½ Price Sale on Many of My Books!

You’re looking for some great beach reads for your Kindle this summer. You keep hearing about that author—what’s his name?—who everyone is talking about. That’s right, it’s Steven R. Southard, the one who calls himself Poseidon’s Scribe.

You’ve been meaning to read my books, but you keep thinking they’re so darned expensive. Well, you’re in luck. Your wait is over.

For the month of July only, Smashwords is offering many of my books (the ones in the What Man Hath Wrought series) for ½ price! That’s right, get two for the price of one.

Here’s how to take advantage of these great prices. When you click on any book at my Smashwords site, a message will appear telling you to use a specific code at checkout to get the discount.

Here’s the list of stories and their prices during July:

AftertheMartians72dAfter the Martians
$2.00

 

RippersRing5Ripper’s Ring
$2.00

 

TimesDeformedHand3fTime’s Deformèd Hand
$2.00

 

TheCometeers3fThe Cometeers
$2.00

 

ToBeFirstWheels4To Be First and Wheels of Heaven
$2.00

 

RallyingCry3fRallying Cry and Last Vessel of Atlantis
$2.00

 

ATaleMoreTrue3fA Tale More True
$2.00

 

TheSixHundredDollarMan72dpi-1The Six Hundred Dollar Man
$1.50

 

ASteampunkCarol3fA Steampunk Carol
$1.50

 

AgainstAllGods4Against All Gods
$2.00

 

LeonardosLion4Leonardo’s Lion
$2.00

 

AlexandersOdyssey3fAlexander’s Odyssey
$2.00

 

WithinVictorianMists4Within Victorian Mists
$1.50

 

WindSphereShip4The Wind-Sphere Ship
$1.50

 

Better take advantage of this limited time offer before Smashwords wakes up and realizes what they’ve done. Heck, you could buy all 14 books for a cool $26. How’s that for value?

Remember, go to Smashwords and grab these deals while they last. Tell ‘em you were sent by—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Of Brands and Platforms

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned ‘author branding’ a few times in passing, and wrote a post on ‘author platforms.’ But what’s the difference between the two, and is one more important than the other?

First, let’s define both terms. In Brian Niemeier’s post on the subject, he quotes Jane Friedman’s definition:

Author Platform = the proven ability to reach a target audience with visibility and authority

Niemeier then cites Joe Konrath’s definition of brand:

Author Brand = the reader’s linkage of author name with a positive reading experience

Author BrandTo understand branding, think of the effort major corporations put into getting customers to associate the corporations’ products and logo with a happy experience.

Philip Martin has listed the ways author branding is akin to religious faith, though I wouldn’t go that far, and the analogy with religions quickly breaks down. In my view, it’s better to think of branding in the context of corporations, such as those marketing fast food or soft drinks.

Even better, think of your favorite authors. Just the act of recalling each of their names evokes the linked memories of your satisfaction with their books. For each author, you form the mental gestalt of their genre, writing style, typical settings, and common character types. The whole pleasurable reading experience comes flooding back to you upon the mere mention of a name.

That’s the effect you want to create in your readers. How do you do that? First, write great fiction. Ensure some commonality between your stories, in genre, style, settings, or character types. The more of these that are in common between your books, the more effective your branding will be, since readers will better know what to expect. You’ll achieve the consistency necessary for closer linkage of your name with your body of work. Lastly, you’ll have to do the marketing necessary to keep reinforcing that mental connection of name to experience.

Once you achieve effective branding, where a tribe of loyal readers associates your name with a great reading experience, then they will spread the word about you, and through them you’ll reach new readers. It’s that ability to reach new readers that is your platform.

Having defined and described platform and branding, what is the relationship between the two? Obviously, they’re related and intertwined. If you have a recognizable brand, you’ll have constructed a platform, which further establishes and cements your brand.

Think of platform as being from the point of view of a major publisher. Traditional publishers don’t often risk publishing works by authors who don’t already have a platform. Think of brand as being from the point of view of the reader. It’s in the reader’s mind where the desired linkage of name and experience occurs.

In my view, brand comes first, then it builds your platform, which then reinforces your brand and they snowball together after that.

That’s it, pardner. I reckon you better stop readin’ this an’ start heatin’ up your brandin’ iron. You got a heap o’ work to do, and so does—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Writing Success, Thanks to Mr. Pareto

All things being equal, no two things really are equal, are they? That strange little fact, along with a rule thought up by an Italian economist, could improve your fiction writing, or at least allow you to manage your fiction-writing time and other resources better.

220px-Vilfredo_ParetoVilfredo Pareto came up with a principle now named for him—the Pareto Principle. It’s also called the “80-20 Rule” and the “Law of the Vital Few.” Pareto noted the following inequalities, or uneven distributions: only 20% of the Italian people owned 80% of the land, and in his garden, 20% of the peapods contained 80% of the peas.

It’s surprising how often this rule applies in everyday life, and it could even apply to your writing. Let’s say you’ve written ten stories and had them published, and over a given period, here were the number of sales:

Title Sales
The Wind-Sphere Ship 12
Within Victorian Mists 40
Alexander’s Odyssey 8
Leonardo’s Lion 4
A Steampunk Carol 9
The Six Hundred Dollar Man 6
A Tale More True 1
Rallying Cry / Last Vessel of Atlantis 2
To Be First/Wheels of Heaven 1
Time’s Deforméd Hand 4

If I sort the data in order from most to least, make a bar chart, and add a line representing the cumulative percentage, I get a Pareto Chart, like this:

Pareto chart

If these really were my sales numbers, I’d note it’s not quite true that 20% of my stories were getting 80% of the sales, but this graph still illustrates the concept of the vital few.

Seeing this data, you might be tempted to shift all your marketing efforts to the three or four books currently selling well. Not a bad idea, but I’d caution you to continue monitoring the books out at the ‘tail’ of the curve. Watch for a book that’s trending leftward and increasing in popularity.

If you had enough data on your (and others’) writing efforts, you might find:

  • 80% of your writing time is spent on 20% of your writing product. Thanks to Bob Parnell for this one, and the next two.
  • 20% of all writers achieve 80% of the sales income.
  • 20% of writers are sending 80% of the submissions to publishers.
  • 20% of your science fiction world-building will be enough to satisfy 80% of your story’s needs. Thanks to Veronica Sicoe for that.
  • 80% of your sales come from 20% of your marketing efforts.
  • 20% of your blog posts get 80% of the hits.
  • 80% of all fiction book sales occur in 20% of the genres.

I’d caution you not to take a strict interpretation of the Pareto Principle. It’s just a guide to show you the outputs of your efforts are not uniform, and give you ideas about where to focus. There’s a good critique of the Pareto Principle written in a guest post by author Debbi Mack.

For now, I think we’d all agree that 80% of the best fiction out there is written by 20% of the authors, especially that one who calls himself—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Writing Blurbs

Whether readers buy books online or in a bookstore, they look at the cover first and the blurb second. If the blurb doesn’t grab them, they move on. Don’t kill that sale with a bad blurb.

BlurbA blurb is defined as a short description of your book, written for promotional purposes and appearing on the back cover. That definition sucks all the life out of the word, though. Scratch out “written for promotional purposes” and substitute “written to seize the prospective reader’s attention and imbed an irresistible desire to possess the book and read every word.”

My primary publisher, Gypsy Shadow Publishing, asks for two blurbs for each book—a long one that’s less than 150 words, and a short one no longer than 25 words. Both of these are difficult for me to write, but the short blurb is the toughest.

What should be in a blurb?

  • Hint at the plot or main conflict.
  • Name and mention distinguishing trait of main character(s).
  • Describe the setting or ‘world.’ This is vital in science fiction and fantasy.
  • If available, include quotes about this book or your previous books.
  • If space available, include an author bio.

How do you write one?

  • Study other book blurbs in your genre. Learn the common words and language.
  • Write a summary of your book (if not done already), then shorten it down to its essence. What’s the book’s “elevator speech?”
  • Use image-laden words, those powerful words that speak to readers of the book’s genre.
  • Ensure the tone of the blurb matches that of the book.
  • Write several blurbs and combine the best features.
  • Set it aside for a few days, then read it again. If meh, rewrite.
  • Ask your critique group to comment on it. You are in a critique group, right?

Further Reading

You can find out even more about blurbs from Amy Wilkins, Marilynn Byerly, and the master of writer advice, Joanna Penn. I’ve shamelessly stolen from them in writing this post.

Examples

Here are three of the 25-word blurbs from my most recent books. These don’t contain all the elements noted above, but the 150-word, lengthier versions do:

  • Ripper’s Ring:” The ancient Ring of Gyges grants the power of invisibility to Jack the Ripper. A Scotland Yard detective tracks a killer who can’t be seen.
  • Time’s Deformèd Hand:” Time for zany mix-ups in a clock-obsessed village. Long-separated twins, giant automatons, and Shakespeare add to the madcap comedy. Read it before it’s too late!
  • The Cometeers:” A comet threatens Earth…in 1897! Of the six men launched by cannon to deflect it, one is a saboteur. It’s steampunk Armageddon!

With some practice and creativity, your blurbs should be even better than any written by—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Video Trailer for Avast, Ye Airships!

Here’s a marvelous video trailer for the anthology Avast, Ye Airships! 

 

The trailer was made by d chang, and the original music composed and performed by Dan Bernardo.

The music and video have a nice, ethereal quality. I love the sounds of—well, it sounds like rope tightening, or planks creaking—interspersed with the rush of wind. You really feel like you’re aboard a steampunk pirate airship. You may even be overcome by an urge to drop everything and buy the book.

I hope you do, and that you enjoy one story in particular, “A Clouded Affair,” by—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Facebook Launch Party

Attention, Poseidon’s Scribe fans, and Steampunk party hounds: there will be a Facebook launch party for the anthology AvastYeAirshipsAvast, Ye Airships! It will happen Saturday, February 28th, from 7:00 to 11:00 PM EST. That’s 6 PM to 10 PM CST, 5 PM to 9 PM MST, and 4 PM to 8 PM PST. You’ll have to calculate it yourself for all other time zones.

My tentative timeslot for this party is 8:30 to 8:45 EST, and I’ll put out a new post or update this one if that changes or is confirmed.

I’ve never participated in a Facebook party before, but my understanding is that it’s like a chat, where you can ask me questions. As a service to my fans, I thought I’d give you some tidbits about the story I wrote for the anthology. These may prompt some questions you can ask:

  • Story title: “A Clouded Affair”
  • Backstory and Setting: It’s an alternate 1920, where large, dirigible airships in Europe have been preyed upon by sky pirates for decades. They’ve developed strong defenses, which forced the pirates to become crafty, hiding in the clouds as a tactic. In the New World, air piracy is a more recent thing, so the big cargo airships fly without escorts, nets, or defensive weapons.
  • Main Characters: William Starling leads an aging gang of English pirates flying a steam ornithopter. They’ve abandoned Europe for the greater promise of American aerial loot. Last to join his gang was young Nell Remige, a female adventure-seeker who worked hard to become William’s first mate. If William isn’t careful, he’ll encounter Crank Deco and his Chicago-based gang who fly a modern, diesel-engine biplane. That could bring on a steampunk vs. dieselpunk contest in the air, the last thing William needs. As for Nell, if she and William somehow make it out of this alive, what does she really want?

Remember, this Saturday night is your big chance, if you’ve ever wanted to party with—

Poseidon’s Scribe

February 22, 2015Permalink

What Everyone’s Waiting For

Everybody’s talking about it.  It’s all over the internet, crashing servers with the added traffic.  Social media sites are abuzz about it.  You can feel the pervasive air of excitement and anticipation.

RallyingCry72dpiCalm down, world.  It’s just my next book.  You’re going to have to wait until the release date of March 1 to buy it.

Actually, it’s two stories in one e-book release, a two-fer.  “Rallying Cry” and “Last Vessel of Atlantis” are paired together.  What are these stories about?  Thought you’d never ask.

In “Rallying Cry,” an aimless youth named Kane Jones meets two old geezers who spin bizarre war stories.  They tell about having served in a secret World War I outfit in France—the Jules Verne Regiment—with ship-sized helicopters and mechanized walking tanks.   Just as an inspiring shout can move soldiers to action, perhaps all Kane really needs to turn his life around is a rallying cry.

Ever since reading John Biggins’ novel A Sailor of Austria, I’d longed to write a story set in a nursing home with an older character (two, in my story) imparting the memories of a bygone time to a younger character.  I finally did.  “Rallying Cry” takes off in different directions than Biggins’ book, of course, and I recommend you read both.

In “Last Vessel of Atlantis, a ship captain and his crew of explorers return to find Atlantis gone.  While facing violent savages, braving fierce storms, and solving internal disputes, they must somehow ensure their advanced Atlantean civilization is not lost forever.  Fans with long memories will realize this is a slightly revised version of another story of mine published as “The Vessel.”  The new title is better, don’t you think?

I explained the origin of this story in a previous blog post.  It was fun for me to imagine the difficulties faced by a small crew of sailors who find themselves the sole survivors of their advanced civilization, with all other continents populated by primitive savages.

If you can just hang on a couple of weeks until March 1, the book will be available here.  Deep breaths might help you cope with the anxiety until then, along with taking time to think about other, less exciting, things.  Your patience will be rewarded, and that’s a promise from—

                                                      Poseidon’s Scribe

February 16, 2014Permalink

It’s All You, Dave

Remember ‘Dave’ from the Staples™ TV commercial from a Dave - Staplesfew years ago?  The guy walked into an office where everyone looked suspiciously like him, and they all greeted each other by saying, “Dave.”  The commercial closed with the voiceover saying, “In a small business, it’s all you.”

If you’re a writer these days, you’re much like Dave.  After all, in your corporation of one, you fill the following positions:

  • President.  Congratulations! You made it to the top, the big cheese, the high muckety-muck.  The company bears your name.  You’re praised when it succeeds, and blamed when…well, let’s not focus on that.
  • Vice President of Purchasing.  In days gone by, this job entailed keeping your business furnished with a functional typewriter, paper, pens, a nice desk, and a comfortable chair.  Now the job responsibilities have shrunk to ensuring a functional computer and a solid Internet connection.
  • V.P. of Research & Development.  This is one of the best jobs in the company, the department doing all the research for your stories.  If you write historical fiction, this is particularly important.  It’s so much fun, however, that this job will take over your company if left unchecked.
  • V.P. of Contracting.  You may not be a lawyer, but you’re going to have to know some basics about contracts.  Just reading the darn things can be tedious—nothing at all like reading fiction.  Once you sign, you’re bound by that agreement.
  • V.P. of Production.  Finally, a fun job.  This is the one you signed up for.  You manage the mental machinery that takes ideas from the R&D department, plus some coffee, and produces polished prose.
  • V.P. of Marketing and Sales.  Your company won’t promote itself, that’s for sure.  If you contract with a big publishing firm, they’ll take care of this, but with smaller publishers or with self-publishing, you’ve got to get your name out there by yourself.  You’ve got to work the social media, speak at conferences, arrange book signings, etc.
  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO).  Unless you’ve got someone else handling the books, the ledgers, the taxes for you, it’s up to you.  Skill in accounting doesn’t always go hand in hand with skill in writing, so your on-the-job training better not take too long.
  • V. P. of Customer Service.  When your customers (readers) complain about the product, to whom do they turn?  You.  Although there’s no need to respond to negative reviews, you should respond to comments on your blog posts, and e-mails from readers.

All those fancy job titles lose some luster when they’re combined in one person, and that’s you.  However, look at the bright side:  decisions get made quickly in your company of one.  All those departments see eye-to-eye; they’re on the same page, so to speak.  No in-fighting, no hidden agendas, no stabbing in the back.

Unlike the conclusion of the commercial, there is no Easy button to push.  Purchasing is the only department Staples™ can help.

However, there are Help buttons, many sources of information to help writers figure out all these specialized jobs.  In fact my blog is dedicated to providing that information.

So, ‘Dave,’ get back to work.  It’s all you.  And I’ll return to my work, too.  At my company, it’s all—

                                                          Poseidon’s Scribe

February 9, 2014Permalink

Thanks to Your Efforts…

top10shortstorysfMy story “A Tale More True” was rated 4th among all Science Fiction short stories in the Critters Workshop Annual Predators and Editors Readers Poll for 2013.  I earned a badge signifying a Top Ten finisher.

My thanks to all of you who voted for my story.  With your help, next year’s readers poll will be even better for—

                                                 Poseidon’s Scribe

January 24, 2014Permalink

The Publishing Times, They Are A’Changin’

To distort a line from a Bob Dylan song, times are indeed a’changin’ in the publishing industry.  In the long march from storytellers to clay tablets to papyrus scrolls to bound books to electronic books, each technology has brought a revolution and we’re now in the middle of one.

Publishing

After Gutenberg’s printing press and right up until the Internet, the book publishing industry had optimized into a fairly lean and stable operation, full of specialized tasks.  Each task was fairly well understood.

The writer wrote, and sought an agent.  The agent sought a publishing house and handled all the contractual details for the writer.  At the publishing house, of which there were only a few big ones, the editor polished the prose.  Upon agreement about the text, the publisher took care of cover design, printing, distribution, and marketing to booksellers.  The bookseller catered to the reading public, offering books for sale from their stores.

Despite all the middlemen, that process had been pretty well honed such that readers could still obtain books inexpensively.

With the advent of the Internet, much has changed, and it’s got all of the middlemen wondering what their future role will be, if any.

For the writer, there are software word processors and Internet research options, but not much else has changed.  A writer still must create the prose.

At the other end, the reader has more options, including e-readers and audiobooks, but for the most part reading is unchanged.

But agents, editors, cover designers, marketers, distributors, and booksellers are all left wondering what’s going to happen to them.  These days, writers can connect directly with readers, bypassing all the former steps.  An author can work with a single website such as Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, and others, to get e-books directly to the reading public.

These websites offer many services, but the writer must do most of the tasks formerly accomplished by middlemen.  This includes reviewing the contract, editing, cover design, and marketing.

So where is all this going?  At what sort of equilibrium state will all this turmoil settle out?

It may be too early to tell, but I think there will be places for all the publishing middlemen in the future, assuming they adapt to an Internet-based world.  Some writers still need agents, editors, cover designers, and distributors.  Some readers still want bound books.  Much like the continued (but low) demand for horseshoes and oil lamps, there will be niche markets for all these functions.

As for me, I have yet to take the full plunge into self-publishing.  So far, with my short stories, I’ve been dealing with an independent ebook publisher, and with publishers of anthologies.

If Bob Dylan’s right, and the times they are a’changin’, where do you think the book publishing industry is headed?  What change would you like to see?  Leave me a comment and perhaps we can change things together, just you and—

                                                  Poseidon’s Scribe

December 29, 2013Permalink