Invisible Censorship and Books

I made an interesting and alarming discovery a few weeks ago.

Like most authors, I happen to love reading books as well. Between my local library, the occasional purchase, and my Kindle, I go through a good number of them every year. I have my entire life. Sands, in my small-town library, if I happened to be around the librarians would sometimes ask me if I knew a book a patron was asking about. I read a lot.

So, naturally, I gravitate to places online that talk about books. Forums that offer book reviews, or book chats, etc etc.

It was on one of these forums that I discovered an extremely disturbing trend.

Let me catch you up. One of the book places I hung out at quite regularly—or did, before this discovery, which all but killed my interest in it—was a place for book recommendations. It was pretty simple and straightforward: One person posts what they’re looking for, be it a historical romance with specific traits, or just something like what they’d already read and enjoyed, like Dune. Then, participants could post replies listing, detailing, or talking about other books that the poster might be interested in.

Good idea, right? I sure thought so. And so I went to it. It was fun dredging my brain sometimes for lesser-known authors or books that someone might have missed, or thinking “Oh, what was the name of that book!” and digging back several years through my Goodreads list to find it.

It was pretty good … Or so I thought.

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Novel Submission Update

All right readers! Update here! So, many of you may recall a few months back at the beginning of summer how I spent two weeks working on an unsolicited Halo manuscript sample? Which I fired off at the 343 folks?

Well, as of yesterday, I have an official response. They’re passing on it. In fact, they’re not even open to looking unsolicited manuscripts. Their process (mostly) is to tell their current publisher they want a book, wait for that publisher to pick an author from their internal stable, and go from there. So they automatically deny unsolicited manuscripts.

Why post about it if it’s just (effectively) a rejection? Because I know from comments that a number of you were really curious about it and looking forward to news on it. Well, I’m sorry to bring sad news to you, but the offer has been passed on. The rights holder isn’t interested, and that’s that.

Which does, sadly, mean that the sample manuscript will likely never see the light of day. Granted, I could always do the “file off the serial numbers” thing but … No. There are people that do that, simply re-purposing something written for one work and setting into another, but … I’ve got to be honest, that wouldn’t sit well with me. It’d just be an obvious mirror, and that’s not my style. Plus, writing a whole book in that mirrored style? I’m sure you guys would rather see [REDACTED] all the sooner.

So yeah, those readers that were excited by the idea of me maybe having my name on the cover of a Halo book, well … That’s publishing. At the very least, you guys have got Jungle coming this fall (look for a cover coming soon, by the way), and Fireteam Freelance plus [REDACTED] coming after that. So I hope you stay excited for those. And don’t stop reading some of those Halo books, because a lot of them are quite fun (as is the setting, part of the reason I wanted to contribute to it).

So yeah, they’re passing, which means the manuscript goes into that quiet, sunless vault of “stuff you won’t see.” At the very least, I got a fun week out of writing it and my Alpha and Beta readers got to enjoy a neat jaunt through a different setting from ColonyJungle, or Shadow of an Empire.

So, now you fans know it’s not going to happen. I’m still working on Jungle, which is definitely looking at a fall release now, as summer is almost over. This one is going to rock your minds, folks. Look for more on this one soon, and even preview material to start the hype train rolling before long.

That’s it, the news is up. Gotta get back to work on Jungle. Also, if you’re a Dusk Guard follower, note that the new chapter will be up in a few hours, since it’s Tuesday!

Are Libraries Bad for Authors?

Before we stumble into a cliche-filled moment of drama where inferences are made off of the title, I’ll be blunt: No, I don’t think so.

Let me say that again. Are libraries bad for authors? No, I don’t think so.

MacMillan, on the other hand (one of the larger book publishers), does.

Remember about … I want to say eight months or so ago, but it may have been longer, when Tor went ahead and decided that libraries were a threat to their business, since they let people check out books “for free” (the library pays for the book at a high price, mind). And therefore, they were going to be barring libraries from purchasing new copies of their books until a set time after release so that readers would be forced to buy them, rather than reading them at a library?

Well. apparently this idea is catching. MacMillan is the latest publisher to jump on this train. Now normally I’d sort of shake my head at this and move on, because this is just more book drama with publishers trying to recoup a market that’s slowly and steadily slipping away from them, but then in the news release, something else caught my eye. Something that really said a lot to me, personally, about how MacMillan is seeing things.

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Two Betrayals

Insert obligatory Halo voiceover here.

So, who’s doing the betraying that I’m talking about? Well, if I’m honest, it’s me. And my body. Against one another.

Basically, I’m still sick. With a cold, no less. But it’s mugged me hard. Hence, betrayal. Why body! Yesterday I sat down to get some more work done on Hunter/Hunted, and after what felt like a thousand+ words but was in fact only half that, my head was pounding and I was exhausted. So I laid down to rest my eyes for a moment and slept for several hours, waking up only just in time to go to my work shift.

That’s the other betrayal, the “Eh tu?” Me to my body. Because while I’ve been sick all week, I also had work shifts Monday-Wednesday. And my job doesn’t give sick leave. So guess who went to work sick and definitely overexerted himself? This guy. Take that body! That’ll teach you!

Like I said, two betrayals. I’ve not been giving my body time to recover, and my body’s been letting this one drag on a lot longer than it should have.

Hopefully I’ll get some writing done today. I slept until noon. But this month is so far behind schedule between being sick and all the extra shifts at work that … bleck.

On the plus side, sales are going well. I’m seeing a lot of new reviews and ratings come in as well (all four and five-star, too). So hey, things are still going well. Colony, Shadow of an Empire … even older works are getting eyeballs, reads, and favorable reviews.

It’s nice. Especially as I empty another box of tissues. The sickness will pass, and I’ll be back on top of my game, writing like a madman before I know it. And my books will still sell.

In the meantime, however, it’s frustrating. I want to write. But writing at under 100% is, well … let’s just say I’ve already spotted some major issues with what I forced out yesterday. I need to recover.

Finger crossed I’ll be back at it soon.

When Is a Sale Not a Sale?

When it doesn’t sell anything, clearly.

Okay, this needs a bit of explanation, but it’s an odd one. So things have been going pretty well sales-wise lately. Colony and Shadow of an Empire just keep ticking away copies, finally moving my book income from “Spare change” to “rent payment.” Or at least, they were, save for this last week.

What happened? Well, I went ahead and put Unusual Events: A “Short” Story Collection on a random sale for the week. Starting a 99 cents. Colony and Shadow were both doing well, so I figured that a nice discount on Unusual Events (Still, to date, my only book to not generate a profit and my lowest selling of all time) would maybe allow it to move a few copies alongside its stronger siblings.

Let me tell you, did that backfire. Instead of Events selling a few copies … all other sales stopped dead.

No, I’m not kidding. Fine one day and then wham! Down came the wall. All sales stopped dead. Even Kindle Unlimited reads dried up, going from a steady number of reads per day to almost nothing.

And then on Monday, the sale was over, and what happened? The numbers took a few days to go back up, but now they’re moving back to where they were.

Honestly? I’m as confused as anything about this one. The only theory I’ve got is that people who were looking at getting their hands on a copy of Colony or Shadow saw that Events was on sale and decided to wait until one of them was on sale, maybe?

That’s literally the only theory I have. As I watch the numbers slide back to normal post sale, that’s all I can offer. And even that doesn’t explain the KU numbers dropping into the abyss.

Is it coincidence? If so, it’s one of the strangest coincidences I’ve seen. And like I said, I have no explanation. Maybe Events is even less-appealing than I thought, so much so that it taints all other books based on its price?

I have no idea. Regardless, I thought it was interesting. Guess that’s one mistake I won’t be making the future. Unusual Events goes on sale with everything else, or not at all!

Tighten the Belt

So, continuing the week-long run of “I’ve got news and stuff to say!” here we are at Wednesday. And, to no one’s surprise, there’s still stuff going on.

So, today’s post? A financial update. Effectively, I’m tightening my belt and going into drought mode.

Why? Simple. The part-time job I have has hit some dry spells in these summer months. Said part-time job already cut corners where it could, but now that we’re in the realm of little business for the next month, that means fewer hours for everyone. Fewer hours means less pay and, well … yeah, a tighter belt for the month. And odd gigs around town.

The interesting bit about this is that Shadow of an Empire launched just around the time everything started to slow down. And while Shadow of an Empire‘s launch wasn’t as strong as Colony‘s (the Sci-Fi Epic continues to wear the crown) it was strong, and as of right now has left a longer-lasting tail.

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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.