Book launch and GenreCon 2018, coming up!

This is going to be great.

I mean, if this pair of celebrities doesn’t draw in a ton of people to Guelph on the weekend of February 9th-11th, I don’t know what will. Charisma Carpenter (Cordellia) and Nicholas Brendon (Xander) of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel fame are coming to GenreCon.

True story time: I always loved Xander because in a way he reminded me of me in high school. Awkward, not cool, and often unnoticed. I loved the episode where he had his own adventure going on and was on his own while everyone else dealt with a “big bad” in the background. When he was described as the one who sees, I nodded with understanding. I couldn’t remember ever having a character on a show that spoke to me as much as Xander did.

So I’m having a bit of a fanboy moment right now, because I’m excited to meet Nicholas Brendon. I even went so far as to ask my wife, “Do you think he’d make a good Erwin Winston?” She looked at me and shook her head. There was some alleged relationship issue, but by the sounds of it TMZ used an old photo and got the story wrong. Still, in this day and age that sort of story doesn’t sit well, does it? But his partner said it was misreported and there were no charges, so we need to take her at her word. After all, they wouldn’t let him leave the USA if he was in trouble with the law, would they? So let’s give him a friendly Canadian welcome!

I’m not usually one to think about what actors would play the characters in my books, but that thought got my mind rolling on other members of the Buffyverse I could see stepping into roles. Alyson Hannigan as Pellin. Alexis Denisof as Marcus. James Marsters as Arus.

While I recognize it’s all a pipe dream, it’s fun to think about these things.


I’m a speaker on a couple panels at GenreCon! Both are on Saturday February 10th, with the first at 3pm on indie publishing, and the second at 6pm on world building. These are topics that I love to talk about, and I’m hoping for a great turn out! But even if we only have one person, we’ll still go ahead with the panel. We had that happen with the indie publishing panel last year, and the person who came got some great one-on-four time with all the panelists.


At any rate, I’ve got all my paperback books ready to go, and have already started selling some books through Amazon. The official launch for A Hero’s Birth was January 20th, and I blitzed social media and was humbled by the response, with many people sharing my posts. I know I reached some new people, and was happy to hear from existing fans who were excited for the final book in the trilogy.

As is usual for me when I launch a new book, sales for A Noble’s Quest increased out of the gate. Some people are going on to A Wizard’s Gambit. I expect there’ll be more A Hero’s Birth sales coming up soon. I just wanted to share the book rank graphs to show what I mean…

Book ranks – click to enlarge

A Noble’s Quest is performing far better than normal. You can see several peaks in the last month, indicating sales and people who started reading it on Kindle Unlimited. Since the launch of A Hero’s Birth, you can see that it really hasn’t had a chance to dip down at all, which is fantastic.

A Wizard’s Gambit is also doing better than usual. While not as high as A Noble’s Quest, that’s to be expected. Not everyone who reads book 1 will continue to book 2 (which is a shame, in my opinion… book 2 (and book 3) is a much better book). But also most people take time to read the book. While it’s fairly common to see someone blitz through a book in a day or two through KU, I imagine most readers aren’t so fast. So just seeing a couple peaks for book 2 at this point is encouraging.

Demon Invasion had a single sale, driving it up from a very, very long dry spell (You can tell by the nearly flat line before the peak). That long flat stretch is what the majority of my shorter works look like all the time. I’ve had very little success with short stories and novellas. That’s okay. They’re not necessary reading for the series, and I understand many people just want the full novels.

A Hero’s Birth started with a sale, and has been trailing since. I’m… a little disappointed with the performance here. I know a lot of people are waiting for the paperback copies, as I’ve been having people tell me they’ll be getting copies at GenreCon. I’ve got a package to mail today with a copy of A Hero’s Birth and Scoundrels. I gave away ARCs and a few copies for my “fans for life” from Indiegogo. But for some reason I thought it’d do better in the opening week on Amazon than it has.

I’ve also sold 4 paperbacks this week, which don’t show up on these charts because the sales go through CreateSpace. This is an interesting issue. I’d really like to try printing one of my books through Amazon to see how it works, but I’ve heard the tools just aren’t as good as CreateSpace (no author proof, for example). It’d be nice to have paperback sales count towards the rankings to help rise up and maybe get noticed by even more people. But for the time being, I think I’ll stick with the system I know that makes my life easier.

Now, I’m not done yet. My wife’s put together a media kit for me, so once I put some books in the local book store I’ll be releasing that. Maybe it’ll drum up some more interest. And it’s just a slow growth industry, anyway.

Author Rank

I really can’t complain, with what has been my best week ever in terms of sales. My Author Rank has stayed high (for me), and I’ve got two conventions coming up where I’m expecting to do well. Slowly, bit by bit, my empire grows!

If you’re in the Guelph area and would like to come to GenreCon, it’s running February 9th through 11th. Lots of fun stuff to see and do. Make sure to stop by my table in the vendor area and say hi!

A Hero’s Birth, available now!

Title: A Hero’s Birth

Retailers: Amazon [Kindle] [Paperback]

Genre: Epic Fantasy

 


Blurb:

After more than four months abroad, Eliza, Thomas, and Sarentha return home in the face of dire warnings and sweeping changes in the empire. They go their separate ways to reflect on their lives and look for ways to move forward. New allies and enemies emerge, and grave challenges face the up-and-coming heroes. They will need to come together, combining their wits and strengths, to overcome ancient foes. In the balance is the world of Illuma: will it enter an age of light, or will it plunge into everlasting darkness, ruled by demons and the undead?


Reviews:

Jason Berry, reviewer at The Bone Breaker rated it 5 stars and said:

What I loved the most about this book is that our three heroes start off on three separate quests/journeys, making their ultimate reunion that much sweeter. You will see Thomas begin to fulfill his destiny, Sarentha’s becoming a dragon hunter, and Eliza’s growth as a leader. And the ending… Whoa! Man, it is difficult to write this review without giving anything away. I better just say this:

Toxopeus has certainly grown as an author. If you like your fantasy filled with intrigue, suspense, and mystery, then this book is for you!

Andy Goldman, author of The Only City Left rated it 4 stars and said:

There’s definitely fun to be had in seeing where the story takes them, as the trilogy has clearly been building up to this big finale. For my taste, this single book could have been a trilogy in its own right.

Bradley Rogers rated it 5 stars and said:

Fantastic read. Riveting from beginning to end. Characters developed beautifully in this book. The world that has been created is absolutely amazing. If you enjoyed the other books in the series this will be a most delightful read. Excelent conclusion to a series. Absolute must read.


I’m quite pleased with how this series has come along. Perhaps it’s not a surprise, but I feel like the books just get better, the deeper into the series I go. While A Noble’s Quest has a strong Dungeons & Dragons feel to it, the characters are more independent by A Hero’s Birth. There’s nothing wrong with the D&D feel, but it felt good having the characters off and doing their own things, allowing me to really focus in on each of them.

I do agree with Andy Goldman that I could’ve taken more time in some of the locations, but with the book already over twice the length of A Noble’s Quest, I felt some brevity was in order. And there’s a reason I’m calling the next set the “Strongblade Siblings series.” Calling this set of Empire’s Foundation books a trilogy from the outset sort of pinned me down to just three books, where it could have probably been 4. While I say there will be four books in the next series, it could easily grow to more, depending on how events unfold. I would very much like to keep each book closer to 100,000 words, so they don’t take as long to bring out as A Hero’s Birth. This book is a beast, at 160,000 words. But don’t worry – I’m not going to slow down too much! I do still enjoy a fast-paced story!

If you’d like to read all the stories in my recommended reading order, here’s the list (short stories are only available for e-readers):

A Noble’s Quest

1100 Before Gods’ War

Demon Invasion

A Wizard’s Gambit

Dawn: A dwarven creation story

A Hero’s Birth

All of these titles are also available through Kindle Unlimited if you have it. Enjoy!

So many projects, so little time

In some ways, I made great strides this month. In others, I feel like I haven’t done enough. Why? Let’s take a look at the list!

Fan Fic to Anthology

As I’ve mentioned before, I started volunteering as a Dungeon Master (DM) at The Round Table (TRT). The world that we play in was created by Tom Gofton, the owner of TRT and Lynnvander Studios. As such, I have no rights to the IP, and thought I’d just write a little story summary of the games I ran, so I could share it with the players.

Then there was some question as to whether fan fic is actually legal (it’s not. Written works are covered by copyright laws). However, after the good folks at Lynnvander Studios discussed the situation, Tom was more than happy to have fan fic for his world. I just need to sign a legal agreement, which will be done soon. Moreover, Tyler – also from Lynnvander – requested that I hurry up and polish the story as much as possible and submit it for an anthology he’s helping put out. So this 19000 word novella is off to a good home, and I couldn’t be happier with how it all worked out!

If you’d like an exclusive sneak peek at the first scene in the story, get ye to Patreon and select the $2/month donation option. You’ll see it there on October 1st!

DMing

How much work is it to create ideas for campaigns every two weeks? A lot. On our return from Quebec at the end of August, I spent a couple hours of the drive with my nose buried in a notebook, creating maps and descriptions for a dungeon crawl. The next session early this month followed up on that dungeon crawl, and led to the exciting conclusion where the party fled the mountain complex just before it exploded in fiery doom, a dracolich rising from the lava. (Dracolich: Dragon that defeats death by returning as an undead abomination that can use powerful magic)

Later in the month we were low on DM’s for our regular sessions, so I decided to try something new and run a campaign in my own world, with my own unique spin on the D&D system (more on that later). I churned out 7 first level characters for players to choose from, with the idea that I’d have around 5 players at my table, so a couple characters would go unused. This worked well, because it meant people could choose classes that were interesting to them, and everyone seemed happy with what they got.

And then I pretty much winged it, in terms of coming up with the game session. I mean, I knew the inciting event, but I had no idea what the players would do with it. It turned out to be a lot of fun, and instead of it being a “one-off,” I hope to run another session some day when we can’t run the normal campaign.

Editing A Hero’s Birth

I’ve made this project my primary priority, so it’s been swimming along just fine. No issues here. Promise! I’ve been keeping up with my editor as she sends chapters to me, and we’re 2/3rds complete!

Writing A Queen’s Decree

This … oh, this … Work on my fourth novel has pretty much ground to a halt. Why? So many other projects. I mean, I’m about 3/4 of the way through writing the first draft, and my third book isn’t even out yet. So I feel like I’m way ahead of the game. Also, I’m not sure I’ll have the finances to publish it when it IS complete, so … not high on my priority list. If the Empire’s Foundation trilogy takes off with the release of the final novel, that would bump this up the list of priorities again. However, with slow sales on existing books, and just not getting reviews from people who do buy books, I’m feeling discouraged on this front. The last short story I released had a grand total of one sale on Amazon. I hope the book will do better.

I’ll still write stories, but depending on how other things come along, it might just be at a slower pace, with no intention of publishing them unless something drastic changes. With each book costing so much to bring out, I just can’t keep sinking money into it without seeing some promise of return on investment. That sucks. I love writing, and if money wasn’t an issue, I’d keep doing it forever. But at some point you have to evaluate what you’re doing and figure out if it’s a good use of your time.

Creating board game prototype 3.0

Perhaps you remember the frantic pace I set in whipping out prototypes v1.0 and v2.0? I was like an unstoppable juggernaut of efficiency.

This, too, has slowed. There’s been a disruption with the board game developer nights, with the man who ran them looking for greener pastures. Since then, finding answers to questions has been much, much slower. I’ve still had some game testing and minor tweaks. I’ve been putting together a component list for things I need to make the game. I’ve been arranging game board and punch boards so they’re in a format fit to print. But the urgency behind it all has evaporated. This latest version has taken weeks to put together, instead of days.

That said, I’m planning on showcasing the game at my artist table at SkyCon at the end of October. So that at least gives me a deadline to have everything ready to go. I’m hoping the convention will help generate some interest in the game, which will in turn help with raising funds to make the game with a Kickstarter campaign. With the positive response I’ve had to Wizards’ War, I feel like it can do well. The trick will be getting enough people interested in it to get it funded. When you run a Kickstarter, you’re trying to generate enough funds to make a LOT of copies of the game – somewhere around 1,000.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know 1,000 people. So it’s intimidating. But I love doing it. So even if the Kickstarter isn’t successful, at least I’ll have a game I created and enjoy to play with people I know. It’ll just be the most expensive game I’ve ever owned, with over $300 already invested into prototypes!

Creating RPG based on D&D 5e

When I started writing, the first thing I did was create a bare-bones role playing game (RPG) system. Now, the games we played that inspired the writing were set in the D&D rule set, but I wanted something that was uniquely mine. So I created classes and powers with vague descriptions that I could reference while I was writing. “Okay, the party is about due to level up after all that fun stuff. What new things can they do?”

When I DM’d in my world this month (as mentioned earlier), I decided to work with the D&D 5e rules in order to flesh out my ideas. I have several standard class options to choose from: Hunter, Druid (splits later into Mending or Wrathful subtypes), Protector, Aggressor, Stealth, Fast Talker, Wizard (splits later into Air, Water, Fire, or Earth subtypes), and Priest. But the system doesn’t stop there! There are hybrid classes for every conceivable combination of classes, and the ORDER that you take them in matters, giving you different classes. For instance, a Stealth that takes a level of Wizard can create the hybrid Shadow class. But a Wizard who takes a level of Stealth can create the hybrid Illusionist class.

And then there are what I’ve coined the Ultimate hybrids, which are effectively triple-class characters. The Hero, for instance, is Protector + Wizard + Priest. The Sieger is Hunter + Wizard + Druid. And there are more. PLUS unique classes for other races. That’s right. All that stuff I’ve mentioned so far? That’s just humans.

So when I say I created 7 characters for them to play, that was a LOT of work, figuring out what all those vague powers actually DO in terms of D&D 5e mechanics. So that was a major time sink this month, but oh so worth it. If you’d like to read more about that, I posted on Facebook about the game session:

Conventions

This hasn’t taken up much of my time at all, but it’s worth noting. Tyler (mentioned earlier) attended the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival and was kind enough to bring along my books. He even sold a copy of A Noble’s Quest! So that was a nice surprise. EMWF is more of a literary event, so I wasn’t expecting anything from that one. My wife predicted that maybe someone there would have a relative who liked reading fantasy and pick up a book for that other person, and that’s exactly what happened!

I’ve also signed on for two upcoming conventions. The first is SkyCon, which is a gaming convention in Kitchener at the end of October. They’re having Ed Greenwood as a guest. If you haven’t heard of him, he created this little thing called the Forgotten Realms. It only has something like 300 novels associated with it, a chunk of those written by my favourite author, R.A. Salvatore.

I’m going to get to meet Ed Greenwood. I’m so excited. As my wife would say, “NERD ALERT!” I can’t help it. This guy’s a living legend.

Now, it’s the con’s first year, so I don’t expect big crowds, but the table prices are pretty reasonable.

Coming back for its second year (after a hiatus) is GenreCon, right here in Guelph! Last year’s event was … quiet. They kind of threw it together without much notice, they had no celebrity draw, and so it had some problems. But they’ve been working hard at it all year, because they want it to be better. No, awesome! So this year there’s rumour of some star power hitting the con. I don’t see any official posts about it up yet, so I won’t post anything more … but you’ll want to keep an eye on this one.

What’s next?

Great question!

This month I’m going to continue editing as fast as my aunt gets chapters to me, I’ve got DMing at The Round Table, game design nights (with a new one at The Dragon’s south end location), I’m volunteering at Guelph Book Bash on Sunday the 15th, I’m running a Genre Fiction Writers meeting at The Red Papaya on Sunday the 22nd at 2pm, and that should be about it.

Y’know… plus all my normal duties as a husband, father, and researcher.

Onwards!

June Recap

Happy Canada Day!

You remember that comic strip I made with Matthew Strongblade back at the start of the year, because it wouldn’t get out of my head?

It’s baaaa-aaaack! I was sitting at The Round Table with Nat at the end of May and he was talking about how he was editing a comic book. I made the mistake of mentioning how I’d love to do a comic some day, and told him the details of my “community voting choose your own adventure” comic. He LOVED it. Talked about ways of monetizing it to keep it running. He said basically what I’d already been thinking… run it for a year with one character. I’d start off with Matthew, then go to Hendricus Wyrmstriker. Then who knows after that? Pellin? Marcus? Ramar? Arus? Others I haven’t even dreamed of yet? Adventure after adventure, all leading up to the exciting conclusion shown in the prologue of A Noble’s Quest (The Empire’s Foundation Book 1)!

Anyway, I’ve been talking with my friend about how to make that sort of setup work, in terms of my website. Since it won’t be a simple linear story (yes, you might cause Matthew to die, and have to go back!) I’d have to have some sort of map laid out so people can see where the story goes, or is currently, so they can vote. Probably not an issue to have a “current panel” button that links to the latest one, but mapping out the previous panels so people can navigate them to catch up on the story might prove tricky. We’ll see.

Another issue is how to do the “Pay to vote” thing. I already know it’d be dirt cheap – 50 cents or something like that for a vote. The problem is implementing a system where someone pays to vote. Is it a constant stream of micro transactions? Do we let people have a tab, so they can charge up 10 weeks all at once for $5 and take out 50 cents each time they vote? I don’t know. I’m thinking it might be better just to crowd fund it to pay for the whole project in one shot, and then reveal it slowly to people as they vote. Patrons would then get bonus votes, so they could vote twice and have a larger say in the direction the story takes, and start saving up for the second comic that follows Hendricus.

Does the comic sit on this site, or do we create a new one?  I’ve implemented social media logins to limit problems with bot spam. As it was, I had to turn off comments on this blog, because I got a steady stream of spam messages for drugs, porn, etc. I’m going to try leaving comments on for this post, and sharing it to Twitter (where most of the bot spam seems to come from) and see what happens.

I’ve found an artist I’m excited to work with: Sal, aka TheDarkCloak. His stuff looks amazing, and his idea for pricing is right around where I thought it would be. We’ve talked about doing a “simple” art form like Table Titans, and if we get a bigger following, we can do more. That right there is a good reason to go with Kickstarter, I think, so we know how much we have, and what kind of quality we’ll be working with.

Anyway, it’ll still be a while before this becomes a reality. I’ve got a lot on my plate right now, with the new novel being edited, and a board game under development, but maybe late this year we can get this ball rolling!


Another blast from the past, the interview I did for the We Got The Geek podcast aired this month! It was the first time I’d been interviewed at a convention, so I was excited about it!


Game design for Wizards’ War has been going swimmingly. June started off with a lot of play testing and a meeting with Nat from Lynnvander Studios to go over the rule book. A couple clarifications were requested, but otherwise he sounded quite pleased with how the game is coming along.

Mid-month we had another game board design night. Lynnvander Studios was off to a convention, so I think my game was the only one there. Mike finally got a chance to play, which was great! Dave had some interesting ideas for expanding the game to include the ability to destroy buildings. So we brainstormed it, and decided to not only let you destroy other people’s buildings, but also let you tear down your own buildings. It means one of your Workers is busy for a while, and you’ve lost your resources that you put into the building, as well as any future use of the building. But it allows you to change your mind after you’ve filled up your city. Additionally, siege engines and Pellin’s fireball have been tweaked to give them more functionality.

We squeaked in another 3-player game at the end of the month and had a lot of fun with it. It was a “fast mode” game with double resource gathering, and I think I need a couple minor tweaks to it, but otherwise it went pretty well.

I have holidays, and I’m hoping to get a bunch more play testing done while I’m off work!


The first 12 chapters of A Hero’s Birth are edited! My aunt has been blazing through the second pass. By my best guess, the book should be ready to release into the wild in October or November. I think that might be too late to submit it for the Campus Authors event and Guelph Book Bash, which is a shame. I’ve got three plaques on my wall, one for each year since 2013. It’d be nice to get the 2017 one, but I doubt it’ll happen. C’est la vie!

While waiting on editing notes, I’ve started working again on book 4 (or book 1 of the Strongblade Siblings series, I never know how to refer to it). The siblings are fighting again. Surprise, surprise. But Sardo has Wizard Runner now, which is an exciting development. Why does a holy rogue need a war horse? You’ll just have to wait to find out!

GenreCon 2017

That’s another con down, 2 more to go! (maybe 3, if I go to Ad Astra in May)

Without further ado… GenreCon 2017 – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.


The Good

This con was pretty decent to me. For those who judge success in monetary terms, yes, I made enough profit to cover the table and then some. Not a LOT extra… I look at it as, “I got to spend a weekend having fun, and got paid to do it,” instead of my usual paying others for me to do something fun. I mean, I got to talk to people about my books, attend panels as a panelist and talk about the writing process, meet interesting people, and – in this case – see some of the most amazing painting around. Seriously.

Nathan Salmon made this in about 4 minutes.

Nathan Salmon blows my mind. I watched him paint all weekend long, and I was enthralled right up to the last painting. I wasn’t sure what I wanted, but I knew I wanted something. I said I was thinking about a Star Wars space battle kind of thing, and he said, “Really? I was thinking you’d want fantasy.” So I went back to square one, and realized I have this scene in a short story I’m working on now that would look great! I gave him the description of the scene, with the big purple dragon landed atop a sandstone temple, the sea in the background, and he brought it to life. He agreed to let me use it for the cover art, and I’m so, so thrilled with it! I paid him for two paintings, and when I got home I told my wife to think of something she wanted. She didn’t come up with anything she wanted directly, but thought maybe we could get Hogwarts on the lake, since we all like Harry Potter. The painting he made is stunning. Everything he makes is awesome. He does a LOT of shows across Canada, and will be in Winnipeg next weekend. So if you ever get the chance, watch this guy paint.

You know what? Watch him now. I’m putting the videos of him painting on my YouTube channel. (Forgive me for recording the first one in portrait … my wife gave me heck for starting to record the second one in portrait, so I switched to landscape, which I learned is the proper way to record video)

 

It was also cool to see Darth Vader. I’ve seen storm troopers, Imperial guards, Boba Fett, and others, but this was the first time I got to meet Vader. He was impressive, for sure, with perfect voice modulation. It could’ve been James Earl Jones speaking. And when I saw him on the first night, he asked if my daughter was there. When I told her the next day, she felt like a celebrity, and said, “You have a famous daughter!” Hahahahaha!

There were a couple Jawas running around the place, too! I laughed every time they’d go by, speaking Jawaese. Such a great costume.

I felt like Luke, trying to dodge the gaffi stick and getting knocked out. Having one yelling at you in Tuskan is an experience I won’t soon forget! Again, amazing cosplay!

I was lucky enough to be there when Judge Brown was looking for a photo with Super Girl. I love this one!

The panels I was on were fun, although two of them only had one attendee each, with the second panel having a larger showing. We discussed self-publishing, world building, and how to start writing a story. I learned a few things at them, and have some ideas for new things to try.

I met Brad, one of the vendors who makes some cool chainmail stuff, at KW TriCon in January, and he picked up A Noble’s Quest there. He was also at GenreCon, and said he loved the book, and picked up A Wizard’s Gambit and Demon Invasion! He also left a review on Amazon, so he’s in the draw for a free mug in April! (If you’ve read one of my stories and want a shot at a mug, please consider leaving your own review, too!)

I’d also like to give a shout out to Andrea Loar, the vendor coordinator. She and her staff was attentive throughout the entire convention. Great customer service, and they were very open to vendor feedback to help make the experience better next year. I’d love to see this con succeed, because it’d be nice to have this sort of event in Guelph, and I think if they incorporate the changes that vendors suggest, it’ll help make it a better experience for everyone!


The Bad

It was quiet for the vendors. Although it was a three day convention, it probably should have been two. Friday night was dead. I had no sales, and the only reason Nathan got work was because a group of girls who were at the hotel for sports events saw his paintings and they all got some, either for themselves or as gifts for others.

Saturday I sold the two books to Brad, and that was it. I was pretty sure at that point that I was going to lose money on my table. I was also there with Targeted, a murder mystery book by Donna Warner and Gloria Ferris set in the Caribbean, and Girl Desecrated, a dark fantasy/psychological thriller by Cheryl Cowtan set in Guelph, with highlanders and vampires. I mentioned their books every time someone looked at the table, but didn’t sell a single copy of either.

Sunday saved me. Despite being even quieter than the Saturday, I had one person return to the table from the previous day to pick up all three of my books. A fellow panelist, Elizabeth Hirst, also picked up A Noble’s Quest, another person bought A Noble’s Quest, and then something that I’m calling instant-karma happened. I was coming back to the table and overheard someone saying he would love to get one of Nathan’s paintings, but he couldn’t. I asked if the problem was that he didn’t have cash, and he said yes. So I told him he could use my Square to get the painting, and I’d give the cash to Nathan. He loved that, and when he came over to my table, he picked up all three books for his nieces! Also, I had my first poster sale! Judge Brown picked up the poster for A Hero’s Birth, because he wants to cosplay as Thomas Strongblade. I think I will lose my mind if that ever happens. It’s a dream of mine to see someone cosplay characters from my books (note: dream fulfilled! My daughter makes an adorable Eliza! I was so tickled that she wanted to do that at both TriCon and GenreCon).

You’ve been judged!

That’s him in the middle, and I think he’d make an AMAZING Thomas.

In the end I squeaked out paying for the cost of the table, so I felt pretty fortunate. I know there were a lot of vendors who complained about the lack of people coming through. The layout of the Holiday Inn wasn’t great for getting people to the vendor area. That, and guests had to get the right kind of pass to even get into the vendor room, which was a point of contention for many, because they paid more for their tables, but people who paid less for the tables in the halls could have guests walk by. Even so, many people could avoid the vendors completely and still take part in the other events. I was shocked when I walked out once and saw the front lobby FULL of people, but we had hardly anyone in the vendor area. I put on my feedback form that they should look for a different venue next time, where the vendors can be accessed more easily. After all, vendors are paying a lot of money to be there. They at least need a fighting chance of being seen. If I’d made a real profit at the con, there were some other vendors there that I would have bought stuff from.


The Ugly

My wife and kids came to GenreCon on Sunday for Paw Patrol. When I asked my wife how it was afterwards, she said, “That’s an hour of my life I’ll never get back.” Although there were three pups advertised, only two showed up. And according to my wife, the only thing it had to do with Paw Patrol was that two people were dressed up in the costumes. No theme music. The pups didn’t talk. There was “some dude” with the dogs who talked to the crowd. The dogs didn’t appear to be particularly into it. Then I told her it was $25/ticket for the kids, and she got even more upset, saying there was no way it was worth that much.

Part way through my wife asked the kids if they were enjoying it. My son gave a sort of non-committal, “Yeah” but didn’t want to take part in the totally generic song & dance activities (head and shoulders, knees and toes type stuff). My daughter was much more direct, saying she didn’t like it, and never wanted to do something like that again. It was too bad, because both kids love the TV show, but this was “totally lame.”

The only bright spot was that the $25/ticket also got the kids access to the rest of the con, which leads to…


The Great

I cannot explain to you the amount of joy I felt when Darth Vader walked into the lobby, and my daughter turned to see him. She literally jumped for joy, yelling, “THERE’S DARTH VADER!” over and over again. My wife, who had been back at the table while I was wandering around with the kids, could hear her and came to investigate. The kids dueled with him, and got a bunch of pictures with him, and the grins on their faces are priceless. In a twist ending, my son – who has said before that Luke Skywalker is his favourite – said, “Daddy, guess who my favourite Star Wars character is, now. DARTH VADER!” Yes, his journey to the Dark Side is complete. He, like his sister before him, is now … Vader’s.

Also, there was an orange R2 unit operated by remote control. If anyone knows who was controlling it, please let me know, as I’d love to share the photo with him. (Thanks again to Andrea, who let me know it was Ken Stremlaw). When the R2 unit started playing the Imperial March, my son’s jaw just about hit the floor. He was completely gobsmacked.

If you’d like to see photos, let me know, and I can share them privately. I won’t post them publicly.

They also bought some toys in the vendor room. My daughter picked up a classic Dewback toy that was missing the saddle – despite my gasp, my daughter tore open the plastic bag it was in, and my wife scolded me. “It’s missing pieces. It’s fine if she plays with it.” She has named him “Greeny.” My son got an old Bumblebee (Transformers) action figure, and an original Imperial Shuttle that was missing the top fin, but is otherwise in good shape. It kind of kills me a little bit watching them play with the toys, but at the same time it’s awesome that they’re enjoying these sorts of classic toys that I would have loved as a kid, too.


Would I attend this convention again as a vendor? I think so. I’d want to know that they were doing some solid advertising to bring people through the door, and that the vendors would be more visible. Next year I’ll have my full trilogy out, so if I can get people walking by the table, I have no doubt I’ll make money hand over fist.

Coordinating

This week I started to settle into my new volunteer role as Genre Fiction Coordinator with Vocamus Press. I met with the chief architect of the group to talk about some ideas moving forward, and I’m setting up my first official informational meeting. That’s not to say there won’t be informal discussion as well, but we have a topic that we’re definitely going to talk about: conventions! I’m pretty excited to talk about them, and gauge interest from the other authors in Guelph. It’d be great if we could set up a table and grow our readerships, while offering a wide variety of books.

I also flexed my Genre Fiction Coordinator muscles and talked to the Creative Writing group at the university this week. They had a table out, recruiting people, so I stopped by and gave them my card and a brief rundown of what I’m doing with Vocamus Press. It’d be nice to get some younger writers in there, too. Maybe the more experienced writers will be able to help them along on their journey.

If you are in the Guelph area and at all interested in writing genre fiction (or anything, for that matter), feel free to get in touch with me and we can either talk one-on-one, or you can attend one of our meetings. The current plan is to meet once every 2 months, and maybe there will be some extra events if there’s interest.

October is going to be jam-packed. On top of Thanksgiving with my wife’s side of the family, I’ve got Book Bash and the official meeting with the genre fiction writers on the 23rd, where I’ll be talking to them about attending conventions.


patreon-cover

I started a Patreon account. The idea harkens back to ye olden times when artists had patrons who paid them to create. The difference is, today you can have lots of patrons, and each provides a small amount to help an artist thrive. In some cases, there are artists making a living wage (or better) through Patreon. Sure, that’s a rare case, and I don’t plan on getting to that point, but it can be a huge help to fill the world with beauty.

Okay, my books are filled with adventure, intrigue, and battle … not sure anyone would call that beautiful, but I like it!

I know a lot of people have already contributed to my Indiegogo, and if you have, this isn’t aimed at you. You’ve helped so much already! But if you know someone who’s interested in fantasy and might want to sponsor a writer, please consider sending them my way. My first goal is only $25/month, which will put professional art on the covers of my short stories, as well as allow me to pay for editing. At that amount, I’ll still be covering novellas, novels, and conventions myself, although those are all higher goals.

Even $1/month is a big help, and you’ll not only get an e-book per month at that level, but also get your name listed in the Dedication section of all the books I bring out while you sponsor me. Thanks in advance for your help!


Missed my writing goal by this much! In case that didn’t come through clearly, I was 850 shy of 3000. But I already started my writing for next week while the rest of the family went out for groceries. There was a conversation that happened between the characters that I wasn’t expecting at all. It was stuff I’ve had in the back of my brain since forever, but figured it’d just be “author knowledge” and not come out on the page. But then this druid was there, and has a totally different perspective on existence than any of my main characters and bam. There it was, pouring out of my finger tips. Love it when that sort of thing happens.

Promotion success

Success is one of those tricky concepts, where different people have different ideas. For some people it’s all about making money. I don’t understand those people. Money is okay, but aside from covering the basics, it doesn’t bring happiness. Look at Trump. That guy’s the most miserable douchebag I’ve ever seen.

I digress…

From Aug 3rd – 7th, my new novella Demon Invasion was free of charge. This coincided with a promotion through Patty Jansen’s website, where over 100 authors made their genre fiction books available for free.

I want to share with you how the promotion went, and this post is going to be long and full of pictures, because I want to dissect it and try to figure out what worked. This isn’t an entirely altruistic sharing, because I’d like to know what worked so I can duplicate this success in the future.

Day 1

If you’re not familiar with it, Amazon allows you to run promotions with their “Promote and advertise button” which is located in your “Bookshelf” (see Fig. 1).

promo1

Fig 1. Promote and advertise button shown beside each book listed in your Bookshelf.

On the next page, look in the Run a Price Promotion section and select the Free Book Promotion. You can choose a span of 5 days to make your book free, and Amazon will promote your free book for all to see on a page that is dedicated to books that are in the Free Book Promotion. Without any advertising, I got 18 downloads for Demon Invasion on the first day with JUST Amazon promoting the book, and one post from me on Google Plus, which got a handful of +1’s. The last I saw, it was rated #56. People would have to dig to find it, if they were looking at top downloads in the free section.

Day 2

Demon Invasion broke the Top 40, and found another 14 readers. Again, no advertising. One post on G+. At this point, I started really liking the Amazon promotion, so I decided to try using the same free promotion on my short story 1100 Before Gods’ War, and my short story collection Dawn: A dwarven creation story. It was too late to add them for that day, so I figured I’d run each one for three days, Friday – Sunday.

My reason for wanting to have all three of these free at the same time was to tease apart different effects, to see what makes a real difference in downloads. All three books look very different from each other:

The cover for 1100 Before Gods’ War is my favourite of the bunch. Harvey Bunda created it from scratch, and I love the detail. I’ve had several people comment that they love the art.

You can probably guess that I did the cover for Dawn myself. It looks amateurish (I’m seriously considering getting a “real” cover for it). I’ve had no sales on Amazon for this collection, which doesn’t surprise me, given the cover.

The flames for the Demon Invasion cover came from my cousin’s place, when she had us over for a bonfire. I snapped the photo, and Harvey manipulated it to accentuate the fiery horns on the top, define the lower face, and add eyes. I did the text myself. I’ve had both positive and negative feedback on this one.

So Friday would be the first day with all three available, with no promotion through Patty Jansen’s website.

Day 3

Downloads increased more than triple, but I confounded the test by being impulsive. I posted that all three were available on Google Plus and Facebook, and when I had over 100 views on the post on Facebook in short order, Facebook asked me to promote the post. For just $7 they would make sure 500+ people saw the post over three days. I figured that was low risk and went ahead with it. That first day, 113 people saw the post through the promotion.

What’s more, a friend on Google Plus saw my post about paying Facebook and wanted to prove that Google Plus was better. So he shared my pinned post about my writing, which got shared around a few times. How many of the 78 downloads were due to Facebook, Google Plus, or Amazon? I’m not sure. Assuming Amazon did the same 14-18, that leaves 60-64 downloads unaccounted for. Facebook tells you when someone clicks on a link in your post, and by the end of Sunday night, there were only 2 clicks. Did people Google the books because of the post, and not click through directly? Maybe … thus the confound. I just don’t know. But it’s possible that as Demon Invasion rose up in the ranks on Friday, it got into the top 20, and more people saw it when searching for free e-books to read.

But perhaps the most telling evidence for success came from …

Day 4

Patty’s Promo started on Saturday, and that’s when things went bananas (see Fig. 2).

promo2

Fig 2. Bananas

130+ e-books got marked down to “Free” and all the authors blitzed the Internet. To participate in one of Patty’s Promos, you’re expected to hit all the avenues you have access to: social media (Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc), mailing lists, blog posts, Thunderclaps, carrier pigeons, smoke signals …

When I took part in one of these free promos back in January, 1100 Before Gods’ War hit #1… with 52 downloads on one day. So you can see why I was getting excited with the 78 downloads on Friday. I can’t begin to tell you how my brain exploded on Saturday when I saw the downloads climbing. I would update the graph, go type a message, come back, and have 5+ more downloads. It was insane. I didn’t hit #1 in my category for Demon Invasion (Fantasy Adventure Fiction), but it hovered around #2 for a long time. If it did hit #1, I missed it, as I wasn’t available to check compulsively like I might normally do. Even so, I don’t really care. With 750+ downloads (some people getting 2 or 3 ebooks – more on that in a second), I’m ecstatic. And from the sounds of it, other authors in the promotion are experiencing the same sorts of numbers.

That is extremely telling. If left to my own devices, I never would have hit that spike on Saturday. I think the free promotion through Amazon, social media sharing, and the Facebook ad might have continued to keep my numbers up a bit, but nothing like what kind of traffic I got thanks to Patty’s Promo.

It’s ‘uge! (Sorry. Last Trump reference. I swear.)

Day 5

At this point, I didn’t care what happened. I knew there was no way I could compete with Saturday’s numbers. Demon Invasion was sitting at #4, 1100 Before Gods’ War was #7, and Dawn was somewhere in the 30’s. Even with the smaller number of downloads, Demon Invasion continued to be around #400 OVERALL in the free Kindle category. As another author pointed out, that’s amazing when considering I’m a self-pub author going up against all the other authors in the world, pro and otherwise.

I did a bunch of work around the house, and just let the promotion do what it had to do.

It still did great (see Fig 3).

Wow. Much download.

Fig 3. Wow. Much download.

Facebook Ad Breakdown

I experienced “buyers remorse” the instant I accepted to pay for a Facebook ad. I’ve heard over and over again that ads don’t work for unknown authors. However, the $7 cost sounded low risk, and I’ll try just about anything once.

Fig. 4. What I got for $7.

Fig. 4. What I got for $7.

So what exactly did I receive for my small risk? Small returns (see Fig. 4). Two people clicked links in the post, one person liked my writing page because of the post, and some people who saw it liked it, but apparently not enough to click the links, for a total of 16 engagements. The “People Reached” number looks impressive, but that just means that people saw it and continued to scroll on by without paying it too much attention.

But then, how many ads do you click on in FB? For me, the answer is None. I think most people are the same, not trusting FB security features.

Verdict: I won’t use Facebook ads again. I get way more page likes by signing up with Claudette Melanson’s seasonal giveaways, which only costs $3. By having two people who enter the contest win my ebooks, that’s the equivalent number of clicks.

Fun Facts

  1. Overall, I had 830 free downloads over a 5-day period. I’ll bet that’s more downloads than I’ve had in my entire 5 years of being self-published.
  2. 777 of those (93.6%) were for Demon Invasion.
  3. 87.8% of downloads came through Amazon.com.
  4. I had downloads from co.uk, .de, .fr, .in, .ca, .com.br, and .com.au. The ones in bold I had never had downloads from before. I hope the German, French, Indian, and Brazilian readers enjoy my work! (and the rest of you, too, of course)

Take home messages

Fig 4. a) Pretty even number of downloads for 1100 BGW and Dawn. b) A sale post-promo!

Fig 5. a) Pretty even number of downloads for 1100 BGW and Dawn. b) A sale post-promo!

  1. Free promotions through Amazon will get you some downloads, all by themselves. If your numbers are flat, maybe this will get you some “exposure.” Don’t count on it. Some people only read what they can find for free.
  2. Free trumps cover art (see Fig 5, a). Across all markets, there were roughly equal downloads of 1100 BGW and Dawn. The only reason Dawn didn’t rise higher up in the charts is because it was in a tougher category (1100 BGW’s main category is Greek & Roman Mythology, Dawn’s is Teen & Young Adult (Not sure why. Maybe because I set the age range from 14 – 18+? None of my other books have an age range on them. I’ve deleted that to see if it changes.)). These two weren’t in any promos, so the only way people were finding them were through Amazon’s free promotion website and social media. As you can see, their download numbers are much, much lower than Demon Invasion.
  3. Multi-author sales are the fastest way to find people. Now, bear in mind that other authors were reporting the same numbers as me. This means that some people were downloading a lot of free material. They might never even get to reading Demon Invasion. That’s not helpful. But some people WILL read it. And with 830 downloads, I think it’s fair to say that I’ll reach a fair number of new readers, and that’s exciting!
  4. I had zero sales during the promotion, but it looks like one person paid for Demon Invasion after the promotion ended (see Fig. 5, b). My novels, A Noble’s Quest (The Empire’s Foundation Book 1), and A Wizard’s Gambit (Empire’s Foundation Book 2), haven’t seen any movement yet after the promo. But like I mentioned in the previous point, people are going to have a lot of reading to work through, so I might not see any upward movement on my books for a while. I only hope that people enjoy the freebies enough to look for my other stuff.

If you think multi-author sales are the way to go, I highly recommend trying out Patty Jansen’s Promo. She alternates between 99 cents and Free, from month to month. The Free does FAR better than the 99 cents, in terms of downloads, but even the 99 cents ones are okay. If I find 10 readers for a book, that’s still 10 more people than I would have found on my own.

What do you think?

Are there other similar promotions out there that you’ve used? What sort of success did you find with them?

Thanks for reading, and I hope this has helped some of you!

 

I don’t have enough to do!

Comfortable in front of a microphone

Comfortable in front of a microphone

Last weekend I was invited to the launch of the Etch Anthology, a collection of short stories written by Guelph teens from grade 7 to grade 12. I got to present first, talking about my own path to writing before handing out the awards to the grade 7’s and 8’s. It was so great to see up-and-coming writers being acknowledged for their writing, and I hope they are inspired to keep at it!


Harvey Bunda, my cover artist, posted job openings for comic book artists, colourists, and script writers. I’d been toying with the idea of doing Matthew Strongblade’s life in comic book format, so seeing an open submission like this was something I had to jump at. I’d love to see him come to life in living colour, fighting in the arena for his life, creating a resistance with the aim of freeing the slaves, and escaping to freedom. To see the forging of the Strongblade, Matthew facing off against Glezxnodin, the founding of New Home, and the Dragon War… it would be a dream come true. Sure, it’d compete with my usual writing, but I figure comic books are way, way shorter than novels. I could pound them out pretty fast. And seeing how dialogue writing is my greatest strength, I figure I could knock this out of the park!


I received the last round of editing back from my aunt, so I fixed up Demon Invasion and am ready to publish it in the near future! I can’t wait to get that out. I know it’s been promised for a long time, but after delays, and the focus being on bringing out novels, it’s almost here.

And so far so good from the proof readers. They both found the same wrong word, but are otherwise enjoying the story. It’ll definitely be out this month. Maybe even this week! It’s 100 pages in CreateSpace’s 5×8″ format, and will be just $6.00 ($1.50 for e-book).


And last, but certainly not least, I’ve got more editing tweets to share!

I knew it meant puzzled/confused, but when Karen brought it up I tried to smile in a puzzled sort of way, and it didn't work like I'd imagined. So bemused expression it is!

I knew it meant puzzled/confused, but when Karen brought it up I tried to smile in a puzzled sort of way, and it didn’t work like I’d imagined. So bemused expression it is!

 

I caught flak from my Aunt Mary on this, too. I didn't want it to be Manna *because* it was Biblical. Mana (in my books) is created by wizards. I wanted a similar idea, but different spelling. It might not have been a great idea, if it confuses people, but it's what I went with in the previous books. Maybe it'll get a new name in the next series to avoid confusion.

I caught flak from my Aunt Mary on this, too. I didn’t want it to be Manna because it was Biblical. Mana (in my books) is created by wizards. I wanted a similar idea, but different spelling. It might not have been a great idea, if it confuses people, but it’s what I went with in the previous books. Maybe it’ll get a new name in the next series to avoid confusion, if it shows up at all.

 

For those of you who have read A Noble’s Quest and A Wizard’s Gambit, you already know who she’s referring to. Jim, William, and Kelly are so fun to write! I still laugh when I read their scenes. When I was reading through A Hero’s Birth with my wife, she groaned when they showed up, and shook her head every time they had a scene. They are my favourite running joke, and it was fun giving them a slightly larger part (more than one scene!) in this book.

Yes, I love a good fight as much as the next fantasy fan. But I also enjoy finding non-combat solutions to problems. Which leads to future fights, of course.

Yes, I love a good fight as much as the next fantasy fan. But I also enjoy finding non-combat solutions to problems. Which leads to future fights, of course.

 

Yay! I better get working on those Demon Invasion edits before the AHB edits come back.

Yay! I’m glad I finished the editing for Demon Invasion, so I can launch into this as soon as I get the edits back.

 

And it’s off!

Karen Conlin had an opening appear in her schedule, so A Hero’s Birth is off for developmental destruction editing. I want to share some of the posts Karen has made about the book while she goes through it. Readers only ever see the final product, so maybe it will be eye opening to get a glimpse into how much work goes into that final draft. Keep in mind, I’ve already looked over the document three times, and I expect to read through it 3 or 4 more times before I’m done.

Paige (my wife) said she loved that horse, too.

Paige (my wife) said she loved that horse, too.

 

karen2

I really appreciate those “Nopes.” I’ve been trying to get better at spotting these for years, and still miss them all the time. This is why writers need editors!

 

It's not all sunshine and daisies. Sometimes writers make stupid mistakes - repeatedly! I found this error 3 times. I swear I know the difference. Not sure why this happened.

It’s not all sunshine and daisies. Sometimes writers make stupid mistakes – repeatedly! I found this error 3 times. I swear I know the difference. Not sure why this happened.

 

karen3

Believe it or not, this is something that didn’t happen at the table. Totally new content. Actually, most of the story in A Hero’s Birth is new stuff. Just the basic bones are the same. Sometimes not even that much (Damn you, Sarentha!).

 

I appreciate the lack of spoilers. This was a fun series of scenes to write.

I appreciate the lack of spoilers. This was a fun series of scenes to write.

 

There's always room to learn something new!

There’s always room to learn something new!

 

I had the same issue with Demon Invasion, and cut out names of demons who only showed up once or twice. Sometimes less is more. But the naming convention for the elves with family name, apostrophe, given name is staying put. ;) Perhaps readers will be happy to know there aren't many elves in the next series!

I had the same issue with Demon Invasion, and cut out names of demons who only showed up once or twice. Sometimes less is more.
But the naming convention for the elves with family name, apostrophe, given name is staying put. 😉
Perhaps readers will be happy to know there aren’t many elves in the next series!

 

Yes! I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The writer knows what they mean to say. You can't edit your own work.

Yes! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The writer knows what they mean to say. You can’t edit your own work.

You know, I’ve heard some people dread the editing process. I feel a great sense of relief knowing that my manuscript is in professional hands, and it will be far better after Karen’s looked at it. Thank you, Karen!


Today marks the release of the Etch Anthology, a collection of short stories written by teens in Guelph! I’ll be going there to talk a bit about my own writing experience as a youth, and hand out awards alongside two other local authors. Sounds fun!


After putting up last week’s poll, I think I might do two paperback copies of Demon Invasion. I love the idea of the pocketbook size, but selling everything through CreateSpace would mean I’d be more likely to get paid. See, CreateSpace requires that you get $100 banked before they write you a cheque. But at the same time, I appreciate that it might look nicer as a pocket book, and some people will prefer that smaller size. So I might order the pocket book size to sell at conventions, and if other people want to order paperbacks online, I’ll point them to CreateSpace.


I started writing a new short story this week, titled Macimanito Môswa. I know, I’m supposed to be working on A King’s Decree (I have one scene done!), but I had this dream about a demonic moose standing in the middle of the highway at night. Coupled with my family’s experience two years ago where our van broke down in the middle of nowhere, I thought I could marry the two ideas. I’ve wanted to figure out how to write about the shuttered shop + motel ever since we had our adventure there, but this just felt like the perfect idea to go with it. So it’s a short story that may or may not lead to a new Rural Fantasy (vs Urban Fantasy) offshoot one day. We’ll see.

Demon Invasion

DemonInvasionCoverWould you be interested in a Demon Invasion paperback?

The novella is 25,000 words, and I’ve been looking at print options. I don’t want to go with CreateSpace on this one, because their smallest size isn’t all that much smaller than my novels, and it’d be 100 pages, which I think would feel a little thin with a book of those dimensions.

But Lulu prints “pocketbook” sizes, which are smaller in height and width, and although it’d come out to approximately 100 pages as well, I think it would be better proportioned.

 


In other news, work has begun on A King’s Decree. I did some really bad doodles of the scenes I’d like on the covers of the next four books. I could scan them to share, but … well, my artistic abilities are really awful, and no one wants to see them anyway. 😛

I can describe them though!

First one is Sardo on her knees, tears streaming down her face, with a castle-city smouldering in the background, and the king’s head on a pike.

Second one is Grace wearing her minotaur helmet and shield, standing in front of a volcano.

Third one is Traithaius holding the dragon crystal aloft, standing in front of Sarsha-Meshail in his blue dragon form.

Fourth one is the as-yet-unnamed bard who shows up in book 2 standing atop a castle wall beside Grace who’s back is turned and she’s pointing up at the sky where a demon is riding a dragon.

Just thinking that far ahead to the costs involved in bringing out another 4 books is daunting. I just have to hope that my first trilogy picks up a bit, and I can keep on trucking.