Tag: Books

(Non) Video Saturday: Book Publishing Paths via @JaneFriedman

As we all know, when it comes to books there is no longer a single path to publication. But what are the ways?  We know “traditional publishing vs. indie publishing” as those are the two categories usually mentioned; and they’re usually mentioned with the “vs.” between them.  😉 It seems there is more to it than that.  Don’t just look at the infographic (click on it for a clearer version), but check out her blog post on this at: http://janefriedman.com/2013/11/19/infographic-key-book-publishing-paths/







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Top 10 Most #Read Books (via @GalleyCat)

Top 10 Most Read Books

I found this on GalleyCat’s page from December 27, 2012 and it is listed as “by far the most popular (and controversial)” infographics they had posted that year. Jared Fanning created it using a list compiled by freelance writer James Chapman–based on the number of copies each book sold over the last 50 years.

The ranking and numbers in millions of copies:
1. The Bible (3,900)
2. Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tsung (820)
3. Harry Potter (400)
4. The Lord of the Rings (103)
5. The Alchemist (65)
6. The Da Vinci Code (57)
7. The Twilight Saga (43)
8. Gone with the Wind (33)
9. Think and Grow Rich (30)
10. The Diary of Anne Frank (27)

There are several that for sheer sales I would think the list makes sense, with but I have to admit I have some serious skepticism. In part because this reads as a very Western-centric list and I have to wonder that there is not a Chinese or Indian author with significant popularity who would achieve significant sales numbers and yet be a relative unknown in Europe and the United States.

What comes to mind for me are some of the amazing actors and actresses, and singers with massive followings that I grew up with overseas that no one had ever heard of here.  That is what makes me question this list.

What do you think?  And if not these, what books would you have expected (or wanted) to see on the Top 10 Most Read Books in the World List?

Guest Post: Tee Morris – Your Great Book Tour: It’s Gonna Cost You

DEL-coverUnleaded: Fuel for Writers is pleased to host Tee Morris as our Guest Blogger for Monday, March 24th, 2014.  Dawn’s Early Light: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel will be released tomorrow!  Tee was kind enough to give us some great insight from his own painful lessons. Book tours always sound so glamorous and who doesn’t love attending conventions? Fun, camaraderie, and hey, this is my job!  Right? Tee has some pretty sober commentary on what it is really like, and some tips on other, less pricey, means of connecting. Stay tuned and check out the giveaways at the end. And because we couldn’t resist, we had to give you a taste of the book before his guest post.

Working for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, one sees innumerable technological wonders. But even veteran agents Braun and Books are unprepared for what the electrifying future holds…

After being ignominiously shipped out of England following their participation in the Janus affair, Braun and Books are ready to prove their worth as agents. But what starts as a simple mission in the States—intended to keep them out of trouble—suddenly turns into a scandalous and convoluted case that has connections reaching as far as Her Majesty the Queen.

Even with the help of two American agents from the Office of the Supernatural and the Metaphysical, Braun and Books have their work cut out for them as their chief suspect in a rash of nautical and aerial disasters is none other than Thomas Edison. Between the fantastic electric machines of Edison, the eccentricities of MoPO consultant Nikola Tesla, and the mysterious machinations of a new threat known only as the Maestro, they may find themselves in far worse danger than they ever have been in before…

Your Great Book Tour: It’s Gonna Cost You

We’re only in the third month of 2014 and I’m struggling to get back into a routine. This year is a not only a year of change, but of new books, new possibilities, and leaps of faith. Everyone around me is telling me to cut myself a break but the reality is, just like staying in shape, I have to keep at this.

Just in this month alone, my wife of infinite awesome and I release Dawn’s Early Light: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel. Me. The Kiwi. Steampunk. The covers Ace created for the print and the audio are nothing short of beautiful. Then there is our appearance on James River Writers’ The Writing Show where we talk about being hybrid authors and how we get more estimated mileage out of our writing careers than some others. (See what I did there?) Then two days after that, Pip and I host a Master Class of Social Media for Writers.

All this is happening the week of Dawn’s Early Light’s release.

And did I mention that Pip and I launched a new business venture this month?

I need a nap.

2014 is a big step for me as a writer because I am dedicated to make this lifestyle a full-time one so I’m trying to take everything I have learned since 2002 when Morevi first rolled off the presses. One of the hardest lessons I learned over this decade-and-change of writing professionally is just how easy it is to find yourself in the red. Deep in the red. I’m not speaking of the red ink found in an editor’s pen, mind you, but the financial red of your bank account when it tells you in so many words that you—the professional author—are flat broke.

Between 2002 and 2004, I accrued over $30,000 of debt, and it took me just over five years to get myself out of that hole. An overwhelming majority of the debt was what I now look back on as a crazy gamble: book tours. I was, in those two years, averaging a convention appearance a month. This does not count the occasional bookstore and coffee shop signing. Some months, I stayed at home. Others, I had two cons back-to-back with one-night speaking events at libraries and colleges.

I am often reminded of just how tough it is to “give the people what they want” as tweets ask us when we would bring Eliza and Wellington to their neck of the woods. These tweets coming from the west (Washington), from the south (the Carolinas), and from points south AND west (Texas). We even have interest from across the Atlantic with WorldCon: London and EuroCon: Ireland.

But here’s the truth of it: Can we afford these trips? Right now, LonCon and Shamrokon are both uncertain.

With the hard financial lessons I’ve garnered over the years, I want to give new-and-upcoming authors and authors-to-be a realistic look at what taking Science Fiction and Fantasy on the road could cost you. The bills may vary based on who buys you lunch, how many visits you make to the bar (which for me is often), and how many rounds you feel like picking up at said bar. The costs for a book tour can quickly add up if you’re not paying attention.

The convention I’m using as the boilerplate is Philcon, Philadelphia’s premier Science Fiction and Fantasy convention, within driving distance of my home. Here is the breakdown of how much a weekend at Philcon costs:

    ▪       Gas: $38.00

    ▪       Tolls: $18.00

    ▪       Hotel: $273.70

    ▪       Food: $283.54

    ▪       Petty Cash: $60.00

    ▪       Grand Total: $673.24

Considering that Pip was with me, we ate in the hotel (with limited trips to the bar), and the hotel itself was reasonable. I’m sure we could have shaved off a few dollars here and there, but $600-700 for a con weekend within driving distance sounds about right. Factor in larger events (Balticon and Dragon*Con, for example) and you can easily tack on another $400-600 on that tab. Add in airfare ($225-500 per person) and now we’re doubling (or tripling) the amount.

Yes, I know—it’s a tax deduction, but that thinking contributed to serious financial trouble. While a book promotion is a deduction, I’m not getting all of it back. Only a piece of it.

I still believe that face time is extremely important to the author, especially those new to the market. However, it is more important to pay the bills, have a safety net in the bank, and make certain the roof you’re keeping over your head can be fixed at a moment’s notice.

Oh yeah, and writing. Writing is very important to the writer, last time I checked. And these appearances all have one thing in common: You’re not writing when you’re at a book signing.

With pop culture’s depiction of authors (see Murder She Wrote, any author character in a Stephen King adaptation), there is a common perception that this sort of marketing is the only option for promotion of your works. Since the advent of social media, authors have a variety of cost-effective ways and means to tour, all from the comforts of home.

Blogging. A blog tour, either organized by a third party or yourself, is when a series of blogs are networked and bloggers take turns providing content for one another’s sites. The topics can range from a casual topic that tickles the fancy to specific topics pertaining to a writer’s career. Blog tours can cover areas across your hometown, across the country, or even around the world, and in the end you find yourself with a healthy collection of evergreen content that can be used for your own blog.

Podcasting. Similar to a blog tour, a podcast tour can be arranged across different podcasts before and after a writer’s release. Your topics can range from a casual to specific with some discussion steering in or around your book. Podcasts can also be easily syndicated on your own blog and shared in your feed, introducing a new audience to your host podcasts after they have introduced yours to them.

Another promotional avenue that can be pursued through both blogging and podcasting is producing short stories set in your works’ universe. The content can be either created by yourself or other authors you invite into your world. Free short stories in either digital or audio formats are a fantastic way to introduce new readers to your worlds.

Social Media. Whether it is Facebook ads from your Page or running quality content from your Twitter, Instagram, a Google+ accounts, social media provides authors with a variety of channels not only with the ability to reach different audiences but to cast a wide net across the country and around the world. Promotions on these channels should not launch too early but can run throughout the month surrounding a major event or book release, ramping up the budget for dynamic social media ad space the closer a release or special event draws near. The content you push will not only be news pertinent to your own works but also other relevant links to your expertise. Aim for roughly three to five posts a week per platform, with that number doubling once we are two weeks out of the release date.

When it comes to promotion, whether it is a personal appearance or a podcast, authors must be economical. I look back on my schedule of 2002-2004 and understand why people described it as “aggressive” because a con a month was a gusty, rigorous, and risky move for a new author. I also shake my head because I could have — and should have — managed my finances with more scrutiny so I would have realized sooner rather than later the dangerous gamble I was taking…and losing. It was an education for me, a school of hard knocks that I would prefer not to attend again. Today, I pinch pennies, weigh the benefits, and make sound decisions. I have to use terms like ROI and USP. I have to stop being the artist and become a businessman. That is what this is, after all. The business of being a writer.

That doesn’t mean Pip and I won’t be at a con near you. You never know. A convention chair may be a huge fan of podcasting, or have a slight crush on Eliza Braun; and the numbers for Dawn’s Early Light might be enough for a committee to say “How about Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris? Do you think they are available?” And while we might not be able to come out to your part of the country (or the world), you could always brave the airports and come out to an event where we will be in attendance. Something I have noticed about the events we attend is an abundance of good times. So keep checking with us on my blog or Pip’s; and if fortune (or fandom) favors the steampunks, we might very well find ourselves announcing an update in our travel plans.

See you in the future? Anything’s possible.

Author Bio:Pip_Tee_byJRB

Tee Morris has been writing adventures in far-off lands and far-off worlds since elementary school. Inspired by numerous Choose Your Own Adventure titles and Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, he wrote not-so-short short stories of his own, unaware that working on a typewriter when sick-from-school and, later, on a computer (which was a lot quieter…that meant more time to write at night…) would pave a way for his writings.

Tee has now returned to writing fiction with The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series, written with his wife, Pip Ballantine. Their first title in the series, Phoenix Rising, won the 2011 Airship Award for Best in Steampunk Literature, while both Phoenix Rising and The Janus Affair were finalists in Goodreads Best in Science Fiction of 2011 and 2012. In 2013 Tee and Pip released Ministry Protocol, an original anthology of short stories set in the Ministry universe. Now in 2014, following a Parsec win for their companion podcast, Tales from the Archives, Tee and Pip celebrate the arrival of their third book, Dawn’s Early Light. When Tee is not creating something on his Macintosh, he enjoys a good run, a good swim, and putting together new playlists to write by. His other hobbies include cigars and scotch, which he regards the same way as anime and graphic novels: “I don’t know everything about them, but I know what I like.” (And he likes Avo and Arturo Fuente for his smoke, Highland Park for his scotch!) He enjoys life in Virginia alongside Pip, his daughter, and three cats.

Dawn’s Early Light will be available at:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17572901-dawn-s-early-light

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dawns-Early-Ministry-Peculiar-Occurrences/dp/0425267318/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1394038040&sr=8-1&keywords=dawn%27s+early+light+pip+ballantine

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dawns-early-light-pip-ballantine/1114829772?ean=9780425267318

AND if you’ve stuck with us this long there is a GIVEAWAY:

These giveaways are open to both U.S. and Canadian readers. At the end of the tour, there will be three winners chosen from this one Rafflecopter.


Three paperback set (signed) of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences
Signed Abney Park Poster
Signed Abney Park CD Ancient World
Signed coverflats of Phoenix Rising and the Janus Affair


Three paperback set (signed) of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences
The Extraordinary Contraptions CD
Signed cover flat of Phoenix Rising


Three paperback set (signed) of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences


Just link to the code: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/MDdhZGFkMTc1NzdiY2U0NzAwNTdmNTEyMmRhZGUwOjI0/


Photo by J.R. Blackwell

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Finding Profanity in a Book

My experience with books has been that if there’s a lot of profanity, I stop reading.  It often seems to signal a level of taste in the story that tells me I’m not going to like other things.  But in recently reading Pieces of My Heart by Robert Wagner, I’ve come to think that maybe it’s more of a story or character issue.

I remember the first time I stopped reading a book for the profanity.  It was the movie tie-in for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and it had quite a bit in the first chapter.  Yikes.  I didn’t realize it was that long ago — 1977.  But even then, I  had the sense the use didn’t add anything to the story.  Hollywood was just starting to get more profanity in films, so it seemed like it made it more easy to overuse it because there weren’t any boundaries.  It was more of, “Hey!  I can swear now!”

But it is a challenging subject.  The words can have high impact, but they also can offend people.  Depending on how they’re used, they can also distract from the story.  I think the fact that they can carry such an emotional connection and emotional baggage makes them a challenge to use, more so than other story elements.  That emotional part can override what’s right for the story.  A person who swore for the first time and is afraid someone will catch them is going to having a very different reaction than a person who grew up hearing it regularly from a family member.  I still remember seeing a little boy of about 3 or 4 who came out into his driveway and started swearing worse than most adults (a few years later, I drove by that house and there was a coroner’s station wagon outside it).

So it’s important to recognize that it can have that emotional baggage.  It seems like when the subject pops up, most writers will start argue about their first amendment right to use profanity, or accuracy of a certain type of character.  I even had someone tell me it wasn’t realistic to have a military character who doesn’t use profanity.  Excuse me!  I never used profanity, and I was in a unit where there was an unwritten rule about using it.  There were also some male soldiers who simply wouldn’t do it, and others who would do it as a matter of course.  So “all soldiers swear” cannot be an automatic assumption.  It’s an individual thing.  For all I know, it may even vary, depending on the service.

Curiously, in the discussion, few writers focus on the story or the actual characterization.  Maybe that emotional baggage?

But for me, it goes to what feels right for the story.  One of my favorite films is Jumping Jack Flash, starring Whoopi Goldberg and directed by Penny Marshall.  Her character swears almost non-stop through the film, but mainly it’s only her character who does the swearing, and other characters call her on it.  But it creates some of the funniest scenes.  I also watched the version with all the profanity cut out, and it lost a lot of the story and the characterization.

The same happened with the Robert Wagner book.  I read the book, enjoyed it, and then looked at the reviews.  I was surprised to see some reviewers complaining about all the profanity, and I was thinking “What profanity?”  Then I remembered that there was one chapter where the actor told a story about David Niven, and it was the story itself.  The only way to deal with the profanity in the story was to omit the entire story because without the profanity, there was no story.

But there’s also what the readers want to see and their expectations.  They sometimes get left out of the discussion in the quest to please reviewers or booksellers, or to be trendy.  As a reader, where do you draw the line on the profanity?  What kind of reaction do you have?  As a writer, how do you determine where to push that line and where to pull back?

Good news!  A flash fiction piece was a runner up in the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine Mysterious Photograph Contest.  Also, my non-fiction piece “War Happens” will be in Red, White, and True, which is being released by University of Nebraska Press in August, 2014.

Why a Nook Instead of a Kindle?

Sometimes it’s hard being a Nook owner.  I see an eBook I really want and sometimes I have to pass on it because the writer only published it through Amazon.  A list of free books comes out through SF Signal every day, and I’m amazed at how many are only available on Amazon.

Yet, it’s better than my first eReader, the Sony one, because they had to create a bookstore for the eReader.  I got that one at the time because the Kindle was way too high-priced.  I was having a hard time understanding how we can build color cell phones for $100 and an eReader in black and white cost $500.

The reason I got the Nook though is because of Waldenbooks, B. Dalton, and Borders.  The first two are bookstores I visited regularly almost my entire life.  B. Dalton was eventually bought out by Barnes and Noble, and Waldenbooks by Borders.  So they disappeared from the malls.

I liked Borders better than Barnes and Noble.  I liked the way they arranged their books, which might sound strange.  Borders put their thrillers and mysteries together and labeled it such.  With Barnes and Noble, it’s a guess as to where a thriller will land — might be in mystery, might be in general fiction.  Being able to find books is important!

But Borders went bankrupt.  Not because of a declining book industry but because of business decisions, and I still miss them.  That just leaves Barnes and Noble, and any local bookstores.  I don’t want Amazon to be my only choice for books.

I’ve seen what happens when there is only one choice.  Just look at cable TV.  I’m forced to pay a premium for basic cable and get a zillion channels I don’t watch.  The cable company’s response?  It’s too expensive to do smaller packages.  Yeah, they’d loose money.  Competition always helps keep everyone honest.

Besides, there’s something really special about wandering around a bookstore and spotting this new book that looks fantastic.  That’s hard to do on a website.

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Preserving the Right to Read

Ray Bradbury wrote a now classic book called Fahrenheit 457, where books were burned.  We don’t have anything like that in real life, but we do have books that people — sometimes well-meaning, sometimes not so well-meaning — try to get banned from the libraries.  From Arlington, Massachusetts:

  Books are safe spaces to experience new things. New thoughts. New ideas. Different points of view. 

Maybe that’s what scares people the most: The new ideas and different points of view.  It’s easy to feel safe if the differences in the world stay “out there” and pretend like they don’t exist.

Go out and read a book today.

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