The First Seven Years: 2013-2019 in Review, and the Journey Ahead

Hello readers! No, there’s no Being a Better Writer article today, since I’m still on break. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t any content to be had! No, as we’re about to head into a new decade, 2020 now just two days away (less, depending  on when you read this), it’s the perfect time for a look back. Two looks back, actually! For one, we’ve got 2019 to look at, to see how it stacks up against 2018, but we’ve also got the decade as a whole. Well, minus seven years, as my first book—One Drink for those that have joined us since then—was only published in 2013. But as we look back today, I’d be remiss not to look over the decade as a whole and see where it’s taken both myself and you readers. To see the growth of this grand adventure as it continues to build!

So then, let’s dive right in and talk about the year! How’d 2019 stack up?

Jungle CoverObviously, the big elephant in the room is Jungle. The titan (literally, check out that word count) of a Colony sequel that landed in November. Jungle was 2019’s only book release but … what a release!

Jungle was a titanic effort, taking months upon months of work from myself and dedicated Alpha and Beta Readers to polish and prepare. But in the end?

Jungle has been a titanic success. Though only out for the last two months of 2019, it’d be impossible to talk about the state of things without it. While not quite reaching the pre-order and high-burst numbers  Colony did at its release, Jungle has instead remained a steady seller, even as it garners reviews with greater speed than Colony ever did. Reviews which have so far entirely been positive. As of today, Jungle is still sitting with a perfect Five-Star score across Amazon and Goodreads, with a lot of praise lauded on it in its reviews for how it moves the story forward while taking it in surprising new directions!

Of course, this means good things for sales as well. Jungle catching eyes has only brought a renewed resurgence of interest in Colony as well, which has seen a nice sales increase as a result of Jungle catching reader’s eyes and then going on to read both.

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Merry Christmas

Hello readers.

Nope, this isn’t a plug or an ad. None of that today. Or tomorrow. Instead, I’m just going to wish you all a merry Christmas.

Once a year, a good chunk of the world gathers together to celebrate. Many do it because of a single birth several thousand years ago, a birth that resonated throughout human history and still does today. And some do it because they like the message that birth brought, even if they may not believe in it.

But either way, the world gathers to celebrate. With a little kindness, with a little faith, with a little beauty. As a family. Or as friends. We gather and we celebrate and we enjoy Christmas traditions of varying scope and breadth.

Two thousand or so years ago, a birth changed the world. This week, we exchange gifts, we play rounds of Halo, we nervously glance at mistletoe. we make snow angels, we exchange books, we eat meat … or any number of other Christmas traditions.

We all come together, as best we can, and celebrate in togetherness, kindness, and charity. All from a single, pivotal birth two-thousand years ago.

Merry Christmas everyone. Make the most of it, and may it be, as the songs put it, merry and bright.

Being a Better Writer: Doing Good to Others

Hello readers. First of all, I want to say “Thank you for being patient.” This, the last Being a Better Writer post of the year, was supposed to arrive last Monday. But, as most of you know (only newcomers being exempt), my younger sister was involved in a car accident Sunday night that was extremely blessed not to be more serious. Modern car safety is a wonderful thing. She survived a head-on collision with another car (they ran a red light) with only a broken collarbone. I spent a few days away from home helping her out as she dealt with the worst of it. You can get a bit more detail here.

But thank you for waiting. This has definitely thrown my usual Christmas schedule topsy-turvy.


Now, before we get to the post directly, a bit of obligatory Christmas plugging. Normally its own post but … topsy-turvy. So …

If you’re looking for any last minute, low-cost Christmas gifts or digital stocking stuffers, have you considered the virtues of handing someone a book for Christmas? A multi-page doorway into adventure, fortune, peril, and wonder, all from the comfort of someone’s favorite cozy chair or nook?

If you haven’t, than I’d heartily recommend it. Not only are books a great gift, they’re a great value for the buck too! A single, $6 book can take days of excitement to get through. Compare that to the stocking stuffer DVD that’s only an hour and a half for the same price.

Now, if you’re unsure about what books to grab people, never fear! I’ve got answers there too! Do they like fantasy? Lord of the Rings? Or westerns? Shadow of an Empire is $6, and a perfect gift for those that love horseback chases, shootouts, magic, and peril.

Or maybe they like science fiction? Epic adventures to alien worlds with starships, lasers, and AIs? Colony is only $4, while its sequel Jungle is $8. You can grab both for someone’s Christmas for just $12!

Maybe they like a little bit of everything? Or prefer shorter stories that they can get through in a few short glances? Unusual Events: A “Short” Story Collection is only $4 and has exactly what they’ll desire: A little bit of everything in one nice package! Perfect for a stocking.

Or maybe they like more dedicate mysteries? Perhaps with a bit of paranormal in the mix? You can give them the gift of both Unusuals novels to date, One Drink and Dead Silver, for a total of $4.

Sands, you could drop the entire set into their stocking, a combined reading length of 5,700 pages (or about 115 hours worth of reading for the average American), for a cost of $26. That’s a pretty epic value.

Curious? Take a look.

Now, with the Christmas plug over, let’s talk about the final Being a Better Writer post of the year. It’s going to be a little different, I expect, but in tune with the spirit of the Christmas season. I want to talk about Doing Good to Others. Yes. as a writer.

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The Emergency Update

Initial Emergency post here.

First of all, thank you everyone who posted get-well wishes, sympathy, and support for my sister. It was passed on an appreciated. She’d had a rough week already before everything went sideways at 40+ MPH, making the collision and totaling of her car the cherry on top.

However, she’s doing really well. The first two days were the roughest, as all the muscles across her body were not having a good time after the accident, and so bruised and tensed and whatnot were stiffening, swelling, and pulling her broken collarbone every which way they could. Tuesday morning she was too sore and stiff after sleeping to even get up.

But the swelling has faded, the muscles healing and loosening up, and my sister’s adjusted enough to having one functional arm at the moment that as of last night I am back in my own home.

I slept way in this morning lol. Catching up.

Okay, so there are two things I need to discuss now: how my sister’s doing, and what the status of Christmas updates for the site will be.

First up my sister: She’s well-cared for now. Her collarbone is broken, yes, but it’s a clean break and should heal well. She’s already seeing a sport-doc for it, and insurance, while a tangled, complicated mess, has at least let the wheels roll forward. It appears that she’ll be on leave from work for some time, but it’ll be covered, as well her medical and whatnot. There’s plenty to do going forward, but she’s gotten past the start, which was pretty much all uphill.

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Emergency: Final Being a Better Writer Post of the Year Delayed

So Monday was going to be the final Being a Better Writer post of 2019. Then late Sunday night, my younger sister was involved in a head-on collision.

She’s fine. Mostly. Car’s totalled, and she broke her collarbone. Nice and clean, but still … Broken collarbone.

So, my Sunday night suddenly shifted, and she’s going to be extremely sore and swollen over the next few days, so I’m at her place at least tonight helping out, and will be Monday. So the final BaBW post (which, coincidentally enough, was going to be about doing something kind and good for others, etc etc) will be delayed. As well as the previews of Axtara (nearly done) and some other final events for the year.

Apologies for the delay, and I’ll be back soon.

The Power of Word of Mouth

So before on this site, I’ve spoken about how studies have found that the most effective way to get people to check out a book (and buy it) is not reviews from websites (though those are some of the most effective, hence why so many sell reviews), and not advertising on web-pages and other places, but word of mouth.

Well, yesterday there was a chance to put that idea to the test. If you swung by the site yesterday, you saw a blog post asking readers to swing by a Reddit subreddit discussion looking for good indie Sci-Fi authors and books. I brought it to the site’s attention and asked readers who enjoyed my work to head on over and say something.

Some of you did, and all I can say is THANK YOU.

Okay, I can actually say more than that. Because I can also tell you how impactful that was. See, I can see sales in near real-time. Within an hour of a few of you dedicated, awesome fans posting recommending Colony, sales for the day quintupled.

That’s right, they went up by a factor of five.

That, readers, is the power of word of mouth. Of someone telling someone else about a book. Word of mouth is quite literally the most powerful way to get a book out there.

Advertising? It’s expensive, and worse, gauged so that the return is just barely worth it (look for a full post on that soon). If you want to make $100 in book sales, you’re going to need to spend at least $50, often closer to $90, ending with a net gain of $10. This isn’t an exaggeration, by the way.

Reviews? They might bring in viewers, but a lot of places charge for the privilege (despite it being against a lot of terms of service with booksellers) and people know that on some level. Reviews from big outlets help, but at the end of the day?

It’s people talking about a book that really make it work. We’re surrounded by advertising of all forms, and we’ve gotten really good at tuning it out. Paid commercial for something? We shrug and move on.

But someone else talking about something and how they liked it? That’s not a paid ad: That’s another person talking about something they enjoyed. The more casual the interaction is, the more weight we put behind their words. They’re not being paid to tell us about something. They’re telling us because they enjoyed it.

That’s the power of word of mouth. That’s why yesterday, when a few of you headed on over to the subreddit and posted (three that I could see), sales quintupled over their daily average for this week, and within hours.

That’s the power you readers have, simply by talking to people about books. On social media. On forums. In person.

Word of mouth is the most powerful advertising there is.

I (and any other author) can pay for advertising. And it’ll show a small but simple return. We can beg places to review our books, or buckle under and pay them for one (I still refuse to do that). But at the end of the day, what has the biggest impact on whether or not we succeed or fail is you. The readers. If an author cannot make a big enough impact on their reading base that their readers talk about their work … they’re very likely doomed to failure.

So again, thank you to those of you who headed over and recommended my works. As I said, quintupling. Five times the daily normal. Within a few hours.

Readers, you hold a lot of power in your hands. The books you talk about, the books you choose to tell others about … It plays a heavy part in determining whether or not an author sinks or swims.

Please use it well.

Speaking of Word of Mouth …

This post is the kind of thing I’ve been talking about. Someone over on Reddit’s r/printsf (print speculative fiction, usually Scifi), after a discussion about how the subreddit almost always discusses the same few books, launched a post specifically to talk about indie Sci-Fi authors and people’s favorite indie Sci-Fi books.

This is word of mouth time. People in this post are discussing some of their favorite Sci-Fi books from Indie authors. Like myself.

Nudge nudge.

Look, the subreddit has rules against self-promotion, and I respect that. However, if I notify my fans and they head on over to mention, say, Colony, Jungle, or Shadow of an Empire, well, that’s cool of my fans, and violates no rules at all. Really cool. And some folks on the subreddit get a chance to try out some new books they very likely haven’t heard of but would very possibly love.

So yeah, if any of you feel like doing me a favor and helping out (which, in the spirit of your own interest I will point out that the better my sales become, the more time I can spend writing, which means faster, more frequent releases), head on over to the post here and give Colony or something a shout-out!

Please. Think of it as a Christmas gift.

 

EDIT: Thanks guys! Word of mouth like that really helps!