News Post!

Okay guys, it’s time for a news post! Your update on all things Max Florschutz! Regarding writing-related things, anyway.

Okay, first up, the elephant in the room. Or should I say, in the Jungle? Yeah, it’s time we talk about how the Jungle Alpha is coming along.


Quite well, actually. Currently half of the Alpha Readers have already finished it, and I’m on track to move it into Beta in August. Which means … still on track for that early fall release. Unless something wild comes up. There’s still a chance that there could be a wildcard out there somewhere.

But the Alpha has also said good things for Jungle so far. The other day I had the pleasure of waking up to an e-mail in my inbox that basically said ‘AAAAAAHHH! I just hit X plot point and I’m freaking out!’

Obviously that’s not what they said exactly. For starters, the “AAHHH!” was a lot bigger and longer. And the rest of the message would involve major spoilers that you’re just going to have to read to find out.

With the Alpha moving along to, I can also give you guys a much more concrete word count. Even though there is going to be some more trimming here and there, it’s not a large amount. Which means that moving into Beta, Jungle is likely going to be around 450,000 words.

For the record, Colony was 334,000 words. Jungle is a third again as long as Colony. Conversely, Colony is 3/4 the length of Jungle.

How does this stack up against other popular books? Well, Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings was around 387,000 words. The Lord of the Rings (all three books) was about 473,000. A Game of Thrones was 298,000 words.

Yeah, Jungle is thick. But packed. Seriously, this is one ride you’re not going to want to miss.

Speaking of which, while Colony isn’t as long as Jungle is, it’s still a behemoth. Which means if you were waiting for Jungle to get close to pick up Colony and finally start the adventure, now would be a good time to get started! You can grab it here!

Now, on to more news!

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Jungle Alpha Call 2 and Hunter/Hunted Update

News post! Let’s dive right in!

So, first up, let’s talk about Jungle. For those of you for whom the name doesn’t breed instant recognition, Jungle is the sequel to Colony, that big Sci-Fi Epic I released a few years ago that was a smash hit. Jungle is currently in Alpha, and moving along at a steady clip. I’m still working on having this one out by the end of summer/early fall. Which means in the coming weeks I need to start working on the cover while the first cycle of Alpha readers finish making their way through it.

I can already tell it’s going to be good. I’m getting Alpha read notifications at four and five AM, and the tension of readers as they make their way through the chapters is ratcheting up (I know this because I get comments). So far it’s looking pretty good.

However, I do want to widen the pool a bit. So I’m opening up a second Alpha call for Jungle. I’m looking for a few more Alpha readers willing to run through it in its current state and take a look.

Alpha Reading, though. Not Beta. For those of you not familiar with the editing process, Alpha Reading is not concerned with typos or the like. Alpha Reading is about the big things. Does the plot make sense? Did this chapter drag? Was this chapter exciting? What are predictions for the upcoming chapters? Was this concept adequately explained or was it confusing?

Beta, which comes later, is all about the typos and whatnot. Because there’s no sense in fixing them if the “fix” is in a section that may be rewritten.

But Jungle is still very much in Alpha right now.  Chapters are still open to being modified extensively, even with whole sections rewritten if needed (though that hasn’t happened yet; at most there’s just some trimming and small rewrites).

So, if you’re interested in playing a part in the Alpha of Jungle, leave a comment or contact me through the usual channels. The most headlong of the current Alpha readers is about halfway through, so you’d probably be able to catch up.

Commitment warning: The current draft of Jungle is about 456,000 words. Yes, that is gargantuan. Even longer than Colony (there’s a reason for it, I swear). So yes, it is a significant time investment. On the other hand, you will get to read the whole work before it ever comes out (please don’t spoil it for those who are waiting eagerly for the release) and be able to offer feedback that can help polish that final release.

So again, if you’re interested, fire me a line via the usual methods. If you’re new, I’ll set you up with a few chapters to cut your teeth on, and if you’re a returning Alpha Reader from before who now has the time, welcome back!

Now, that’s it for Jungle news. Well, almost. Just let me express how awesome this story is. I don’t want to spoil anything but if you enjoyed Colony you’re going to love this, and be taken for a surprising ride as well.

I’m not going to say anymore than that. Now. on to Hunter/Hunted.

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Amazon’s Embattled Reviews Make Another Change

Amazon reviews are slowly becoming a digital battleground of the future. Or petering out as one, depending on you ask. However, whether it’s using Amazon reviews to “review bomb” folks whose politics other folks disagree with, or paying a click-farm in China to generate thousands of fake reviews, Amazon’s review system seems almost destined to be at the constant forefront of unscrupulous folks thinking “How can I use this to my advantage/other’s disadvantage?”

With that sort of activity going on (and the almost Hipster-ish dislike for Amazon now that they’ve managed to stand head and shoulders above their rivals), it really shouldn’t have been surprising to me when a long-time fan of my works contacted me to let me know that they were no longer able to post Amazon reviews, and thus they wouldn’t be able to add their review of my latest to Amazon’s page for such.

The reason? Well, Amazon has a new review policy: To leave a review, you have to be a customer in good standing. You can’t have been spamming the site with reviews that are clearly fake, participated in review-bombing, stuff like that. But there’s another new requirement now.

In order to remain “in good standing” you have to be an Amazon customer, having spent at least $50 with them in the last year.

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Shadow of an Empire Brings the Praise

Well readers, Shadow of an Empire has been out now for just over a month, so I thought that, in light of yet another excellent review it picked up last night from Frigid Reviews, it would be timely to go ahead and look at some of the responses to the book thus far from readers! If you have not read Shadow of an Empire yet, this may be the post that hints that you should!

So, without any further ado, let’s take a look at some reader feedback for Shadow of an Empire. We’ll be looking at excerpts, but you’ll be able to click the title of each review to get a look at the full text yourself.

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Amazonian Advertising Practices: Part 2

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: There’s a lot going on this week. Hence some daily posts. Today’s topic of choice? More on Amazon’s Advertising System.

So some of you may remember my first post on this topic a few months ago. I’d taken the plunge, using my tax return to pay for Amazon Advertising Services to see exactly how it would shake out. I had to use the tax return for it, because Amazon is paid up front, but any earnings you make are, as expected, royalties. So while you may spend $50 to make $50, you will still have several months to go before that $50 rolls back into your bank account.

Anyway, I’m not going to spend time reiterating exactly how AMS functions, since I gave it a long-form explanation last time. The basic gist of it is that you set up advertising keywords that describe your product (for example, one of Colony‘s keywords is “Expanse” because of its similar genre to The Expanse) and then a bid for that advertising spot. Your bid wins while someone is looking at that product? That individual sees your product, and if they click on it, whether or not they purchase it, you pay the bid.

Anyway, after a month of using it, I’d come to some tentative conclusions, which at the time were that many people who found it balanced out pretty much neutral were right. I was earning back pretty much exactly what I put in, plus or minus a few bucks here and there. Which I found odd, as even if my numbers jumped around quite a bit, they still somehow wound up around 100% in and out.

I’m still not sure why that is. But I can report that with lots of careful fine tuning, several months in, the venture is a little less neutral.

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Shadow of an Empire Reward Copy Woes

Got some rough news before today’s Being a Better Writer folks. Friday, June 1st, Shadow of an Empire launched (it is doing pretty well, by the way; have you read it yet?). Which meant Thursday night at midnight I was doing what I do when a new book comes out: sending out thank-you and reward copies.

This is pretty standard. I send a free thank-you copy to everyone who helped edit the book, plus all Patreon Supporters who are above the basic tier. Except some of them may be wondering right now why their links aren’t working.

KDP policy change. If I may be frank, stupid KDP policy change. See, KDP has decided that you can no longer gift to countries outside the US.

Wait what? Come again? No, you didn’t misread that. Even if the title is available in their country. Even if the value is the same. You cannot gift ebooks to someone outside of the US now.

Worse, despite claims to the contrary on the gifting page that the recipient can trade their gift for a credit to their account and simply buy said item, this is also not possible. I have been informed via e-mail with a quote from one of them that such a credit would only apply to a US-based account.

Wait, it gets better. Attempts to contact KDP (Amazon’s Kindle division) to get this figured out? Met with canned e-mails with no return information and no explanations. They’re not interesting in talking about it.

And as I said, this is a stupid policy change, especially for a global company like Amazon. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. It’s just “tough.”

So I did the smart thing. I filed a complaint with Amazon Kindle support (different from KDP support, who you can’t even call) and then e-mailed Jeff Bezos with a polite explanation of the problem.

This new policy is ridiculous and ultimately, bad for business. I’ve used Amazon to gift rewards for giveaways and contests to readers all over the world. Crud, looking at my sales records, I have readers all over the globe.

So, those on the editing team, I apologize for the delay. New e-mails will be coming out shortly with new links for those of you in the US. Those of you outside the US … I’m still trying to find a solution.

In the meantime, however, if this policy sounds bad to you, make your displeasure known. Contact Amazon and let them know that this decision is a foolish one. Given how many gifts I’ve sent to readers and fans outside the US, this decision really hurts my reader interaction. And it hurts anyone else who may have a friend on the global scene.