Conventions from a Different Perspective: Shore Leave

Conventions from a Different Perspective: Shore Leave

Shore Leave was a few weekends ago, but I was a big backed up, and I wanted to do more than just update you on how it went (spoiler alert, it went well).

20245535_1081963961948376_2724749083115162963_nI met some great new readers.  Here’s a picture I took with a few. One was so kind, she continued to update me on where she was in the book each time I saw her. (She’d made it to Chapter 10 of Caught when I last saw her.) I’m happy to say I usually expect to sell enough books to make back what I paid for the table. This was true for Shore Leave as well. I even managed to get some autographs for my mom (she was a big Star Trek: The Next Generation fan).

I met several wonderful people at the panels I was on, two of whom (I happen to have their cards on my rat’s nest of a desk) were Kelli Fitzpatrick and Derek Tyler Attico. They weren’t the only people kind enough to let me hang with them during the panels, but I have their names handy, and I wanted to give them a shout out. Andrew Hiller was also just a few tables down from mine, and having him to chat with on occasion is always a good time. He was the one who gave me the opportunity to sit on panels he was unable to attend.

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All stock imagery from Pixabay.

I’m still working and learning when it comes to actually selling my books, but one of the things I like to do is peel back the curtain sometimes. You have to have a lot of conviction to just be a writer. Creating a book and revising it until it’s ready to publish is a mission of faith all by itself, but then putting yourself out there can be daunting. Remember, I’ve said conventions are my number one way to generate sales.

True though it may be, one still has to be willing to put himself out there again and again.  To help put it into perspective, I had a thought and acted on it (a bad habit of mine).

I decided to start tracking statistics.

I did that so people planning to do conventions knew that getting a table can work and be fun, but you have to be willing to work at it.

How I work. People are wonderful, and I think of them as compassionate people that are, at the very least, interested in the same things I’m interested in. Marketers (Steve, help me out here if I’m off) call this the funnel process, but I think of my process more like a series of doors.

Bob&Caught_Teaser Card FrontEvery person who walks by receives a little handout from me. People like cool, free things. I have cool chapter icons and covers, so I hand them out. When I do so, I simply say, “If you have a moment, I’d love to talk to you about my work.” That’s door number one.

When a person tells me they’re interested, I give them the pitch to each book. Then I tell them the sale I’m having (I always have a sale of some sort during a convention). That’s door number two.

If people like the pitch, I put whichever book in which they’re interested in their hand. That’s door number three.  If reading the first few pages doesn’t grab them, they probably say thanks but no thanks.

Every now and again, they show some level of interest. That’s usually when I direct them to door number four. I tell them about the electronic versions of my books and tell them about whatever e-sales I’m running. A great number of my online sales come from this.  I can’t get the numbers for The Journals of Bob Drifter yet, but I sold eight more copies of Caught in this manner.)  Yes, I want to make money, but what I want more is for people to like and enjoy my work. I don’t care if they buy the 99-cent (when it’s on sale) version of Caught, the free (with an credit) Audible version of Bob , or whatever. I write stories for people to enjoy, and I consider it my job to give them every option to choose from.

The thing is, it’s pretty daunting to hand out that many cards or book covers just hoping someone’s willing to give you a bit more time.

That’s when I decided to just keep count:

The first time I tracked it, I handed out seven book covers before someone listened to my pitch. The good news is, that person bought my book.

The next time, I handed out 12 bookmarks and gave five pitches before someone bought a book.  Sound pretty rough? Well, I don’t think 1-out-of-12 is all that bad myself. I’d actually be thrilled if that were the case.

broken-1739128_960_720I had to hand out 74 book covers and give 15 more pitches before I sold my next book. I won’t like folks, that was a pretty epic sledgehammer to my confidence.  I had that “I’m the nerdy kid at a junior high dance” feeling. I kept at it. Why? Well, for  one, what else was I going to do? Also, you’re going to get a lot of rejection and doubt in this field. You, frankly, need to be willing to fight through it.

The next time was a bit easier. I handed out 29 book covers and gave five pitches. Believe it or not, that fifth pitch sold two books.

Average it up and it took me about 31 book marks and seven pitches to generate one sale.   I don’t know what other authors do (and I’d be curious to hear about it in the comments below), but that’s actually a pretty good day for me. I would have done much better had I not left about 20 editions of Caught on the convention floor at AwesomeCon. (Just left them there. I completely forgot them.) For one, Caught was much more in demand at Shore Leave than it was at AwesomeCon (different audience). Also, bundling my two books as a deal tends to generate a few extra sales. Learning that made me want to crawl in a hole and cry for a while, but I had things to do.

I don’t consider myself super aggressive or even remotely aggressive. I try to be friendly, and I only communicate with people I think are at least willing to talk to me. My point is, you have to put yourself out there. I don’t think of it as 116 people didn’t want my book. That sort of thinking is poisonous. I considered each person I spoke to a new acquaintance made. Each sale was a victory in and of itself. If those sales result in good reviews, that’s all the more awesome sauce for my cool-guy taco.

music-545770_960_720So if you’re at an event, and you start to feel like that poor junior high kid who bought a brand new pocket protector just for this dance, get out on the floor and shake your tail feathers. Remember you love what you do, and you like people. The ones who get up and dance with you will be all the more special for it.

Thanks for reading,
Matt

Book Review: The Silent Tempest by Michael G. Manning

Book Review: The Silent Tempest by Michael G. Manning
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Cover and portraits of Michael G. Manning were taken from Amazon or his website for review purposes under Fair Use Doctrine.

Character:  I stand behind my previous assessment regarding Manning’s ability here. The characters in this story are all deep, and their motivations are heartbreakingly sympathetic. I found his relationships here so powerful. This book is truly about a father who would do any horrible thing if it meant extending the lives of his children. I worded that very carefully, and I stand by that clause. This book did a fantastic job of helping the reader spiral downward with Tyrion rather than contemptibly watch him plummet.

5215279Worldbuilding:  One downside to reading this trilogy out of order was a plot twist regarding one of the races in the book. I think those who choose to read it in order (though I’d still stand behind how I read it) will get a bigger thrill out of some of the revelations in this book. The plot weaving in this series is wonderful, and the world just feels like a place one could visit (if he truly hated himself).

Dialogue:  The dialogue in this book is solid.  One of the characters we’ve only seen glimpses of in the first book gets a larger role, and her character brings a certain wit and light to the story that brightens the tale. To have such a huge cast and still give them each a unique voice is no small feat.

Description: I honestly felt like I was there in almost every scene in the book. Weather I was trapped or fighting for my life, Manning has a cinematic voice that makes the reader feel like they’re quietly observing this tragic, dark tale.

Overall: This whole series is one of the best I’ve read in 2017. This particular book was a brilliant second act with equal parts tragedy and triumph. It’s dark, but touching. It’s exciting, but tragic. Those who love dark fantasy should check out all of Manning’s work.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Cover Art: The Approaching 2nd Edition and Segments of Bob Drifter

Cover Art: The Approaching 2nd Edition and Segments of Bob Drifter

I’ve been so excited to show you all these images. But first! A bit of back story!

A long time ago, in a desert far, far away…

A pair of friends met at a young age. One was named Matthew, the other Collin. Their friendship flourished over comic books (X-Force in particular). As they grew closer, they shared their dreams. One wanted to be a writer; the other wanted to be an artist.

Time passed, and they were separated, but they never forgot each other. Collin grew up to be an amazing artist for video games, and he even published a few comic books. When Matthew realized he was going to publish, he knew who he wanted to do his cover art.

A brief message over Social Media, and the friends were thick as thieves creating the work they’d dreamed of creating since they were kids. They’d stayed in touch, so when Matthew decided he wanted to re-release his first novel, he returned the the artist he’d first talked about working with so long ago…

Ok, seriously, that’s just about how it went. That said, I reached out to Collin because I believe in consistency. I knew I was going to re-release Bob in a few ways. The first would be the second edition of the complete novel. I also knew I was going to release each part (Bob is composed of three very distinct parts) to allow people to read smaller chunks with less immediate financial obligation. Collin was so gracious. You see, he’s getting ready to get married, and he somehow squirreled enough time between wedding plans and home renovation projects to create these new covers for the electronic segments of Bob’s little journey.

I’m proud to present them to you. (NOTE: These images are intellectual property of M.L.S. Weech. Any reuse or distribution of these images without his consent is in violation of his rights.)

AnUnusualOccupation
Cover for An Unusual Occupation. Art by Collin Fogel.

The first part (for those who haven’t already read the book) is titled An Unusual Occupation. This is a bit of an homage to a popular book that inspired this one. I’m honored to say some have compared the two books quite favorably. This moment, like the image for the complete edition’s cover, is subtle but important. It’s a moment of choice for Bob. Collin did a great job of showing that conflict.

 

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The cover art for Bob’s Greatest Mistake. Cover art by Collin Fogel.

 

Isn’t this one awesome?! Collin busted his tail on here trying to recreate this scene, which is the climactic end to the second part of the book. I especially love the blacksoul leaping from Grimm’s cloak.

SomethingAlwaysRemains
The Cover for Something Always Remains. Cover art by Collin Fogel.

I really struggled between a few scenes here. But I felt that the final conflict between Bob and Grimm was just too good to pass up. This final showdown had a ton of buildup, so I felt it was right that this encounter be how the last chapter is presented. The detail here is awesome, and the sense of motion is perfect.

I can’t honestly express how happy I am with these covers. The manuscript is with Sara, my wonderful and overworked editor. I’m hoping to have it back from her by late August. Then it’s up to me to format and get it turned in ASAP. I’d like to get this done by November. That feels like an ambitious but achievable goal.  I’ll keep you all updated on that progress.

Please offer your opinions of these below. I’d like to know what those who’ve read the book think. I’m absolutely in love with these covers, and I hope you all love them too.

Thanks for reading,

V/R
Matt

Book Review: Conflict and Suspense by James Scott Bell

Book Review: Conflict and Suspense by James Scott Bell
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This cover image and the image of the author were taken from his Amazon author page for review purposes under fair use doctrine.

While doing an Alpha Reading for Sojourn in CaptivityQuintessential Editor recommended this to me because I’d never written in first person before, and I had quite a few kinks to work out.

Conflict and Suspense, was full of tidbits and insights that I found valuable as a writer.

I want to touch on two things that really stood out to me. There’s really a lot to glean from that book, and I honestly recommend it, especially for those working on improving their outlining skills.

Write first. Explain later: I’m a fan of long fiction, and, to be honest, I don’t know how many people abide by this rule AFTER they’re established.  But it’s  still a valid point.  Writers feel like they have to really get their readers to connect with those characters, so they tend to want to draw out a moment or give back story. What that usually ends up becoming is a bunch of exposition that just bogs the story down.  I saw this in practice with my Beta Readers for Sojourn in Captivity.  Most of them liked the story (I may even go so far as to say loved it), but to an email they all said the beginning was too much. I wanted to establish Elele’s relationship with her family, her spoiled upbringing, and her skill with math.  I also wanted to do some world building.  This only served to give my readers a large terminology lesson before the book started moving. I tell my students this many times: The delete key is almost always the answer to your problems.  What’s now the first segment, dives right in. I take the time to explain a few things here or there, but I start the story with the tension and let it build to her confrontation with the recognized god of her alien race.  My editor liked it much better.

That brings me to the second point of discussion I appreciated in Bell’s book.

91hAFbJPSbL._UX250_Happy people in Happy land: That’s what he calls an overdone part of a book. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about that segment. What it gave me was food for thought. The entire book is essentially about keeping the tension and conflict going. With no tension or conflict in the beginning (i.e. happy people in happy land), what concern should the reader have for the characters? Why should they keep reading.

Here’s my example:  Do you go for walks? I do. Do you stop randomly and stare at the window of a quite home? I don’t. But what do you tend to do if you hear screaming and shouting? See where I’m going?

I thought about that segment of the book and felt the desire to argue. What I ended up doing was changing my inference.  I wouldn’t say Bell goes so far as to tell you to start off with miserable people in miserable land. Instead, show the scene that’s true to the arc of the character, but make sure you give the readers that insight as to the conflict that represents the burning embers of the inciting incident. If there is tension in the characters’ minds or hearts, make sure the reader can see it.

Let’s go back to those houses. Maybe they aren’t screaming. But maybe you hear a door slam? Maybe, through the window, you catch a glimpse of a woman and a man sitting apart. (I promise I don’t just randomly walk by house windows and peek in.  This really is just a hypothetical example.) The point is you need some sort of disturbance to draw the reader in.

This book has a ton of helpful hints, a few case studies and even an example outline. It’s a great tool to help readers identify how to bring each scene to it’s highest intensity. I recommend this book to new writers looking to understand what keeps readers turning pages. It’s also good for people trying to figure out outlines.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Sale! Buy the last few copies of The Journals of Bob Drifter!

2017-02-23-bob-drifter-coverI’ve mentioned I’m about to do a 2nd edition of The Journals of Bob Drifter. That means I’m trying to run my inventory of the 1st edition out. For that reason, I’m selling autographed hard-cover copies of The Journals of Bob Drifter on my store for $25 (You’ll have to select the “hardcover” option). I have 12 copies left. The original cover price is $43.75, and I was previously selling it for $37. Since I had a few left over after Shore Leave, I thought I’d spread the word. Head over here to order. 

Announcing the June Book Cover of the Month

Announcing the June Book Cover of the Month

Hello everyone,

The June Book Cover of the Month bracket has just wrapped up. It was honestly a fairly disappointing month in terms of votes. We only had 2,652 votes, which is the lowest total we’ve had since the very beginning (when we only had a few days to vote). I have some concerns, and I’d be immensely grateful if any viewers could provide me some honest feedback. Was one week not enough time? Should I simply extend the number of days the bracket runs? Should I keep the “vote once” tournament we’ve used the last few months, or should I go back to the “round-by-round” format we had a while back? I want this to be as fun and easy as possible, but I need your help to make that happen.

Now, 2,600 votes is still a lot. Those voters who came by did so for three books in particular, but only one cover could win.

The June Book Cover of the Month is…

 

For Steam and Country by Jon del Arroz! If you’re curious about how I felt about the book, check out the Facebook post that I posted when this book first landed on the bracket, here.

Let’s look at the stats!

Steam and Country took the lead late on the last day and pulled away. This was one of those contests where the match was decided in the #FinalFour. It was either going to be The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson or Steam and Country. Argon by E.L. Patrick made it to the finals, but it couldn’t muster any actual bracket wins in comparison to the other two books. (More on that in a moment.)  The finals came down to Steam and Argon, but Steam won a total of 28 brackets.

Steam received 205 total votes, which was seven more total votes than The Girl and 99 more than Argon.

June_Cover_CollageLRI usually have the runner up get a spot in the next month’s bracket. I just can’t, in good conscience, place Argon in July’s bracket when The Girl had more votes and more bracket wins.  If this were a 30-day month, I wouldn’t have a problem because I’d have two open spots, but July has 31 days, and I have to try my best to allow the book that the voters most liked get a slot. As this wasn’t a “round-by-round” tournament, I can’t honestly tell which voters would prefer in a head to head. I can only go by the number of votes and brackets each cover won. I’m very dedicated to making this a fun, fair competition, so I have to make these calls with as much integrity and data as I can. So I offer my congratulations to The Girl Who Could See, as that book will have another chance to move on in the July bracket.

That said. Arroz is the winner this month, so let’s look at his book.

Amazon blurb.

Amazon:

(START BLURB)

Her father’s been pronounced dead. Destructive earthquakes ravage the countryside. An invading army looms over the horizon. And Zaira’s day is just getting started…

Abandoned at an early age, Zaira von Monocle found life as the daughter of a great adventurer to be filled with hard work and difficulty. She quickly learned to rely on only herself. But when a messenger brought news that her father was dead and that she was the heir to his airship, her world turned upside down.

Zaira soon finds herself trapped in the midst of a war between her home country of Rislandia and the cruel Wyranth Empire, whose soldiers are acting peculiarly—almost inhuman. With the enemy army advancing, her newfound ship’s crew may be the only ones who can save the kingdom.

For Steam and Country is the first book in the Adventures of Baron Von Monocle series by top-10 Amazon best selling space opera author, Jon Del Arroz.

“Witty, charming and downright thrilling!  Del Arroz nails the feel of good old fashioned Steampunkery with wit, aplomb and of course… panache.” – Nick Cole, author of the Dragon Award winner, CTRL ALT Revolt

“FOR STEAM AND COUNTRY is a rousing girl-powered fantasy tale. I thoroughly enjoyed this action-packed airship adventure!” – Laurie Forest, author of The Black Witch

(END BLURB)

As always, I’ve purchased the book and added it to my TBR. (For those who are new to the deal, I buy the Book Cover of the Month to read and review in the future. I bought Manning’s cover, Howard’s cover, Deyo’s coverJones’s CoverHubert’s Cover, and MacNiven’s cover, and they are also on my TBR. (I just finished reading Deyo’s cover.)

18221611_10207749242842260_3867576595174516287_nHere’s Arroz’s Facebook page. Give it a like if you’re curious about him and his work.

The artist for that beautiful cover is Shawn King, whom I contacted to see if he’d like to do an interview about his victory.

The July bracket is still under development. Conventions and honestly a string of not-very-good covers made it harder to fill this bracket than normal. But it’ll still be ready to go by Aug. 1.

I will continue to identify and select covers for each day from Amazon’s New Release section for fantasy and science fiction. If you follow and like my Facebook page, you can see what covers will make the bracket.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Book Review: The Mountains Rise by Michael G. Manning

Book Review: The Mountains Rise by Michael G. Manning

Character:  Manning has proven to be a master character developer. Seeing Daniel’s journey begin was a rewarding experience for me. I expected to learn more about Daniel, but the trilogy truly was about all of the characters we meet in this saga. Not all of these characters are good, but they’re all well thought out. Their motivations and limitations are clear. Tyrion was always a heartbreaking character, reading this book brought exactly the sort of clarity I hoped for.

5215279Worldbuilding:  I already knew the world building to this series was great. What I appreciate (and what has me reading the Mageborn series) is for all the dots to connect. This book eases the reader into the magic and species of the realm with patience. What I look for in world building is what I need to know as I need to know it.  This book does that wonderfully (as does the series). I think the character and the overall world building (perhaps the plotting) are what make this series so easy to read through.

Dialogue:  I’m neutral about the dialogue in this book with one exception. While I don’t think the dialogue here was “snappy” or “quick,” it was powerful. There is an element here that requires note. There is a content warning with this book (and the series). Something happens in the beginning that might test some readers or even have some readers turn away. It’s honestly an issue I’m very sensitive about. That said, Manning treated that situation with respect, showing the impact this despicable act can have on not just the ones involved, but by all the ones those people care about. The dialogue and reactions of the character in this issue were done with sympathy. I despise books that use real-world terrible issues just to get a shock out of the audience. Manning didn’t do this. It was an integral part to Daniel’s development and being. You’ll have to read the book to find out more on what “act” I’m speaking of.

Description: Manning’s strength in description is in the sense of touch. A lot of times through this book I could almost feel (sometimes unfortunately so) what was happening to the characters. He’s decent in the other areas of description, but fans of books that make you feel like the characters will like this aspect of the book.

Overall: Manning delivers a world that is both dark and amazing. His story is built on such sadness, tragedy, and betrayal, one can’t help but want to see what happens. It’s heartbreaking to see how things go and to think of how they could have gone if only…

Thanks for reading,

Matt