Tag archive: Vampires

Fans Have Been Asking

Tons of fans have contacted me in the last two weeks to ask when the hell book three of the 1000 Souls will launch. Since I was the one who said it would be ready and available in July, I can hardly blame them for being surprised that it isn’t out there yet.

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Why I Decided to Write “New Adult”

No, New Adult is not fresh porn. It’s fiction aimed at a very specific age group, 18-25 years old, people who are too old for Young Adult but are still reading for fun and adventure. Many of this age group are fighting their way through university, establishing careers and courting mates. It’s that fantastic time when your whole life is ahead of you and anything is possible.

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Thanks to all for a Great Week

The launch of Generation Apocalypse has been a hectic and exciting time. While we aren’t even close to breaking Stephen King’s average sales for a single hour, it has been a personal best for me, and it was fun to see the novel quickly climb to 15,000 on the Amazon best seller rank. I admit that’s not record breaking for a lot of novels (No Easy Hope, a zombie novel I keep tabs on, has been around the 1500 mark for about a year) but it’s nice to see my sales improving with each launch.

15,277 Paid in the Kindle Store

Our bestseller rank has dropped over the last two days, but I still have great hope for this novel. I’m lousy at marketing, but I once heard a marketing guru state that anyone can be good at marketing if they truly believe in their product. I truly believe Generation Apocalypse is a great read. I can’t wait to get deeply into writing book three of the 1000 Souls, let alone book five.

But the fun is not over. We’re going to launch a website for the 1000 Souls where you’ll be able to take the Ericsians determination to find out what soul-portion you host. We’ll have Youtube videos of Bertrand Allan warning of the apocalypse. We’re going to make the books come alive for everyone, whether they’ve read them or not.

They next few months will be a great adventure.

But first, we’re going to fly 3000 kilometers this weekend to Montana to attend a Pearl Jam concert. What’s that got to do with anything? Nothing. That’s the point.

Getting the Marketing Right

I’ve got a confession to make: book two of the 1000 Souls series is ready to go, but I’m not going to launch it just yet. I apologize to my fans, some who’ve been on my Facebook page gently urging me to hurry up. I know I’ve missed several deadlines, and I hate to make people who are eager to read my novel wait just a little bit longer. I’m as eager for them to read it as they are.

Why am I holding back? Because I’m not good at marketing, and I’m trying to do better. Usually I get a novel up on Amazon as soon as it’s ready and try to do bits of marketing here and there after it’s available for sale. Besides being a challenge to squeeze these faint efforts in between the day job and the family, this half-hearted approach doesn’t build momentum. Every time I get the ball rolling, I wander off to take care of other things.

A traditional publisher would never ship a book out to stores without preparing the ground for sales. They send out copies for review, they get other authors to blurb, they take out ads, and they have a specific launch day and even a launch party.

Obviously I can’t afford ads in the New York Times, and Stephen King isn’t going to blurb for my book since he’s never heard of me, let alone  my books. But there are other marketing initiatives I can take.

First, I have a couple of websites I have to get in order: my publisher website and the novel site. I also need to write all the promotional material, which ends up being substantial, rather than adding it a bit at a time later.

Second, I need to do a proper launch. That means picking a launch day and letting people know in advance instead of after the fact. The idea here is to get all my friends, family and fans to purchase the novel on the launch day. This could give the novel quite a boost on the Amazon bestseller list. Is this gaming the system? You bet, but in a way that all authors and publishers try to get a bump in sales right off the bat.

I also want to contact each of my fans, especially the ones who have reviewed Apocalypse Revolution, and give them an Amazon gift certificate so that they can buy it on my tab. If they provide another good review it will be money well spent. Even if they just buy it, well, they’re buying it, which means I’m actually only paying 30% of the cost of the novel, and I get the bestseller rank boost. If you want a free copy, use the Contact Mike button above and let me know that you’re interested,  and I’ll see that you get one too. Fans, especially ones who’ve taken the time to write me and tell me how much they love my book, make this whole endeavor worth while.

I met with my business manager today over lunch (fortunately we’re married, so it was easy to arrange) and we discussed what had to be done by launch. After some scheduling debates,  we’ve pick a book-launch day.

So here’s the first big announcement. Drum roll please. Generation Apocalypse, Book Two of the 1000 Souls, launches on Friday, September 21st. It’s the best I’ve ever written. I love it. I hope you will too.

Look out world. Here they come.

Three souls that just click, but only when they're needed

Amazon’s Amazing and Scary Algorithm

This is a cautionary tale for indie-authors.

Up until around June 23rd, Amazon used to auto-suggest Apocalypse Revolution to readers. For instance, when looking at a product page for a similar horror novel, readers would see this header below the cover page and description  “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought.” After that comes the row of about one hundred clickable thumb-nails of novels usually in the same genre. When checking out other horror/scfi adventure novels, I often found that Apocalypse Revolution was auto-suggested.

But it all changed in the third week of June. Now I can only find one novel that auto-suggests AR: The Dragon and the Unicorn, and AR is about the 90th suggestion.

So what happened? Obviously this was not a human decision, except that a bunch of variables were programmed into the auto-suggest algorithm and my novel tripped one of them. Here are my theories:

1) Low downloads on a free day. This is my bad. I waited months for the new cover and then ran three free days close together. That’s a killer for downloads because the hard core readers who are looking for deals will have already downloaded your novel the day or week before and don’t need it. On the last free promotional day I ran there were only forty or so downloads, actually there were more in the UK, only the internet knows why. Here’s my other bad: I didn’t promote the free days at all. I was conducting an experiment to see which cover moved better, but of course I couldn’t run a proper control, so it was a pretty useless experiment.

Maybe the algorithm has a bit of code that says, ‘if free downloads are less than fifty in a day, stop auto-suggesting this novel.’ I’m paraphrasing of course.

2) The six month theory. The third week of June was six months since I published AR. Now I admit I haven’t done a whole lot to promote the novel, and Amazon helps those who help themselves. I’ve been cramming through book two, anxious to get it to market, anxious to get to book three and fill in the gap that takes us to Vampire Road, which is book four. So I wonder if I trip some piece of code that says, ‘if sales aren’t x by six months’ reduce auto-suggest function by an order of magnitude.’ In other words: dump it.

Whatever the cause, the results are startling. AR went from selling one or two copies a day to nada, okay, almost nada, since Amazon turned off the promotional tap.

I’m not too worried. Book Two of the 1000 Souls is the best I’ve ever written, and I think its sales will put me back into Amazon’s favored novel status. But I have learned my lesson. Amazon promotes those who promote themselves. Don’t leave it to luck, because Amazon’s Amazing and Scary Algorithm will cut you off and leave your novel to languish into obscurity. Fair enough. Why should Amazon have to do all the work?

So I’m thinking about book trailers, Shelfari, Good Reads and more. I’ll keep you posted. Any suggestions, send them my way. I’m not a natural promoter, but I’ll learn.

The Agent Query Letter of the Future

The horror! The eBook horror!

At last year’s Ad-Astra Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Convention, I went to the eBooks panel and was surprised to find only two of the five panelists in attendance. Even more bizarre, there were only three audience members, including moi. I thought that was weird given that mystery conventions around the same time were having packed panels on eBooks.

I’m happy to report that this year there are a few panels that give a nod to the eBook industry, but I still sense a conservatism, a reluctance to accept change. For instance, one panel is Now What: How to Get an Agent, How to Query, and Publishing Options.

Here’s the description:

Book written, and now what do you do? Just what does one do to get an agent? How necessary is an agent? Join our panelists and learn some effective ways to navigate what comes after.  How are you going to get someone to READ  your book, what options are available for getting your book to your potential readers.

What surprised me about the description is the lack of reference to eBooks. In fact, this panel would fit very well in the program book of Ad-Astra 1995 or even 1985.

Then I thought of the agent or publisher query letter of the future, or as I like to call it: now. It goes like this:

Dear Agent or Publisher:

My novel was downloaded over 2000 times in the last month on Amazon. It has earned over 80 five star reviews and 150 likes. I am currently in the market for a print publisher to take this novel into the bookstores.

But my wife has an even better query letter. It goes like this:

Dear Author:

I notice that your novel is currently at 433 in the Amazon Best Sellers Rank, which indicates that you must be selling 30 0r 40 eBooks per day. I also see that it has been well received by readers, earning over 80 five star reviews and 150 likes.

I’d be very interested in representing your novel for print and movie rights.

That’s right. Her theory is that even as we speak, smart agents are trolling the Amazon Best Sellers Rank looking for talent.

Last month my vampire novel, Apocalypse Revolution, was downloaded over 2000 times, but a big chunk of those were promotional freebies on free days. I did earn three five-star reviews and a bunch of likes, but I’m not expecting New York to come bashing down my door just yet. However, with each new review, with each new reader, I’m building a following. Fans e-mail me now and I e-mail back. I’ve started a mailing list to help promote book two when it comes out in June.

If I’m good and I’m lucky, perhaps by next year I can write the agent query letter of the future. But if my wife is correct, they’ll write me.

Rango – The Post-Apocalyptic Western

Johnny Depp has a knack for picking unusual and interesting films that don’t fit with the Pirates of the Caribbean box office smash, so when my kids wanted to watch Rango, I sat down with them, surprised that an animated Western even existed.

The Western, both as a film and novel genre, fell on hard times during the 1970s and 80s.  The movie-going and reading public had begun to realize the Indians weren’t nameless and faceless “savages,” but rather that they were actually human beings who had, and still have, a legitimate grievance.  The public lost interest in seeing John Wayne indiscriminately kill people who dared to oppose the US Cavalry or tried to stop the flood of settlers into the west.  The audience began to feel guilty.

Westerns didn’t die, of course, but they centered more on outlaws, sort of the Mad Max movies set in the 1860s.  Rango is definitely in the latter category.  Thugs dominate a town while controlling its most limited resource–water.  People are leaving, and everyone who stays behind owns a gun and knows how to use it.  During a gun battle, creatures on both sides kill indiscriminately–yup, just like John Wayne in a 1940s Western.

That’s when it hit me.  We’ve come full circle back to the Western.  Now the stick-figure enemies are zombies/vampires, but this time our heroes can kill without remorse.  The zombies are already dead and there are no land claims.  The humans who need killing are vicious Mad Max-type bikers with no morals. They would be locked up if only there were any jails.

But it goes beyond just guiltless killing.  It’s also the freedom that comes with being in a post-apocalyptic world, one where your credit card and mortgage are unimportant, but your next meal is always on your mind.  I read a great blog by author Steven Montano on the appeal of the post-apocalyptic world.  People actually enjoy the fantasy of waking up one morning to find out that they don’t have to go into work, that the boss is a zombie and their car payments can be skipped.  Indeed, if you can drive, you can grab any car you want, preferably a big SUV.  You don’t even have to worry about sustainable development anymore.  Better yet, in every post-apocalyptic scenario, you are the one who survives and gets to wield the shotgun.

There was a time when I wondered if this genre would peak at the end of 2012 and dip after the Mayan Calendar reset and the world didn’t end.  But now I believe that as long as the population density in major cities is on the rise, as long as consumer debt is high, as long as unemployment rates force people to stay in low-paying dead end jobs, there will be demand for post-apocalyptic fiction.  That’s what Rango is: post-apocalyptic fiction set in the lawless West.

I Just Found My 1999 Website

It even has a pre-YouTube book trailer starring a friend who thought the idea was fun.  Here it is in all it’s 1999 glory: The Book of Bertrand

It’s so antique it’s quaint.  I built the site as a marketing tool aimed at publishers and agents, thinking they’d like a quick and easy way of finding out more about my novel.  I didn’t know back then that the publishing industry is extremely conservative, and I’m referring here to the Webster’s definition of conservative: “tending to oppose change.”

I kept track of the page views of the site, expecting that some agents or publishers might visit it a few times, perhaps impressed that I was ready with such a great marketing tool.  Guess how many even looked at the page?  You guessed it.  A big fat zero.  In hindsight this should have allowed me to predict how the publishing industry would react to eBooks.  The internet is something that even back in 1999 a lot of people wished would just go away.

I even wonder now if having a website hurt my chances of publication.  The internet is a big and scary place if you’re resistant to change.  I love the internet because it’s changing all the time.  Imagine if I’d had Youtube back in 1999.  I wouldn’t have had to put up a tiny low res video trailer under the assumption that some people might still be on dial-up with a 56k modem.  Yeah, remember that?

I’ll work on a new book trailer with apologies to my friends Mark (who helped shoot it) and Gord (the star).  But the times, they are a changing, and they’re going to change again.  Who knows what the internet will bring in another decade?  My bet is that it’ll be fun and very cool.

Oh, and that very unprofessional voice over: that’s me.

Does the World Need Another Vampire Apocalypse Novel?

Vampire novels are everywhere.  You can find them in bookstores, at the library and on the electronic shelves of every eBook retailer.  They’re populated with sexy vampires, conflicted vampires and murderous (as opposed to vegetarian?) vampires.  The blood suckers can be found in space, alternate universes and historical fiction.

So why am I launching a vampire apocalypse novel now?  I first thought of  the idea of vampires having a communicable disease back in the eighties, but that theme is so ubiquitous now that it’s now far from an original concept.  My novel is a unique approach, but so are a lot of novels in the genre, those that aren’t simply quick rip offs of Twilight.  I could also point out that vampires are still hot, that the majority of the eBook reading public is under thirty years old and that there’s always room for one more vampire, but it’s not really why I wrote this novel.

It’s all about the 1000 Souls.  I came up with this concept, this new religion, when I met a Russian in Bokhara, Uzbekistan.  The man owned a small hotel.  He was smart, professional and a master at supplying  tourists with everything they could need at fair prices.  He reminded me so much of a South African caterer in Canada that I was stunned.  It was as if the two men had the same soul, even though their DNA had taken very different routes down through evolution.  These men didn’t look at all alike, but they were  the same guy in different bodies.

So as I wrote my vampire novel, the religion of Erics (yes,  plural) and the 1000 Souls was born, the concept that there are only 1000 souls spread between 7 billion humans.  Ever meet someone and swear you’ve met them before even though it’s not possible?  Well maybe you have, but you were shaking hands with a different host body for the same soul.

So each living human’s body is playing host to 1/seven millionth of a soul, meaning you could meet quite a few people with the same soul.  It also means that the souls are pretty thinly spread, which is where the vampire apocalypse comes in.  Kill off billions of people, and the remaining host bodies now contain denser souls.  This makes their human hosts more passionate and daring than our thinned-souled present day humans.

Confused?  Like any religion, the devil is in the details.  The Book of Bertrand is just the beginning, and religions evolve over time.  A quick check of the first centuries of Judaism, Christianity and Islam alone prove that the formation of a new religion is a tumultuous time.

But why vampires?  Why not a less dramatic plague like bird flu?  Because every new religion  at its beginning needs to confront pure evil.

But the biggest reason I’m adding another vampire apocalypse novel to the world, is because I enjoyed writing it.  I believe it was J.R.R. Tolkien who stated that he wrote novels that he would enjoy reading himself.  I enjoyed reading (and re-reading) the Book of Bertrand.  I really like Bertrand and his friends, and I can’t wait to write what happens in the next novel.

Forget the Romance. This is War.

John Locke writes in his book, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in Five Months, that the fastest way to get a bad review is to have a reader review your work who is not from your target audience.

I’ve received two lukewarm reviews from a couple of kind reviewers since yesterday, one calling my novel, Vampire Road, a “slow but interesting read,” a review that can damn a novel to oblivion.  The other complemented my writing but titled her review: “A good book but just not for me.”

That’s when I first realized that I’d asked the wrong audience to review my novel.  I’d asked fans of the vampire genre to review it, and now-a-days that means fans of romance.  The big clue came from reviewer asanders, who openly wished there was more romance in the novel.  Reviewer Karen West felt there was too much fighting.  Of course there was too much fighting if you’re looking for a romance.  I apologize to both reviewers for asking them to read a novel that, despite the title, is outside the vampire genre.

Vampire Road is about war, not romance, which is why it will appeal more to the zombie fans than the vampire fans.  These aren’t sparkly vampires who are desperately in love with teenage girls.  These are murderous vampires out for blood, but unlike zombies they are still just as cognizant as they were when they were alive.  They can plan offensives, set traps and conduct war on a large scale.  They can think ahead and react to situations.  They can be afraid.

My chief concern with this novel is that people will describe it as relentless and complain that it has too much action.  Fitz, the lead character, is fighting someone or something in almost every chapter of the novel.  It takes place in an isolated fortress under siege, so all anyone there is concerned about is surviving to the next day.  Romance is just too far from their minds.

If you lived in condo tower and woke up one night to the smell of smoke, would you spend anytime making moves on the woman in 4B or would you just help her get the hell out?  If you’re a half-way decent human being, you’re only concern will be to get out with as many of your neighbors as possible, including the grumpy old lady down the hall with the yappy dog.

Fitz’s and his friends are in jeopardy for the whole novel, and while his young hormones are in full flow, he simply hasn’t the time for the delicate dance that is the human mating ritual.

Reviewer asanders also complains that when romance finally does occur, it’s almost an after thought, and she’s right.  My characters have been up and fighting for their lives for over thirty hours.  When the chance for sleep comes they seize it, and even if they’re sharing the same bed there isn’t going to be much going on besides snoring.

I thank my reviewers for giving their time and energy to Vampire Road.  I think their reviews are fair and genuine.  Better yet, they have help me define my true audience.