Category Archives: Sci-Fi

Do you listen to BTR?

For those who haven’t heard of it, BTR stands for Blog Talk Radio, the latest in on-line entertainment and informational programming. Everyday professionals, experts, and entertainers are hosting their own radio shows and being heard by millions. These topic-driven programs allow listeners to hone in on their interests and hear the latest news in whatever industry that floats their boat. So what does that mean for readers and writers? So glad you asked! PJ Sharon here with the latest scoop on how to help writers find their audience and readers connect with their favorite authors.

Writers can share their books and talk about their writing process with interviewers while sitting behind their computer or on their phones, feet up and fuzzy slippers gracing their desks. All while sipping tea and chatting about their favorite things with whomever decides to tune in. Fans or readers can type in questions to be asked and answered in real time, or a link to the show can be used later for promotion and advertising purposes.

For readers who love romance, it’s a chance to hear your favorite authors dish about their characters, read excerpts, and maybe even share a few spoilers about upcoming books. Basically, it’s another way for readers and writers to connect in a fun, user-friendly format.

The really cool thing is that anyone can host their own show. Of course, that means adding consistent content, being entertaining and engaging, and building an audience over time. It’s not for everyone, but those that are doing it appear to be enjoying the up close and personal interaction and sharing it with listeners.

I’ve done several such interviews over the past year or so and I have to say, I love doing them. It means not having to actually be on camera, but being able to hang out as if I’m conversing with a pal on the phone. It’s very non-threatening. My most recent BTR interview was in February with Linda Mooney from Other Worlds of Romance, who hosts mostly sci-fi/fantasy writers and has a decent following.

She asked me to come on the show and read a steamy excerpt from WESTERN DESERT, book two in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy. Several listeners showed up to ask questions and I had a blast sharing my story with them, including behind the scenes insights into the third book, the title of which I’ll reveal at the end of this post as promised last month!

After the show, Linda sent me the link to embed into my website so readers can refer to it and listen at any time. What a great promotional tool and something I can definitely add to my press kit. I’m sure if I use it properly it could lead to TV/radio interviews in the future. It’s a way for media types to hear how well you speak about your books and interact with the interview process. You can find a list of hundreds of shows that might be willing to host romance authors here. Or you can go in and search categories for more specific shows that focus on your genre.

Just one more way to connect readers and writers in the digital age!

Now, to reveal the title of the third book in the trilogy…drum roll, please… we had WANING MOON, WESTERN DESERT, and coming this fall…HEALING WATERS, the continuing adventure of Lily Carmichael and friends as they make their way back home to warn the good folks of Stanton of a coming doom. Will they reach them in time…or is it already too late? Can Lily and Will overcome their differences and find their way back to each other as they race against time to save the human race from certain destruction?

Don’t forget to join me on my PJ Sharon Books FB page as I roll out the cover reveal for my next Contemporary YA novel, PIECES of LOVE, set to release June 21st. POL Picture4The big reveal will take place on April 18th, but pop over and “like’ my page now so you don’t miss out on the fun as I reveal a new “piece” of the cover each week along with an excerpt. Leave a comment on my FB post and be entered to win an ARC of the book, winners to be drawn on reveal day, April 18th, when you’ll also be privy to links for the release of my single, PIECES of Love, the theme song to the book.

Tell me, have you ever listened to BTR?

To Select…or not to Select. That is the question.

PJ Sharon here on this chilly New Year’s Eve Day. Since I’m in the process of re-evaluating my first quarter marketing plan for 2014, I thought I’d share the results of my latest promotion. Most of you are familiar with KDP Select, Amazon’s 90 day exclusivity contract that requires authors to publish only with them for that time period. The perks of putting all your eggs in the Amazon basket are paid borrows by Prime members (average $1.94 per borrow), entry into their new “Count Down Deals” program, and/or the ability to run FREE promotions for five days of the 90 day period. A year ago, all of this was very attractive. Now, not so much.

Most Indie authors agree that running free promotions has been much less effective than it was a year or two ago. Now that the market is flooded with freebies and bargain books, it’s getting harder and harder to sell at any price—even FREE! Sales of my last published novel, WESTERN DESERT, book two in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy, which released last July, reflect the drastic change. I’ll preface these results with the caveat that YA Dystopian is a hard sell across the board lately since that market is pretty much glutted. I also believe that book two in a trilogy is often tougher because folks won’t buy/download book two if they haven’t read book one, and readers don’t want to get hooked into a trilogy with no guaranteed release date of the third book.

Having said all that, I’m trying not to take it personally or be embarrassed about such a poor sales record. The fact is, I don’t think the numbers reflect the quality of the book at all. What reviews I do have, are excellent, and feedback I’ve had from readers has been awesome. So what’s up with the numbers?

Coming June 24th!
Coming June 24th!

I enrolled WESTERN DESERT into the Select program in October, figuring I would promote books one and two through Halloween, running my first two day FREE promo around the time readers might be drawn to Dystopian/Sci-fi-fantasy stories. I was part of a group sale, advertised on the usual 20-30 sites that promote freebies (some charge a nominal fee of $5-15), and did a social media blitz, including some blog appearances. The best I did was had about a thousand free downloads and sold eighty or so copies of WANING MOON, book one in the trilogy.

Now, I realize that those results meant that my book was in the hands of potentially a thousand new readers, and it did wonders for my sales rankings for both books during the sale, but being that WANING MOON was selling for the .99 cent price point, I made about $30. I’ll add that there was no after sale bump in numbers (meaning my sales flat-lined again immediately), and I’d spent my budgeted $100 for advertising the sale, netting me -$70 for my trouble. Consider the amount of time it takes to set up ads on 20-30 sites, schedule blog appearances, participate in social media non-stop for two days, and well…you get the picture.

I waited a couple of months, planned my last three day FREE run for right after Christmas, hoping to catch all those new Kindle owners, and promoted both books like crazy. As in, “Two Books for under a buck!” “Buy WANING MOON for .99 cents and download WESTERN DESERT for FREE!” I joined with Awesome Indies for their Holiday Bonanza e-book sale, promoted on 30 FREE e-book sites (I’m hearing now that it takes 50 sites to make a dent), and I scheduled mega tweets, FB, Goodreads, Google+, Pinterest, and tumblr promos. I spent my $100 budget, and had the support of dozens of other authors who tweeted, posted or otherwise shouted it to the world for me. Here were the results:

Worldwide (including a few downloads in Germany, France, India, Canada, and Australia—a new market for me!), I had a whopping 543 downloads of WESTERN DESERT and 39 new sales of WANING MOON. Oy! Hours of preparation, insane amounts of marketing, and yes, I’m down about $85. I did reach the #1,026 mark on the Amazon rankings in the Free kindle store, #2 in the Sci-fi/fantasy/Genetic engineering category, and #10 in the Dystopian category, but numbers bounced right back to oblivion when the sale ended.

Granted, I was unable to procure ads on the really big sites like Book Bub and a few others which require as many as twenty-five reviews these days to even be featured and are very choosy about what they pick to advertise, but really? For the work involved and the investment of time and money, it feels like I’ve run a marathon and placed next to last. A far cry from last year’s FREE promo for SAVAGE CINDERELLA  when I boasted 40,000 downloads between my two day and then a three day promotion. The best part was the over 800 direct sales in the weeks after my free run. Yikes! What a difference a year and-a-half makes. Even HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES and ON THIN ICE promos last year at this time did much better than my 2013 efforts for my Dystopian reads.

It would be nice to get a few (hopefully good) reviews out of the promotion and getting my name out to new readers is always a good thing, but all in all, the Select program has little left to offer me with this book series. Perhaps when I publish another Contemporary YA romance, or when I have a boxed set of all three books in the trilogy, I’ll give it another go, but for now, KDP Select is a losing proposition for me. Of course, take all this with a grain of salt, because I’ve heard of a few other authors on my loops who are still pulling in good numbers with Select. Go figure!

What do you think? Have you had better results? How did you do it? Am I missing something?

Home is Where the TARDIS is – Happy 50th to #DoctorWho!

Happy Friday! Casey here.

After eight years of resisting the inevitable, I have finally taken the Doctor Who plunge. Thanks to Amazon Prime and the insistence of my close friend Lisa G – I started watching the show.

I had a good reason to avoid Doctor Who – despite the stellar praise. Despite the fact I was missing a show I knew I would like. All my close friends watch the show (and I am referring to the new Doctor that started in 2005 . I’ll get to classic Who eventually). It was because once I started watching, I knew I wouldn’t be able to STOP!!

And yes, that is exactly what happened. But, I’m not alone in the madness – also sucked into the Whoniverse – my two sons. Hubby is next. He just doesn’t know it yet.

Of course I picked the near moment when all the 50th anniversary programming is hitting its peak. As expected, I didn’t get much writing done because I’m hooked on Doctor Who. And this Saturday, we’ll be watching “The Day of The Doctor.”

But, I haven’t been a total slacker. Lachlan’s Curse is at the mid-point (@40,000 words). And, even better, I got two thumbs up from my beta readers for Mystic Hero.

For those of you wondering what the fuss is about, check out this trailer.

So Doctor fans, what is your favorite episode (or who is your favorite doctor)? At the moment, Blink is the family favorite. 

Who are you writing for?

How awesome has this weather been? Did any of you get out and watch the meteor showers the past few nights? The sky has been crystal clear. Up here in the hills with no light pollution, the stars have been spectacular. We saw dozens of meteors, some so full and close that you could see the tails burn a trail across the sky. I’ve also taken advantage of the great weather to do some kayaking and gardening. It’s just been too beautiful to stay locked in my writers cave. But lest you think I’ve been totally slacking, my brain is always in problem-solving mode.kayaking pic

I find myself working through scenes and bits of dialogue in my head while I’m weeding or paddling. It’s almost like the information needs to percolate for a day or so before I can get it on the page. I also bring my business hat with me on these outings. The question most churning in my mind lately is “Who am I writing for?” This is a two-fold question for me that needs to be answered before I can move to the next level in my evolution as a writer. Intrinsically, I need to answer the question “am I writing for myself because I enjoy it and feel passionate about my art? Or am I pressuring myself to write and publish to fulfill some need to be accepted, revered, or even loved?  Not that I don’t have all of those things already, but there were certainly times in my life where I felt none of that was true.  Perhaps my reasons are a little of both, but I know that I need to be clear about this. If I’m not fully committed to believing in myself and my own potential, I will unconsciously put road blocks up for myself to sabotage my success. Essentially, I need to ask myself, “how much do I love writing/publishing, and how badly do I want success and all that comes with it?” I bet I’m not alone in my musings.

From a business perspective, the question means something entirely different, but equally as important to answer. “Who am I writing for?” In other words, who and where is my audience? This isn’t a new concept, and in fact was one of the first exercises I did with Jennifer Fusco of Market or Die two years ago when I first decided to self-publish. The question remains unanswered for me, even though Jennifer made me examine my “target audience.”

For HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES, ON THIN ICE, and SAVAGE CINDERELLA, my intended audience was 14-18 year-old girls who like to read Contemporary Young Adult romance. I didn’t realize that the majority of my readers for those first three books were going to be women between the ages of 20 and 50. I had lots of ideas about reasons why the books seemed to transcend genre and resonate with adult readers, but the reality is that those were the people I was targeting with my marketing efforts and who my stories appealed to.

If you look at it from a “sphere of influence” perspective, my first layer in my sphere of influence is my friends and family. Then comes my writing community, mostly women between 20-50ish and all avid readers and supporters. These are the people who follow me on FB and twitter and read my blogs. I’ve been able to get some exposure to my original target audience through the parents of teens since many of my adult readers have teenage daughters.

But what about other teen readers? How do I target them? And not in a creepy way of course. And which group do I target. The 16 year-olds that want to read Contemporary or the Sci-fi/fantasy geeks who want dystopian? When I veered off course last year and began a dystopian trilogy, my target audience changed—a fact I hadn’t take into account! The readership I’d gained writing Contemporary YA romance did not necessarily follow me over to my dystopian, sci-fi/fantasy story, despite that it’s still a teen romance at heart.

Some readers are eclectic and will read anything by a favorite author, while others will only read within the genre/sub-genre they favor. Also notable is that my adult readers tend to be “over” the whole dystopian hype and aren’t flocking to read more of the gloom and doom stories. To compound the difficulty with discover-ability, the categories that SP authors can choose to list our books under at Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords don’t offer Young Adult Romance or Young Adult Dystopian. The closest category is Juvenile Fiction, which historically has applied to middle grade and younger teens–which is not my audience at all…uggh!

If I list my books in the adult sections, teens won’t find them and readers looking for an adult book will likely be disappointed in the heat level of my stories. Again, I’m marketing to the wrong crowd. Retailers aren’t making it easy for us.

In general, the answer to my business end of the question is that I need to find where teens hang out and then put my books in front of them and see what happens, perhaps delineating my efforts and focusing on specific groups for each type of book I’m marketing. Whether that means focusing on high schools and library visits, or hanging out on Wattpad and Goodreads in YA chat rooms to connect to readers, that may be where my marketing time is best spent. So much to learn and so much to do!

One thing I do know is that I need to give my readers of Contemporary YA romance another book–soon. Rest assured, I happen to be working on a project as we speak! More details to come.

Do you authors know who your target audience is? Where to find them? How to reach them? How to get your book in front of them?

In respect to the internal question, are you clear about your goals for success? What does success look like to you and when will you know if you’ve achieved it? Do you sometimes feel that the job is more than you expected and not worth the effort? Are you forging on because you have the passion and drive to see your dreams come true, or are you plodding along wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into and why you’re making yourself crazy?

C’mon…dish people! You know you want to comment.

I’m giving away an audiobook copy of HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES to one lucky person who comments and requests to be considered. HIFH_audiobookcover (2013_06_07 00_53_00 UTC)Just leave me a valid e-mail address in the following format to enter. email address(at)—(dot)com. I’ll announce the winner next Tuesday!

Kickstarting Hollow World by Michael J. Sullivan

Happy Friday everyone! Casey here. Please welcome Michael J. Sullivan. He is much too modest below. He writes kick-ass stories and is super generous with his time. As I

Michael J. Sullivan
Michael J. Sullivan

mentioned a few weeks back, I had the pleasure of meeting Michael and his wife at ConnectiCon and it was a wonderful, fun time!

Today, Michael is sharing his experience using Kickstarter to fund his science fiction novel Hollow World. Michael will be stopping in to answer questions so be ready at the end!


I want to thank Casey Wyatt for inviting me to do a guest post. For those who don’t know who I am, let me start out with a very brief introduction. My name is Michael J. Sullivan and I’m a speculative fiction author. I have a varied publishing history and have “done it all”: small press, big-six (five), and self-publishing. I also try to do what I can to help authors navigate this wild world that is publishing in 2013.

I had self-published five of the six volumes in my debut series, The Riyria Revelations and then sold that to the fantasy imprint of Hachette Books (Orbit) who republished it as three two-book omnibus volumes:


I had fully intended to self-publish my next series of books, The Riyria Chronicles, but Orbit made me a nice offer for them as well, so I signed my second contract with them.

Riyria 2

When I decided to switch genres to science-fiction, Orbit wasn’t as enthusiastic. They loved Hollow World but didn’t think it would sell well and that I would be better off sticking to fantasy. So they passed. This was fine with me, as I could return to self-publishing, a venue that has worked well for me in the past.

Hollow World

One of the things I’ve always felt strongly about is that if you are going to self-publish you should produce a product that stands toe to toe with anything coming out from New York. In the past, my self-published books did exactly that, but because I was operating on a shoe-string budget, I had to do a lot of the work myself. That meant cover design, meticulous copy editing, and layout. Being traditionally published, I was spoiled. I liked having a team of professionals doing all this for me so that I could concentrate on writing other books while the production was being done on the book I had just completed. And this is what brought me to Kickstarter.

Hollow World 2

I desired to use the same professionals that my traditional books use, which is easy because many of these people are freelancers. I contacted the artist who did the French edition of my Riyria books (his covers are my favorite of all the versions both English and foreign) and got a quote for artwork. For structural editing (something that many self-published author have to do without), I turned to Betsy Mitchell. She has thirty years experience editing science fiction and fantasy and was the editor-in-chief at Del Rey for over a decade. At the time of the Kickstarter I hadn’t yet selected who would do the copy editing but I had a pretty good idea about the costs for that. In total, I figured $6,000 would cover all the production aspects of the book.

Now, let me be clear…I’m not saying you need to spend this kind of money when self-publishing. Some of my self-published books cost me just $50 (for ISBN and distribution channels), while others ran around $500 – $700 (main cost was in editing). So it can be done cheaper, but these are the people I wanted, and if I could make that happen, that was my first choice.
I’d never run a Kickstarter before, and I didn’t want to fail. So I set my goal at $3,000. My thought process was that I would finance ½ of the startup myself and hopefully my readers would finance the other ½. My worries about not fully funding turned out to be unwarranted as the Hollow World Kickstarter ended up finishing at just under 1030% bringing in $30,857. What this meant was not only did I get the production costs covered, but I got a nice “advance” as well.

I should note, that there was a bit of a miscommunication with my agent, and she had submitted Hollow World to another publisher after Orbit had turned it down. That publisher made a nice five-figure offer, but I ended up passing on it because I wanted to try out the Kickstarter route. I’m very glad that I did.

To me the whole process was a real eye-opener. I’m already familiar with the high revenue that self-publishing can bring, but it has the cons of:
• No advance
• No team of professionals
• Initial out-of-pocket expenses

Using Kickstarter took care of all of these problems. Not to mention it solved the cons of traditional publishing such as:
• Getting the project past the gatekeeper
• No control over the product produced or price it is sold at
• Most of the money going to the publisher
• A greater concern over how much money a book will earn rather than how good a read it is.

Now, I should note that I don’t think Kickstarter is for everyone and every project. In my case, I already had an established readership. To start off with no following makes crowd funding VERY challenging. For this reason, I suggest Kickstarter to those who already have a fan base. It doesn’t matter whether that is through self-publishing, traditional publishing, or even just a large blog following. The important thing is knowing a sizable number of people who believe enough in your work that they are willing to help make it a reality.

Also, not every Kickstarter is as successful as this one. At the time it completed it was the highest funded Kickstarter for a single traditional novel in the fiction category. There were some that funded higher, but they were either for a series of books, an interactive story, or an anthology. Some of the reasons I think mine worked well include:
• I had already written the book, which reduced risk and ensured people that they were actually going to get a final product
• People saw the caliber of people I was employing, and supported the concept quality
• I had already commissioned Marc Simonetti’s artwork and used it in my promotion – again demonstrated the high quality I was shooting for.
• I had existing readers that I could reach out to. I didn’t bug or pester them, just “made it known” and let the rest take care of itself.
• I provided some nice perks: free short stories, posters of the artwork, signed bookmarks, and a wide range of contribution levels ($2 – $250).
• I gave the contributors a period of “exclusivity.” They received the books in July but the rest of the world would have to wait until January. This made them feel special as they had something that other readers couldn’t get.
• I offered a variety of formats including: limited edition signed hard covers. I also provided the ebook to everyone that bought the print edition, and at the higher levels they got a hardcover (to sit on their shelves), a trade paperback to loan out, and the ebook to read.

Since running my own Kickstarter, I’ve become a big fan, and I’ve funded a number of projects. I really like the entrepreneurial vibe that Kickstarter fosters. As a contributor, I feel like I play a part in getting something that sounds interesting to market. I’m also hoping that authors will see my success as a template for works that they have shelved. Usually this is because they couldn’t get the book picked up by traditional publishers or they were offered too little money. Now, if they believe in the project, and they can get their readers to as well, it will see the light of day…gatekeepers be damned.
Kickstarter is just one of the myriad of changes that is opening up opportunities for authors. I think it is important for authors to keep abreast on what is going on and be agile. Remember, what worked yesterday, may not be the best choice today. I know I’ll certainly look toward Kickstarter and other avenues for my future projects.

Michael, thank you for being our guest today. Scribes fans, have you ever contributed to a Kickstarter campaign? And if not, would you do so in the future?  And, please, feel free to ask Michael questions! He’ll be stopping by to respond to comments.