The Last Knight

Daddy Warpig saw Transformers; The Last Knight and Disney's live action remake of Beauty and the Beast for some reason.

He reviews both of them on the latest episode of Geek Gab.

In Geek Gab-related news, I'm pleased to announce that Nebula Award nominee, record Hugo Award finalist, and reigning Dragon of Science Fiction John C. Wright will be joining me live on Geek Gab: On the Books this Wednesday, June 28th at 6:00 PM Eastern!

Mr. Wright's latest book, City of Corpses, is available now.

John C. Wright - City of Corpses

My own latest book The Hymn of the Pearl, a standalone novella set in a fantasy version of late Greek Antiquity, should be available later this week. Keep an eye on this blog and my social media accounts for further announcements.

The Hymn of the Pearl - Brian Niemeier

Bonus: The Hymn of the Pearl will contain a new, previously unpublished preview of Faraway Wars: Embers of Empire; coming soon from Castalia House.

Reminder: my entire award-winning space opera series is on sale for less than $9.00 until Friday.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier



Hymn of the Pearl Preview

I'm pleased to present you with an excerpt from my upcoming fantasy novella, The Hymn of the Pearl.
Pompeii Villa Mysteries

            Cteira would have kept her composure under threat of death. Advocate lore spoke of far worse fates. Grapt knew more than most about such exotic torments, and the livid mask of his face hinted that he intended one of them for her.
            “Husband,” Cteira said, struggling against her bonds.
            Grapt tightened the last cord binding Cteira’s left wrist to the chair. His motions stuttered in the guttering flame of a small brazier made sweet with incense. He moved toward the altar carved from one solid rock wall of the cramped room. The scraping of metal instruments on stone twisted Cteira’s stomach into an icy knotted ball.
Grapt turned back to her holding a pair of iron pincers.
“Look past the wrath that blinds you,” Cteira said. “I am still your wife.”
            Grapt paused. His dark eyes studied her as an augur might study an eviscerated dove. “I do not know you,” he said without emotion. “My bride was pure.” He grasped the pincers in his left hand.
Cteira failed to keep herself from flinching. She vowed to herself that she would not scream; then broke that promise when Grapt calmly tore the fingernails from his right hand. Small graven images of the gods stood upon the altar. He let a drop of blood from each finger fall on one of the statues. One by one, his fortune threads detached.
            Grapt took hold of Cteira’s fate threads and intoned forbidden cheiromantic formulas. Though uttered in a calm monotone, his invocations overpowered her cries. She recognized some of the names: titles of gods and spirits who traded human fate like haggling merchants.
            “The threads of blessing and woe are five,” Grapt said. “Health, Prosperity, Honor, Love, and Life. Fate’s hands hold all like a puppeteer grasping a marionette’s strings.”
            Every apprentice Advocate knows as much, thought Cteira. But it seemed that Grapt recited the familiar lecture not to her, but to himself.
            “Greater beings can intervene in the destinies of their inferiors,” Grapt went on. “Altering the fate of an equal incurs nemein. Advocates lay this divine guilt before the gods and are forgiven the price of their cheiromancy.”
            “No god will absolve you of this sacrilege!” Cteira spat.
            “Gheanon would,” said Grapt.
            Cteira flinched at the accursed name. “The god of chaos lies buried beneath a mountain of nemein. He cannot blot out your crime.”
            “It’s just as well,” Grapt said as the final knot joining their fate threads neared completion. “Absolution will soon be of no use to us.”
            Cteira desperately sought a lie to stay her husband’s hand. She found none he would believe. She almost told him the truth but knew he would believe that even less.
            Grapt laid his maimed right hand on Cteira’s left. She flinched at his touch as if his ragged fingers were writhing worms. His grim litany droned on, and Cteira realized that her husband was sacrificing the sum of their destinies; fortune and misfortune alike.
“Be loosed from your bonds.” Something reckless and feverish burned behind Grapt’s glassy eyes as he cut the cords of braided sinew that bound Cteira to the stone chair. “You severed the threads of love that joined us. See? I have done likewise to the rest, save only the life threads now twined in an endless loop. We are cut off from fate; set adrift like two pieces of flotsam lashed together.
Cteira stood and rubbed her sore wrists. She stared at the stern face that once kindled her love but now evoked pity, shame, and revulsion. She fled the underground chamber with oddly weightless steps, feeling her way upward in the dark.

            Cteira stumbled into blinding daylight like a ghost quitting her lonely crypt. That she did indeed emerge from a tomb—one of several caverns that riddled the necropolis hill—lent weight to her growing sense of displacement. What had her husband done?
            Enough. She was wasting time fearing for herself. Grapt had vented his misplaced rage upon her, but she still breathed and moved. Who knew what twisted vengeance he meant to exact from Oleth? Gathering her resolve, Cteira raced down from the necropolis toward the city of the living.
            Mura stood on the shore of the Middle Sea. Its towers and temples, markets and homes were circumscribed by a high brick wall. The guard at the north gate didn’t challenge Cteira as she cut past the line of travelers waiting to enter. She wove through the late morning crowds that filled the streets and soon reached the market. A riot of sights, scents, and sounds assaulted her still foggy mind. She didn’t see the heavy-laden oxcart until it was too late.
            Cteira watched the massive vehicle bearing down on her, resigned but cursing her failure to warn Oleth about Grapt. Her curses died on her tongue as the ox team veered right. The wagon rumbled past. An inch closer, and it would have torn off her nose.
Cteira stood marveling over her narrow escape until a feeling like a cold wind at the nape of her neck made her turn around. Grapt stood beneath the colonnaded market entrance, watching her impassively. Goaded by the hateful sight, Cteira dashed across the bustling square toward Oleth’s shop.
            Cteira hoped the physician hadn’t left his assistants to run the open-air counter fronting his practice. Coming within sight of the building’s white stone fa├žade, she heaved a sigh of relief to see Oleth lauding the virtues of various meats and potions to a bent-backed crone. Chiseled features graced his noble head, which a vestige of light hair encircled like a victor’s crown. The sight warmed Cteira’s soul to the same degree that Grapt chilled it.
            “Oleth!” Cteira said, running up and slamming her hands down on the stone counter. “Take whatever’s to hand and flee the city. Grapt is coming. I escaped with my life, but he blames you for—”
            “Yes, madam,” Oleth said to the crone. “This poultice will banish the gout.” Cteira leaned against the counter, panting. He wasn’t even looking at her.
            “Grapt was at the south gate when I saw him last,” Cteira said, struggling to keep her words from running together. “His cheirology is beyond your medicine. Even the temple Advocates fear him. You must run. Now!”
            Oleth smiled. “That’s kind of you to say, but please take care lest you make my lover jealous.” Cteira’s mouth dropped open. Then she realized that Oleth was diverting the crone’s flirtations with no regard for his actual lover’s presence.
            Cteira swept her arm across the counter, sending stone jars and glass vials crashing to the pavement. Oleth’s head turned toward her, his brow knotted, before he continued plying the crone as though nothing had happened.
            Cteira stared at the comely physician. Her heart roiled with frustration and sorrow. A hand took gentle hold of her arm, and she spun to find Grapt standing behind her as emotionless as ever.
“Despair,” he said. “We are as phantoms to all but each other.” She jerked her arm free, smearing her sleeve with his blood, and plunged back into the teeming square.
Stifling simultaneous urges to scream, laugh, and cry, Cteira straightened her posture and strode toward the south gate. The chill pricking her neck told her that Grapt followed. He always will, an inner voice told her with the surety of death. Escape was impossible.

But that was no reason not to try.

The Hymn of the Pearl will be available soon. The award-winning Soul Cycle is available now for less than $9.00.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier



City of Corpses

John C. Wright - City of Corpses

City of Corpses, the latest fantasy title from multiple Hugo nominee and Dragon Award winner John C. Wright, is now available.
Yumiko Moth has discovered her name, but she still does not know who, or what, she is. What she has learned is that her mother is dead, her master has disowned her, and her beloved has vanished. And she also knows that the Day world is a very dangerous place for a Twilight girl, especially when the dark forces of Night are hunting her.
To discover the truth she seeks, she must infiltrate the enemy's citadel. In New York City, that is The Cobbler's Club, home to the world-famous Peach Cobbler Girls. But how can a girl who stalks the shadows hide herself in the bright lights of the stage? CITY OF CORPSES is the fifth book of MOTH & COBWEB, an astonishingly inventive fantasy series about the magical worlds of Day, Night, and Twilight by John C. Wright, the Dragon Award-winning author of SOMEWHITHER.
You know you want this. What are you waiting for? Go get it!


How to Find a Cover Artist

Your book's cover is its front line marketing tool. A cover that conveys your book's genre, tone, and general story from a glance at the thumbnail will drive sales. None of this is possible without a skilled cover artist.

How do you find the right artist for your book's cover? Yakov Merkin, author of A Greater Duty, joined me for the latest episode of Geek Gab: On the Books to give writers some helpful tips for finding a cover artist.

John Zeleznik: Yakov's cover artist
A Greater Duty - Yakov Merkin

Marcelo Orsi Blanco: my cover artist
Nethereal cover - Marcelo Orsi Blanco

Reminder: this month only, you can get the whole award-winning Soul Cycle for less than $9.00.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier



Analog Mindset

Reader JD Cowan passed along a blog post by an author who attempts to give reasons for his decision to never self-publish. I say attempts because there are no reasons involved; only pre-rational biases.

Normally I'd shrug and get back to earning a living in the publishing industry, but Steve is spreading some truly heinous misinformation that could prove detrimental to aspiring authors' careers. As a public service to writers and the readers who might one day enjoy their work, I'm going to correct Steve's erroneous assumptions so authors of the digital age don't get stuck in his analog mindset.

Excerpts from the original post will appear in italics. My comments will appear in bold.
I don’t intend for this post to be a, “bash self-publishing party,” or to put down the many, fantastic indie authors that I know. Instead, I simply want to respond to a damned annoying statement that gets brought up in almost every conversation I have with self-published authors. Usually it goes something like, “You shouldn’t waste your time trying to get an agent, because indie publishing is so much better,” and it makes me want to kick someone in the teeth. (Not that I could, a punching bag has literally given me a black eye before.)
Translation: "I am a frustrated author who's spent years playing by the old rules only to see indie authors earn money from their work and reach readers while I perpetually ride the rejection carousel. I yearn to bash more successful indie authors, but I'm afraid of the potential repercussions, so I'll couch my naked envy in passive-aggressive terms and hope nobody notices."

[NB: everyone notices.]
I completely understand that many indie authors hear the exact opposite of what I am experiencing, and I think it would be interesting to read how an indie author deals with the, “Traditional publishing is the only real publishing,” mindset.
I look at this chart.

Author Earnings Market Share 2017

Then I laugh.
For this post, I am only going to focus on my experiences, though I really would like to hear if you’ve had to deal with the opposite.
I have, though it comes up less and less as traditional publishers lose revenue, cut authors, and switch to cheaper paper stock.
First, the main reason why I have no desire to ever self-publish is because part of my dream is being traditionally published and part of that process is getting an agent.
Setting aside the tautology, Steve brushes up against a good point. Before you set out to become an author, you need to sit down and think hard about why.

Live I've said before, self-publishing isn't ideological for me. It's purely pragmatic. That's why I have always been, and continue to be, traditionally published in addition to my indie publishing enterprise.

I want to please readers and make money in the process. Steve wants to earn validation from a bunch of MFA candidate editorial interns in Manhattan. If you share Steve's dream, trad publishing is definitely the path to your goal.
I know it sounds stupid, and it’s not fair, but I place higher prestige on traditionally published books versus self-published ones.
Most people base their decisions on emotion. A rare few individuals subject their worldviews to the reality test. I'll let you decide which approach was used above. 
I know that there are bad books on both sides, but since I am a nobody, the only way any of my manuscripts will get accepted is if they are actually good. And one of the best people to spot a quality manuscript is an agent.
1) Being a nobody is entirely up to you.
2) Anyone with a phone, an internet connection, and a P.O. box can call himself a literary agent. Assuming that agents in general are qualified to judge the merits of an author's work betrays a staggering degree of gullibility.
Off subject, but while there are countless, courteous self-published authors, I always see some SOB in on social media who truly thinks that their work is the best thing ever written. Even through the Internet, their ego has a god damn gravitational pull.
Remember: Steve doesn't want to bash indie authors. Except those SOBs whose egos have their own gravitational pull.
I hate the culture of shameless self-promotion. I hate that writers would rather give four and five-star reviews to crap books, simply because they don’t want to hurt another writer’s feelings.
Important ethical principle, kids: don't give crap books four and five-star reviews. It's unclear how Steve knows which books are crap, though, since he's not a literary agent.
I don’t want a participation trophy, and I don’t want to be associated with those kinds of people. I want to earn it.
Again, Steve isn't bashing self-published authors, even though he strongly implies that indie authors give each other unearned four and five-star reviews as a matter of course.
I understand that many self-pub authors have to market themselves if they hope to have any possible financial success, so it isn’t fair to hate on self-promotion. It takes a lot of work outside of writing to make a book successful, but this is another reason why I don’t want to self-publish. Agents, editors, and publishers exist to fulfill this part of the industry.
No, Steve clearly doesn't understand. It's not just indie authors who have to market themselves, a.k.a. their brands. All authors MUST engage in self-promotion.

My editor was traditionally published by Tor Books before she got her rights back and went indie. When she was signed, Tor told her to spend hours each day blogging and self-promoting on social media. Later on, Steve mentions looking up to guys like Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, and George R. R. Martin. All of those guys blog extensively and maintain active presences on social media. All of them attend conventions and promote their brands.

The notion that you can "just write" while your publisher handles all of the marketing hasn't been true for years, if it ever was. In the words of Hyman Roth, this is the business that we've chosen. Market or die. No exceptions.
I love writing and not just narratives. I enjoy writing for my blog, connecting with like-minded people, and pretty much writing whatever I want.
Then you're an amateur. That's fine. Far be it from me to tell you what to write. But pros write to please their readers. They write marketable fiction, and they start treating it like a job long before they can do it for a living.
I do not like the idea of being forced to make post after post about my own work with the hope that I get a few e-book sales. It makes my success as an author contingent on my ability to market and not my ability to be a fucking writer.

That crude distortion is one of the poisonous items of misinformation that prompted me to fisk Steve's post. If he thinks that the way to generate indie book sales is to only post about one's own work, he doesn't know jack shit about marketing.

Protip: the way to generate book sales is to write posts that inform and entertain people. If you consistently give your audience free entertainment, they'll be willing to pay you for more.

And in case it wasn't clear before, EVERY author's success is contingent on his ability to market his writing.
The biggest upside that self-pub authors use to try to convince me is that the royalties are much higher in indie publishing. This is completely true. Amazon offers like 70% royalties while most big houses offer around 10%. The problem with their argument is that most major publishers will offer an advance which will compensate the author for the work that they have all ready put in. An indie book does not see a dime until their book starts selling, and if an indie book flops it doesn’t matter that the author had 70% royalties. Their poorly performing counterpart will still have earned their author a few thousand dollars in an advance.
Derp concentrations critical.

OK, Steve gets a couple things right. Amazon KDP does indeed offer 70% royalties on eBooks priced between $2.99 and $9.99. The Big Five publishers offer anywhere from eight to fifteen percent royalties depending on several factors, such as the author's track record, whether it's a hardcover or paperback edition, and how much they like you. Tradpub authors get a flat 25% of net on eBooks, which works out to 12.5% in the end.

As for advances, Steve has no fucking clue what he's talking about.

Where to begin unraveling the tangled ball of tardation that is the modern book advance? First, contra what Steve implies, an advance is not compensation for the hard work the author has put in writing a book. It's a no-interest loan against future earnings originally intended to financially support the author while he writes the next book.

Publisher advances to new authors have continually shrunk over the years to the point that a standard first-time advance these days is $2500-$3000. Try living on that for six months. As you can see, book advances no longer serve their original intended purpose.

Second, advances have to be paid back out of the author's royalties. So actually, a tradpub author doesn't start earning anything until his share of the royalties from the book's sales exceed the advance amount. Until then, all he's got is borrowed money.

What if you don't earn out your advance? The answer is that you're done. The publisher knows there are thousands of starry-eyed aspiring authors where you came from, and they have no qualms about cutting you loose and tossing the dice again with someone else. A new author's odds of earning out stand at about 50/50, so flip a coin when you sign that contract.

Selling one eBook on KDP for $4.99 gets you about $3.43 in royalties. An indie author who sells one copy of his book can honestly boast more earnings than a tradpub author who fails to earn out a $3000 advance.

Oh, and due to Amazon's higher royalty rate, the indie author only has to sell 1/5 as many copies as the tradpub author to make the same amount of money.
There is one last item that makes me never want to self-publish. 9 out of 10 self-published books that I have read are terrible, but 10 out of 10 self-published authors believe that their book is the exception. If I self-published, I could never be sure that my stuff wasn’t crap just like the rest of them. I should add that I am okay with writing crap, hell that’s pretty much all I write right now, but I’m not okay with that being the culmination of my life’s work.
Hey, Steve. Your elitism's showing.

Again, by your own standards, not being a literary agent means you're not qualified to judge the quality of those books.

But let's toss out that snobbish BS and talk about how, without the expert services of an agent or a Big Five editor, you can know whether or not the culmination of your life's work is crap.


Pro authors don't write for agents, editors, or publishers. They write for their readers. You know, the people whose hard-earned money pays your advance and any royalties you might earn? It's not just gladhanding indie authors who leave Amazon reviews. Readers review books, too. Read them. Engage with your audience on social media. Trust me, they'll make their preferences known.

Once you know what they want, give it to them. Because they need a damn good reason to spend their money on your books instead of video games, movies, and beer.
If I ever publish a novel it will be with a traditional publisher. Like I said at the beginning, this has not been a knock against indie publishing, but rather a response to all of the people who try to belittle my choice of pursuing my dream. I still would love to hear about indie authors dealing with snobby people from traditional publishing, so if you have a story please don’t hold back. I hope that everyone is having a wonderful day and that at least someone found this helpful.
I hope that Steve has a wonderful day, too. Furthermore, I hope he breaks out of the analog mindset that's keeping him from reaching readers and GETTING PAID.

Steve shouldn't be so hard on the people who are belittling his choice to exclusively pursue tradpub. If they get him to question whether his choice is good or not, they'll have done him a valuable service.

And because I eat my own cooking, the award-winning Soul Cycle is on sale this month for less than nine bucks.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier



Bushi Boys

This past Saturday, Daddy Warpig and Dorrinal sat down for a wide-ranging discussion with the Bushi Boys. I wasn't able to make it for this episode of Geek Gab, but I'm sure you'll enjoy this geektastic conversation between our two remaining hosts and their special guests.

Give it a listen!

OT: The Secret Kings, Soul Cycle Book III is on sale for $0.99 this month. And the whole series is less than 9 bucks.
Every action scene was entertainingly complicated and intricate, with environmental factors and an ebb and flow, so don't expect one bland gunfight after the next.
-Adam Smith


Thoughts on Crime Pulp

Crime Suspenstories

Inspired by his recent appearance on Geek Gab: On the Books, the Injustice Gamer offers some additional thoughts on the crime genre in the pulps:
Let's start with a definition of the Crime genre(yes, I know genres are mostly marketing tools). It's not inherently a mystery story, though it might be.  A great proportion of these feature "protagonists" on the other side of the law. There's a lot of deceit in the several characters, possibly including the narrator. Commonly, there's a lot of violence, and sex and language content is generally within the norm.
I wrote an overview post on the genre of crime comics. While this is a good start, it's also very much an incomplete view. There were a slew of crime comics before the comics code came into being, notably from EC, the biggest victim of the code. On the recent side, Hard Case Crime has been partnering with Titan Comics to bring some interesting stories to graphic format, and if they do quality work long enough, will unseat Vertigo as the crime comics king. 
Read the whole post.

As a kid I stumbled upon the Gladstone-Cochran reprints of EC comics at the local supermarket. The intense art and effective, if formulaic, writing hooked me immediately, and I convinced my dad to buy me an issue each week. Those old issues are still around here somewhere. I'll have to dig them out.

Another treasure of my youth was a paperback biography of EC publisher William M. Gaines, better known as the founder of Mad magazine. The episode of Gaines' cold medicine-impeded testimony before the senate hearings on juvenile delinquency stuck with me. Along with Werthan, those hearings brought an end to the golden age of EC crime and horror comics.

What a strange turn of events that now it's publishers who are engaging in censorship to keep ideas they deem dangerous from corrupting readers.

Happily, publishers don't have the power to muzzle writers anymore.

Want to read something really scary?

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier



Crime/Suspense Stories

Are crime and suspense stories pulp? How about true crime? Westerns? Stage magic and train stories?

Alfred Genesson and Nathan Housley answer these and other pressing Pulp Revolution questions on the latest very special episode of Geek Gab: On the Books.

Check it out!

Action packed, complex, and gargantuan. It's a space opera that doesn't care about genre limitations mixing in a healthy dose of horror and fantasy for a good measure.


Elementary Storytelling


Over on the Castalia House blog, Appendix N author Jeffro Johnson lays out a few vital criteria for masterful writing:
The truth is that effective writing is striking. It stands out. It’s so obvious that children can identify it with confidence. In fact, the classics I list above are ones that my children particularly enjoyed along with me. This is not an accident. Fake masterworks always require the validation of some sort of brilliant commentator who may or may not exist yet. Real master pieces can be enjoyed by practically anyone.
On the subject of misdirection and writing, this tends to come up in the context of crime and suspense stories. I think this is an error, but then… I don’t read crime and suspense stories so much. I would argue that misdirection is a central facet of great writing regardless of genre.
Now, at one end… you can see story construction as being similar to a joke or a magic trick. You are swept along a series of connected events and everything hangs together. You get to the end and you not only get a resolution, but you get some sort consciousness expanding “aha” effect. Sometimes it’s funny. Sometimes it’s chilling. Either way, you have to feed the reader a sense of what the baseline is while mixing in just enough cognitive dissonance to set up the punch line. The reader will think he knows where you are going with things… but then at the end, there is this jerk as he pops from one frame to the other.
The quality that Jeffro describes here is often called "surprising but inevitable". Striking that delicate balance is how a writer can pull the wool over readers' eyes and leave them feeling delighted; not cheated, for the deception.

Remember: a set of events can admit of multiple explanations. Your job as a writer is to present one plausible but false explanation while working from another explanation which alone fits all the facts. If you do it right, the second, true explanation will leave subtle traces throughout the narrative. This is how you avoid insufficiently foreshadowed deus ex machina solutions without tipping your hand.

If done correctly, the reader will finish the book with the satisfaction that only comes from being pleasantly surprised yet at the same time being certain that events could not have gone any other way.

Jeffro concludes:
I get that same feeling frequently when I watch movies. It’s like Bill Cosby’s classic set up for (I think) his Fat Albert story: “Now… I told you that one so I could tell you this one.” That got a laugh in his stand-up routine. If people notice you doing that when you’re telling a story, then you are failing to successfully misdirect your audience. You’re like a magician doing a trick and instead of wowing the twelve-year-old on the front row, you instead draw attention to the dime store gimmick that makes what you’re doing possible.
It’s bad form.
The ultimate contempt that can be shown to the reader is to intentionally not even try. Three examples here: Philip K. Dick’s The Man in High Castle, the “Lost” television show, and the BBC series “Sherlock”. Now, I know the Dick novel has some compelling world building, interesting situations, and so forth. But it reads as if the subject of each chapter was determined by casting the I-Ching. It doesn’t go anywhere; it doesn’t hang together any better than the plots of television shows that are put together by committees of people that simply do not care.
Storytellers can create powerful illusions. And it’s true, they often boil down to little more than the imaginary equivalent of props and sets and stages. But there is a great difference between pulling off a trick and making the audience the butt of a joke. That is the difference between the master and the hack whether you are talking about stories published a hundred years ago or stories published today.

This book outflanked me. Usually when I read a book, I try to guess where the author is going with a particular thing, or try to fathom where a scene will end up. Of course I tried to do that with Nethereal, and I was defeated at every. Single. Turn. There is not a single point in this book that I felt was tropey, or predictable, or even safe...well worth the price of admission, multiple times over. Go buy it.

Nethereal - Brian Niemeier
Surprise! It's now 20% off.

P.S. For more on pulp crime/suspense stories, don't miss my next episode of Geek Gab: On the Books with special guests Nathan Housley and The Injustice Gamer: tonight at 7:00 PM Eastern!


This Is Not Fine

This Is Not Fine

Author JD Cowan delivers a stinging rebuke to proselytes for the Cult of the New:
It is a fascinating mentality to have. Imagine being so dismissive and scared of the past that one can't admit there were aspects of it better than where we live in the present. Now there is something to be said about being obsessed with a time period in one's life, but it is much different today. This type of "forward" thinking is now one step away from being cultism.
A long time ago, there was a saying. It was a line used to excuse degrading standards and subversion of classic properties in a way to dodge all legitimate criticism. It is not used so much today though the spirit is very much alive.
The motto went like this:
Question: What is the Golden Age of *insert subject here*?
Answer: Age 8 to 10.
This was the original nostalgia argument used to shut down any criticism of a newer product from the time of the 1970s and '80s, and earlier. This argument can be found looking in old letter columns from the era. However, nobody uses it anymore. It is easy to puzzle out why it has. Because this claim falls apart on closer inspection and has been proven wrong with, ironically, the passage of time.
Time has passed, and many fans of different entertainment mediums have not had the benefit of being 8 or 10 years old when Superman's first comic was released or when The Moon Pool was first run. So then, how can there be people alive today who prefer that older age in comparison to what is currently being put out? It is unclear, according to these types. How can one prefer action movies of the 1980s when they were born in 1994? That should not happen. And yet another individual who grew up with those very same movies is apparently only able to enjoy them due to a nebulous concept called nostalgia. That simply cannot be the case, at least not in every example.
JD's observations are correct. Because unlike adherents of the novelty cult, he actually takes the time to observe the current debased cultural landscape instead of defaulting to hand waving and chronological snobbery.

Just one example: look at the continued popularity of 70s and 80s properties like Star Wars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, and the original Ghostbusters with children today. Contrast that kind of staying power with IPs from later decades. Finding an IP with lasting appeal from the 1990s requires looking to anime.

JD continues dismantling the argument from nostalgia:
This accusation requires a heavy duty dose of projection from the accuser, as it otherwise has no real bearing on a discussion centered on taste. And what it tends to lead to is the revelation that the accuser is really a member of The Cult of the New.
"How can you possibly like this old thing better than this new thing! This was made more recently, therefore it must be better. All the progress we've made in history dictates this! Clearly, you must only like this inferior relic is because you are pining for a long lost youth and are simply out of touch with what the standard is now."
The trick in this accusation is that it can't be argued against. Reasons for taste and preference cannot be proven. Therefore The Mists of Avalon is an objectively better book than Le Morte D'Arthur because of the centuries of progress since the latter. Stories of knights are simply better because they must be. How can one argue against it? Progress dictates it must be so. Taste is absolutely no factor here.
However, it is.
It always is.
Like all postmoderns, novelty cultists vocally deny objective standards of beauty and craftsmanship while at the same time conflating their subjective preference for novelty with objective quality.

Exploding their argument is as simple as refusing to let them frame the debate. The key isn't to defend your preference for the classics. It's to point out that older works are objectively superior to the creatively exhausted tripe that film, game, and comic book studios churn out these days.

For an orgy of evidence, see Jeffro Johnson's landmark Appendix N.

Appendix N - Jeffro Johnson

More from JD:
But if this situation were to flip, one could find the same issue with The Cult of the New. Every new release is showered with aplomb and gusto before being forgotten within months. We live in a throwaway culture.
Take the Avatar film by James Cameron. It was showered with praise upon release, made more money than most filmmakers can dream of, and critics were hounded, insulted, and spat upon for daring to point out any flaws it might have had. Now you will struggle to find anyone who cares one whit for it, or is looking forward to its sequels. Video games also have this problem. BioShock Infinite was hailed as an unparalleled masterpiece, as was Uncharted 2, and any game Guerrilla Games has ever made. These products are bathed in a tsunami of attention at release, and then forgotten in a year. As a prediction: by November there will hardly be anyone still talking about Prey instead of the newest holiday releases.
Which group has the shallow attachment to the product?
Avatar is an excellent example of the novelty cult's shallowness. I've written before about the reasons for its failure to gain cultural traction. The short version is that a storyteller's job is to continually explain a culture to itself. The movie producers, New York editors, and television executives who currently occupy the thrones vacated by the rightful high priests of Western culture are in fact apostates pushing a corrosive anti-culture on their increasingly atomized congregations.

But there are those who are fighting back against the usurpers and the wolves in sheep's clothing who run popular media. Content creators and curators like the fine authors at Castalia House, Cirsova Magazine, and the Pulp Revolution as a whole are working hard to remind the men of the West of their unmatched cultural tradition.

I support them and lend my pen to their noble cause. And because my primary obligation is to my readers, my award-winning Soul Cycle series is currently on sale for less than $9.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier



The Dark Universe

On the latest episode of Geek Gab, Daddy Warpig and Dorrinal review Universal's third second first attempt at creating their own cinematic universe based on the classic Universal monsters.

First up is The Mummy starring Tom Cruise. No, it's not a reboot of the fun action-comedy Mummy with Brendan Fraser. It's...

Well, just listen for yourself.

Also well worth checking out: Red Letter Media's take on the same movie.

Heads up! in addition to The Secret Kings being on sale for $0.99, Souldancer and Nethereal are each 20% off. Right now, you can get the entire Soul Cycle for less than nine bucks. Now's a great time to read the first three entries in the series before the fourth and final book comes out.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier


More Praise for Nethereal

Nethereal - Brian Niemeier

Daytime Renegade offers a thorough and thoughtful review of my first novel, Nethereal.
Take the good parts of Dune and Star Wars, mix them together with a heaping dollop of Dante, a dash of high fantasy, and a whole lot of horror, and you’re beginning to almost approach Brian Niemeier‘s self-published Nethereal, book one of his three-part Soul Cycle series. 
Is it sci-fi? Is it science-fantasy? 
Who cares? It’s fun. 
Nethereal reads like the best console or pen-and-paper RPG you never played. Imagination abounds. 
Fitting, as Brian is a figure in the burgeoning #PulpRevolution. 
Nethereal focuses on space pirate Jaren Peregrine and the crew of his ship, the Shibboleth, as they seek revenge against the Guild, a quasi-governmental entity that dominates the Spheres (think: planets). 
Jaren is half-Gen (think: Elf), and the Guild destroyed his race, and his family, and now they’ve got to pay. Chief among Jaren’s crew is mercenary Teg Cross, steersmen Deim Corsurunda and Nakvin (no last name given), and the mysterious Vaun Mordechai, a late addition with mysterious motives. 
Pursued by the Guild, Jaren and crew meet a rebel force and end up commanding the mysterious, powerful Exodus, whose unsettling cargo takes them through the depths of hell…and beyond. 
Even stranger is Elena, a half-woman, half-machine who appears to be the Exodus’ source of power. 
I don’t want to spoil anything here, but suffice it to say Nethereal is one of the most imaginative works of fiction I’ve read in a long while. 
And the heroes are–gasp!–heroic!
My comment: I consider it my first duty to entertain my readers. Saving science fiction from dull, preachy message fic and the stoic despair of Big Men with Screwdrivers comes a close second. I'm honored to have succeeded at both in DR's estimation.

But let's not get too self-congratulatory just yet. Every book has room for improvement, and DR believes he's found a little in Nethereal.
I do have nits to pick–this is the Internet, after all. Some of the characters are a little tough to connect with, particularly Jaren, who beyond single-mindedness really has little else going for him–I don’t quite get why he is such an inspiring leader. Deim is similarly inscrutable. And I did feel some of the characters’ attempts at glib humor fell flat. 
The world and its structure, culture, and mythology is a little confusing too, though the glossary included helps, and things begin to make more sense as the story unfolds. And Marshal Malachi is a bit disappointing as a villain. 
But the rest of the villains provide one of the deadliest, vilest, and flat-out creepy rogues gallery you’ll find most anywhere. Each player has their own goals and motivations–and reasons for stabbing their purported allies in the back.
Marshal Malachi fans are disappoint!

Heads up, DR. I'd watch out for those guys, They tend to be INTJs.

With his examination of the book's blemishes out of the way, our intrepid reviewer continues:
There’s also gun fighting, swordplay, warrior-priests, demons, the undead, body-swapping, necromancy, and heavy theological discussions about life, the soul, and everything else that matters.
The pacing is brisk, which helps a book of this scope keep from getting bogged down. And I can offer it the highest praise any book can get: Nethereal was incredibly difficult to put down. I cannot wait to start book two, Souldancer.
Highly recommended.
Thanks to Daytime Renegade and the thousands of readers who've given Nethereal a shot. You can buy the first book in the award-winning Soul Cycle here.

Already have Nethereal? The third and penultimate book in the Soul Cycle, The Secret Kings is on sale right now for only $0.99!

The Secret Kings - Brian Niemeier


Old Pulp Magazines

Author Rawle Nyanzi went digging through some old pulp magazines from the 1930s. Now he's come to share what he learned about the golden age of sci-fi publishing with the listeners of Geek Gab: On the Books

Rawle also shares his strong opinions on recent attempts to revive the once-dominant Western genre. This one gets pretty intense. Don't miss it!

Sword and Flower - Rawle Nyanzi

In publishing news, I've started work on a new, non-Soul Cycle novella. Unlike the SC, this one is a pure fantasy story featuring a new magic system that's got early readers super excited. Progress has been good, so look for The Hymn of the Pearl to launch later this month.



Writing Fiction vs. Selling Fiction

In his comment on my previous marketing post, reader Misha Burnett draws an important delineation between writing fiction and selling fiction:
And this is exactly why I gave up trying to write for money. It's a sales job, and I don't like sales. Having a fairly decent product line helps, but a good salesman who is a mediocre writer can make money with fiction. If you're a lousy salesman, however, it doesn't make any difference how well or poorly you write. 
Writing fiction isn't a job. Selling fiction is.
My reply:

"Writing fiction isn't a job. Selling fiction is."

You're exactly right.

When aspiring authors come to me for career advice, the first question I ask them is why they're writing.

Making a decent supplemental income is one thing. Making a living is a related, but different ballgame. Publishing a book just to scratch it off your bucket list and impress your family and friends is a whole other sport. Specifically, an amateur sport.

That question catches most of them off guard. The number of aspiring authors out there who've never stopped to consider why they want to write is staggering.

If you want to write a novel as a personal challenge or an essay in the craft, that's great. Don't pay for pro editing or a cover. Enjoy the pleasure of writing "The End" on the last page and file the MS in a shoe box in your closet. Or send a few copies to friends and family. Congratulations. You've achieved what very few people ever accomplish.

If you have more than one book in you. If, in fact, you can't stop writing. I mean, if they locked you away, you'd swallow a pencil nub, regurgitate it in your cell, and cover the padded walls with fever dreams. That kind of obsession.

If you need to write like you need to breathe and you want your writing to reach as wide an audience as possible, then you need to learn sales. It serves no one to be good at the art and bad at the business.

On a personal note, I used to hate sales, too. I did my tours in the Christmas retail trenches trying to convince people that they wanted useless junk they couldn't afford. I'm not talking cool toys for grownups with some entertainment value. I'm talking extended warranties on CDs and store credit lines. It was miserable.

In the middle of that drudgery, I sold my first short story. Suddenly I learned that people wanted to read my writing, and what's more, they'd pay me for it.

Now I've come to appreciate sales. I even love sales. Because there are people out there who want to read my stories, but they won't know it until I tell them that my stories exist.

I'll let you in on a big secret: everything is sales. Life is sales. If you think about it, you use salesmanship in your day job, whatever it is. In the hypothetical case that you don't, your job depends on someone who does.

But it goes beyond that. Your interactions with co-workers, friends; even your spouse and kids involve salesmanship principles. So it's not a matter of biting the bullet and suffering the unpleasant necessity of sales. It's about having something you're so passionate about that you find joy in doing everything you can to share it.

People who find their dream jobs always say it doesn't feel like work. For me, selling my stories doesn't feel like sales.

Here's an example. Because I want it to be enjoyed by as many readers as possible, The Secret Kings, Soul Cycle Book III is now on sale for only 99 cents.

The Secret Kings - Brian Niemeier



Marketing Is Everything

Author Russell Newquist helpfully informs us of the difference between marketing and advertising while explaining why marketing is essential for authors.
First of all, you have to understand that marketing and advertising are two separate but related things. Any business you run (and remember, selling your own books is a business!) must do both!
Marketing is everything you do – everything – related to letting people know that your product (book) exists and why they should purchase (and read) it.
Advertising is when you pay somebody to include some kind of ad for your product – a video, a little image, a blurb, a text segment, whatever. It’s a subset of marketing.
Advertising almost always costs money. Sometimes you can work out a trade with someone, but usually you’re going to have to pay for it. With other forms of marketing, on the other hand, you can very often trade hard work for money. And you must keep doing it.
You hate marketing? Suck it up, buttercup – or go get a day job. If you want your books to sell, you have to market them.
You’re probably used to thinking of marketing as a dirty word, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s time to rethink the word. Look at it this way:
Nobody will ever read your book if they don’t know it exists. Nobody. Ever.
Stop thinking of marketing as a dastardly activity and think of it as precisely two things:
  1. Letting people know that your book exists.
  2. Letting them know why they should read it.

I second everything Russell said. Marketing is what separates amateurs from pros. If you want to be a pro author, you need to market yourself--note: not just your books; yourself--constantly. Marketing grows brands. You are the brand. Your books are your products.

Russell follows up these truth bombs with some actionable advice.
Here are some cheap or even free things you should start early and keep at to market your book:
  • Start a blog and write interesting posts about interesting topics!
  • Bonus points if the blog’s topic relates to your book topic!
  • Create profiles on various social media and participate!
  • Get as many of your friends and family to read and review your book as possible!
  • Talk about your book to anyone who will listen!
Here are a few other things that you should consider spending some money on, even if you only have one book:
A good cover. It’s not so much that good covers sell books (although they do). The bigger issue is that bad covers kill books. You don’t have to spring for the best cover ever. But a bad cover is worse than “not worth the money.” It will actually work against you. There are some good places you can get decent covers done for under $200. They’re worth it. This is also the gift that keeps on giving. You pay for the cover now for book one… but when book two comes out, book one still has that excellent cover you paid for. So book one’s sales boost from book two’s release will be better. And so on.
A good web site. Did you read what I said above about bad covers killing books? Ditto for bad web sites. The good news is, it’s pretty easy to build a not-terrible web site these days. But you want more than that. You don’t just want a web site that looks good. You want a web site that’s built to sell your book. If you’re not technically inclined, or if you’re no good at marketing, save yourself a lot of headaches. Pay someone to build a web site for you. You can find some not terrible web designers for a few hundred dollars. Like your book’s cover, this is the gift that keeps on giving. A good web site will keep selling book one… and then take only a little modification to start selling book two. Invest your time and energy here and, if necessary, your money.
Some sales artwork. The internet is a fantastic place and you can find artwork pretty inexpensively if you look. For $10-30 a piece you can buy very high quality stock images to use. For $30-200 a piece you can pay for some pretty good quality artwork. This is especially worth the money if your book is the first of the series. You can reuse that character art for every single book in that line – and add to it with each book. Eventually you’ll have a really huge collection of art you can choose from for flyers, posters, ads, etc. But you can also start small and cheap and build this collection as you have money.
I can confirm the usefulness of sales artwork from personal experience.

Souldancer - Brian Niemeier

But there's one piece of advice from Russell that needs to come with some major caveats.
Give away books. Yes, you heard me. Give them away. Give away as many books as you possibly can, especially book one in a series. Ebooks are best for this, of course, because they’re free to you. But give away print books, too, if you have to. The more the better. My experience is that about one out of every one hundred readers will actually review a book (maybe fewer). But you need those reviews. So get those books out the door to anyone who will read them. Remember: this is helpful for getting reviews and selling books now. But even more importantly, you’re laying a foundation of fans who will buy your future books. So give them away like candy.
Not to step on Russell's toes, but I've got lots of experience with book giveaways. The result is that I'm much less bullish on giving books away for free than Russell is.

The best advice, as always, comes from Larry Correia: only do free if you have a plan.

Here are some pointers to help you make that plan:
  • If you only have one book, don't give it away for free.
  • Most authors will tell you to make the first book in a series free. Consider giving away the second or third book in a series. I've found that people are more likely to go back and buy previous books in a series than they are to buy later installments after getting book one for free, but your mileage may vary.
  • Give away free copies of your books through your web site/mailing list. Kindle Unlimited requires a 90 day commitment, and it sucks. Seriously, getting paid based on number of KENPs read amounts to a pay cut from Amazon to tradpub royalty rates.

The moral of the story? Always. Be. Closing!

By the way, The Secret Kings, Soul Cycle Book III is currently on sale for only 99 cents.

The Secret Kings - Brian Niemeier



Wonder Woman

This week on Geek Gab, Daddy Warpig, Dorrinal, and I discuss DC's new movie Wonder Woman.

You can listen in here.

UPDATE: Since recording this episode, I have gone to see the movie. I'm in agreement with DW that this is the best DC movie since The Dark Knight Rises. Granted, that's a low bar, but at least it's an improvement.

Here are three statements about Wonder Woman , in no particular order:
  1. It's actually not feminist propaganda. Much like Mad Max: Fury Road, I suspect that Wonder Woman was intended to advance third-wave feminism but failed due to technical incompetence at the implementation stage. That might sound like damning with faint praise, but here the failed attempt at feminist message fic left us with a decent story.
  2. Wonder Woman isn't portrayed as a female Superman. Instead, she's DC's version of Captain America. This works to the character's and the film's advantage, because after Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman, both Cap and WW are the supermen we need if not the supermen we deserve.
  3. In last decade's superhero film market, this movie would have been considered sub par to mediocre. The rave reviews it's garnered are almost entirely due to DC--and recently Marvel--dropping the ball recently.


I'm Bullish on Amazon, and So Can You!


There have been rumblings in the small and indie publishing scene of late foretelling Amazon's imminent lapse into tyranny. "They're just too big!" goes the lament. "With no moral or economic checks on their operation, Amazon is sure to screw authors...somehow!"

I've been publishing with Amazon for two years. I thoroughly researched their business practices before publishing with them, and I've called them out when I thought they screwed up. When it comes to Amazon, I'm neither an uninformed rube nor a starry-eyed ideologue.

And I don't buy the panicked cries insisting that the sky is falling.

Why not? For one, pundits have been prophesying doom for Kindle Direct Publishing since day one. Every time I've looked into the latest anti-Amazon scare, the doomsayers have come up empty-handed.

But these Amazon zombie memes keep cropping up, so to recap:
  • Amazon is not a monopoly. They don't have exclusive control over the supply of a commodity or service.
  • Nor is Amazon a monopsony. They don't have exclusive control over an entire market, either. Amazon's competitors in the eBook market include Barnes & Noble, Google, and Apple, the biggest company in the world.
  • Even if they were, monopolies/monopsonies aren't illegal, or even necessarily immoral, in and of themselves.
To counter these zombie memes, here are some indisputable facts:
  • Amazon offers far more lucrative and fairer terms to authors than the Big Five publishers' contracts.
  • Thanks to Amazon, more authors are able to reach readers and earn a living from writing than at any other time in world history.
  • Amazon achieved market dominance by offering the best customer service experience in the business.
The reason that Apple, which dwarfs Amazon, is losing out to them in eBook sales is because the iBook store sucks in comparison. Apple could easily give Amazon a run for their money if they got serious about delivering a superior customer service experience.

By the same token, if Amazon suddenly went all Mr. Hyde on its authors--say, by drastically lowering royalties; authors would compensate by raising prices, which would negatively impact Amazon customers. This would create an opening whereby KDP could be disrupted by a competitor offering better royalty rates.

Customer service is the name of the game. Amazon damn well knows this and would be consciously shooting themselves in the foot to endanger their relationship with their customers. That means staying on good terms with KDP authors.

I can hear the objection: "But Amazon just uses books as loss leaders! They don't really care about authors or readers!"

That's another common meme, and it's false. The Kindle is Amazon's loss leader, They make money on books, and it's in their interests to keep doing so.

"But what about Amazon's recent decision to reduce their sales affiliates' commissions?"

What about it? Amazon Affiliates isn't KDP. They haven't shown any sign of touching their royalty rates. If they do, see the above explanation for why that would be incredibly stupid of them.

Not that people can't act irrationally and businesses can't commit huge unforced errors. But even if Amazon goes full retard, wailing and gnashing your teeth won't help anyone. What you should be doing instead is building your author brand and platform. That way, you can move to a competing sales channel, or create your own, if Amazon turns tyrannical.

And if you aren't already building your own platform, you haven't been paying attention.

Speaking of creating a positive shopping experience, the highly acclaimed third book of the Soul Cycle, The Secret Kings, is now 99 cents for Kindle.

The Secret Kings - Brian Niemeier



TANSTAAFL: Marketing Edition


Author Russell Newquist highlights two vital principles that all authors must embrace: marketing is not optional, and you have to spend money to make money.
But going into business for yourself means that you want to make money. And if you want to make money – real money – in business, you have to do marketing. It is not optional.
Now, some forms of marketing are cheap. I run this blog for an annual price tag lower than what it would cost me to take my family out for a single nice dinner – and even that is a cost that I mostly share with two small businesses. It’s cheap. But cheap marketing brings two issues.
  1. Spending less money means working harder. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. You’ll pay one way or another. Less money means more time and sweat equity.
  2. Spending less money often (but not always) means the marketing is less effective.
Now, rule 2 isn’t magic. You can’t just drop a million dollars on advertising and expect to just get it back. You still have to work at it, be smart about it, and choose the right kind of marketing. But if you want to make money, you have to spend money.
The "Should I spend money marketing my books" question was a hot button issue when I first got into self-publishing. Guys like Joe Konrath answered with a firm "no". Since then I've proceeded with the understanding that ads don't sell books, and that building a big blog while filling out your digital bookshelf was the path to making a living as a writer.

Those same indie publishing gurus also said to keep experimenting, so I've tried my hand at Twitter, Facebook, and Amazon ads. As far as I can tell, paid ads never got me a single sale. Interacting with readers on social media proved far more lucrative.

However, working authors like Russell and Nick Cole have started to bring me around on this point, for reasons that Russell lays out below:
Here’s the thing about the publishing market: spending a lot of money marketing one, single, solitary book is almost always a waste of money. If you only have one book, it’s very difficult to get a good return on investment. It can be done – especially if you’re very good at marketing, or if you’ve written a very good book. But it ain’t easy.
Let’s run through some math as an example. I’m not the best Facebook marketer, but neither am I the worst. And I don’t have the best web sites for my businesses, but again, neither do I have the worst. I’m in the somewhat typical range. So this is actually a pretty reasonable example.
On my typical Facebook ads these days, I can usually achieve a click through rate between 4% and 8%, discounting the occasional outliers in either direction. That means that out of every 100 people who see my ad, 4 to 8 of them will click through to my web site. This is a pretty decent rate in the marketing world.
Depending on the ads, the targeting options I’ve selected, the product I’m marketing, etc, those ads usually cost me between $0.50 per click and $2.00 per click. That’s not really terrible, either.
The next step of the funnel is conversions. For every 100 people who click through my ads, typically somewhere between 4 and 8 will actually buy a product afterward. That’s also pretty typical.
But it’s also the problem.
Let’s assume the best case scenario on both fronts.
  • 1250 people see my ads.
  • 8% (100 people) of them click through to my web site.
  • 8% of those (8 people) buy my product.
  • My ads cost $0.50 per click.
  • I’ve now spent $50 on ads to get 8 sales.
Now first of all, this is a best case scenario. I, personally, rarely have a marketing campaign do this well. If I could pull it off every time, I’d be quitting my day job and working at the dojo full time.
Second, this is fantastic… for my dojo. A typical new customer at the dojo nets me either $95 (ish) or $250 (ish). Let’s take the worst case number here: $90 per sale, or $450. I spent $50 for that. That’s $400 in revenue increase, and that’s fantastic! Seriously, if I could do this reliably I’d quit my day job.
Now, let’s talk books. Say I’ve sold 8 e-books for this at a cost of $4.99. Amazon gives me 70% royalties, so that’s $3.493 per book. For 8 sales, I’ve made $27.94 – well less than the $50 I spent to get it. At this rate, the more I advertise the more I’m losing money.
And, remember, this is a good ad campaign.
The secret (It’s not really a secret – you can find this all over the internet) to making money off of this in the book world is to have lots of books – preferably in the same series. Then, some portion (but not all) of the customers who pick up one book will buy all of your books, or at least all of the series.
So let’s add one more assumption: let’s assume that 12.5% of the people who buy book one in my series will end up buying the entire series, and let’s assume that I have 10 books. Note: I don’t have many books out yet, and I don’t have good figures for this rate. I’ve completely made this number up for my example.
Now I’ve sold 8 books at $3.493 per book, for $27.94. And I’ve sold one of those people (12.5%) another nine books ($31.44), for a total return of $59.377.
My return isn’t great in this example, but at least I’ve made a profit. Multiple books change everything. And in this example, now I’m at a point where I can start tweaking every step of my process in the hopes of improving my return.
Now, I'm a category best-selling author who consistently ranks in the top 1% on Amazon, but my sales charts have always looked like a roller-coaster track of sharp peaks and valleys. I might sell 25 books one day and zero the next.

That's why I'm giving Russell's advice serious consideration. The odds look good that he knows the secret to reliably steady sales that has thus far eluded me and many authors.

Elsewhere, Russell recounted hearing a panel of pro authors--people who write for a living--discussing how they do it. A major takeaway from the conversation was that none of them had achieved best seller status until at least their fifth book, and sometimes their tenth.

The tenth book benchmark resonates with Larry Correia's advice to be prolific. Russell explains why. Having multiple books available effectively boosts the conversion rate for an ad promoting one of your other titles.

Right now I have author credits on four books in KDP: Nethereal, Souldancer, The Secret Kings, and Forbidden Thoughts. The first three are part of a planned four-book series. FT is a best-selling SF anthology that accounts for a sizable chunk of my income (thanks largely to the involvement of some truly heavyweight authors, especially Milo Yiannopoulos).

As of this writing I'm putting the finishing touches on my debut novel with Castalia House. It's part of a three-book deal that will kick off a new space opera series. If we call that book five, I'll have reached the standard minimum output to make a living at this game.

Watch this blog to see what happens.