News, Updates, and Musings

I really need to make a new list of “assorting things to talk about” for these off days, but right now I spend so much writing time thinking about Starforge that doesn’t seem to be happening!

But hey, at least that means there are updates there to speak of. So, how is work coming along on Starforge?

Excellently. Yesterday I finished off revisions to Part Two of the book, with those revisions passed on to the Alpha 2 crew. Today work begins (for me) on Part Three, which is good because at least one of the Alpha 2 readers have already gotten through Part One.

Part Two took some work as well, particularly in one specific chapter which was not preferred by the Alpha 1 crew (those of you in that crew know which one I’m talking about). In the end, over half of it was completely rewritten, with the latter half being tweaked and edited along the way to bring it up to speed. Hopefully the Alpha 2 crew finds it much more digestible now.

That’s not the only change made across the second Alpha, but it’s so far been the largest and most sweeping one. Though there is one other change that’s been suggested by the Alpha 1 crew that the Alpha 2 crew now gets to deliberate, regarding where Part One ends. Basically, shuffling of chapters. I won’t say which direction I’m leaning with it, but there is a comment left by me serving as a signpost for the Alpha 2 readers asking their opinion.

Those Alpha 2 readers that haven’t reached that yet, what are you waiting for?

Anyway, work continues with that, but I’ve got some other news as well. See, once I finish this pass, I’ll still have to wait a bit for all the Alpha 2 readers to get some distance in the story before sweeping along behind them. Basically editing at the speed of the slowest Alpha Reader. Now, I’d like to get started on this by the end of the month, but if I finish getting all the Alpha 2 chapters up next week, what will I be doing then?

Why, starting on the cover for Starforge, of course! Yes, I’m going to be starting this one a little early, since I’ll need to learn a little more about my graphical editing (I think) in order to pull off what I have in mind, so it might take longer. Regardless, as most of you will probably guess, it is going to be in line with the other covers in the UNSEC Space trilogy. But … this one’s gonna be a little different. You’ll see … eventually. I’m not sure how long it’ll take, but if I can figure out the tools for what I’m going to try to do, the cover might be previewed as early as August!

Right, what else is new? Well, sales have been doing pretty well recently. Currently Axtara is dominating, but Colony isn’t that far behind. As to why our lovable banking dragon is riding high recently, I’d guess that it has to do with a few recent Reddit recommendations that in turn led to a Reddit Book Reviewer deeply enjoying the book and posting about it, which naturally led to a bunch of new readers grabbing it and also enjoying it …

Recommendations work people! I can seriously, no joke, point to spikes in my sales brought about by simply one discussion of my books on Reddit. We could build a literal timetable showing this off.

Which is interesting, because if I’m honest … book reccing is a difficult place in social media. Social media, with its focus on “upvotes,” “thumbs,” and “likes,” is largely operating on the biggest “rule of the mob” ever. Sure, some places have moderation, but largely a lot of places run on votes to figure out the algorithm.

Which, at least from what I’ve seen, in places that aren’t running secret shadowbans or censoring behind the scenes, means that book recommendations on places like Reddit can be a little … flat. Predictable to a T, in fact.

Now look, I enjoy hanging out on r/printsf. I both read and publish Sci-Fi and Fantasy books. A speculative fiction sub (that means Fantasy and Science-Fiction) is a natural fit for me. And I’ve found some fun reads through it.

However, there’s no denying that the sub’s own sense of humor about how often specific books are recommended and upvoted, even without having any context to the request, is spot on. This is a sub where asking for any type of Sci-Fi recommendation, even with a sub-clause of “I have read Blindsight” will inevitably have, in the top five posts “Have you tried Blindsight?” The post itself will be awash with upvotes and people talking about how great Blindsight is. Or, with humorous intent replying to the poster who recommended it with “If you loved that, you should totally try Blindsight, and then also Blindsight!”

I’m not joking about that, by the way. It’s a common gag on the sub, but only because no matter the request, no matter how little it may or may not have to do with Blindsight, that book is getting recced. And then a bunch of browsers who also enjoyed it will hit the upvote, regardless of the context.

I’m not trying to decry the system there. That’s how those places work. But it does highlight that recommendations and requests for books on the sub (as well as in many other places) tend to be dominated by the mob … Plus in a bit of irony, that those doing the recommending aren’t often reading the request before replying.

I’m not really saying there’s a solution either. Well, outside of maybe people reading the request before posting Blindsight. That is always welcome, because none of those recommendations are really helping someone who’s asking for a very different book and stating “I already read Blindsight, stop telling me about it.

Okay, actually, I lied. There is a “solution.” Not really a solution as much as a recommendation for recommendations: Don’t be afraid to support things that aren’t the big tuna.

A lot of times with these rec threads in various places (but especially places like r/printsf), it almost seems like people feel it’s a crime not to recommend the “biggest book” or talk only about it. To the point that I’ve seen sometimes people downvoting any book that isn’t the current Blindsight equivalent.

And that’s just wrong. Unless you know a book doesn’t fit a book request, don’t downvote it just because you want to prop up support for your favorite big title. Especially if they’ve already stated they read that title.

But getting back on track, recommend uncommon books. It’s weird that someone will ask for a fantasy title involving, as an example, wizards and horses, and someone will recommend Harry Potter, and the thread will stop there, as if that’s not only the end-all answer, but that this person clearly will have never heard of Harry Potter before, or that there aren’t any other books that could conceivably involve wizards and horses (Harry Potter in that case not even being that great a recommendation).

Recommend books that fit the request, even if no one knows about them! That’s how books are found! And do not downvote books that you’ve never heard of just because you’ve never heard of them. I’ve been saddened how often I’ll recommend a less-common book that perfectly fits what someone is asking for … only to find that some people are downvoting it for … reasons? Like sure, when someone says “I’ve read [Insert book here], so don’t rec that” and it’s recced anyway, that’s a downvote. Or when someone asks for a fun Sci-Fi romp with action and someone recommends Ancillary Justice, that’s a downvote (that’s like recommending a Heavy Metal album to someone asking for favorite John Denver songs).

But a book that I’ve never heard of? That’s not worthy of a downvote. A less-known book I’ve heard of that fits the request perfectly? That’s an upvote!

Reeling it back in, since this got a little discombobulated: Recommend books. Even if the popular choices have been said already. Dig through the piles of books you’ve read to find the ones that really fit the request and let the poster know about them.

Yes, it’s a rule of the mob. There will always be zealous masses to recommend a book that had several million dollars in marketing thrown at it. But that book may not be what the reader is looking for, and something else you know of might be. And if you don’t rec it, they may never find it.

Sure, the big books are fine and can be a perfect rec too. But don’t dismiss a thread or a post or a hungry reader just because someone else already posted a popular book.

Rec what you know. Rec what they want. There are millions of books out there.

Let’s all help one another find what we want to read.

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