Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Mash-up of an update. With numbers!

So, this post is going up on the last day of the first month my debut novel The Unknown Neighbor has been available. Some numbers may change before the end of the day, but these are close enough for blog purposes for now. I also thought I'd share a few things with you all regarding my blog and my writing habits.

For a start, this is what my writing (well, computer) area looks like.

As well as numbers on my book, this also represents the sixth month and 30th post I've been blogging. Over the past six months I've racked up over 1200 total views of my posts, which may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, but is still a significant number for an emerging writer. As well, every post now seems to be getting more and more views. My top three posts in the last six months, (drumroll please.)

Originality with 83 views to itself. I think I really hit the nail on the head with this one. It's a major concern for a lot of writers that are just starting out and in the post I discuss why that's unnecessary worry. It also hosts a picture which is a combination of My Little Pony + Jurassic Park and one of my favorite retorts from Red Dwarf.

News, Point of View, and a Picture! comes in next at 74 specific views. This post bounced around a bit between updates on current work, and a little exercise I came up with and have used myself on multiple occasions. I laid out the challenge and offered it up to readers to try and I think that was partially what brought it so much attention. This was also the first post where I actually included a picture so that may have helped as well, though a picture of body wash isn't particularly exciting.

Comedic Horror, Kinda is number three with a fair dip down to 50 views. Some of my posts can be a mess between all the things I want to say in them, this one I didn't have a clue what to talk about when I started. Because of that, it actually flows better than a lot of other posts, I think. While as much a look at the trend towards comedic horror in movies as a look at the genre in general, I think it makes for interesting reading. Still, I'll probably hit the subject again in the future so I can give it more than the few paragraphs it received here.

So thanks to everyone that's been checking out my blog and I hope people continue to discover and come back to see what I'm writing.

Now, onto my first book.

These would be my business cards, for the curious.

I don't have any information from other writers on which to compare numbers for other first book releases, but I think I've done pretty well since my first book was released on April 1st through Createspace for the physical copy and Kindle for the e-book. 

Going through Createspace and including an option to buy a physical version was a choice I made as being a little old-fashioned and enjoying being able to hold my work in my own hands. As well, I know a lot of people who haven't jumped on the e-book revolution yet and I didn't want to leave them out. 

That point seems rather moot when I add in that I went into the Kindle Select program, which makes the book a Kindle exclusive while you're enrolled in it. The plus side, that the program gives you five days during which you can make your book available for free. 

So far. I've used two free days this past month, one on the 8th in anticipation of a guest blog post on Robert Lee Brewer's page, and one on the 12th when the guest post actually went up. The first day I managed 584 downloads. Not a bad number, though not impressive by any means. The second day, however, I almost doubled that, with over 1000 downloads! Both of those were only for a 24 hour period as well, and for the coming month, I have a whole three-day weekend planned for a free promotion.

The point of offering the book for free is that after it comes back at regular price, it's placed higher up on the list of books than before, making it visible to more people. After those two days of free downloads, it came back and jumped in sales. The week after, I actually made it up to #205 on Kindle's horror e-books! I didn't break the top 100, but considering there are literally thousands of books out there, an unknown author placing that high with his debut novel just over two weeks after releasing it is really nothing to sneeze at.

Which brings us to today. Sales have slowed down a bit, but I'm still managing between 20 - 25 sales a week which I certainly won't complain about. For the first month it's available, I've sold over 100 copies between both e-books and the physical versions. Whether that will continue remains to be seen, but I have a convention to go to next month which should drum up more interest.

Month #1
Free downloads: 1638
Books sold: 132
Reviews on Amazon: 9

Not bad at all I would have to say. To all you reading this, who have spurred me on and/or helped me by reading my work, I say Thank You. Without the readers, there is no point in writing.

I would ask a little more of you though, if you've read the book, go to Amazon or wherever you ordered it and leave a review. Good, bad, in-between, as long as it's honest, I won't care. Mostly. Some people don't care about reviews, but some do, and for a no-name author just starting out, good or bad, we need all the attention we can get.

Thanks again, everyone.

~ Shaun
Email me!

"The best stories don't come from a desire for money, or for fame. The best stories come as a gift to the world. They come from a pure desire to create and share with everyone else."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Thoughts on bad reviews

Before I dive in, here's the link for my first interview as a writer. Check it out. Good stuff on there.

http://awesomegang.com/shaun-horton/

Now then...

You can't please everybody. That's one of the old sayings. Unfortunately, this week I picked up some proof as I got my first two 1-star reviews on my debut novel The Unknown Neighbor. Not gonna lie, that stings.

Not as much as this, though.

Now how to deal with such a thing? One popular author cites the quote above and says "Don't worry about it. I never read reviews of my work." After all, if your book actually IS good, then the good reviews will pretty much always outnumber the bad ones. Some particularly sensitive people might report it to Amazon and request the review be taken down. I've also heard horror stories of some mean-spirited authors collecting their friends and practically waging war against the reviewer, down-playing every review they've made and bombarding them with spam emails and other tactics. 

If you can't deal with people not liking your work. Quit while you're ahead. Free speech is one of those rights people seem to be particularly attached to, and if you put your work out there for public consumption, they're going to speak their mind on it. 

"But bad reviews hurt our profits!!" I hear the resulting cry. "If you can't say something nice, you shouldn't say anything at all!!" 

Suck it up. Nobody is going to make a real profit on one book, and if you have more than one book out, most likely you're not that concerned about a few bad reviews. (Now, if your book is 75% bad reviews, maybe you should just accept you've written a bad book or badly written a decent book.) I believe most of the people whining and crying about bad reviews are trying to claim to make a living off of one book. News flash, unless you wrote an automatic best-seller or hit a movie deal, (in which cases, you're unlikely to be fazed by a few bad reviews.) you're not going to be bringing in $3000 a month on one book. 

Again, I'm not going to lie, after the two bad reviews, my book has dropped in sales. Significantly. Like from 20 to 0 in the space of a week. It hurts, no bones about it. But I'm not going to whine that they shouldn't be allowed to talk about my work like that. I'm not going to start a smear campaign against the reviewers, and I'm not going to report them to Amazon calling them liars and tools. (Even though one review is a little suspicious.) 

What did I do about it? I looked up my favorite book of all time, Jurassic Park, and pulled up some of its one-star reviews. Now few people will argue it's a good book, even with its issues. But looking over its bad reviews served as a good reminder that not everyone has the same tastes in reading and what some will like about a book, others will hate. There will also be a percentage that just doesn't "get" the book as it's written. Nothing you do is going to appease those readers, and even if you wrote a book specifically for them, there would be other people who don't like your book. 

I've had this discussion on a few forums and you can't change people's minds about whether or not bad reviews should be allowed. Some people are just wusses who can't stand the idea that other people's opinion of their work could actually hold weight. Most of my views I've expressed here, I had before my book was even published and now that I am and I've gotten some bad reviews and seen first-hand the damage they can do to sales, none of its changed. 

So to sum up.

If you've written a best-seller, multiple books, gotten a movie deal, have three-times more good reviews, or you're just plain confident in your work; then you don't worry about bad reviews. 

If you're squeezing the life out of the idea that one book's worth of work (or less) can make you rich and famous; you're probably one of the ones that screams "Foul!" at every bad review. 

Of course, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

~ Shaun

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

An update, Advertising, and Cuteness.

In honor of the victims of the bombing of the Boston Marathon, I'm going to refrain from any talk of Horror today. There's more than enough of it that's going to be on television the rest of the week. As well, I'm not going to discuss the events that happened on Monday, April 15th any more than I already have.

Here's a Corgi on a swing.

So what else is there to talk about? Well, my short debut novel, The Unknown Neighbor, has been out for two weeks now and I have to say the reception so far has been amazing (at least to me.) I would have to get a view from some other authors, but for a short horror novel from an unknown author it seems to be doing very well. I've had some boosts the past week from a few days I offered it free for Kindle download and I've done some fair bits of promoting through here, my Facebook page, Goodreads and I got very lucky with the timing of a guest blog post on another more well-known author's page. I plan on throwing some actual numbers at you at the end of the month, but for now, lets just say it's doing well. 

My second novel, Class 5, is coming along at a fairly brisk pace and should also see paper this year if I can maintain the current speed. I'm giving you all a heads up right here and now though. This second work is action, through and through, with a fair bit (ok, a LOT) of blood and violence. So just because you liked the first book, don't take for granted that you'll like the second unless you can appreciate a variety of horror. 

So...there goes my attempt to not talk about Horror in this post. But look!!

Awwww....does everyone feel better now?

The rest of the time, I'm going to talk about advertising, specifically, what I've done to get my debut novel out there. There also may or may not be more cuteness to distract people, so bear with me.

1. I started way before the first draft of my book was finished, by following the guidelines set down by Robert Lee Brewer in his post "How to Improve Your Writer Platform in 30 Days". Even if I didn't have a book to sell yet. I knew one thing about my books that wasn't going to change, and that was my name. So before I even had anything to sell, I went about working on my Writer Platform and getting my name out there, letting people know I was working on my book and letting them follow along on the road to being published. 

2. Once my book was available I let people know, via most of the outlets I had cultivated through my Writer Platform. That included posts on my blog, my Author's page on Facebook and through the book forum Goodreads. I also let people (mostly friends) know through direct contact. Word of mouth is extremely important to any kind of advertising and it can quickly scale. One person tells another, who tells two more, etc. etc.

3. I was lucky enough to have my finished book fall around the time Robert Brewer was having a parade of guest blog posts detailing how they had used his ideas for building a Writer Platform. I submitted an idea for my own article and he gladly accepted and posted it. Sharing not only my blog with all his readers, but also the news that my book had been printed between the writing and the appearance of my guest post. 

4. I've managed to cultivate good relations with several places I used to work. (Tip: Don't burn bridges unless you know you won't be standing on the bank looking wistfully across later on.) To these places and the friends I still had working there, I ran out a few free copies. Not enough for everyone, but enough to cause conversation and for people to pass around if they so desired. 

5. Publishing my book on Kindle and opting into their Select program gives me the opportunity to offer my book up for free a total of 5 days over a three month period. So far, I've used two and both days seem to have great effectiveness. Joe Konrath's blog "A Newbie's Guide to Publishing" details in several posts how offering your book for free can later boost sales and I have to admit it seems to have worked a fair bit. The main idea is that, on Amazon, you have top lists for books which your work climbs as it sees interest. When you offer your book for free, it jumps up higher on the list and catches people's eye. After the free period ends, it hovers for a bit, making people look at it and become interested, spurring purchases. Nowhere near as many purchases as there were free downloads, but keep in mind a lot of the people who downloaded it while it was free did that because it was free, and many would probably not have given your work another glance if it wasn't. 

And that's pretty much it. I may redo this post later on if I try other things that work, but in the meantime, for all the budding writers out there, I hope I've given you some food for thought. 

Just look at that face.

~ Shaun Horton

There will never be this much cuteness on my blog again. Promise.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Originality

Few things get as much fuss in writing and creative endeavors as originality. Everyone wants to do something different, something new, something nobody else has ever done before. Everyone wants to be the pioneer that leads the way for the rest of the pack, something for which their legacy will be forever entombed in cement somewhere along with a statue to serve as a toilet for passing birds.

Now, before I get hip-deep in this little discussion; I'm not in any way, shape, or form, trying to say there is nothing new to find or try. I believe the capacity for the human imagination truly is infinite and that we will never reach the boundaries of what we can come up with.

Don't ask. Really, just don't.

The truly original storyline or piece of art is fast becoming a holy grail. Let's be honest, there is sooo much out there now that to honestly believe you've written something that is nothing like anything that's been done before is either arrogance or ignorance. Just because you've never seen or read it before doesn't mean it's not out there. Hundreds, if not thousands of new books are published each year, on top of what's been put out since the printing press was first invented. Can anyone really claim to have been through all of them to give authenticity to the idea that their new story is completely original? I don't think so. 

I think we reach too far for that golden ring which is true originality and miss a lot of chances that are right in front of us. How many manuscripts have gone unfinished or never published simply because they're "similar" to another work? Probably more than anyone would like to admit. 

I put this to you though, how "similar" does a work have to be before it loses its own voice? Every person on the planet is different (unless you believe in doppelgangers) and no two people are going to write something the same way. Different things affect us differently and while one writer might focus on the fear a particular scene engenders, another writer might focus on the courage of the individual experiencing it. Word choices, grammar usage, all change from writer to writer despite the conveyor belts that are the english classes we're put on through for all our school years. 

Just because two stories might boil down to the same idea, (for instance a small band of survivors trying not to die during a zombie apocalypse) the execution makes all the difference and creates two extremely different pieces. Now, just because these two works start with the same idea, does that mean neither one is original? I get the feeling that most people would look at this example and say "Yes, neither book is original if they share the same idea.". But, if you were to hand them two different books and ask them if they think those are original, they would also say "Yes, they're original because they're different books." 

Yeah, this'll do for the example. It's going on 2 AM, I think I'm allowed to get a little lazy.

They may have the same ideas, similar characters, and parallel endings, but it's really the meat of the story, not the specifics which really denotes whether a book is original or not. After all, for all their similarities, nobody will ever argue that an apple is an apple, an orange is an orange, and neither one is the other. 

So whether you're writing a book or putting paint to canvas, my suggestion would be to do what feels right to you and don't worry about how original it is. After all, anything you create honestly, with your own voice, will be something that nobody else will have ever created before or after, despite the similarities people might pick out. 

 ~ Shaun

Rimmer: "I'm a competitive man, Kryten. Always have been."
Kryten: "We're all very well aware of what you are, Sir."


Friday, April 5, 2013

The importance of learning for yourself.

Research. The very word conjures up nightmares of all-night study sessions in college and high school. It's dreaded in science classes of all ages and when we're all done with our mandated education, it's a word that we hope never to hear uttered ever again.

That's too bad.

Learning isn't something that ends with school. We learn every time we find out something we didn't know before and every time we screw something up. Imagine what you could learn by doing a little research just out of curiosity.

As a writer, I'm constantly looking things up and doing research to make sure I get my facts right. Even writing fiction, you need to make sure you have your information correct. Readers are already suspending some of their disbelief when they read the premise of your story, they'll get right away if your book is set on some distant planet where the laws of physics don't seem to apply or it's set in the house down the street from them. Once that world is set in their minds, you don't get much more leeway than that, so you need to get things right.

Imagine a universe where Mickey Mouse is a Jedi.

It's not just big details either, it's the little things. It's amazing sometimes what small details can pull people out of the story you've so carefully crafted just because they happen to know that you got that fact wrong. Even if it's a minor detail, getting it wrong can mean ostracizing an entire demographic of possible readers. Some people might think I'm splitting hairs here, but I've heard from a lot of authors whose email inboxes got flooded after publishing a book with a wrong fact in them. 

After all, the internet LOVES to correct people.

As an example, my next book follows an army special ops team. I know nothing about how the army actually does special ops, what their organization is or anything like that. If I got those facts wrong and published the book, not only would I be getting more information on them than I could ever realistically use in my life, I would be ruining the book for pretty much anyone that's been in the army. (I must admit as well to some trepidation as to what my search history now lists and I don't doubt that I'm currently being watched.) So research is very important for writers, even if we don't consider it as much as we should. 

People also should spend more time learning in their daily lives. Especially on the internet, things are posted, said and spread around as truth when in reality they are anything but. Still, people accept them as they are because they just don't know any better. It's really sad to me the kinds of things people believe because they just don't know better and are too lazy to find out the truth for themselves. There really ARE people who live under the opinion that everything on the internet is the truth. 

You won't see me bring up politics a lot in this blog, but this is the perfect example of what I'm talking about. Both sides just go back and forth with their rhetoric about how the other side is screwing people over and how they can make things better. They bring up arguments, points and counter-points that take real information and embellish and twist the facts to support their side even to the point where the kernel of truth that was there is now unrecognizable. And between these two sides you have people that are so set in the idea that one side always lies and one side always tells the truth that they are actually willing to fight to protect those twisted ideals. People just follow what they're told and never question it, taking what their side holds as the truth for gospel even when the truth is actually still somewhere in-between.

There are ways to fix this. Websites like www.snopes.com  and Wikipedia are both excellent sources of information on specific subjects and stories. Are these sites perfect? Of course not, they're still created and run by human beings after all, but they are a start. It's honestly a horrible thing that information is at our fingertips like never before and people seem to know less and less about history, science and the world around us. 

I'm not suggesting studying up on things and trying to be the best Jeopardy champion that ever lived. I'm suggesting when you see something that interests you, take the opportunity to learn about it. If you read something the scares you, go find out if it's true. Don't just take things for granted and don't just accept things as the truth because you don't want to be bothered to learn about it. 

So now that you're done here, go out and learn about something. Please?

~ Shaun

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Unknown Neighbor - Now available on Amazon.com and in the Kindle e-store!

Finally! My debut novel is out there to check out! I can't express what an accomplishment this feels like, check it out below.

Here you can find it on my author's page on Amazon.

For a taste, here's the front cover art and the back cover description.





Carla Carvine is a typical single mom, working full-time and carefully managing her money. She gets along well with her daughters and most of her neighbors. Her life may not be perfect, but her street and home are nice, quiet, and most importantly, safe.

When she wakes up late one night, all that changes. She discovers news about a murder on her street, shaking her world to its foundation, making her question the safety of her daughters, and the truth of the neighbors she thought she knew. As she struggles to hold herself together amid her fears and confusion, she starts to wonder if there might be even more going on that she's unaware of.

The truth she finds is worse than even her fearful imagination could have envisioned and as she is pushed to her limit, she wonders if she will have the strength to protect her daughters...

Check it out, enjoy, and don't forget to rate and review.