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

imageThere are loads of 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 read it or buy it, let alone do anything else. And even if you, dear reader, did read 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.

Put simply, there is no obligation of any kind on readers. They choose to either buy, borrow or steal 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. And these 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. I’m going to start by talking about the buying of books, but it’s not all about money, so read on!

Buy The Book

Well, d’uh! Right? Not entirely. What we really need are readers, but more on that later. However, at the bottom line, book sales keep authors and their publishers alive. It’s especially good with a new release if you buy the books during week 1 or 2 after release, because publishing can be 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, the shop gains confidence in it and gets more copies in. The sales data is good, it might hit in-store bestsellers charts, 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. And if your local store doesn’t have them, order them in.

Order them at your library.

But you’re skint? No problem, man, I know those feels. Books can be a real luxury. There are other options than buying, which we’ll cover, but you know who has free books for you to read all the time? Legally? Your local library. 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 importantly, it’s greater visibility of their books out in the world.

(You know what? Even if you do buy the books for yourself, order them at your local library too. Other readers will find them over time. More readers are what it’s all about.)

Buy them as gifts.

Buy for yourself, of course, but if there are any birthdays or other celebrations coming up (Xmas, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, International Day of the Needy Author) 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. You can also give your copy away as a gift, and introduce a new reader that way. A pre-loved book is a cool gift: “I just read this and you’ll love it. Here, have it!”

Tell friends, family and colleagues all about them.

There’s much more to a book’s success than sales, and here’s where we talk more about readers. Garth Nix calls it the transfer of enthusiasm. 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. A successful book is one that enjoys a groundswell of genuine enthusiasm. So recommend them wherever you can.

Lend your copy to a friend.

You don’t want to give away your loved copy as a gift? That’s cool. If you’ve loved a book, lending it is a great way to transfer your enthusiasm, and then you get it back. But that’s another reader, hopefully another fan. That’s another person talking it up to their friends 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 talking and more enthusiasm. It’s a self-perpetuating engine of literary love. The book has a greater chance of being a hit. And you helped. Only you can help, really. Readers and their enthusiasm are an author’s pulse and lifeblood. We love you people.

(And incidentally, if you don’t go to libraries, you can’t afford the book, and you don’t know anyone with a copy to borrow, you’ll be able to find it online somewhere, you naughty pirate. You know, I’d rather you didn’t, but the only thing worse than piracy is obscurity. So if you’re motivated enough to pirate a copy, do the author a favour and talk about it to friends and other readers! Transfer your enthusiasm too, with a bottle of rum and a yo-ho-ho.)

So you owe an author nothing, but if you do want to help, buy, borrow, lend, order at the library, talk, review. Be part of that great word of mouth engine. If you do any of that stuff, I genuinely can’t thank you enough. You totally rock!

Transfer your enthusiasm!


Horizon — Consciousness Explorers: Inside a Transhuman

Today I have a guest post from author and editor extraordinaire, Keith Stevenson. His new novel, Horizon, is out now. Take it away Keith.

Keith Stevenson
Keith Stevenson

I’d like to thank Alan for giving over some space on his blog for the Horizon Blog Tour.

Horizon is my debut science fiction novel published by Voyager Impulse. It’s an SF thriller centred on a deep space exploration mission that goes very wrong, with repercussions for the future of all life on Earth.

One of the most interesting themes in science fiction, and one of the most exciting advances happening in medical research today, is how humans will become augmented through interfacing with technology.

In the real world, there are amazing advances that enable paraplegics to control the environment around them. In 2012 in the UK, a woman had an aspirin-sized array of electrodes implanted in her brain which picked up signals from neurons in her motor cortex enabling her to control a robotic arm. In sci-fi movies, humans interfacing with technology has brought about a variety of dystopian scenarios from (the now somewhat laughable) Saturn 3, to (the now very laughable) Lawnmower Man, as well as the Matrix movies and the more recent Transcendance.

One of the best books about the future development of humanity is Damien Broderick’s The Last Mortal Generation. It explores not only how the life of our physical body can be extended, but also how technology might free the mind from its time-limited physical form. The mind is the key to so much — our emotions and sense of self. What would it be like to transplant your mind outside of its fleshy architecture into the elegant symmetry of a computer? Would you feel any different if your brain was replaced neuron by neuron by ‘silicon brain cells’? Would you lose your humanity? What about extending the reach of your mind resting within its physical confines by hooking it up to a wider cognitive network that’s faster, richer, and electronic?

eCOV_Horizon_C2D2In Horizon, Systems Specialist Bren Thurgood is among the first couple of generations of transhumans: people who accept an implant that allows them to interface with computerised and artificial intelligence systems. It makes her very good at what she does, and she’s an indispensable member of the crew. However even though I’m an optimist, I find it hard to imagine a future where humanity doesn’t attack what’s different in society. And given the current controversy about metadata and government snooping, I think the reasons behind a widespread mistrust of transhumans are compounded. They are ‘creatures of the internet’, able to breach firewalls and hack sensitive systems as easily as breathing. As a result, ‘chipheads’ are the target of racist — or maybe that should be ‘specist’ — intolerance from the ‘norms’.

I think the most interesting aspect of interfacing directly with the electronic world, the world of data and numbers, is how our minds would interpret and present that augmented reality to us. We’re not digital, we’re analogue, which means — perhaps — we’ll take a figurative rather than literal approach to the datastream. Bren explains it best:

Lex pressed the patches to her temples and flicked the monitor into life. He picked up a metallic wand. ‘You shouldn’t feel any discomfort. I’m just going to send a range of harmonics through the soft tissue and see what the sensors pick up.’ He touched her chin and turned her head to the left. The wand hummed in his hand. ‘What’s it like anyway, the link?’

Bren snorted and a smile spread across her face. ‘You don’t know how many times I’ve been asked that.’

‘Then you should have a good answer.’

She turned towards him and he gently turned her head back into position. ‘A lot of people can’t get used to it. There’s the increased cognitive capacity, of course. You’re totally aware — of everything. When you’re linked, you can instantly understand concepts, complex equations, programming, the works. You access information, formulate solutions, in the blink of an eye. But the perception change can really get to you. Some things you encounter are actual representations, like when I saw Phillips in the ring. Some things you can template and construct yourself. But every now and then something will come at you that’s totally figurative. Like the interface has tapped into your subconscious imagery and selected something that embodies completely what you’re experiencing intellectually, emotionally, and even spiritually. It can freak you out if you’re not used to it.’

‘Like that package ticking?’

‘Yeah, but that’s a simple example.’

‘Look to the right, please,’ Lex said and swapped the wand to his other hand.

‘Anyway, it’s helped me become more than I ever could be. But Harris and people like him will never understand. And they’ll never trust what they don’t understand.’

No matter how augmented they become, I believe transhumans will retain their own human and individual ways of looking at the world. It may have to work that way to prevent their brains from overloading. It’s a fascinating concept to think about, and it almost makes me wish all this was a reality right now.


Follow the Horizon Blog Tour

3 November — Extract of Horizon — Voyager blog

4 November — Character Building: Meet the Crew — Trent Jamieson’s blog

5 November — Welcome to Magellan: Inside the Ship — Darkmatter

6 November — Futureshock: Charting the History of Tomorrow — Lee Battersby’s blog

7 November — Engage: Tinkering With a Quantum Drive — Joanne Anderton’s blog

10 November — Stormy Weather: Facing Down Climate Change — Ben Peek’s blog

11 November — Time Travel: Relatively Speaking — Rjurik Davidson’s blog

12 November — Consciousness Explorers: Inside a Transhuman — Alan Baxter’s blog

13 November — From the Ground Up: Building a Planet — Sean Wright’s blog

14 November — Life Persists: Finding the Extremophile — Greig Beck’s Facebook page

17 November — Interview — Marianne De Pierres’ blog

Keith Stevenson is a science fiction author, editor, publisher and reviewer. His debut novel Horizon is available as an ebook via

 His blog is at


BOUND Train coming to Melbourne

It’s a bit of a shame that we couldn’t organise an actual launch event in Melbourne for Bound, but I will be in town soon and it would be great to see anyone who can make it. I’ll be signing books in Dymocks, Melbourne from 11.30am on Friday September 26th and then I’ll be heading around to Robinson’s at Melbourne Emporium to sign from 12.30pm onwards. After that, it would be nice to grab a late lunch somewhere and I’ll be in town all afternoon if anyone is keen to catch up.

So come along if you can make it. If you already have Bound, bring it to be signed. If you don’t have it, come and get one. And whether you have your own copy or not, come along and get a few signed copies as Christmas presents. Can you imagine being that far ahead on your Xmas shopping with such a cool gift? It’s okay, I’m an ideas guy – you can thank me later.

Look forward to seeing people there. And please spread the word for anyone around the Melbourne CBD on Fridays.


And now for something completely different – Nicole Murphy

To say that I had something a bit different for you lot today would be a bit of an understatement. But let it never be said that I’m some kind of one trick pony. I know a few tricks and I have friends who make me look better. To that end, I’m happy to host a guest blog today from urban fantasy/romance writer Nicole Murphy. I’ve know Nicole for a while now and I’m very proud to call her a friend. With the release of the third book in her current series, she’s doing a few guest posts around the intertubes, and today she’s appearing here. Some of the things she has to say are very interesting, so read on.

On romance… by Nicole Murphy

Secret OnesSo here I am, a guest on Alan Baxter’s blog. A writer who deals in dark fantasy, horror, mystery and suspense. All the fabulously deep and dark and gritty stuff. And I write light urban fantasy romance. The Courier Mail described my work as “a lightweight but rollicking romp through the space where fantasy and romance collide”.

What does someone like me write about for the fabulous readers of Alan’s dark fantasy?

The answer – embrace the difference. Stand tall and proud and announce that I’m going to write to you all today about why I love romance.

A) Romance is about positivity and finishing on a high note. There are days when it’s really hard to find the positivity IN ANYTHING. So I can grab a romance and know that no matter how hard things get for the hero/heroine, it’s going to work out all right in the end. That’s a nice thing to be able to rely on.

B) Romance is about feminism and strengthening views of women’s sexuality. Now, I’ll admit it doesn’t always succeed at this – but then not every horror novel succeeds at being scary. But there are still huge tracts of the literary world out there where women are not seeing strong role models or being shown that they deserve happiness whether sexual or not. In the romance world, we get to see women taking on the men, beating them at their own game and getting the loving partner that can make their life better.

Power UnboundC) Romance is about acceptance. There’s such a range of relationships and sexuality in the romance genre. On the one hand there are the inspirational books – heavily based in religion (generally a Christian one) in which there’s no kissing or touching. On the other hand we’ve got erotica, featuring menages and S & M. At the moment, there’s a rise in gay romance (mostly being read by women, interestingly) and a massive call for romances dealing with different cultures and races.

D) Romance is about characterisation and world-building. Because of the restrictions on the plot (it HAS to end in a happily-ever-after or it’s not romance, it’s just romantic), you’ve got to work hard on the characters and world in order to create an interesting and exciting book that the readers will want to connect to. Some of the most memorable fictional characters I’ve come across have been in romance.

E) Romance is about escapism. People say this like it’s something bad but of course it isn’t. We all need to get away from the real world for a time – because we’re tired, because we’re stressed, because we’re worried, because we’re overwhelmed. A break from all this for just an hour or so can give us the push we need to move on and get through it. Most romances are written in a style that’s very easy to read and it means they’re easy to jump into, while away the time and then pop out of again.

Rogue GaddaF) Romance is about love, and love is one of the most powerful driving forces in human existence. Fiona McIntosh said it nicely on a panel at Worldcon last year – ‘if you’re not dealing with romance in your work, then you’re not dealing with the totality of the human condition because at the end of the day, we all want to be loved’.

I know romance isn’t for everyone. There’s things that I don’t like to read (and no, dark fantasy isn’t one of them 🙂 ) so I can understand that you can give it a try and not find it your bag.

But I hope that if you’ve ever been inclined to bag romance, you’ll now think twice about it. Or at least go and read a few books (preferably mine!) before you put it down.


Giveaway question – To win a copy of Rogue Gadda, tell me what you love about your favourite genre.

[Leave comments below and Nicole will pop back to see them. She’ll pick a winner for the copy of the book – Alan]

Rogue Gadda

They came to the night that she and Hampton had made love. She hoped this was something the Firimir would skip through but no, she had to sit there in front of Hampton and relive those exquisite memories in the most humiliating fashion.

She wanted to squirm, both from embarrasment and arousal – Goddess, watching them together would set anyone on fire. Then she realised the Firimir could probably feel her arousal and embarrasment won.


Dymocks Southland Bestselling Horror Titles for October 2010

Things like this make me inordinately happy. As you’ll know from previous posts, I attended a group signing at Dymocks in Southland on Halloween. Here’s the proof that in-store signings are still relevant, as well as a lot of fun. That particular store releases a monthly list of bestselling dark fiction titles. The list for October is out and it looks like this:

1. Sookie Stackhouse (series) – Charlaine Harris
2. Vampire Academy (series) – Richelle Mead
3. Torment (Fallen #2) – Lauren Kate
4. Parasol Protectorate (series) – Gail Carriger
5. The Dead (The Enemy #2) – Charlie Higson
6. Alone (Chasers #1) – James Phelan
7. Twilight (series) – Stephanie Meyer
8. Realmshift – Alan Baxter
9. The Loving Dead – Amelia Beamer
10. Under Stones – Bob Franklin
11. The Zen of Zombie – Scott Kenemore
12. Madigan Mine – Kirstyn McDermott
13. Z – Michael Thomas Ford
14. The Darkness Within – Jason Nahrung
15. Dracula – Bram Stoker

The bolded items at 8, 10, 12 and 14 are four of the five of us that were signing that day. To see my book listed in the top 10 selling horror titles for October is very humbling. Thanks again for a great event, Chuck!