The Alex Caine Trilogy Launch wrap-up.

Man, what a night I had! We launched The Alex Caine Series in style on Thursday 30th June at Galaxy Bookshop in Sydney, so now all three books in the series (so far!) are out in the wild and on bookstore shelves across Australia and New Zealand. And Galaxy have a bunch of signed copies of all three if you’re quick. I’ve also just learned today that the series took out the 1, 2 and 3 spot in Galaxy’s bestsellers for last week, so that’s just fucking fantastic. The US, UK and everywhere else will start to see their release from December this year, so hang in there, you guys! Meanwhile, I thought I’d post here wrapping up everything that’s accompanied the launch so far.

chatting
Here I am crapping on about something while Garth Nix watches thoughtfully.

Galaxy Bookshop were fantastic, and with the publisher, HarperVoyager, they put on a great event. Garth Nix was a superb MC and official launcher, and a decent crowd turned out to make an absolutely stellar night. I’m so lucky and so grateful to everyone involved that I could enjoy such a great event. This post will collect everything in one place, starting with a video of the launch itself. It’s about 20 minutes and records the Q&A with myself and Garth, then questions from the audience. Massive respect to Alice Wood from Voyager, who I asked to film it and who stoically held my phone steady for the entire time! Also, apologies for anyone getting motion sickness watching this – I honestly had no idea how much I sway when I’m standing around talking.

After the video will be a link to a huge photoset on Flickr, thanks to the amazing Cat Sparks for that. She’s truly the Aussie SFF paparazzi master. After the link to the photoset will be a series of links to all the guest posts about the series so far, where you’ll find interviews with me, with Alex Caine, posts about fighting, writing, psychopaths and more. So enjoy, and thanks again to everyone who made all this possible. This is what it feels like to be living the dream.

Video of the launch, with myself and Garth Nix:

Here, Garth asks me all kinds of questions about the series and its origins, and I talk about favourites, paths to publishing, manuscripts under toilet doors, and more.

Photoset of the launch and the dinner afterwards, with huge thanks to the amazing Cat Sparks:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/42956650@N00/albums/72157669430754560/page1

Blog tour posts:

I’ll list the interviews first. They’re all a bit different, so well worth having a squizz at them all, even if you just skim the questions for things you might be interested in.

Interviewed at Smash Dragons:

http://smashdragons.blogspot.com.au/2016/06/interview-alan-baxter.html?m=1

Interviewed by the wonderful Angela Slatter:

http://www.angelaslatter.com/alex-caine-lives-again-alan-baxter/

Interviewed by the also wonderful Peter M Ball:

http://www.petermball.com/talking-writing-and-the-alex-caine-series-with-alan-baxter/

Interviewed by David McDonald:

http://www.davidmcdonaldspage.com/2016/06/in-conversation-with-alan-baxter/

Interviewed by Annie Mitchell:

https://annieonwriting.wordpress.com/2016/06/15/alan-baxter-author-in-the-spotlight/

Interviewed by Ian McHugh – this one is just slightly spoilery.

https://ianmchugh.wordpress.com/2016/07/08/interview-with-alan-baxter/

Robert Hood interviews Alex Caine himself!

http://roberthood.net/blog/index.php/2016/06/20/an-unexpected-chat-with-alex-caine/

And the guest blog posts:

At Speculating on SpecFic I talk about why I write dark fiction:

http://www.speconspecfic.com/2016/06/20/blog-tour-alex-caine-trilogy-alan-baxter/

At Book Frivolity I explain that I’m really not a psychopath, honest:

http://bookfrivolity.booklikes.com/post/1420703/author-guest-post-actually-i-m-really-not-a-psychopath-by-alan-baxter

At Kaaron Warren‘s blog, I talk about the spark that started the Alex Caine fire:

https://kaaronwarren.wordpress.com/2016/06/16/alan-baxter-trilogy/

And at the Voyager blog, I talk about fighting as a metaphor for life:

http://www.voyageronline.com.au/guest-blog-alan-baxter/

Signing books, living the dream.
Signing books, living the dream.

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You owe me nothing, but if you’d like to help…

There are loads of those memes flying around social media that are some variation of “How to help an author” or “Support Authors” or “Fuck you, reader, dance for me, you monkey!”  The truth is, you owe an author nothing. At all. Just because I wrote a book, and that book got published, doesn’t mean anyone is under any obligation to buy it, let alone do anything else. And even if you, dear reader, did buy a book I wrote, and you loved it so much you went around with it stuffed down your pants for a week, you still owe me nothing. Although, you might need to consider getting out more if you really did spend a week with a book down your pants. But I digress.

Put simply, there is no obligation of any kind on readers. They choose to either buy a book or not. Then they get around to reading it or they don’t. That’s it. Finished.

But, of course, there is a lot more they can do, should they so choose, and lots of those things really honestly genuinely help authors. So as my Alex Caine trilogy hits Australian and NZ bookstore shelves today, all three books in print at last, it seems a pertinent time to talk about this. And the ideas, while they can be listed in a trite meme, are maybe better explained in a little more detail. This stuff applies to big trad books and indie books, well-known authors and newbies. So here we go. You owe me nothing, but if you want to help, here’s what you can do and why it helps.

Buy The Book

Well, d’uh! Right? Not entirely. More options later. But obviously, at the bottom line, book sales are what keeps authors and their publishers alive. But it’s especially good with a new release if you buy the books during week 1 or 2 after release. Why? Because publishing is a machine and it doesn’t stop. It swallows authors, chews them up, and spits out their gnarled remains. The way an author survives the machine is if they sell well enough to not be spat out. And the best way for an author to sell well is to start by selling well. Sure, many books are successful on a slow burn, but to sell they have to be on shelves. Bookstore real estate is highly contested space, so if a book sits on a shelf for a while and doesn’t sell, it will be sent back to make space for a new book. But if it shifts several copies in the first week or two, the shop gains confidence in it and gets more copies in. The sales data is good and buyers order more. It might hit bestsellers charts, even just in-store ones, and stores order yet more. The profile of the book is raised and it gets more traction. That’s momentum happening right there, and that’s what we need. So please, if you think you want the books, buy them sooner rather than later. And if your local store doesn’t have them, order them in.

Order them in at your library.

But you’re skint? No problem, man, I know those feels. Books can be a real luxury. But you know who has free books for you to read? Your local library. So go there and ask them to order the books. When libraries buy a copy, that’s another sale. And authors get a small amount of money for each library borrow their books have, so that’s another income stream for them in the long term. And more visibility of their books out in the world.

And you know what? As we’re talking about helping authors, even if you do buy the books, order them at your local library too. Help the authors and other readers will find them over time. Readers are what it’s all about, and more on that in a minute.

If you’re travelling, buy them at Newslink.

This is a weird one (and a bit Aussie-centric) but it really helps. Newslink is the bookstore chain at airports and train stations around Australia. Lots of people impulse buy books right before a long journey, so they go to Newslink looking for a travel read. The Alex Caine Series (for example!) is a great thriller read for travelling, so if Newslink have plenty in stock, it’s likely they’ll sell well there. But remember about how stores only keep stock of books that sell? It’s a bastard of a catch-22, right? So if you’re into buying these books and you’re travelling soon, grab them at Newslink so Newslink order more!

Buy for yourself and as gifts.

So as this is all about helping authors, how about buying the books more than once? Buy for yourself, of course, but if there are any birthdays or other celebrations coming up, buy another copy to give as a gift. That’s more sales and more readers, who may not have bought the books otherwise. I love buying books for people and introducing them to new authors, and I love it when people do that for me.

Tell friends, family and colleagues all about them.

So that’s all the actual purchase stuff covered. But there’s much more to a book’s success than that, and here’s where we talk about readers. We need lots of sales but individuals can only do so much. We need lots of individuals doing a little bit. Garth Nix calls it the transfer of enthusiasm. So when you love a book, don’t keep that to yourself. Talk about it! Tell your friends and family, talk about books at work, show off the copy you love so people recognise the cover when they see it again. Be enthusiastic and transfer that enthusiasm all around. Nothing works better than genuine, honest word of mouth. That’s what really sells books and that’s where books find success. So recommend them wherever you can.

Lend your copy to a friend.

Lend? Isn’t this all about sales!? Well sure, but not entirely. If you’ve loved a book, lending it is a great way to transfer your enthusiasm. That’s another reader, hopefully another fan. That’s another person talking it up and transferring their enthusiasm. Momentum!

Talk them up (and share the cover images) on social media.

If you only have 14 followers on Twitter and 38 friends on Facebook, don’t think for one second that you lack influence. People will pay attention to your social media commentary if they are your friend or follower. That’s why they’re your friend or follower. Every single eyeball counts. So just like you talk up the books in person, do it online, wherever you hang out online. And again, share the cover image so people can spot it easily in store. It really helps.

Leave a review and rating on Amazon, Goodreads, iTunes, etc.

And when it comes to talking about them online, if you can be bothered, reviews make a huge difference. You don’t need to be a great reviewer. You can write:

“this book was really grate, I loved the action. people will definately enjoy it to.”

Seriously, that’s awful spelling and grammar, but it counts. Because it’s the transfer of enthusiasm that matters, not your writing skills. And the more reviews something has, the more visibility it gains on that site, and the more likely other people are to take a chance on it, because it seems like it’s already popular. And that’s the thing about getting more readers – the more popular something appears, the more other people will want to check it out. The more other people check it out, the more likely they are to talk about it too. Hopefully they’ve enjoyed it and they’re talking it up, so the more transfer of enthusiasm we have. That means even more readers, that means even more sales. It’s a self-perpetuating engine of literary love. The book gains success, the author stays in the machine and gets to write more, and readers get to read more. And you helped. Only you can help. Readers and their enthusiasm are an author’s pulse and lifeblood. We love you people.

So you owe me nothing, but if you do want to help, buy, order, talk, and review. Be part of that great word of mouth process. And if you do any of that, I genuinely can’t thank you enough. You totally rock!

Transfer your enthusiasm!

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On making time and recognising privilege

no-one-has-timeI posted the meme you see here the other day on Twitter and Facebook, etc. It generated a fair bit of comment, some of it a bit snarky. So I thought maybe I ought to address the concept. Firstly, I stand by the basic premise of the meme, which we’ll look at below. But of course, real life has nuance that a few words on a picture don’t.

So let’s start with privilege. Yes, it’s absolutely true that if you can make time to write you are enjoying a certain level of privilege. If you live in a war torn country or you have to work 18 hours a day just to live, making time to write is not even on your radar. If you’ve had enough education to be able to write at all, let alone create coherent sentences that others might want to read, you are privileged. But in all honesty, a meme like this isn’t directed at people unfortunate enough to have no education or to spend all their waking hours simply not dying. We need to direct aid and care to those people wherever we can, not trite internet memes.

This meme is targeted squarely at the “I’d love to write but I just don’t have time” brigade. No one has time. We’re all busy living life. Unless you are incredibly privileged, and it’s a sad truth that a lot of successful writers are the ones who actually are incredibly privileged. We can’t ignore that truth. The ones who have independent wealth in the form of a trust fund or a partner who’s happy to pay all the bills. They don’t need to fit writing in around work, because they can make writing their work whether it’s actually paying anything or not. This meme is not for them, either. If they can’t find time or motivation to write, then fuck ’em. That’s just lazy or they don’t really want it.

This meme is directed at the regular people. Those folks privileged enough to have an education and a job and a roof over their head and no fear of starving to death in the immediate future. Those people are busy as hell, sure. We have jobs to go to, families to take care of, social engagements to meet, sleep to get somewhere if the kids will let us. But if people in those positions want to write, they absolutely can do so. They have to make the time, that’s all.

Let me use myself as an example. When I wrote RealmShift I was working a nine-to-five office drudge job to pay the bills and I was training and/or teaching six nights a week. I had a wife who wanted to see me sometimes. So I made time in the middle of the day. I used to have a bunch of stuff in the fridge at work and every lunch time I would quickly make a sandwich, then sit at my desk and eat it while I worked on the book. I wrote that entire novel, and a large part of MageSign, during lunch hours, plus any other time at weekends or evenings that I could make a space. Because that’s how badly I wanted to write.

Subsequently, I began building a life that included writing. I retrained to get my full fitness professional qualifications and I went into business for myself as a personal trainer. I had early morning and lunchtime clients, I taught martial arts in the evenings, and I had chunks of time between those things – a few hours mid-morning or mid-afternoon a few days a week – where I wrote. I made writing as important as those other things to make it happen, because that’s how badly I wanted it.

When my son was born, I’d just sold a trilogy to Voyager. I did most of the editing of those books one-handed, with a sleeping newborn cradled in in my left arm. And no, he didn’t sleep like a baby (what a fucking inaccurate piece of garbage that saying is!) But whenever I did get him to sleep, I would sneak into the study and edit. He’s two and a half now, and currently napping. I might get an hour or so to write, so I’m writing this. I’m sacrificing an hour on the current novel because I thought this subject was important.

And that’s the heart of it. Sacrifice. Like the meme says, How much do you want it? If you want it badly enough, you will make time. And if you don’t want to make time, if you don’t actually want to write – need to write – that badly, then that’s okay. Really, it is, there’s no shame in that. But don’t go around acting like anyone who is writing is doing it because they have all these bags of empty time on hand and they’re just having a lark. Those people writing are working fucking hard. They are sacrificing. Because that’s how much they want it.

How badly do you want it?

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CI-A, Me and the Battle of the Worlds

I was looking through some old stuff my mum had saved and discovered a bunch of old exercise books. Most of it is pretty rubbish, appalling “religious education” that was nothing but Christian indoctrination and so on. In truth, I always hated school, never got on well with a classroom environment, with one exception: I loved English. The chance to write stories and read books? That was my kind of schooling. It’s the only thing I was ever good at, academically, so it’s no surprise that these days I’m a writer and a martial artist.

I remember my first ever experience of storytelling. I was about seven years old and we were told to write a story about what we did on the school holidays. Most kids came back with paragraph or two about nanna’s house or whatever. I came back with seven or eight pages about a dude who went back in time and got chased around by dinosaurs. The teacher didn’t believe I’d written it and rang my parents. They said they had no idea about it, I must have done it all in my room. So my teacher, duly impressed, got me to read it to the class. As I stood up there with my knees trembling, reading this thing, I realised all the faces were enraptured. After class, kids were coming up to me saying how great it was and how they wished it wouldn’t end. I was amazed. I had discovered the power of storytelling. I never looked back.

Sadly I can’t find that time travel story I remember so well. Maybe I will one day. But I have found other stuff. One was a story I wrote when I was nine years old, and it shows my influences so clearly already. There’s science-fiction, horror and fantasy, shameless pillages from Star Wars and Doctor Who. It’s classic early Baxter. So I decided to transcribe it for posterity here. Below you’ll find the story, accurately transcribed with all my spelling errors and so on included. But I have added paragraphs. Seems I had a thing about not using them – lots of other stories in big blocks of text with my teacher getting more exasperated about it every time.

After the transcription are scans of the original pages with my teacher’s notes. Perhaps my favourite thing about this story is the teacher’s comment at the end:

very good

“Very good, Alan. I think you enjoyed yourself too. 1 house point.”

You’re right, teacher. I really did enjoy myself. And I still do – nothing is more fun than writing stories. And I scored a house point! That was a big deal back then. Anyway, don’t expect anything brilliant, but here I present to you:

 

CI-A, Me and the Battle of the Worlds

(A story from California)

by Alan Baxter (age 9 ½)

 

“Com’n CI its time to get up.”

“Bleep Bleep Bleep Bloop.”

“No I won’t let you lie in I’ve gotta catch my breakfast.”

“Bleeeeep.”

“bleep bleep or not I want my breakfast. Look CI if you get up you can have some of your favorite drink.”

Bleep bleep bleep.

“Yes oil. Now you get up while I catch my breakfast.”

Bleep bleep bleep sis bloop?

“Yes you can pour your own.”

I caught my breakfast and ate it. Then we got in our spaceship and flew to ALPHA-Z-6 (which was CI-A’s home planet) and landed on the spacestations landing pad and went inside the station. When we got inside the station we found out that it was completely demolished.

“My god CI is this the right planet?”

“bleep bleep athermative.”

“Com’n CI I’m gonna get to the bottom of this.”

“DINCAS APPROCHING.”

“Whats approching”

“DINCAS master”

“What the heck are dincas”

“Those are dincas master”

“Stop calling me master will you. Suffering sausages are they the dincas.”?

“ATHERMATIVE.”

“HECK, their just the daleks CI.”

“Athermative they are the second type of daleks.”

“Second type would they attack us”?

“Athermative. But I could fight back with my lazers beams.”

“What.”

“Lazer beams”

“All right I heard you the first time. But you couldn’t fight all of them theres dozens of them you’ve only got 7 lazers.”

CI gave a loud whistle and hundreds of CI-A’s came zooming in.

“We are going to attack the DINCAS they have completely destroyed our planet so we are going to destroy them! CHARGE.”

All the CI-A’s went zooming off fireing their lazers at the DINCAS. After a long and very noisey fight the DINCAS were all destroyed and not one of the CI-A’s.

“Well thanks CI you and your brothers sure did destroy them.”

We all helped build a new space station and after 2 ½ years the new space station was built. CI interduced me to his best friend. I made friends with him and he was called 8-9-Z CI-A 8-9-Z and I lived on the planet for a couple of years and then we had a spacestorm on the part of the planet where we were. A space storm is very colurful, but very dangeous aswell. It is a storm of colured lazer beams. One of the beams hit our ship so the robots and I could not get home.

When the storm finished we all went out to look at the ship to see weather it was re-buildable or not. We were all dissapointed. “O well you two we’ll have to start building one from scratch. After 6 months we had finished building it and 8-9-Z, CI-A and I flew home only to find that the dreaded wherewolf had attacked the village. There were dead people lying everywhere. O well here we go again another adventure to sort out. Just then CI-A sent up a rocket jet flare and all his brothers came down in their space-ship to help us out again. All CI’s brothers and sisters said that they had brought some equitment for catching wherewolfs. That made me pleased because it would make it easier to catch it. Just then there was a low growl.

“Ut, oh here he comes.”

Cis brothers went forward to attak but they retreated when they saw how huge the monster was.

“Look at the size of it CI is that the one that attaked your planet last month”?

“Athermative it is the one that attaked our planet.”

“Holy mackeral its eating the houses”

“Hang on a minute whats 8-9-Z doing with that spray”?

“He is using the water of life to bring the dead people to life.”

Just then the wherewolf came into full view of us CI-a swung round and fired all 7 lazers at it. It fell down dead and 8-9-Z CI-a and I put it in a little rowing boat and sunk it so all Cis brothers went home and CI 8-9-Z and I could settle down to a happy life again.

THE END

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