The deadline for your final votes for the 2017 Dragon Awards rapidly approaches. The finalist list this year contains a fantastic summary of amazing works in science fiction and fantasy over the last year. I can highly recommend a huge number of the entries. They’ll prove well worth your time.
With that said, each of us can only vote for one of them. In some categories, that means difficult choices. Here’s how I’m voting this year. As it happens, my vote lines up entirely with the Happy Frogs suggestions. There’s a good reason for that. Someone over there has great taste.
Once again I have to choose between not only several great novels but also two good friends – Richard Paolinelli and Brian Niemeier. They’re both fantastic works, as are several others on the list (I confess, I have not yet read them all). But in the end, my vote goes to Brian. If you’re not up on the Soul Cycle series, you should be. And now you can get Secret Kings on Kindle Unlimited!
Once again there’s a hard choice here. The Correia/Ringo MHI collaboration is great (see my review). I haven’t finished Beast Master yet, but I’m enjoying it. But this one has to go to A Sea of Skulls. Vox Day’s Acts of Dark and Light series is simply one of the most interesting things going on in the SciFi/Fantasy world right now. Also, Correia asked to bow out. I know he’s relented a little since he’d share it with Ringo… but he’s still right that he’s already been duly recognized. Ringo will have plenty of other chances.
I don’t read a ton of young adult. But once again I’m forced to choose between two amazing works that also happen to be written by friends. Rachel and the Many Splendored Dreamland is a delightful read, and John C. Wright honored me with the very great privilege of a work-in-progress version of Swan Knight’s Son as a Christmas gift. This husband and wife pair are not only good friends, but Ms. Lamplighter also edited my own upcoming novel, War Demons. However, they made the choice easy for me by declaring their own wish that fans of either author vote for John. I could have gotten behind either book easily, but I’m happy to support their choice.
When I made my nomination list, I hadn’t yet read any Mil SF this year. Since then, I have had a chance to catch up on a few. I can easily recommend Star Realms: Rescue Run by my friend Jon Del Arroz.
Side note: if they’re going to break out Mil SFF as its own category, there are several other subgenres that should be broken out. Paranormal is the first that comes to mind, including both SciFi and Fantasy (as Mil does).
Kai Wai Cheah (also credited in some instances as Cheah Kai Wai, due to the confusion between Asian and Western surname customs) is one of the most interesting new writers out there. We have two of his short stories running on Lyonesse, and they’re easily two of the best we’ve got. No Gods, Only Daimons is a fantastic debut novel. Keep an eye on this author.
With respect to my friend Declan Finn, A Place Outside the Wild is one of the best books I’ve read all year – and I don’t even like zombie books. That’s how good it is. Get it, even if you, too, don’t like the genre. You won’t regret it.
There’s some good stuff in this category, but you really should check out Declan Finn’s vampire romance series. It’s worth the time.
I picked this one up after seeing it on the Happy Frogs list. Good choice.
Precisely zero of my friends or fans will express surprise that I picked Butcher here.
This category was easy. Everything else on this list either always sucked or has taken a serious nose dive in the last season or three. Stranger Things, hands down. This is the sole category where I diverge from the Happy Frogs slate, and I can only assume that’s because the frogs haven’t actually seen the show.
There are still too many films on this list I haven’t seen. I’m working to rectify that. And for the rest of the categories, I’ve been out of gaming for too long. I defer to the fine folks at Happy Frogs for suggestions.
Time for a writing update, and the news is good! The biggest news is that I’ve completed the first draft of my next novella, tentatively entitled Vigil. That title is subject to change, and the text itself still needs to go through editing. Vigil picks up one of the two paths left hanging at the end of War Demons and runs with it. The working start of the book description:
There’s a demon in the church.
When Peter Bishop received the Sword of Saint Michael the Archangel he understood right away that dragonslaying would be part of the gig. After all, he first bonded with the blade while fighting a dragon back home in Georgia. And when there’s dragonslaying, saving damsels kind of comes with the territory. But he never expected he’d have to rescue a damsel from a dragon under an ancient medieval church in France. On Easter Sunday. During the Easter vigil mass.
Now Peter’s stuck eighty feet below ground with the damsel, a faithless priest, and a little girl to care for. Thankfully, the stray dog showed up to help.
The extraordinary mashup of Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International and Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files continues in Vigil.
Look for Vigil in December. It still needs a strong editing pass, a cover, and some other work before release.
Next on the agenda is Spirit Cooking – book two of The Prodigal Son series and the direct sequel to War Demons. The outline is about 80% done, so I’ll hit the ground running later this week or early next.
Unlike many other indie authors, I’m actually a fan of Kindle Unlimited. I think it’s generally a good thing for indie authors. Believe it or not, I think it’s especially good for indie authors that don’t sell very much. The downside is, KU is harsh. Unlike straight book sales, KU makes a clear and important distinction between two groups: buyers and readers.
Authors and publishers aren’t used to tracking those two groups separately. In the information era, this is a critical mistake. In the past, big name authors and publishers could get away with selling books nobody actually read. Today, you can’t do that. If nobody’s reading your books, it will ultimately be the kiss of death in the only market that matters: Amazon.
Because whether you track the data or not, I can assure you that Amazon tracks the data. They know who buys your book. They know who downloads it for free. Thanks to the Kindle’s wireless connectivity, they can tell you who has ever bothered to even crack it open (whether you’re in KU or not). They know how many pages that person read – and more importantly, what page they stopped reading. And if people aren’t reading your book all the way through, they know it.
If you’re not selling very well, you can know it, too. Got a five hundred page book? Did you just register 500ish page reads? I guarantee you that wasn’t 500 people trying one page of your book and giving up. Somebody just read the whole thing. On the other hand, if you’ve only got 15 page reads, that’s not good. Somebody tried it and didn’t like it. Unfortunately, this data gets lost as your book becomes more popular. It’s hard to tease this information out when your KU page read count is several multiples of your book’s length. You’re back to guesswork.
And that’s where I think Amazon has missed the boat. Releasing some of this data, in an anonymized way, would provide valuable feedback that would help authors – and Amazon – make more money.
Here are some things that I’d really like to know as an author and publisher:
Each of these data points gives me a spot where I can improve my product – the book – or the marketing of it. If people aren’t actually seeing it, I can improve that end with external marketing. When people aren’t buying or downloading it, I know I have a presentation issue: my cover, title, description, or genre selection needs work. If people never open it, then I know I still have a presentation issue. When people stop reading it, then I know the book itself has problems. If I know where they stopped, then I know where it has problems.
In the digital age, I can actually update my books to fix these problems – but only if I can pinpoint and identify them! Amazon has this data. They could easily anonymize it enough to present it to authors and publishers, especially if they made you wait until you had enough sales before you could see it. I could live with that constraint.
But it’s frustrating as hell to know that data is out there and not be able to use it.
Three Silver Empire and Lyonesse authors managed to score an impressive four Dragon Award nominations between them. How’d they pull off this feet? Our own Declan Finn managed to score two all by himself!
Silver Empire authors who received nominations this year include:
Ms. Lamplighter also served as editor for my own upcoming novel, War Demons.
In addition, two future Silver Empire authors also received nominations this year.
Congratulations to all of these fine authors for their well-deserved nominations!
I’d also like to say congratulations to my personal friends and friends of Silver Empire who also received nominations this year: Richard Paolinelli, Brian Niemeier, Vox Day, and John C. Wright.
Thanks to some extremely wonderful assistant instructors, I went home from the dojo early last night and got to eat dinner with my kids. We also sat together and watched Doctor Strange. My wife and I had seen it before in theaters, but the kids hadn’t. Strangely, I never actually left a review of the film. It seems a bit odd to do so this long after the film’s release. Yet I also felt it worth adding a few notes to the general consensus of the film.
Yes, the critics are generally right. Doctor Strange is, essentially, the first Iron Man film’s plot redressed. Doctor Stephen Strange is a rich, extremely intelligent, highly successful man. He’s also more than a bit of an asshole. Then, of course, the film takes him on his journey to finding real meaning, becoming a hero, etc.
Like many other films, the villain is not so much underwhelming (Dormamu is actually pretty cool) as underutilized. He’s just not in the film enough. This is also a fair criticism.
But the film still succeeds, and I think it’s due to three things.
First, the film is fun and generally well executed. As I’ve noted before, execution counts for far more than originality. A big part of this comes from the filmmakers willingness to fully embrace Steve Ditko’s 60s and 70s era trippy artwork. They turned modern CGI effects on that style and the result is amazing.
Second, the climax of the film is extremely well done. I’m talking about one effect in particular: when the sorcerers fight while Strange turns back time itself. I’ve read scenes like this in written fiction before. I’ve never seen anything like it in a visual medium. They executed it flawlessly, and the end result is super cool both visually and from a storytelling perspective.
Finally, the resolution is very clever. Strange manages to find the one weapon he can actually use against an infinite power. As a viewer, you get a sense that his solution would actually work – yet it’s also quite unconventional. Best of all, the script sets up the solution in a very clever bit of early, seemingly throw-away dialog.
On a side note, my children loved it. Even my four year old sat glued to his seat for almost the entire film. He rarely does that for live action movies – he didn’t even manage it for Homeward Bound, a film aimed at his demographic.
It’s not a perfect film, but it’s easily a four out of five stars.
As a publisher, I get asked a lot of questions by a lot of writers. One of the most common is, “what are you looking for in a book?” There are a lot of answers to that – but most of those answers really vary from publisher to publisher. Yes, we all want a book that’s “good.” But good is largely a matter of taste. So exact details of what I’m looking for won’t match what any other publisher is looking for.
I can’t give you a magic formula that will generate a book I’d agree to publish. But I can give you a few magic words that will put your book on the top of the slush pile, and automatically ensure that I’ll look at it quickly. I can’t say definitively that this would work with every other publisher. It would surprise me, however, if this didn’t help you. Are you ready? Here are your magic words:
It’s a series, and I have two more books already written.
If you’ve read any of my marketing posts, you’ll immediately understand why this is so important. The thing is, the decision of which books to publish is a business decision. It’s not about which books I like. It’s about which books I can sell. And the simple fact of the matter is that a series makes far more economic sense than a standalone book.
The short version is this: if I have 3-5 books in a series, I already know how to use conventional marketing techniques to ensure that I have a very high probability of recouping my investment in your books. I can’t guarantee them blockbuster status. I can’t even guarantee them high sales. But I can probably make my money back, especially since we operate on a lean structure and keep our costs low.
That means there’s very little risk to me for taking a chance on your book. It’s still not zero-risk. Any book can totally bomb. And the books still have to be good enough. If the books suck so much that nobody will read the second or third, then having a series just means I’m losing money on three books instead of one. But if we’ve got three books, with more on the way, and the books are good… we can probably make something work.
This doesn’t mean your odds are zero with me – or any other publisher – if you’ve only written the one. It doesn’t mean we won’t look at your book. It also doesn’t guarantee we’ll accept your work. But for us, business logic dictates that an author with multiple finished books goes straight to the top.