31 October 2011

View from the Free Train

A month ago Amazon price-matched Stray as a freebie.  Today I've unhitched from the free train, setting the price to $0.99 on Smashwords.  This will filter to B&N, Kobo, and Apple and eventually Amazon will price-match again - a process which can take between two days and several weeks - so if you were thinking of suggesting someone check out Stray, warn them the price will go up soon (and then again after Caszandra has been released, when I intend to set Stray back to its 'normal' price of $2.99).

For those interested in the value of the free train, here are the results of my free month.

In September (before free) I sold 35 books total on Amazon US (and some unknown small number on other sites where I can't view sales immediately).

In October (and the last day of September post-free) I gave away 14885 copies of Stray on Amazon US.  Many of these will have been to people who will never read the book, or who are not the ideal audience for my genre, but just sensibly collecting the freebies while they're there.

However, some obviously read the book, since I sold at Amazon US:
  • 638 copies of Lab Rat One
  • 48 copies of the Medair duology
  • 36 copies of Champion of the Rose
  • 12 copies of The Silence of Medair
  • 11 copies of Stained Glass Monsters
  • 9 copies of Voice of the Lost
The majority of the freebies went in the first week or so, and then the giveaway rate slowed down.  It's still going at a 100 or so a day.  Sales of Lab Rat averaged at over 20 a day for quite some time, but now have slowed to a little over 10 a day.  The cross-overs to my other books were a nice bonus, particularly since my fantasy is rather different from the Touchstone Trilogy, and won't necessarily work for the same readers.

Stray also went free on various other sites and (though I can't say exactly how many), I seem to have sold a few books on those as well.  I also picked up over 20 reviews on Amazon, and maybe a dozen reviews on other sales sites, book blogs, Goodreads, etc.  Reviews are valuable, both in explaining the book to potential readers and by sheer weight of numbers showing that the book has been considered worth reading.  I'd read that the free train does attract negative reviews and found this to be true - I picked up two more one star reviews (from people reading only the opening of the book), but this was more than balanced out by positive reviews.

The free train is a way to raise a book's profile, and get into Amazon's Also Bought recommendations.  I'm fairly sure that Stray will sell at least a few a week despite no longer being free.  It remains to be seen whether word of mouth will lift the series' sales again, but overall I would unequivocably recommend the free train - at least for the first book in a series.

23 October 2011

Illustrative Strays

When I originally began the Touchstone Trilogy as a fiction blog (which I called "Fallen Out of the World", btw), I wanted Cass to illustrate her diary occasionally.  Problem is, art is HARD!  I did do a few drawings, but eventually let the idea drop when Cass was rescued and drawing any of the Setari proved way beyond me.

But for the curious, here's a couple of pics:

The Tree Fox.  Pippins are smaller, with shorter legs.

The hat Cass tried to make out of sticks.

Cass' original lab rat logo.

All I need is a Lotto win and I can commission a super-luxury illustrated edition of the Touchstone Trilogy, with scads of lovely pictures.

Facebooking

My primary use for Facebook previously has been to play a large amount of Bejewelled and Gardens of Time, but of course it has been remiss of me not to set up some form of author page there.

Thanks to the kind prompting of Brooke, I now have an author page on Facebook:
There's also a "Like" button in the right column of the blog.

[Hopefully this won't make _too_ obvious how much time I spend playing games when I should be writing... O.o ]

18 October 2011

Touchstone Giveaway

Now that I've finally whipped up a blurb which isn't entirely cringe-worthy, I've posted a giveaway for the entire Touchstone trilogy in trade paperback at Goodreads. [It requires being a member of Goodreads to enter, but that's free and pretty good fun - I find I quite enjoy tracking which books I read, and that I read a lot more than I realised!]

 I'll also be running a giveaway of Caszandra (ebook format) on this blog in the last couple of weeks before release. Release is 25/26 November unless I manage to get through it quickly, in which case I will shift everything forward a bit. ;)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Caszandra by Andrea K. Höst

Caszandra

by Andrea K. Höst

Giveaway ends November 25, 2011.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

16 October 2011

The Thing v The Thing


(Not particularly spoilery)


I had never seen John Carpenter's The Thing, so in deciding whether to go see the prequel, not-John-Carpenter's The Thing, I decided not to watch JC's The Thing first, but instead watch it after.  Random thoughts:

- Special effects have come a long, long way.

- JC's The Thing is better than NJC's The Thing (at least at the beginning), but neither of them are movies I'm likely to ever bother watching again.

- The way the dog behaved (before the reveal) in JC's The Thing was incredible - easily the best thing in either movie. 

- The 'intelligent infiltration' aspect fell away in NJC's The Thing, and was the lesser movie because of that, but even in JC's The Thing (given that 'contamination' can apparently be managed with tiny amounts of exposure), our alien creature was far too inclined to flail partially formed limbs and rubber hoses (ah, tentacles) at every opportunity.  In both movies, the alien's behaviour is highly counter-productive to its own survival.

- There was a remarkable contrast in the way that the "infiltration announcement" was treated in the movies.  In JC's The Thing, an older male scientist announces that the alien is able to replicate the appearance of other living creatures.  Response: complete, immediate acceptance.  In NJC's The Thing, a young female scientist (specially flown in apparently for her ability to drawn lines on ice and nothing else) makes the same announcement.  Response: complete, immediate dismissal.

- Damn, people are dumb!  So you cut a huge alien creature out of the ice, and it breaks out and runs off.  And you go looking for it in pairs.  In the dark.  Without weapons.  Did you SEE the size of the claws on that thing?

On the whole JC's The Thing was more powerful (despite some truly bad special effects), but neither movie really made me care about any of these people.

11 October 2011

I Had A Tree



I had a tree.

It was one of the reasons we bought this house.

It shaded the hammock.

In Spring it shed all its bark;

Enough to carpet the entire yard.

And rainbow lorikeets came to ravage its flowers.

The rest of the year it just dropped leaves.

It was a good tree.

But the neighbours built a house.

And said the tree was dangerous.

And broke their concrete.

I had a tree.

08 October 2011

Ernest Cline: Ready Player One

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Ready Player One" is compulsive fun, hooking on to the classic zero-to-hero trope and mashing it together with huge chunks of nerdish nostalgia. Although it's weighed down a little by chunks of exposition, most of this will only appeal more to anyone who has ever played classic video games. This is a book which will have especial resonance to anyone who was alive in the 80s. I've certainly played, or at least seen, large chunks of the games, books, and movies referenced.

Our 'zero' is Wade, an orphan who grew up near-penniless in a stacked "trailer park" raised almost entirely in the massive online world of OASIS. The story is told in retrospect by an older Wade, which does cause a strange dissonance between the subject of the tale and the voice it's told in. He says, for instance, that Art3mis writes with an "endearing, intelligent voice", which just sounded so out of place for the person he was meant to be, until I reminded myself this was a future Wade telling the tale.

Wade is likeable, older or younger, though there is a certain level of "just happens" to his tale. One of the most l33t gamers, Haich, just happens to be his best friend. Art3mis, his crush, writes one of the most popular blogs on the internet, but of course Wade started following it back before it was popular. [And both his close friends, despite all the talk of not knowing who people really are over the internet, are within a year or two of his own age, whatever other differences they might have]

The story wasn't without niggles for me. Some of the chunks of exposition bogged me down a little, but particularly (as with many near-future dystopias) I struggled to _believe_ this world. "Ready Player One"'s world hit the energy crisis hard, and reality became unpalatable to much of the world's population. This coincided with the release of OASIS, which is basically "Second Life" as a 3D experience with better graphics, which then became the Borg, absorbing the intellectual property of existing MMO's and fan-based interests until every classic SFF and 80s obsession became 'planets' within OASIS' environment, and "the whole world" decided they'd rather conduct their lives through the filter of this particular online experience.

While no doubt such a thing would be highly popular, it just doesn't parse with "the whole world" for me. OASIS is an extremely US-based experience (with a side-order of UK and Japanese anime shown in the US). No other cultures are shown to exist in OASIS. There is no hint of a Microsoft to OASIS' Apple (just a soulless corporate takeover merchant), or much sign of different languages except, again, (English-speaking) Japanese.

It also seems that even the Western creative world froze in the early 2000s in "Ready Player One". There's a ton of 80s and 90s references to games, books, movies, but nothing past that. As if the only thing the world has invented between now and forty years into the future, the only new cultural obsession, is OASIS.

[Also slightly annoying was that all the "recommended reading" of SF authors, and favourite film-makers, were male. Not even Tiptree, Norton or the fall-back of Le Guin made that little list.]

But on the whole these are niggles. The zero-to-hero story, and the fun of recognising games played (especially a certain text-based Adventure!) trumped all quibbles and kept me reading late into the night.

View all my reviews

01 October 2011

Guerilla Advertising

You can tell the Kindle has Arrived in Australia when they have demo models sitting at the checkout at Woolies (supermarket).  I certainly blinked to see them there.  And then, of course, I did what no doubt every self-respecting author does when they see a demo model unprotected:



I could only add the sample, but it gave me a laugh, and it fell in nicely with my Touchstone Promotional Month, just begun today in lead-up to me releasing Caszandra some time in November.  This will include a giveaway at Goodreads of the entire trilogy in trade paperback, a limited-run ad, and me hauling out the biggest gun in the self-published author's arsenal, known among Indie circles as "riding the free train".

You can't set the price of self-published books as less than $0.99 on Amazon, so to get it listed free you have to spark Amazon's competitive edge by listing it free on Smashwords (and thus on Barnes & Noble, Apple, etc) until Amazon price matches.  Stray went free at US Amazon around 3.00pm yesterday and just under 24 hours later I believe a picture will tell a few thousand words...



Of course, vast numbers of free ebooks are downloaded without being read, but if even five percent of those downloads translate into someone reading the book, it's still more success in a single day than the whole of the 7 months Stray has been out.  [And about half of those sales of Lab Rat came in the last few hours - which I guess means there's some astonishingly fast readers out there.]  It's all about visibility, about results like this:



Stray will remain free for approximately a month (I say approximately because all this secondary price-matching stuff makes it very difficult to be exact - it hasn't been matched on the UK or German stores, for instance).  It will be very rare that I'll ride the free train, so it's a good time for the e-curious to check out Stray!  [Pity it's so atypical of the rest of my work, but heck, I might get a few cross-overs.]