Monday, September 30, 2013

Zombie City: Episode 2 now available!

The Zombie City series continues with Shane's escape from the murderous halls of the ZapPow! company offices. Unfortunately, the infection has spread to San Francisco's streets, and South Beach is now swarming with sick, blood-hungry hipsters. Shane finds temporary shelter, and other survivors, on the rooftops. But survival comes at a cost, and Shane's companions aren't patient with slow learners.

Click here to go to the Smashwords page.

Click here to go to the Amazon page.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Zombie City: Episode 1 is now available!

What would you do if all the hipsters turned into zombies?

Shane moved to San Francisco to write, following in the steps of his Beat Generation heroes. Twelve years later he's pushing thirty, flirting with alcoholism, and not writing at all. His life revolves around his dead-end job as a janitor at a tech startup, cleaning up after work-obsessed hipsters who dress like artists but think like yuppies. On the day Shane realizes he needs to get out of the City or give up on being a writer, a horrific infection breaks out amongst the startup workers, plunging San Francisco into a nightmare of cannibalism and murder.

San Francisco is dying. Welcome to Zombie City.

This is the first episode in what will be an ongoing horror-fiction series. It comes in at about 25K words (about 100 pages), and costs 99 cents. It's available now from Smashwords in pretty much every ebook format (including PDF, Kindle, Nook, and Kobo formats). It's also available on Amazon, if you want to buy from your Kindle or direct from their store.

The book should be available everywhere else (Nook Store, Kobo Store, iTunes) in a week or two. There are currently no plans of releasing the book in print format, but if you really hate reading from a screen, the PDF version at Smashwords is easy to print.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Athemon is free!

About a month ago I created the "Athemon and the Infernal Voice" ebook, and wrote about it here on this blog. Basically, "Infernal Voice" is the second chapter of Blood Brothers, in which the Athemon character is introduced. Although it's technically an excerpt of a larger piece, "Infernal Voice" works as a short story, with a beginning and a middle and an end. My plan was to make "Infernal Voice" available for free in as many places as possible, in hopes that people would download the story and then go on to purchase Blood Brothers, in order to see how Athemon's story progresses beyond his introduction. Creating and posting the book to Amazon and Smashwords was the first step. Getting it to price-match as free was the second step.

As far as I can tell, the second step was accomplished today. I checked my KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) account, and saw that 18 "free (pricematched)" copies of "Infernal Voice" had been downloaded. When I looked at the Amazon page for "Infernal Voice," it ranked #6,576 in the Free store, #39 in the Free Fantasy Coming of Age, and #41 in the Free Dark Fantasy list. I also noticed that one copy of Blood Brothers had been bought on Amazon today--possibly as a result of someone wanting more after finishing "Infernal Voice."

On a whim, I went to the Barnes and Noble website, to see if "Infernal Voice" was finally showing up as a free download there. It is. I'm guessing that its appearance at Barnes and Noble is what finally prompted Amazon's price match. I put "Infernal Voice" up on Amazon a month ago, but the cheapest price you can select for a book on Amazon is 99 cents. In order to get it to show up for free, on a permanent basis, you have to make the book available for free elsewhere, and then Amazon's bots find out and price match it as free on Amazon, too. The book has been available for free since the first day I put it on Smashwords, which was August 26th, but it didn't get price-matched at Amazon until today. I'm guessing that means Amazon's bots don't check Smashwords, but they do check B&N.

Anyway, here's hoping this free-excerpt technique helps Blood Brothers find some new readers.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Green Man

I've a particular fondness for the Green Man, a character that appears again and again in European mythology. He's most often seen as a design element in old Cathedral architecture, but his face pops up here and there, often in places you wouldn't expect it. His appearance can vary, but it pretty much always incorporates leaves and other vegetation as part of his facial features--sometimes the leaves are on vines sprouting from his mouth, sometimes his face itself is made of leaves. Sometimes he's scary looking, menacing, tortured. Sometimes he's mysterious.

I've already mentioned, in a previous blog post, some of the elements that inspired the Verlvik character. But that post grew so long that I decided to leave the Green Man out. Still, because of my love for him, I decided he deserved mention too.

His influence on the Verlvik character might be most apparent at the end of Chapter 14, in which Athemon sees Verlvik for the first time:

Something rustled again in the bushes off to his left. Athemon watched the bird, fascinated. And then he felt a tap on his shoulder. Confused, he looked around. Grillis was still asleep, sprawled on the moss bedding. Perhaps Athemon was imagining things. But then he felt a tap on his shoulder again, and looked down on the grass at his side.

Two tiny bird skulls lay on the wet grass.

Alarmed, Athemon leapt to his feet, his head swiveling right and left, scanning the close-growing shrubs, the broad-fanned ferns. His eye passed over one particularly large bush twice before he realized there was a person’s face peeking out through its leaves.

A face. A green face, as green as the leaves around it. It was watching Athemon.

“Grillis!” Athemon shouted, stepping back.

Instantly the fighter was on his feet, mace in hand.

The face grinned, showing teeth as yellow as old ivory, a gap where the left eyetooth should have been. The right eye was an uncanny green, clear and bright as a gem. The left eye was covered with a milky film. Thick locks of ginger hair, knotted and tangled until they looked like lengths of rope, framed the face and tumbled down over a pair of slight shoulders.

The person stepped out from amongst the ferns. He was about the size and height of a ten-year-old, but something in his eyes told Athemon he was no child.

There was a necklace of bones strung around the little fellow’s neck, a thick belt of knotted brown hair around his waist. He had a short, straight stick strapped to his back. Except for the necklace, belt, and a loincloth—which looked like it had been made from pounded bark—he was naked, and all over his body his skin was just as green and dark as his face.

He stepped toward Athemon, still grinning, and nodded his head several times. And then he spoke.

“Cernunnos,” he said. “I have been searching for you.”

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Snowball Theory

Why do some books sell like crazy, and others... don't? A lot of people have spent a lot of time pondering this topic, myself included. One idea that people seem to come up with is: book sales are like a form of mass. The more sales the book has, the greater its mass becomes. The greater its mass, the greater the gravity it exerts, pulling even more sales its way.

Take The Da Vinci Code as an example. It's one of the bestselling books of all time. It reached a sales momentum that actually seemed to propel itself forward to greater sales. Everyone was talking about it, and because of that, even people who don't normally read felt motivated to buy a copy, just so they could participate in the conversation.

That was back in the days of mega-bookstore dominance, when every town of notable size had at least one Borders bookstore and/or one Barnes & Noble, and the mega-bookstores fueled bestsellers sales. They offered bestsellers at significant discounts. They arranged the store displays in ways to maximize bestseller visibility.

Things have changed a bit since then. Book sales are no longer overwhelmingly channeled through the megastores. Borders went bankrupt, and rumor has it that Barnes & Noble is hurting too. Online sales, of both print books and ebooks, have claimed a growing portion of the pie. How will that effect the bestseller-phenomenon?

I think it'll make it even more pronounced.

From what I've seen, online booksellers tend to exacerbate many of the factors that feed into the bestseller-phenomenon. Mainly, they give more visibility to titles that are selling more copies. An online store is sort of like the old mega-bookstores, but instead of displaying books on tables and shelves, they're displaying the books on a screen. The more copies a book sells, the more likely it is to appear on the screen. And instead of dealing with a few dozen--or even a few hundred--people walking into a physical store on any given day, we're dealing with hundreds of thousands--even millions--of people looking at a screen.

Some readers might point out that there isn't one specific screen that all people see. Online booksellers like Amazon customize the screen to the viewer--if you like Fantasy fiction, they'll make sure that some of the books on your screen are Fantasy books. But I think that the underlying factors are similar. Not every Fantasy book you see on your screen will be seen by other people who like Fantasy, but there will probably be some titles that are shown to every reader of Fantasy books. And the more copies those titles have sold, the more likely it is that you'll see them.

More sales mean greater visibility. And greater visibility leads, exponentially, to more sales. I call it the Snowball effect.

What this means for self-published authors, in a practical sense, is that you're facing obscurity unless you can generate sales. If a month goes by without a title moving any copies, that book will receive none of the benefit of greater visibility. People won't see it unless they go looking for it, and since there are more than a million self-published books on Amazon alone, people are going to have to look pretty hard to find your book.

It's like your book is a pebble sitting on top of a snow-covered mountain. If no one buys a copy, the pebble just sits there. As the hours and days and weeks go by, your pebble sinks into the snow, and more snow falls on top of it, and pretty soon it's lost. What you need to do is prod at the pebble--try to get eyes on it, try to generate sales--and keep prodding until you can get it to move. If you only get it to move a little--sell only a few copies--the pebble loses its momentum and stops moving and starts to sink. But if you can give it a good jolt and start it sliding, it's more likely to have snow stick to it. And if it starts rolling down the mountain, and keeps picking up snow as it rolls, you've got the chance for it to become something big.

So, the initial efforts are the greatest. There are millions of pebbles out there--they're small and hard to see. Once a pebble starts rolling and taking on snow, you won't have to be as diligent to keep it rolling. It'll start to roll on it's own, at least for a little while.

And the good thing for self-published authors is the fact that we don't have such a strict time limit to get that forward momentum started. Physical books get taken off the shelves after a few weeks if they don't sell. Ebooks are still there, still available. We can keep trying to get the snowball rolling. Our main limitation is our own energy (which is a very real limitation).

Of course, that's how things look to me now, with Blood Brothers an inert pebble. I've never really got a snowball rolling, so I don't even really know if there is a snowball. Maybe I'm totally wrong about all of this.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

new description for Blood Brothers

So far I've written three different versions of the book description for Blood Brothers. The newest version is an effort to maximize "punch" and "hook-iness". I was hesitant to use this approach before because the book itself isn't written in such a style--personally I think this style is most appropriate for Suspense/Thrillers. But hey, I figured I'd give it a try and see if it affects sales. Check it out:

A Bloodmark--a dark red stain marring one side of his face. Grillis was born with it, and because of it, the townspeople of Bonnehampton want nothing to do with him. The only person to ever show him any kindness is his grandmother. And now she's dead.

Horn head. Goat-son bastard. Witch. Athemon is of the Caprine race, and because of that he's been called all of these things. But Athemon learns that his race can be a source of power instead of oppression. And when he starts to harness that power, his own family turns against him.

She is the mist that moves in the forest. She is the mother of all things. And She has chosen Verlvik for Herself, marking him in his body and his spirit. What She has claimed must be given. And what She has claimed is Verlvik's very life.

Grillis. Athemon. Verlvik. Three young men, struggling to survive in a world where monsters roam, and where men are monstrous. A world where a single stroke of an axe can start a series of events that will threaten an entire nation. A world where brotherhood offers the only hope of redemption, and brotherhood isn't something you're born into, it's something you earn.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Blood Brothers on Kobo

Blood Brothers has been approved for Smashwords' Premium Catalog distribution, and they already made it available on Kobo. Click this link to go to the Kobo page.

Athemon and the Infernal Voice, a free short story excerpted from Blood Brothers, is also available on Kobo. Click this link to go to the Kobo page for it.

I noticed that both books are listed as "#358 in Sci Fi & Fantasy, Fantasy, Epic Fantasy". I'm pretty sure not a single copy of either title has sold yet, and I wonder if the #358 ranking shows that Kobo doesn't have very many Sci Fi or Fantasy titles. The little searching I've done on Kobo sort of gives me the feeling that it's mostly a bunch of weird porn. (Before a title with my name went up, a search for "M.F. Soriano" brought up all kinds of crazy results; the most memorable being "Bred by the Yeti".)

I've unpublished the Athemon and the Infernal Voice title from my Nook Press page because I didn't have the option of making it free. Now that that title has been given Premium Catalog status on Smashwords, I'm hoping it'll find its way to Nook through that channel, and that it'll show up for free. Hopefully it won't take Amazon too long to price match (Infernal Voice currently shows up there for 99 cents).