and submitting to a publisher, is to accept that it’s not about you. Like when a husband and father comes to the realization family life is not all about him, working with a publisher should lead you to the realization they have needs too. Sometimes those needs don’t line up with what you have to offer. When you submit a book to a publisher, if they don’t need another in that genre at the moment, if they published one similar to yours a month ago, or if they just don’t particularly care for your manuscript, it’s not about you. So, don’t take it personally if they say “no thanks.”

2. Find out what the publisher wants.
Obviously, publishers want titles that sell. Amazon has some experience selling books, and in general, Amazon imprints like Kindle Press know what sells. We can glean some clues as to their thought processes by looking at the requirements for Kindle Scout titles. They want books in high-performance genres that are at least 50,000 words, and will be typically priced around $2.99. They are focused on quality covers and blurbs as well as strong openings that draw in readers.

Finding out what a publisher wants and tailoring your manuscript to meet their standards helps when you self-publish, too. If it’s working for a publisher, it should work for you. Strong covers, vibrant genres, and good price points are “universal truths” you can apply to self-publishing.

3. Don’t skimp on the cover.
Speaking of covers, when self-publishing or submitting to Scout, go on and spend the time and money for a quality cover that will attract readers. Your cover is the first thing potential buyers will see. Take a look at the top sellers in your genre for an idea of what a good cover should look like, then spend time on sites like 99designs and find something comparable or an artist willing to work with you. The cover may end up as one of your biggest expenditures, often second behind editing costs, but it also pays the most dividends.

4. Write a fantastic blurb.
One of the great things Scout does is force you to write a condensed blurb and one liner for your book. These require you to summarize things in a hopefully compelling way. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with your blurb. Start a thread on The Writer’s Cafe on kboards (be sure and join the discussion on the Kindle Scout thread while you’re there), or reach out for help in one of the many author community pages on Facebook. There are also services certain editors offer, where for a nominal sum (usually $20-30), they’ll read your book and write a blurb for you.

Whatever you do, spend the time and effort to craft the best one you possibly can before submitting. Blurbs are the second things potential readers will see when looking at your book.

5. Pay for a quality editor.
Yes, a publisher will have your work edited if they accept it. But you want to make a great first impression. You wouldn’t typically show up on a first date in sweatpants and t-shirt, then take a shower and change clothes later. No, you try to look your best from the start. Treat your book the same way before submitting it for consideration. Go on and pay for a good editor. If your book is not accepted by Scout, an editor’s work is not wasted money. You can self-publish it later if you want, and have a well-edited book ready to go.

6. Promote your Scout campaign, but don’t go overboard.
Another great thing about Scout is it gives you an opportunity to spread the word about your upcoming book to a lot of people. I run a promotion site, so of course I’d love if you used my services. But, I don’t recommend going crazy on Scout campaign promotions. For one thing, time spent in Hot and Trending is not the primary consideration for selection. The most important elements of your Scout campaign are (in my opinion), quality of the story followed by the cover, the blurb, and the compelling nature of your first chapter.

Take time to nominate a title on Scout and go through their survey for the book. It shows you right there in the survey what the Scout people think is important. The survey will ask you to rate things like the cover, the blurb, the text. Remember, everybody who nominates your book will take the same survey, and those statistics are likely to be examined at some point in the selection process.

If your story is good and the editors like it, they’ll select it no matter how much time it spent in Hot and Trending. And if your cover is good, people will click over to check it out without you having to spend a lot of money to convince them to click. And if the blurb and first chapter are good, they’ll be more likely to nominate you after they get to your page. So, product quality always comes before quantity of advertising when campaigning, in my opinion.

7. Spend more money on promotion after the campaign.
Whether your title is selected for publication by Kindle Press or not, after it’s published is the time to spend serious money on advertising. During the Scout campaign your ads buy attention. After it’s published, your ads buy purchases. Purchases return far more on your ad dollars than attention. Therefore, the bulk of your spending should be reserved for after the title is released, whether it’s published by Kindle Press or not.

Again this is just my opinion, but there is little point in spending thousands on campaign ads and having nothing to show for it later. If you glean some marketing materials like sign ups for your newsletter from the campaign, that’s good. But especially if you are a novice at marketing, don’t spend the bulk of your ad budget on the campaign. I think it’s better to spend in the three figures during the campaign, and in the four figures after release (or whatever amount you feel comfortable spending so long as the proportion remains heavier on the after published side rather than the campaign side).

But wait, you might be thinking. Why should I spend money advertising after Kindle Press selects my title? Won’t Amazon’s marketing machine start working for my book? Yes it will, but even Amazon’s marketing machine can benefit from some well-placed ads. If you stack some promotions the first week and month after your title debuts, you can leverage Amazon’s algorithms in your favor. Combining that with Amazon’s marketing muscle will help ensure maximum success for your new book.

Conclusion
Those are some of the things I’ve learned in my Scout campaigns and in helping promote the campaigns of others. I hope you found the information useful. If you’ve never submitted a manuscript to Scout, going through the process is enlightening, regardless of selection.

 

JR

 

Beginning Book Marketing Tips for Authors – How to Get Book Reviews

So you’ve got your book up on Amazon and you’ve noticed you have no reviews. But other books have reviews, and some of them have a lot of reviews.

Frustrated? Here are 5 popular tips about how to get more book reviews.

  1. Don’t worry about it. Reviews don’t necessarily correlate to sales. Some authors have books with low sales but they’ve elicited a high number of reviews. Other authors sell lots of a book but have very few reviews. Depending on your genre, your sales may very well not be dependent on the number of reviews you get.
  1. But remember that more sales generally lead to more reviews. Focus on getting your sales numbers up, and the reviews will follow. If one out of 100 readers leave a review, then get 1000 readers, etc.
  1. Hit up the book bloggers. Find the bloggers in your genre, contact them by email, and arrange to send receptive ones a copy of your book to review. This can be time consuming, but it usually does result in more reviews. Check out bookreviewdirectory.com for links to bloggers in your genre.
  1. Use a service like BookRazor.com. Book Razor scours public email addresses of people who have posted reviews for books like yours. You send Book Razor links to books like yours, they send you back hundreds of contacts (the fee varies based on the number of contacts, and hence reviews, you are shooting for). You send a polite inquiry to these people. A percentage respond favorably and you send them a review copy of your book. In a week or two, hopefully, they post a review.
  1. Cultivate your review team. Over time, as your mailing list grows, you can send out a request for reviews to your followers in exchange for a free copy of your latest book. This is one of the reasons developing an email list is beneficial. It’s easy to elicit reviews when you have a group of fans to ask.

Here are 5 “don’ts” you should be aware of when following Amazon’s rules:

  1. Don’t let friends and relatives review your books. This is one of Amazon’s first rules about reviews.
  2. Don’t do review swaps with other authors. This includes “review clubs” or by making one-on-one arrangements.
  3. Don’t ever use a pay service to receive reviews. These will have offers like, “Send us some money and we will guarantee you x number of reviews.” Services like BookRazor are different because they send you public email addresses of reviewers in your genre, and it’s up to you to reach out to them. But services that offer to get you reviews directly if you send them money, where you are essentially buying reviews, are verboten.
  4. Don’t offer to pay or reward anyone for reviewing your book. You can send them a free copy of your book, but it should not be in exchange for the review. It should be in the hope they offer a review. Amazon says, “Book authors and publishers may continue to provide free or discounted copies of their books to readers, as long as the author or publisher does not require a review in exchange or attempt to influence the review.”
  5. Don’t forget to keep abreast of Amazon’s rules. Here’s their FAQ on reviews for authors.

Beginning Book Marketing Tips for Authors – Email Lists


There are several email list enhancement services out there, many highly rated. But this blog post will focus on cheap and simple things an author who is just starting out can use right away. Book marketing need not be daunting, and initially need not be expensive, either. Listed below are some basic book marketing tips for setting up and enhancing email lists.

Email Lists
You wouldn’t think it, but time and again when talking with successful authors, their email list is a major driver of sales. Once developed, it’s a very powerful form of advertising.

It’s a numbers game. If an author has 10,000 subscribers, and 30 percent open her email, she is effectively promoting to 3,000 people. If ten percent who opened her email buy the book she pitches, she sells 300 copies with little effort and no additional ad purchase.

In this hypothetical situation, we see that even with as little as three percent of the total list buying her book, our author sells quite a few in one fell swoop. So if the list is large enough, she’s looking at decent sales from practically every email she sends out. And besides sales, she has the opportunity to interact with readers directly and keep them involved and interested in her work.

Email Marketing Services
You don’t want to send mail to your list using your own email address. You’ll want to use a professional email marketing service. They know how to avoid getting labeled as spam. If you send out tons of email from your own address, it will soon get blacklisted by major internet providers. So, stick with the pros to send out your newsletter.

The biggest and most popular email marketing service is Mailchimp. Some people hate the interface. Others don’t mind it so much. Either way, once you use it to send out a few newsletters, you get used to it.

Mailchimp is free for your first 2,000 subscribers. After that, it gets rather expensive. About that time, authors start looking for cheaper options. Many go to Mailerlite. A few go to Sendinblue. Both provide less expensive options for authors with large subscriber lists. Some people pony up the money to Mailchimp to avoid the hassle of moving their list.

Again, marketing is a numbers game, so in general, the more email addresses on your newsletter the better. However, you’ll spend more money on a bigger list. This often involves a monthly fee to your email marketing service based on the size of your list. So it may be prudent to prune names for inactivity after a while. Your provider will show who opens your mail and who clicks on the links. If you see someone who hasn’t opened your emails in months, maybe it’s time to take them off your list.

Developing an Email List
You can’t just send out a bunch of unsolicited emails saying “Buy my book.” That would be spam. But you can send your newsletter with news and information about your books to people who have opted in to receiving emails from you. So the question is, how do you get people to accept your newsletter in their inbox?

You should have a link to the opt in form on your website in every book. Many authors place the link in the front and back of their books. This will generate some addresses for you. You should also have the link in prominent places on your website. A pop-up form, with an offer for a free book or short story in exchange for visitors’ email addresses, is popular. Many email marketing services provide code you can add to your website that will send the info to your list as soon as someone fills it in on your site.

You can also use Instafreebie, and offer a book, short story, or sample of a book that is free to download. Readers give Instafreebie their address, Instafreebie emails them a copy of your work and then gives you the address. If you use Mailchimp, Instafreebie can send the addresses straight to that account.

Once your product is on Instafreebie, you need to get the word out to readers so they will know to download it. One of the best ways to do this is join a group giveaway.

Instafreebie Group Giveaway
Authors set up group giveaways all the time. Find somebody who is doing a giveaway in your genre, and ask to be included. Often, they will use a Google form where you enter the Instafreebie address and a brief description of your book. The host will take this info and add it to their giveaway page.

Instafreebie often features group giveaways on their home page. During the time it’s featured, participants agree to promote the giveaway on their social media, websites, and existing lists. People flock to the landing page, download the books they want, and everybody’s email lists grow accordingly.

One of the best places to network with authors hosting giveaways across multiple genres is the Facebook group Instafreebie Promos run by Dean Wilson. It’s a closed group and he has to invite you. But once there, you will find people running giveaways in a variety of genres. Find yours and jump in. Your list will grow dramatically.

Conclusion
There are other promotional services out there that will organize giveaways. Some of them involve participation fees that go toward rewarding readers with prizes or swag. Others promise to pitch your book to select groups who are very responsive to your genre. As you get comfortable in developing your list, these services are certainly worth investigating and can be very useful. But for just starting out, using Mailchimp, Instafreebie, and networking through Facebook should suffice.

Addendum
I want to add a great post recently written by Brian Ference that expands on some of the things discussed here, and better than I put it. Click over to his Step by Step Guide to Starting An Author Platform Mailing List.

Hashtags for Authors

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Collectively, hashtags make a classification system that group tweets together. Twitter users can click on a hashtag, or type it in the search box, and all tweets including the hashtag will show up.

Twitter accounts provide an easy way to connect with readers and other authors. So, how do hashtags work in the publishing world? We’ll look at some examples, and then I’ll offer a list of some hashtags that may be useful to authors.

Sometimes, especially during conferences, people will add the conference hashtag to their tweets. Others attending, or those who aren’t but want to keep up with what’s happening, can simply do a search on the conference hashtag and see all related tweets.

For instance, attendees to ThrillerFest, the annual conference of International Thriller Writers, may use the #thrillerfest hashtag. Since this year’s ThrillerFest was ThrillerFest XI, they may use #thrillerfestxi to discuss this year’s conference. Next year will be ThrillerFest XII, so they may use #thrillerfestxii next year, and so on (note capitalization doesn’t really matter on Twitter with hashtags).

Another use involves genre categorization, so those looking for titles in your genre can find related posts. Thus, authors may use #romance, #sciencefiction, etc.

Groups of authors may share a common hashtag. Rave Review Book Club members use the hashtag #RRBC. Authors published by Amazon’s digital imprint, Kindle Press, use the #kpauthors hashtag.

Through the use of third parties, Twitter accounts can be set up to automatically retweet messages with specific hashtags. Other times, some people voluntarily retweet items with certain hashtags. Thus we see hashtags like #IARTG (Indie Author Retweet Group) and #ASMSG (Author Social Media Support Group).

Are some hashtags better at reaching your intended audience than others? To help answer that question, you can look at sites like RiteTag which give real time stats on different hashtags and help you decide whether or not one is worth using in your tweet. For instance, RiteTag’s stats on #BYNR (Be Your Next Read) consistently show it’s a good one to have your tweet seen over time (as opposed to other hashtags which may be better for being seen immediately).

You can pay for a tweet to be promoted. I’ve recommended here that you do this at least once because when you are a paying customer, Twitter will let you see stats on every tweet you put out. That way you can see how many people clicked on a link you tweeted, how many people clicked on a hashtag in your post, etc.

You don’t necessarily have to have a huge following to make an impact on Twitter. It’s true that sending out a single tweet can be akin to spitting in the ocean, but there are ways to make your tweets stand out, and hashtags are one of those ways.

Don’t expect the world to beat a path to your book just because you’ve tweeted about it. But, do expect some people to browse the hashtags you include, and maybe see your tweet.

Below I’ve included a list of popular hashtags used by authors on Twitter. This is not an all inclusive list, but it does have many of my favorites. If you have one that’s not on here, feel free to email me.

#read
#books
#bibliophile
#reading
#bookstagram
#literature
#author
#libros
#promocave
#greatbook
#writerslife
#booklovers
#bookseries
#bookplugs

#BookBoost
#BookWorm
#BooksUnlimited
#bestbook
#bestbooks
#NationalBookloversDay
#IndieAuthor
#Indiebooksbeseen

#newrelease
#coverreveal
#free
#BookGiveaway
#BookReview
#WhattoRead
#Novel
#GreatReads
#MustRead
#5stars
#readme
#nextread

#publishing
#virtualbooklaunch
#bookbloggers
#bookblogtour
#blogtour
#bloggersblast
#blogginggals
#bloggerswanted

#action
#thriller
#mystery
#romance
#scifi
#sciencefiction
#cyberpunk
#SteamPunk
#fantasy
#FantasyLit
#sf – science fiction
#sff – science fiction and fantasy
#HighFantasy
#chicklit
#historicalfantasy
#horror
#horrorbooks

#kindle
#KindleScout
#KindleLovers
#KindleUnlimited

#CR4U – Clean Reads For You (G and PG books)
#SFRTG – Science Fiction Retweet Group
#IndieSFF – Indie Science Fiction & Fantasy
#SupportIA – Support Indie Authors
#IARTG – Indie Authors Retweet Group
#ASMSG – Author Social Media Support Group
#RRBC – Rave Reviews Book Club
#BYNR – Be Your Next Reed
#FARG – Fiction Authors Resource Group

#MustReadMonday
#TuesdayReads
#TuesdayBookBlog
#NewReleaseTuesday
#thrillerthursday
#FridayReads
#FeelGoodFriday
#SaturdayReads
#weekendreads
#summerreads
#summerreading

#amreading
#amwriting
#amediting
#ampublishing
#writingtips

 

Experiences with Kindle Scout: Perspectives from Several Authors

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When I first investigated Kindle Scout, I wanted to read what others had experienced. I wanted to see what authors who had been through the process thought about it. The purpose of this article is to provide several links in one place for those who are likewise interested.

Teresa Roman has an excellent introductory article about what Kindle Scout is and how it works at IndiePlotTwist.com. Her book Back To Us was published by Kindle Press in summer 2015.

Lincoln Cole is the author of the Kindle Scout winning novel Raven’s Peak. He devotes a significant portion of his website to discussion of Kindle Scout, offering sections on how the system works, running a campaign, the ins and outs of Hot & Trending, etc.

Donna White Glaser, author of A Scrying Shame, has a very interesting discussion about Kindle Scout on the Self Publishing Roundtable Podcast.

New Zealand author Katherine Hayton has a Kindle Scout case study over on Selfpublishingadvice.org. She discusses the success she experienced in publishing her fourth novel through Kindle Scout, The Three Deaths of Magdalene Lynton.

Some cautionary tales emerged after Kindle Scout debuted, mainly by people who did not go through the Kindle Scout process. Romance author Victoria Pinder shared her experiences with Scout after reading the cautionary tales and then basking in success when her novel Winter Peril was accepted.

Publishers Weekly had a nice little article on author T.L. Zalecki’s Scout experience. She details her promotional efforts during the scout campaign, and the resulting success with her novel Rising Tide.

James M. Jackson has written extensively about his Kindle Scout experience. On the WritersWhoKill blog, he discussed the inner workings of the Scout program and the campaign for his book Ant Farm as it occurred. On his own blog, he discusses the pros and cons of Scout for other authors, and details the financial aspects of Kindle Scout for Amazon and authors.

British author Lexi Revellian has blogged extensively about her Kindle Scout experiences from across the pond. In this article, she discusses earning out the advance for her book The Trouble with Time (Time Rats Book 1).

Another British author, Jacqueline Ward, wrote a series of weekly blog entries discussing steps she took during the nomination process to earn votes. This is her final entry. Her book Random Acts of Unkindness was selected for publication shortly after.

Another author who blogged extensively throughout the Kindle Scout process is Jim Nelson. You can find each article he wrote, newest first, here. His book Bridge Daughter came out summer, 2016.

R.J. Vickers posted quite a few articles about her experiences with Kindle Scout and her title Beauty’s Songbook on PaidAuthor.com. You can begin reading them here.

Alan Orloff wrote on the 7CriminalMinds blog about his experience with the manuscript for Running From the Past, a kidnapping suspense thriller published through Kindle Scout in early 2015.

Steve Vernon has been extraordinarily helpful to authors investigating Kindle Scout. He has put in considerable time helping others on the Kboard discussion topic, and has an excellent blog writeup of his personal experience and tips for others here. His book, Kelpie Dreams, was published through Scout in early summer 2016.

Courtney Hunt has a neat article detailing statistics from her Kindle Scout campaign. It gives an “Inside Baseball” look at the numbers. Her book, The Lost of Art of Second Chances was published by Kindle Press in November, 2015.

Jina Bacarr wrote about her experiences with Kindle Scout for the Orange County Chapter of the Romance Writers of America. Part 5 is here, with links to the previous articles. Her time travel romance Love Me Forever debuted through the program summer, 2015.

Jada Ryker has a fascinating four part series on how she won her Kindle Press contract, starting here. Her mystery novel “with a chick lit twist,” Take the Body and Run will be released soon by Kindle Press.

Jane Castel’s historical romance Dawn of Wolves was selected by Kindle Press for publication during a Scout campaign in summer, 2016. She describes the process surrounding her campaign. The book did not receive as many nominations as some others, but won a publishing contract anyway.

Jasmine Silvera writes how she had a most excellent manuscript, but did not know where to go with it. Submitting it to mainstream publishers would take years, and she had little to no experience with self publishing. Then along came Kindle Scout, a hybrid option. Her experiences leading to the choice to launch a Scout campaign are somewhat typical. Her book Death Dancer was recently accepted for publication by Kindle Press.

Finally lest we tilt completely toward Kindle Scout winners, here is an interesting article by Cindy Marsch on selfpublishingadvice.org about how to run a Kindle Scout campaign. Her book Rosette: A Novel of Pioneer Michigan was not selected, but the experience proved useful and the book has sold well since its debut in January, 2016.

So, there you have a broad swath of first hand accounts about engaging in the Kindle Scout process. Early articles on Kindle Scout were often written by people who did not go through the program. Now there are multiple accounts by authors who did go through the program, and prospective authors have a much better set of experiences from which to draw their conclusions.

Update: R.J. Vickers has an excellent article entitled An Insider’s Guide to Kindle Scout on Bookrazor.com.

Three Great Books for Aspiring Writers

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In a literate society, most everybody can read and write. Inevitably, when word gets out that someone is an author, someone else will inquire about how to go about doing what an author does.

I have found three books that make for a great recommendation list for any aspiring author. Combined, these three will guide the would-be scribe all the way from idea to finished product to marketing on Amazon.

First, the aspiring writer should learn how to write. The classic for this pursuit is Stephen King’s On Writing. Part autobiography, part “how-to” manual, King walks the reader through everything a good writer needs to know. If a college kid asks about writing for a living, this is the first book I point them toward.

Next comes the question of publication. These days, a new writer can make far more money as an independent than trying to spend years finding an agent and getting a contract with a traditional New York publishing house.

But, being an indie author who actually makes some money beyond enough to buy a six pack of soda each month takes planning and work. Lots of work. The best “how-to” book I’ve come across for this line of work is Write. Publish. Repeat. The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success by Platt, Truant, and Wright. These guys run the Self Publishing Podcast, among other things, and the book is full of practical information for indie authors. (Find current episodes on iTunes.)

Finally, a great book to fine tune your product is Chris Fox’s Write to Market: Deliver a Book that Sells. If you enjoy writing, and you want people to pay you money for what you write, then you have to write to market. You should approach novels with a plan, and Fox details what is needed for success.

There’s tons of other books out there to help people learn to write, write better, and sell what they’ve written. But these three are the essentials, in my opinion, to do well as an independent author.

Phasers in the Wild West

I still get hits to an article I wrote a while back, Lasers vs. Lead in Science Fiction: Pew-Pew or Pow-Pow?

In it I explored the use of gunpowder weapons in science fiction, notably in the movie Aliens but also on occasion even in places like the original Star Trek (where admittedly, they were described as antiques).

These thoughts were running through my head while writing the first Redwood book, which takes place on the second-farthest planet from Earth. At that distance, technology has to be super reliable, because fixing things that break becomes problematic. Consequently, a lot of the technology in that book is relatively simple.

I’m reminded of the whole discussion again thanks to my new work in progress, which is an alternative history where technology is about 200 years or so farther along than in our timeline, but most of the key events remain the same. The American Revolution was televised. Drones and AI played a role in the American Civil War, etc.

So yes, in this book, cowboys on the plains get to shoot “pew-pew” weapons at each other.

If you’d like a sneak peek at a rough draft of the first couple of chapters, jump on my mailing list and I’ll send it your way.

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photo credit: DAKKAR via photopin (license)

Advertising for Indie Authors Part 3: Twitter

Running an ad campaign on Twitter provides some interesting benefits. If you’ve ever tweeted something out and wondered how successful it was, once you become a Twitter advertiser you’ll get tools that let you see performance stats on all your tweets. That alone is worth the price of admission, in my opinion. Once logged into Twitter, under your Profiles and Settings, click Twitter Ads to get started.

Twitter provides some good info on what people do with your tweets. Under the Analytics page, you can see your most popular tweets, find the number of impressions they made (number of times they showed up for other people), the number of engagements, and the engagement rate percentage. Obviously, those tweets with a higher engagement rate are more successful than others.

Engagements include detail expansions, likes, when a user clicks on your profile from the tweet, retweets other users give you, clicks on links in the tweet, number of people who decided to follow you after reading the tweet, hashtag clicks, and engagement with media linked in the tweet.

Under Promotions, Twitter lets you pay to keep a tweet active. For instance, it can show up in your followers’ tweet streams or stay near the top of a hashtag list. Twitter will offer goals for your tweets, such as link clicks, or additional followers. These vary by price. The more you pay, the longer the tweet stays active, and the greater number of results. Ten dollars is a reasonable sum to play around with to get a feel for what you’re doing.

Twitter ads can easily get expensive, but they do seem to be one way to spread the word about a book. Again, book sales seem to be a numbers game. If a hundred people look at your book’s page online, maybe a few will buy it. Paying too much for people to look at the page will quickly outstrip the royalties received from sales.

 

The allure of dystopia in fiction

Many young adult novels these days seem to be set in dystopian near future worlds. Hunger Games, Maze Runner and Divergent spring to mind. So, what is the allure of dystopia, and why do so many speculative fiction authors set their works in such worlds?

Dystopia is the opposite of Utopia. Wikipedia has a nice entry:

… a community or society that is in some important way undesirable or frightening. It is literally translated as “not-good place” … Dystopias are often characterized by dehumanization, totalitarian governments, environmental disaster, or other characteristics associated with a cataclysmic decline in society. Dystopian societies appear in many sub-genres of fiction and are often used to draw attention to real-world issues regarding society, environment, politics, economics, religion, psychology, ethics, science, and/or technology, which if unaddressed could potentially lead to such a dystopia-like condition.

I think, for a writer, dystopian settings allow them to explore worlds that are familiar, yet different enough to engage the plot in compelling ways. Since the world is messed up, and the powers that be are making a mess of things, the protagonists can figure out ways to excel in the fractured environment while hopefully changing it for the better.

Check out my list of the top 10 best dystopian novels here.

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Read for free the first five chapters of my book Redwood: Agent of the State, a science fiction adventure thriller, on Goodreads or get the complete Kindle ebook on Amazon for only 99 cents

Lasers vs. lead in science fiction: pew pew or pow pow?

I recall watching Alien the first time. The late 70s were a grand time for science fiction movies. Star Wars took the world by storm, with light sabers and laser guns. Alien was different, though. Instead of zipping through space at warp speed, Ripley and friends stayed in animated suspension until arriving at their destination. Also in the movie and its sequels, traditional bullet-firing guns took out the aliens rather than futuristic laser guns.

Does a science fiction book or movie have to always use laser guns? Certainly Ripley’s guns, especially in Aliens, the 1986 sequel, were more traditional lead and gunpowder based, although they looked futuristic.

Sometimes traditional guns may appear in a futuristic plot as an anachronism, like in the Star Trek episode “Spectre of the Gun.” Other times, they may prove integral to the plot as in Star Trek’s “Shore Leave.”

There’s actually a lot to be said about lower level technology playing a role in a futuristic setting. Robert Heinlein’s classic science fiction novel Time Enough for Love was set in part on a “pioneer planet” where low tech was used for initial human settlement. Most famously, mules were used in place of modern engines. M.U.L.E. became an early educational videogame based on the idea.

So, sometimes a science fiction writer doesn’t have to incorporate high tech futuristic items. I think technology should fit well in the story. If that means less “pew pew” and more “pow pow” to make the plot go forward, all the better.

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Read for free the first five chapters of my book Redwood: Agent of the State, a science fiction adventure thriller, on Goodreads or get the complete Kindle ebook on Amazon for only 99 cents