Not many readers know I like to hide surprises in my writing. I want to share one of those with you today.
My young adult scifi series “The Forgotten Chronicles” is set on an alien world similar to ours yet orbiting a red sun. I based it off of a NASA travel poster released several years ago for the planet Kepler 186f. I wanted an Earth-like world where readers were familiar enough with how it worked yet still completely alien. If you’ve read The Selection or the follow-up book Rise of the Forgotten, you know what I mean.
What hardly anyone knows is they may have read a story about this series before it was ever released. I had it hiding in plain sight.
I honestly didn’t know if The Selection would ever see publication. I enjoyed the story but still wasn’t sure if I was going to put the time and effort (and money!) into making it a novel I wanted to release. I wrote the book leaving the ending in a way that if enough readers enjoyed it, I could continue the series. As it happened, many readers loved the book and that gave me the impetus I needed to write Rise of the Forgotten. The final book in the series, The War for Truth, is due out in May (and can be pre-ordered for the ridiculously low price of .99. Go here to get it: The War for Truth)
However, one of the questions I often get asked is why are there so many boys born on the planet Anastasia? What causes this? Why does it happen?
As an origin story mostly for myself, I wrote a short story called The Long Sleep which answers these questions. If you’ve read any of my short story collections, you may recognize it. I released it in my first ever book, (Almost) Average Anthology, back in 2016. It was the last story in the collection and gives a great explanation as to how things got to be in The Selection.
I released (Almost) Average Anthology in Jan. of 2016, well over a year before I released The Selection. The story The Long Sleep isn’t my favorite of the collection, but it most certainly belongs with my series as an origin story.
So, for fans who like to know behind the scenes info, there ya go. You can get the entire 16 story collection (Almost) Average Anthology for .99 or if you subscribe to my newsletter, you get it for FREE. Either way, I hope you enjoy the dark tales and I hope you continue to follow along with my scifi series. It’s been so much fun to write and the reader response has been amazing.
For those interested in the series, here are the links.
Hi Drew, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Hey Jason, I’m a new science fiction author, and my first novel, Absolute Knowledge was published on January 2nd, 2017. I enjoy PC and board gaming, and cycling in addition to writing and reading. I’m currently finishing up my undergrad degree in business with a concentration in innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Texas at Dallas.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing in one form or another my whole life. I started writing seriously, with the hope of completing an actual novel in late 2013.
What inspired you to start writing?
I found myself drawn to the same set of books over and over again when I read. I thought, why am I drawn to the same books that I’ve read multiple times when I’ve got a backlog of new books to read? I tried to identify the elements in those books that always keeps me coming back, and incorporate those into my work. I wanted to create a book that others would enjoy as much as I enjoyed writing.
Tell us a little bit about your current project. Is it a novel, short story, or something else? Is it part of a series?
Absolute Knowledge is the first of a cyberpunk trilogy which takes place in a dark, futuristic New York City set in 2146. The country of New York is divided into three physical tiers and the faceless Government is working to establish Absolute Knowledge.
Working as Thinkers, the citizens of the Slums are paid for their thoughts and given vouchers needed to sustain their cost of living. Since the Government controls almost everything, most citizens are forced to either work as Thinkers or turn to a life of disconnect from society under the harshest of conditions.
Science fiction, and science fantasy. My favorite genre to write in is a blend of hard science fiction (a focus on scientific accuracy and technical detail throughout the work) and cyberpunk which is a dark future with high tech and low life. I’ve also recently tried my hand at science fantasy, a blend of science fiction and fantasy elements that incorporate magic that wouldn’t be possible scientifically. It may seem like a big contradiction from hard science fiction, which I love, but it’s fun to write about magic that’s infused with technological innovations.
What authors influenced you?
I was heavily influenced by Stephen King, Patrick Rothfuss, Ernest Cline, and Andy Weir. I love reading science fiction, horror, and fantasy.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading Cyberstorm by Matthew Mather, Linear Shift by Paul B Kohler, and finishing up some beta reading/editing for a couple of other author friends.
Do you write every day? A few days per week?
I try to write every day. Whether it’s working on a short story, my novel, or a new blog post to entice readers on my blog. I always try to do something to advance my writing or connect with new authors or readers.
Do you listen to music when you write? Does it influence how you write?
Absolutely! I listen to a lot of metalcore and djent which is super heavy and energetic. I’ve listened to metal almost exclusively for ten years now, and it always helps me write.
How do you think your writing has changed from when you first started?
I’ve definitely improved since I first started. My writing used to be clunky and my characters were inorganic. I’ve tightened my prose, world-building, and have worked to get rid of bad writing habits that held me back. Practice and a lot of coffee are great for the aspiring author.
How do you create the covers for your books?
I hired Steven McCorry to do the cover for my novel, Absolute Knowledge. Steven was also the vocalists of one of my favorite bands (Exotype) so it was a great experience to get to work with him on the design from start to finish. I’d highly recommend him for any design project. He also designed the cover for the second book of my trilogy, Absolute Zero. You can check his portfolio out at stevenmccorrydesign.com Tell him I sent you, and he’ll give you a discount.
Are there any non-literary influences for your writing?
I listen to a lot of metalcore and djent when I write. It’s heavy, energetic stuff. My main writing playlist has a dash of electronica in it as well (good for writing cyberpunk scifi after all). Of course, movies and TV shows that I’ve seen also have influence. I remember the magic of seeing Star Wars for the first time as a kid, and that magic has undoubtedly influenced my work in one way or another.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, with 11/22/63 by Stephen King as a close second. Both books are absolutely fantastic in different ways and I’ve read each of them four times already.
How do you market your books?
I’ve tried a variety of methods including both paid and free options. I’ve found the best way to sell books is to connect with others and forge lasting relationships and offer value to them through my blog post, advice, or help on their projects without expecting anything in return.
Do you have an excerpt from your current work you’d like to share?
“I continued to fire at the man, whose armor continued to hold, but he kept his focus on Caeldra. He was swinging the axe with precision and agility despite his massive size. I watched with horror as the axe connected with Caeldra’s stomach and she was flung several feet back. There was no blood, no sickly sinking sound as the axe cut through her stomach, just the distinct sound of metal on metal and an explosion of blue sparks.
“I’m alright. Keep shooting, Jake!” she screamed through the earpiece as she struggled to gain her feet. The man continued toward her as I continued to shoot at his back and head. I was shocked at the amount of energy his armor had absorbed. After loading a new magazine, I started advancing.” – Excerpt from Absolute Knowledge.
If you’re an indie author, what made you choose that route?
Publishing as an Indie author was an easy choice. I didn’t have to wait around for agents, and had unlimited flexibility in every aspect of my publishing. In the end, the crowd still votes on the best-selling books with their hard-earned dollars, and no one is going to promote your work as hard as you do. Besides, if you self-publish, you still have the opportunity to be picked up by a publisher down the line if you choose to go that route.
Any parting words for writers?
Be persistent, and don’t give up! I’ve got several unfinished novels that I’ll probably never touch again, but when you have a great idea, don’t let anyone stop you, work hard, and you’ll have a great book when you’re done. Don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way, and be prepared to pay for editing and a great cover.
The last time I wrote about book pricing, I focused on my ebook strategy. Now I’d like to supplement that with the addition of paperbacks.
A little background for you.
When I first decided to self-publish (Almost) Average Anthology, it was an experiment of sorts. So many people were publishing their own work and it seemed easy. Never having tried it before, I figured I’d give it a shot. I had four novels written but didn’t think I could edit them well enough to release them. However, I did have a nice back catalog of flash fiction stories I felt I could edit myself and release them as a book. I used this opportunity to find out what I could do on my own with little to no cost.
The process went smooth enough. But then days after the release of my ebook, a friend of mine said he’d buy a copy but not an ebook since he doesn’t read books digitally. I’d had previous experience with CreateSpace from a NaNoWriMo “win” where I won up to five free paperback copies that I figured, what the heck, why not. There’s no set-up charge. The only fee is the cost of the book and shipping. I spent an entire Saturday reformatting my ebook for a paperback and by the following Thursday I held the very first proof copy of my book.
I found some errors and fixed them, ordered another proof copy, and then approved my paperback print on demand (or POD) book. I had a physical copy of my book!
Now, there’s nothing greater than seeing your work in a physical form. To hold a book written by yourself with a custom cover is an awesome feeling. It also opened a ton of doors for me.
Because I had an actual book, people wanted to buy it from me so I could sign it. Family and friends showed a ton of support for me. I was also able to go to book signings and events. The first book event I attended was the St. Louis Indie Book Fair and later Con-Tamination, a sci-fi/horror/pop culture convention. I met other authors who’ve been super helpful to me and opened doors allowing me to attend other events with larger audiences.
All because I made a physical copy of my book.
Now to turn back to the pricing aspect of this, let me explain my process and conclusion.
By creating a higher priced POD book, it makes my ebook look much more attractive. Of course I’d love to sell a ton of paperback copies, but realistically, ebooks are by far the best selling versions. When a potential reader sees my book on Amazon, they see a box telling them how much they save by ordering the ebook. I’m good with that. Having a paperback copy allows the reader to feel like they’re saving money, which they are.
I also price my POD books slightly higher online than when I’m at a con or event. The reason is simple. I want potential readers to get a bargain from me in person and I’ll sign it for them. I want to give them some enticement for ordering from me right then and there.
As of this post, the paperback price online for my two collections of short stories are $10 each and my novel is $12. At events, I drop those to $8 and $10 respectively (with the added bonus of a free t-shirt if they buy all three!)
Compared to similar books, my prices are fair. I’d pay that for something like my books and as I mentioned in my last post, if I’m not willing to pay a certain price for something, I would never expect buyers to pay it. My costs have risen as I’ve added professional editing and custom art for my covers, but I’m already paying that for the ebooks, so why not add the paperback to the mix?
Paperback copies of your books are an excellent add-on to your overall strategy. They give readers buying choices and allows you to attend events, book signings, cons, and other opportunities where you can sell physical copies of your books to the reading public. With CreateSpace, you can also offer readers who buy your physical book online the opportunity to get the matching ebook for free, and who doesn’t like free?
I suggest you price them fairly with the end result of enticing readers to pick up the ebook. Of course, you may not want that in which case, disregard everything I’ve said!
What’s your strategy? Do you even offer POD books? Good luck and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
When you purchase books, what are you honestly willing to pay for an ebook?
Recently I had a lively discussion with fellow authors who participate in the Heggerwood Showcase (If you don’t know what that is, check it out here). The topic was ebook pricing. From that discussion comes the topic of this post.
Let me start off by saying I am not expert. I’m not a best-seller. Heck, I’m barely a seller at all! However I do have two qualifications that inform my thoughts on this topic.
First, I work in sales. I have for the last sixteen years. I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. I know what a customer is willing to pay, what they’re willing to hand over their hard earned cash for. I understand they need value for their money. I get it.
Secondly, I’m a reader and consumer myself. I know what I’d pay for something. I have my limits. More on this in a moment.
As an author, especially an indie author who has total control over costs and pricing, how do you determine what to charge for your books? In particular, ebooks, though paperback POD books play a role in this as well.
Let me start with ebooks.
When I released my first book (Almost) Average Anthology, I decided the initial selling price was going to be $1.99. Did I feel it was worth more? Of course! We all think our work is worth more and it should be. We spent a lot of time and effort creating these worlds for others to enjoy. However, I had several things to consider.
What were other books like mine selling for? Would anyone plunk down more than $1.99 for a collection of odd stories from an author they don’t know? Would I? Obviously my answer was no, I wouldn’t pay more than that. I also chose the $1.99 price point so I had at least a little wiggle room to go down in price when the time was right or if I was going to run a promo. I could also run a discounted pre-sale enticing would be buyers to grab it for .99 while they could before the price went up. I did the same with my second collection of dark fiction short stories Moments of Darkness.
Though neither book tops any charts or blazed new trails, I felt justified in my pricing strategy. I wasn’t scamming the buyer. I offered the books at what I felt were reasonable prices. Prices I would pay and felt comfortable with.
I’ve done the same with my novel The Selection. I offered it at a pre-sale price of .99 before going to it’s standard, and higher, price of $2.99. Because it was a longer piece, I felt comfortable with the higher price and it’s something I would pay for an ebook, especially by an unknown author.
I can hear you asking now “What about your costs? Don’t you want those covered so you can make a profit?” Ahh…good question. And this is where I differed from some of my fellow authors.
Let’s go back to (Almost) Average. My costs on that were almost nothing. I didn’t hire an editor. I created the cover myself, and I formatted the ebook myself. The programs I used to create the book were already on my computer. I didn’t buy anything special. So for that book, my expenses were pretty low.
For Moments of Darkness, I did hire an artist for the cover, but that was my only cost. I edited and formatted that one myself as well. In terms of cost/price, I should have charged more to recoup my costs. But I didn’t.
When I decided to release The Selection, I hired an artist for the cover and I hired an editor. There was no way I’d release a longer piece like that without having it edited. You may hate the story or think it’s bogus, but you won’t be able to crush me on the editing. So with this release, I had the most cost associated with releasing a book which seems to indicate I should charge a lot more.
But that’s not my line of thought.
Sure I want to recover my expenses, however there’s a threshold consumers are not willing to part with their money. I know, I’m one of them. I’d love to make tons money on my books, I mean that’s what selling is all about, right?
The approach I’m taking is different. I don’t want immediate repayment of my costs (well, yeah I do) but what I really want is a growing base of readers looking for my work as I continue my career. I want long term growth, long term success.
If I priced my novel at $4.99 and sold enough I’d get my costs covered, but how long will that take? How many people are willing to drop that much on an unproven commodity? I wouldn’t. I can’t expect others to just because I have expenses.
Book buyers are a weird lot (I say that with the utmost respect for my readers. You guys rock!) I’m one of you. I buy books too. There’s a line I won’t cross to buy a book. I have a difficult time spending more than $3.99 for an ebook by a big name author like Stephen King or Brandon Sanderson. Why would I spend that kind of money on an author I don’t know? I’m big on supporting indie authors, we’re in this together. But when I feel gouged with a $3.99 price point for something that’s maybe 100 pages long–nope, not gonna buy it. I understand you’ve got expenses but in sales, sometimes you have to go in the negative before the positive arrives. You have to be willing to spend money to make money.
For now, my thought on pricing strategy is this: Get as many readers interested in me as a writer for the long haul. I won’t price a book higher trying to recover all my costs as fast as possible. It’s a numbers game. If I can sell ten .99 ebooks to your one $3.99 ebook, my readership will dwarf yours. That’s what I’m going for–more readers. Do I feel it’s worth more than .99? Sure do! But to the reader willing to part with their money for a little known author, I have to make it enticing enough to earn their trust and deliver on that with the writing. If I’ve done my job well, they will stick with me.
In my next installment, I’m going to cover POD paperback pricing. Come on back for that.
Let me know your thoughts. Am I off base? Is my strategy wrong? What would you do? How do you price your books? I’m open for an honest and constructive discussion so we can all learn from each other.
Today’s the last day to get all three of my books at a discount.
So far, the promos have been working as The Selection peaked at number 30 in it’s main category and Moments of Darkness and (Almost) Average Anthology have both cracked the top 20 in their respective main categories! Woot woot!
Please share the word today, as these deals end tonight!
I’m humbled by all the support I’ve received. So many bloggers and authors have shared my info and I want to thank each and every one of you!
To those who’ve picked up any of my books, I thank you. Having you read my stories is an amazing, terrifying, and crazy experience. I hope you enjoy your time in my worlds.
So…the deals end today! If you’ve yet to get your copies, please do so before the prices change. Feel free to share with anyone that might be interested.
I want to share a few promos I’ll be running on all three of my books.
My newest book, the young adult sci-fi adventure novel The Selection will be on sale for .99 from June 9th-11th. If you’ve not yet picked up my action-filled tale, now’s the time to do so.
If young adult sci-fi adventure is not your thing, I’m also offering both my collections of dark fiction short stories for FREE June 10th-11th. That’s right, you can get your very own copies of (Almost) Average Anthology and Moments of Darkness at the low, low cost of…nothing!
Please take advantage of these deals while they last. Feel free to share with anyone that might be interested. And if you do pick up any of my books, I’d appreciate any and all honest reviews.