Monthly Archives: January 2009

Self-publishing is no longer a dirty word

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January 28, 2009

According to this article in The New York Times:

Louise Burke, publisher of Pocket Books, said publishers now trawl for new material by looking at reader comments about self-published books sold online. Self-publishing, she said, is “no longer a dirty word.”

The movement of indie publishing, following music and film, is starting to shed a lot of the stigma that has been attached for so long. Of course, it’s still an uphill struggle, and will continue to be.

“For every thousand titles that get self-published, maybe there’s two that should have been published,” said Cathy Langer, lead buyer for the Tattered Cover bookstores in Denver, who said she had been inundated by requests from self-published authors to sell their books. “People think that just because they’ve written something, there’s a market for it. It’s not true.”

And she’s dead right. But, the fact that the public and the big publishers are starting to recognise that there is some quality out there in the indie publishing world is very heartening news. It’s up to us to make sure that those standards are consistently improved upon and that indie authorship continues to stride ahead.

(Hat tip to April Hamilton for spotting the article – read the whole thing, as it’s quite interesting.)

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I’m all a Twitter

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January 27, 2009

twitter logo Im all a Twitter I’m a strange creature, I’ll be the first to admit it. For example, I love the internet and technology – I use it to publish books, after all. And yet I can be strangely resistant to new things. Now I know that Twitter isn’t really new, but I’ve avoided it as if it were a previously unrecorded viral strain of ambulating cheese. I don’t know why. I think it’s partly through a self-preservation instinct where my subconscious tries to stop me spending even more time at the computer and partly through a sense of incompetence.

The incompetence thing is by far the over-riding issue. I don’t understand it, therefore I fear it. But I’ve given in. (I think the name itself has a lot to do with my aversion to it. It reminds me of being 5 years old and my dad saying, “Will you stop twittering on and eat your tea!” But that’s my own childhood trauma and best left largely buried in that box in the corner of my mind. You know, the box that, when opened, might lead to horrors unimaginable.)

However, people I greatly admire and respect seem to be regular Twitterers – is that the correct term for one who Twitters? People like Neil Gaiman, John Cleese, even Barack Obama, poster child and saviour of the world (at the moment). So I thought I’d better see what all the fuss was about.

Then I read this very interesting article on the subject by fellow indie publisher Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn blog. You should have a read of that post as it gives a nice little rundown on the basics of what Twitter is and what it does. It was enough to get me started and so far I’m enjoying the experience.

So, now I Twitter. If you Twitter too, follow me – http://twitter.com/AlanBaxter. Do you Twitter? Leave a comment if you do.

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Book Review – The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks

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January 27, 2009

I’ve just finished reading this book. I picked it up at the book shop in one of those purely impulsive buys and I’m glad that I did. It’s a big tome and it covers some very interesting ground and certainly doesn’t pull its punches. This is fantasy for grown ups and I really enjoyed that about it.

the way of shadows Book Review   The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks

The story is fairly simple in essence, but it’s engaging and it’s very well managed by the author. I found some of the coincidences that come out later in the book a bit hard to swallow at times, but certainly nothing unforgiveable. There was sometimes a sense of the author trying too hard to surprise the reader. I won’t say any more on that to avoid spoilers.

I also had some problems with the writing now and then. It’s not a particularly literary book – it’s written very openly and simply. On the whole it’s written very well, but I found some hiccups in the writing that could have been better editted. Things like, “He picked up the jug of water and poured a glass of water.” Word repetition like that can be distracting to the reader.

However, regardless of these small gripes, I greatly enjoyed this book. There’s good stuff about the life and training of an assassin, heaps of action and intrigue and characters that you can really understand and care about. To me, that’s quality storytelling.

I’d readily recommend it to fantasy fans. There are two more in the series and I’ll certainly pick up the next one.

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Happy Year of the Ox

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January 24, 2009

Gung Hei Fat Choy – Happy Chinese New Year – to all readers of The Word.

gung hei fat choy Happy Year of the Ox

Read all about it here.

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124 Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels you must read

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January 22, 2009

I picked this up from S F Signal today. The Guardian newspaper in the UK has been running a series called 1,000 Novels Everyone Must Read. 124 of them are science fiction and fantasy selections and that list is shown below.

As it says on S F Signal: “As if I needed a reminder of how horribly under-read I am in the genre, I thought I’d note (in bold) which books out of this huge list I have read.” And they’ve suggested it be a meme, so I thought I’d have a go too. I imagine that I’ll be rather embarrassed by how few of this 124 I’ve read, but here goes:

1. Douglas Adams: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)
2. Brian W Aldiss: Non-Stop (1958)
3. Isaac Asimov: Foundation (1951)
4. Margaret Atwood: The Blind Assassin (2000)
5. Paul Auster: In the Country of Last Things (1987)
6. Iain Banks: The Wasp Factory (1984)
7. Iain M Banks: Consider Phlebas (1987)
8. Clive Barker: Weaveworld (1987)

9. Nicola Barker: Darkmans (2007)
10. Stephen Baxter: The Time Ships (1995)
11. Greg Bear: Darwin’s Radio (1999)
12. Alfred Bester: The Stars My Destination (1956)
13. Poppy Z Brite: Lost Souls (1992)
14. Algis Budrys: Rogue Moon (1960)
15. Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita (1966)
16. Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Coming Race (1871)
17. Anthony Burgess: A Clockwork Orange (1960)
18. Anthony Burgess: The End of the World News (1982)
19. Edgar Rice Burroughs: A Princess of Mars (1912)
20. William Burroughs: Naked Lunch (1959)
21. Octavia Butler: Kindred (1979)
22. Samuel Butler: Erewhon (1872)
23. Italo Calvino: The Baron in the Trees (1957)
24. Ramsey Campbell: The Influence (1988)
25. Lewis Carroll: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
26. Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871)
27. Angela Carter: Nights at the Circus (1984)
28. Michael Chabon: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000)
29. Arthur C Clarke: Childhood’s End (1953)
30. GK Chesterton: The Man Who Was Thursday (1908)
31. Susanna Clarke: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (2004)
32. Michael G Coney: Hello Summer, Goodbye (1975)
33. Douglas Coupland: Girlfriend in a Coma (1998)
34. Mark Danielewski: House of Leaves (2000)
35. Marie Darrieussecq: Pig Tales (1996)
36. Samuel R Delaney: The Einstein Intersection (1967)
37. Philip K Dick: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)
38. Philip K Dick: The Man in the High Castle (1962)

39. Umberto Eco: Foucault’s Pendulum (1988)
40. Michel Faber: Under the Skin (2000)
41. John Fowles: The Magus (1966)
42. Neil Gaiman: American Gods (2001)
43. Alan Garner: Red Shift (1973)
44. William Gibson: Neuromancer (1984)
45. Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Herland (1915)
46. William Golding: Lord of the Flies (1954)
47. Joe Haldeman: The Forever War (1974)
48. M John Harrison: Light (2002)
49. Robert A Heinlein: Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)
50. Frank Herbert: Dune (1965)

51. Hermann Hesse: The Glass Bead Game (1943)
52. Russell Hoban: Riddley Walker (1980)
53. James Hogg: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824)
54. Michel Houellebecq: Atomised (1998)
55. Aldous Huxley: Brave New World (1932)
56. Kazuo Ishiguro: The Unconsoled (1995)
57. Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House (1959)
58. Henry James: The Turn of the Screw (1898)
59. PD James: The Children of Men (1992)
60. Richard Jefferies: After London; Or, Wild England (1885)
61. Gwyneth Jones: Bold as Love (2001)
62. Franz Kafka: The Trial (1925)
63. Daniel Keyes: Flowers for Algernon (1966)
64. Stephen King: The Shining (1977)
65. Marghanita Laski: The Victorian Chaise-longue (1953)
66. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu: Uncle Silas (1864)
67. Stanislaw Lem: Solaris (1961)
68. Doris Lessing: Memoirs of a Survivor (1974)
69. David Lindsay: A Voyage to Arcturus (1920)
70. Ken MacLeod: The Night Sessions (2008)
71. Hilary Mantel: Beyond Black (2005)
72. Michael Marshall Smith: Only Forward (1994)
73. Richard Matheson: I Am Legend (1954)
74. Charles Maturin: Melmoth the Wanderer (1820)
75. Patrick McCabe: The Butcher Boy (1992)
76. Cormac McCarthy: The Road (2006)
77. Jed Mercurio: Ascent (2007)
78. China Miéville: The Scar (2002)
79. Andrew Miller: Ingenious Pain (1997)
80. Walter M Miller Jr: A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960)
81. David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas (2004)
82. Michael Moorcock: Mother London (1988)
83. William Morris: News From Nowhere (1890)
84. Toni Morrison: Beloved (1987)
85. Haruki Murakami: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (1995)
86. Vladimir Nabokov: Ada or Ardor (1969)
87. Audrey Niffenegger: The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003)
88. Larry Niven: Ringworld (1970)
89. Jeff Noon: Vurt (1993)
90. Flann O’Brien: The Third Policeman (1967)
91. Ben Okri: The Famished Road (1991)
92. Chuck Palahniuk: Fight Club (1996)
93. Thomas Love Peacock: Nightmare Abbey (1818)
94. Mervyn Peake: Titus Groan (1946)
95. John Cowper Powys: A Glastonbury Romance (1932)
96. Christopher Priest: The Prestige (1995)
97. François Rabelais: Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532-34)
98. Ann Radcliffe: The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)
99. Alastair Reynolds: Revelation Space (2000)
100. Kim Stanley Robinson: The Years of Rice and Salt (2002)
101. JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997)
102. Salman Rushdie: The Satanic Verses (1988)
103. Antoine de Sainte-Exupéry: The Little Prince (1943)
104. José Saramago: Blindness (1995)
105. Will Self: How the Dead Live (2000)
106. Mary Shelley: Frankenstein (1818)
107. Dan Simmons: Hyperion (1989)
108. Olaf Stapledon: Star Maker (1937)
109. Neal Stephenson: Snow Crash (1992)
110. Robert Louis Stevenson: The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886)
111. Bram Stoker: Dracula (1897)

112. Rupert Thomson: The Insult (1996)
113. Mark Twain: A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court (1889)
114. Kurt Vonnegut: Sirens of Titan (1959)
115. Robert Walser: Institute Benjamenta (1909)
116. Sylvia Townsend Warner: Lolly Willowes (1926)
117. Sarah Waters: Affinity (1999)
118. HG Wells: The Time Machine (1895)
119. HG Wells: The War of the Worlds (1898)

120. TH White: The Sword in the Stone (1938)
121. Gene Wolfe: The Book of the New Sun (1980-83)
122. John Wyndham: Day of the Triffids (1951)
123. John Wyndham: The Midwich Cuckoos (1957)
124. Yevgeny Zamyatin: We (1924)

28 out of 124 for me. Actually, that’s better than I thought it would be. There are a few on there that I haven’t read although I have read other books by the same author. And I think that, given that these are included in the 1,000 Novels Everyone Must Read, there’s a few things on there that I would have left off and a number of other books that I would have included. But, as I’ve talked about before on this blog, these lists are always subject to taste and cultural bias. This list would have been very different if it was compiled by The New Your Post or The Sydney Morning Herald for example.

There are a couple of strange inclusions too. Like Fight Club. I’m not really sure I would include that in an SF/F list but there you go.

Consider yourself tagged if you’re interested.

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David B Coe, new release and interview

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January 21, 2009

Fantasy author and all-round top bloke David B Coe has a new release out now. The Horsemen’s Gambit is the second book in his Blood of the Southlands trilogy and was published on January 20, 2009.

horsemensgambit David B Coe, new release and interview

David spent a year in Australia a while ago and I had the pleasure to meet and hang out with him a bit. He’s a great writer and a great guy; you’d do well to check out his work if you haven’t already. He recently posted an interview at his website which is an interesting read, talking about his work, what inspires it and some tidbits about the man himself. You can read the interview here. Have a look around his site while you’re there to learn more about David and his books.

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ASA squashes “No God” complainants

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January 21, 2009

Well, sadly they didn’t squash the actual complainants, but in a win for free speech and common sense they did squash the complaint. If you remember I was talking about this ad campaign in the UK that has banners on buses declaring:

“THERE’S PROBABLY NO GOD. NOW STOP WORRYING AND ENJOY YOUR LIFE”

Of course, those funny old hypocritical religious folk leapt up in alarm and declared it offensive. Thankfully, according to the BBC, the Advertising Standards Authority said it had assessed 326 complaints, some claiming that the wording was offensive to people who followed a religion, and concluded the adverts were unlikely to mislead or cause widespread offence. They closed the case. Bravo.

In some ways it’s sad that the ASA didn’t investigate further, as it would have been highly entertaining to see how they tackled the claim that the advertiser would not be able to substantiate its claim that God “probably” did not exist. That would have been fun.

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Amazon marketing strategies – tags and lists

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January 20, 2009

With both RealmShift and MageSign now available on Amazon.com, I’m ramping up the viral marketing on those pages in the hope of getting them to show up more often in book searches and hopefully sell more copies.

Probably the two most powerful tools on Amazon for making a book stand out are Tags and Listmania lists.

Tags

As you probably know, tagging is the practice of adding keywords to a book that then get caught like metatags on web pages. Book tags on Amazon can be pretty much anything, but the more often a tag is added to a book, the more likely that book is to show near the top of a keyword search. The real rub is that the tags added by Joe Public get more weight than the tags added by the author or publisher. After all, if tagging is supposed to reflect community impressions, there’s no point in letting the writer or publisher try to sway that opinion.

Here’s what I’d like you lot to do. Come on, you knew that if you read far enough there’s be a cry for help! If you’ve read RealmShift and/or MageSign, can you go to the Amazon pages and add a bunch of tags for me? It only takes a few seconds.

RealmShift on Amazon.com currently has:

religion (3)
action (2)
cult (2)
dark fantasy (2)
demons (2)
fantasy (2)
gods (2)
horror (2)
magic (2)
martial arts (2)
supernatural (2)
thriller (1)
urban fantasy (1)

Click here and add a few for me if you’d be so kind. You can repeat the tags already there or add new ones that you think are relevant.

MageSign on Amazon.com has pretty much the same tags. Would you kindly click here and enhance that one too?

This is the link for RealmShift on Amazon.co.uk;

This is the link for MageSign on Amazon.co.uk.

A quick search will easily turn up the books on your local Amazon if you’re not US or UK /Europe based.

If you have a few seconds to spare, I’d really appreciate you popping into those pages and going a little bit tag-crazy. Try to build up the numbers of existing tags rather than just adding loads more, but do add any that you think are relevant. The more times my book is hit with a certain tag, the more relevant it will appear to Amazon searches.

If I see much change in sales as more tags are added I’ll let you know. I’ll also praise your name in my weekly devotions.

Listmania

This is something for those people with a bit more time to devote to me, which, I’m aware, is a very big ask.

Listmania is like a refined search on Amazon where someone has already gone to the trouble of doing a search for you and listing the top results. Naturally, they’ve searched with their own bias (and in their own minds) and their tastes shine through any given list, but it’s altogether possible that their tastes and yours will be similar. Hence, if you search Listmania for “urban fantasy” today you get:

1. Urban and new-age fantasy for chicks
2. Upcoming Urban Fantasy 2008 – Part I
3. Hot Urban Fantasy with Vampires, Shapeshifters, Paranormal & More
4. Urban Fantasy Romance Series
5. Private Investigators and Crime Solvers in Urban Fantasy

…and so on.

This is a method that puts similar books with each other and helps to raise any given book’s profile by comparing it to others that people may know. For example, there were a couple of Listmania lists for the original edition of RealmShift that included books like Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Aside from being very high praise, it gives people the idea that if they enjoyed American Gods, they’ll probably enjoy RealmShift too. Which is a fair call.

Sadly those lists were lost when the old version of RealmShift was retired. If you’re out there, kind listmania makers, please make your lists again!

Listmania, like Tags, are far more effective when they’re made by readers rather than by writers or publishers. So if you feel so inclined, perhaps you could put aside a few minutes and knock up a Listmania or two for my books? You could include both RealmShift and MageSign on a list with a variety of other similar (well known) books. My books cross into fantasy, dark fantasy, horror, urban fantasy, paranormal, thriller, action-adventure and many others. Or any combination of the above.

If you could think of a list of books that include well known novels by well known authors that my books would not look out of place on, please go and make that list. It’s very easy. You can build a Listmania list by clicking here.

Once again, I would be forever in the debt of anyone that was kind enough to do this for me, so thank you very much in advance. You people rule.

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Happy birthday to Edgar Allen Poe

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January 20, 2009

Edgar Allen Poe is a man whose life has affected everyone who reads fiction, whether they realise it or not. I first discovered his stuff as a kid when I saw an animated adaptation of his short story The Tell-Tale Heart. Soon after I saw an animated version of his poem The Raven. From then on I was hooked.

edgar allan poe Happy birthday to Edgar Allen Poe
(image from wikipedia commons)

E A Poe would have been celebrating his 200th yesterday had he lived, but his life was sadly very short and incredibly hard. However, if true immortality is gained first by doing something worth remembering, then Poe has done a pretty good job of it. Following is a bit more information about the man. If you haven’t already, read some of his work (there are numerous collections available on Amazon).

From wikipedia:

Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was an American poet, short-story writer, editor and literary critic, and is considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective-fiction genre. He is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career.

From Ellen Datlow’s livejournal:

Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) lived a relatively short, unhappy life but during it he produced some of the world’s most recognizable poetry and stories. Orphaned before the age of two, he became estranged from his foster father in his teens and became an alcoholic who had difficulty keeping a job. He married his thirteen year old cousin Virginia Clemm, (who probably inspired much of his fiction and poetry) only to see her sicken and die of tuberculosis in her twenties. His drinking was exacerbated by her death and only two years later he himself died in Baltimore, four days after being found wandering the streets delirious, and in clothing other than his own. His first book, Tamerlane and Other Poems, was published anonymously in May 1827. Although his first love was always poetry, he wrote stories, reviews, essays, and commentaries, in order to support himself and Virginia, and working as assistant editor for the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond, Virginia, then at Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, and finally in 1841 was appointed assistant editor of Graham’s Magazine both in Philadelphia. Some of his work was collected in the two volumes of Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque in 1840. It was during this period that he wrote what many consider the first detective story “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Both “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” were also written while Poe was living in Philadelphia. The publication of his poem “The Raven” in the February 1845 issue of The American Review and subsequently in The Raven and Other Poems the same year finally brought him the recognition he had long desired.

RealmShift and MageSign now available in Australia

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January 19, 2009

It’s been a long time coming and for that I apologise. But the news is good. I am very pleased to announce that the new edition of RealmShift and the new sequel, MageSign, are now both available here in Australia direct from my indie publisher, Blade Red Press.

realmshift magesign RealmShift and MageSign now available in Australia

The books are AU$18.95 each and, if you buy both together, they’ll be shipped for free to anywhere in Australia. You can’t argue with a deal like that. Well, you could, but that would make you a tightarse. For international sales, your local Amazon store is still your best bet and don’t forget the ebook version of RealmShift is available from smashwords.com for US$3.50.

So many options. But seriously, the print versions of these two books look great on the shelf next to each other. No collection would be complete without them.

I’ll be getting stock out to the friendly indie bookstores as soon as possible, but you’ll save momney buying direct from Blade Red. Feel free to drop me a line with any questions or email direct to contact@blade-red.com with your purchase enquiry.

And whether you buy or not, there’s a big favour that you can all do for me and it costs nothing. Help me spread the word. Without the massive marketing engines (and accompanying budgets) of the big publishing houses, the hardest part of all this is letting people know that the books exist. Tell your friends, family, work colleagues, people that walk by too slowly in the street, anyone at all. Direct them to this post or to the Blade Red website and ask them to spread the word too. With or without a big budget, the single most powerful tool out there is word of mouth.

So thanks in advance for buying and/or spreading the word. It means a great deal to me.

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Welcome

The website of author Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter, Author

Author of horror, dark fantasy & sci-fi. Kung Fu instructor. Personal Trainer. Motorcyclist. Dog lover. Gamer. Heavy metal fan. Britstralian. Misanthrope. Learn more about me and my work by clicking About Alan just below the header.

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