Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Unlimited Profit: The math behind how Kindle Unlimited is going to make Amazon a ton of money, and maybe you, too!

Ever since the rumors started about Amazon's $9.99 a month unlimited ebook subscription service, Kindle Unlimited (often described as a "Netflix for Books"), there's been a great deal of speculation and doomsaying about what this will mean for book sales. Specifically self-published and small press book sales since the Big 5 publishers aren't included in Kindle Unlimited's initial offering.

The basic breakdown goes like this: readers pay $9.99 a month for unlimited access to the Kindle Unlimited library, which currently boasts upwards of 600k titles, including bestsellers like The Hunger GamesLife of Pi, and every self-published title currently enrolled in Amazon Select, Amazon's exclusive publishing option. (Note, several big name indie authors like Hugh Howey don't have to play by the exclusivity rules. This is great for them! For the rest of us, though, being in KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited means we can only publish on Amazon. More on that in a sec.) Self published authors with books in Kindle Unlimited are paid their usual royalty when a reader hits the 10% mark. (UPDATE! I got this wrong!! Select authors are paid a fixed percentage of the global fund just like it was for the Kindle Lending Library, not their royalty. Last month, this worked out to $2.40 per borrow, which was fantastic for people selling $0.99 books, like myself, but not so great for authors with higher priced books who would normally earn more than that with a sale. I'm updating the rest of this post to reflect this information for the sake of accuracy, though my general argument remains unchanged. Sorry about the mix up!) Small publishers have different deals--some are paid when a reader first opens the book, some are paid at 10% like the rest of us--but everyone gets paid at some point when a Kindle Unlimited subscriber reads their book.

Now, if you're following the math above, you might notice a gap between the $9.99 monthly subscription price and the usual cost of books. Plenty of books start at $9.99. Even if you're buying all indies at $2.99 a pop, that's still only 5 books before you hit ten bucks and start getting books for "free." So how is it, then, that Amazon can afford to let people read all they want and pay authors their usual royalty on the books for only $9.99?!

Up until now, the answers I've seen to this question have either been "They're going to cut royalty rates on borrows! We'll all be getting paid pennies in no time! DOOOOOOM!" or some variation of "Relax, Amazon knows what they're doing."

Personally, I'm not really satisfied with either of these. I don't believe Amazon will suddenly slice the royalty rate on the authors that create all the content they're now selling. Authors, I might add, they've been working very hard on wooing away from traditional publishers for years now. Why would they undermine that just to shore up Kindle Unlimited? That's robbing Peter to pay Paul. It just doesn't make sense, especially not for a company as smart and far seeing as Amazon. On the other hand, I also don't believe in blindly trusting giant corporations to have my best interests at heart.

To truly understand why Amazon decided to launch Kindle Unlimited and how they hope to profit off it (and, hopefully, how we can, too), we need to understand the math behind the Kindle market itself. Naturally, of course, we don't have any exact numbers (Amazon doesn't share those with anyone) but we do have a lot of percentages and derived figures, and those numbers paint a very interesting picture, indeed.

But first, let's start by figuring out how many ebooks Amazon actually sells.

WARNING! MUCH MATH!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I talk Paradox secrets and Nice Dragons with Fantasy Book Critic!

So the absolutely wonderful Mihir at Fantasy Book Critic asked me to come do an interview! We talk all about Paradox, including a lot of secrets and back story that weren't covered in the books (so no spoilers) and about the new Paradox trilogy that I hope to be writing soon! We also talk a lot about my new book, Nice Dragons Finish Last, and what we can expect from the rest of the series.

In short, it's a lot of secret information and a lot of fun! So go on over to FBC and see for yourself!

In other news, the Nice Dragons release was a big success! Thank you to everyone who helped make it so. Now I just have to stop watching sales long enough to actually finish Heartstrikers book 2. o_o

Finally, I am emerging from my hobbit hole to do a signing at the Buckhead Barnes & Noble in Atlanta, GA on Monday, July 28 at 6 PM. If you're in the area, I hope you'll come by and say hello!

Thank you again for reading!
Yours,
Rachel

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Nice Dragons is Out!! -- Official Release Day Post

It's here!!


The day has finally arrived! The first book in my new Heartstrikers series, Nice Dragons Finish Last, is out in the wild!

You can buy the ebook on Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo right now for $4.99. All of these vendors pay me about the same, so feel free to use whichever one is your favorite. Or, if you want to try before you buy, you can go here to read the first three chapters free!

I very much hope you'll give it a shot. I'm really proud of this book and I think it's a great addition to my bibliography: familiar, but still very different from my other works. If you liked Eli or Devi, I think I can safely say you'll like Nice Dragons. I'll hopefully be getting it on more platforms as I get better at this self publishing thing. I'm also hoping to add a print version soon. If you'd like me to email you when new stuff comes out, you can sign up for my new release mailing list. I promise there will be no spam, only release info!

Huge, huge thank you to all my fans for supporting me, and thank you to my new readers for giving an unknown book about dragons a chance. I hope you'll read and review. Please review. Good or bad, reviews are author's life blood. They are vital to getting new sales, and I can't say thank you enough to everyone who's already reviewed my books on Amazon, Goodreads, or wherever else readers gather. Thank you!!

Yours always, and happy reading,
Rachel Aaron

Monday, July 14, 2014

How I Write - Chain Letter Edition (Plus, Nice Dragons comes out tomorrow! EEEEEE!)

The ever lovely Karina Cooper tagged me for this on Twitter. I thought it would be a fun update, so here's my current Writing Process!

1. What am I working on now?

The sequel to Nice Dragons Finish Last (our tomorrow!! And Fantasy Book Critic liked it, so you should totally give it a try!), which I'm calling One Good Dragon Deserves Another. I'd hoped to be on the third book by this point, but 2014 has been an awful year for my family personally. My husband's father died suddenly and unexpectedly, my grandfather died (not suddenly or unexpectedly, but still very sad), and my four-year-old son got very close to dying due to a rapid onset strep infection in his leg (SCARIEST THING EVER. Seriously, parents, if your kid has a fever and is complaining about sharp pains that seem to have no corresponding physical injury, take them to a doctor STAT).

So yeah, not a good year for us, and writing suffered correspondingly. But everyone's fine now (knock on wood) and we're back on the writing train!

2. How does my work differ from others' in the genre?

Considering I've got three series in three different genres (Epic Fantasy, Science Fiction, and now Urban Fantasy), that's a tricky question. Rather than go into individual differences, I want to talk about the stuff that links my books together through all those different shelf spaces. No matter what the genre, I like to think I write some pretty hilarious and charming people. Whether in space or with magic, the fun feel and epic scale of my story is always there. My goal is that if you like one of my books, you'll like all of my books, even if they're in a genre you don't normally read. I have a lot of fans who tell me they never read Science Fiction before I got them into with Fortune's Pawn! That's pretty cool :D

3. Why do I write what I do?

Because it's cool? Because I have to? ¯\_(o_o)_/¯

As much as I know about my writing, I'm not actually sure on this one. As Karina said in her own answer to this question, "Once upon a time, I would have said simply, 'because these are the things I enjoy', but I enjoy rom-coms, too, and I don't write those." I feel exactly the same way. I mean, clearly I jump genres a lot more than Karina, but I've had a killer idea for a contemporary romance for years now, and I've never felt the urge to write it. Same with a great Western. 

I'm not sure why I write some stories over others. It's not for money, that's for sure. I have ideas I know would be surefire hits, but no impetus to write them. I've tried, trust me, but even though I can see the whole thing like it's already finished, I just don't care. Other ideas, however, hit me like lightning and I just have to write them, even if they're horribly difficult and I'm not sure if they'll sell.

I've been trying to figure out what triggers this "OMG OMG OMG MUST WRITE" reflex for one story over another for years now, but I still have no idea. Personally, I'm just glad it hits! The all encompassing drive to write is one of my true joys in life, not to mention the source of my income. Whatever book the subconscious Rachel wants to write, I'll make it work.

4. How does my writing process work?

Step 1: Get awesome idea. Preferably a lot of awesome ideas that all sort of fit into the same world/story.
Step 2: Plot.
Step 3: Write.
Step 4: Rewrite/Edit
Step 5: Give book to husband/friends for feedback, bite nails.
Step 6: Edit again (see Step 4)
Step 7: Send to my in house editor/professional editor I hired (if self publishing). More nail biting.
Step 8: Edit again.
Step 9: Copy edits.
Step 10: Finished book!

Step 1 can take years on the sidelines of other projects. Steps 2-4 generally take from 2-4 months depending on how many problems the book has. Steps 5-8 go by very quickly or very slowly, depending on how busy the editor is. Step 9 is at least a week, and Step 10 can be pushed off forever depending on nerves :P

There's more to it, of course, but that's the general skeleton process for every book I've ever written. 

So that's how I write!

I hope you enjoyed this quick little update/overview of the novelist in her native habitat. I'm a very excitable novelist today because I'm uploading Nice Dragons Finish Last for it's release tomorrow RIGHT NOW! HOORAY!

Given the timelines for how quickly my stuff has shown up online before, it might even be up early. If you want to know the moment the book is available, please sign up for my mailing list! I'll email you the moment the book is available (and no other time. I hate spammy newsletters!). 

Thanks for reading, and I'll be back tomorrow with a big release post/self-publishing post with numbers about the self publishing process (for those of us who are into that sort of thing). 

- Rachel

PS: This was a tagged post, so for my tag, I'm going to tag all of you! I love to hear about how other authors work, so if you're a writer, tell me: how do you write? If you want to participate, just link your answer in the comments and then tag someone else at the end. Sort of like a chain letter, only actually useful and informative!

Monday, July 7, 2014

"You’re doing what?" – Why I Decided to Self-Publish My Next Series

So I wrote a guest blog post for the always amazing Civilian Reader about why I decided to hitch my star to the indie author steamroller.

This is the most I've ever talked about my decision to go self-pub (there's an unwritten rule in publishing that you don't discuss business decisions in public, which is one of the big reasons the industry seems so mysterious). I admit, there's very little drama, which is kind of the point of the post actually. Still, I hope you'll find it interesting!

And on that note, my new novel Nice Dragons Finish Last, come out in less than ten days!!

As the smallest dragon in the Heartstriker clan, Julius survives by a simple code: stay quiet, don’t cause trouble, and keep out of the way of bigger dragons. But this meek behavior doesn't cut it in a family of ambitious predators, and his mother, Bethesda the Heartstriker, has finally reached the end of her patience. 

Now, sealed in human form and banished to the DFZ--a vertical metropolis built on the ruins of Old Detroit--Julius has one month to prove to his mother that he can be a ruthless dragon or lose his true shape forever. But in a city of modern mages and vengeful spirits where dragons are seen as monsters to be exterminated, he’s going to need some serious help to survive this test. 

 He only hopes humans are more trustworthy than dragons.
You can read the first three chapters here to get a taste of what's coming July 15! Thank you everyone for reading, and I hope you enjoy my guest post

Yours,
Rachel

Friday, June 20, 2014

"It's been done before" doesn't matter. Doing it awesomely matters.

First up, Gail Carriger's June Book Club reading of FORTUNE'S PAWN is still going! Goodreads discussion thread is here is you want to talk Devi with other totally awesome people.

As someone who is infinitely interested in all aspects of the writing life and business, I spend a great deal of my casual internet browsing time lurking around places where authors talk shop. On the down side, this also means I spend a lot of time skipping over endless rehashings of certain eternal writer questions - First vs. Third person, do readers skip prologues, how much editing is too much editing, etc. But the reoccurring topic that I notice the most, probably because it's the one that bothers me the most, is cliches.

I've talked about this before, but, like the zombies it would be cliche to compare them to, the idea that cliches are the bane of good fiction keeps coming back. And that's really sad, because when used correctly, cliches (or, more appropriately, tropes) are a fantastic way to build a familiar feeling base that readers can instantly feel at home in.

Because I'm hungry, let's think of books like bread. It's fun to try something new -- say a jalapeno-artichoke brioche with a walnut honey glaze--but no one is in the mood for all new experiences all the time. Sometimes, we hunger for the familiar done well: a perfectly baked French baguette, or a tangy loaf of sourdough served just right.

The same basic idea applies to reading. A classic trope (the farm boy hero, the sexy immortal vampire, the hard boiled detective) might look like a cliche on the surface, but when done well, tropes can actually become selling points. Readers already know what they like, and offering them the same thing again served up with style can be just as much of a hook as something completely new.

The best times, of course, are when you can create something that is both familiar and original at the same time. The new spin on an old favorite is the holy grail of commercial fiction: the same, but different. To revisit our bakery metaphor, take the sensationally selling cronut. It's just a fried croissant shaped like a donut and covered in sugar. Two common expected things, jammed together to make something new.

But while making the cronut of fiction is a fabulous goal (and the genesis of every sub-genre), there's also nothing wrong with baking a killer baguette. A big, popular trope done right with your own signature style is a marvelous foundation for any story, especially since the audience's built in familiarity of the trope gives you a ready made set of expectations to lean on, subvert, and play with. The key here, of course, is that your trope has to be done well, but that's true of anything. Have you ever seen a piece of writing advice that said it was okay to halfass something? I didn't think so.

So writers, please, the next time you feel the need to reject an idea because you feel it's been done before, remember: these tropes keep reappearing for a reason. People like them, they work well in stories, and best of all, people think they know what to expect. That's when you can have real fun - when you turn the cliche on its head. But even if you don't, even if you just take the time to make your chosen trope as interesting and deep and well-thought-out as possible within your own story, you'll end up with something that is delightful in its own right. "It's been done before" doesn't matter. Doing it awesomely matters.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Infinite Squee! FORTUNE'S PAWN is the inaugural pick for Gail Carriger's new book club!

I've been a fan of Gail Carriger since I first received an advanced copy of Soulless from Orbit way back in 2010 (being an author definitely has its perks!), so you can imagine my absolute glee when she announced that my own Fortune's Pawn was going to be the very first book in her new book club!

!!!!!!!!!!!!

Needless to say, I am super super thrilled and honored and pretty much every good feeling there has ever been! Can't you just see Devi and Alexia Tarabotti have the most interesting tea party ever?! It would definitely be entertaining company :D

And as if that wasn't enough, Rob H. Bedford has posted a big write up about my career over at Tor.com as part of their #torbit initiative to support Hachette/Orbit authors during the Amazon squeeze! I had no idea any of this was happening today and it's pretty much made my life. All other Wednesdays shall be forever disappointments after this!

Thank you so much to all my reviewers and readers for helping to make this possible, and if you're just picking up my books for the first time, I have free chapters of all my series up on my site. I hope you enjoy every word!!

Thank you again, and happy reading!
- Rachel Aaron/Bach

Monday, June 9, 2014

And now for something completely different

So a week ago, fellow fantasy author and all around hilarious fellow Sam Sykes made me an offer I could not refuse. He was going to be running a panel at this year's Phoenix Comicon called the Batsu, or Punishment Game, and he needed my help.

"The goal of this game," he told me, "is to make the panelists laugh so that they will be punished. To do this, I have asked certain authors to pen half a page or so of fanfiction about one of the panelists doing something weird in a suitably epic style. My problem was that A) I had too many male authors, B) not enough fanfiction about the female panelists. Fortunately there is a solution in C) I love your work, D) I would like you write me half a page of fanfiction about Delilah S. Dawson."

I considered this for about 0.00001 seconds before screaming yes so loud the internet shook. I love Delilah and her books almost as much as I love fanfiction, and I accepted the challenge with manic glee. I emailed Sam the finished product at 7 the next morning, chuckling at the image of Delilah desperately trying to read it with a straight face in front of a crowd. My only sadness was that I wouldn't be there to witness the awesomeness myself.

Unfortunately, I had to add a second sadness. In all the rush of the con, there wasn't enough time to get to my short piece of epic author fanfic. But here on the internet, we have all the time in the world, and so I present to you, my darling, hapless reader, my first work of fanfiction in many years. I hope you enjoy it, and if you don't, blame Sam Sykes. It was his idea.

Pretentious Title Presents 
DELILAH S. DAWSON AND THE INTERNET TROLLS
an original authorial fanfiction by Rachel Aaron, who should probably be ashamed of herself.


Friday, June 6, 2014

The Nice Dragons Finish Last Cover Post!

No blog this week due to OMG WRITE WRITE WRITE WRITE mode, but I realized I have been very remiss in my authorial duties since unveiling the cover for my new Urban Fantasy (and first foray into self publishing), Nice Dragons Finish Last... I never mentioned the artist who made Julius look so suave!

So, without further ado, the art for Nice Dragons was done by the amazingly talented Anna Steinbauer! Working with her was an absolute delight and I could not be happier with the end result. You can see more of her excellent work at her Deviant Art gallery, but for now, here's the full, beautiful, un-marred-by-text original version of the cover for Nice Dragons Finish Last as illustrated by Anna Steinbauer!


Oh, Julius, you look so cool now, but your life is about to fall off a cliff!

As the smallest dragon of the Heartstriker clan, Julius survives by a simple code: keep quiet, don’t cause trouble, and stay out of the way of bigger dragons. But this meek behavior doesn't fly in a family of magical predators, and his mother, Bethesda the Heartstriker, has finally reached the end of her patience. 

Now, trapped in a human body and banished to the DFZ--a vertical metropolis built on the ruins of Old Detroit--Julius has one month to prove that he can be a ruthless dragon or lose his true shape forever. But in a city of modern mages and vengeful spirits where dragons are considered monsters to be exterminated, he’s going to need some serious help to survive this test.

 He only hopes humans are more trustworthy than dragons...

Nice Dragons Finish Last comes out July 15! There's no preorder since this is self pub (though you can add it on Goodreads), but I promise I will let you all know the second it hits. Also, if you are a reviewer, and would like an advanced copy of the ebook, please let me know and I will happily send you one!

I seriously can't wait for this to come out. If you liked Eli or Devi, I really think you'll enjoy NDFL!

-R

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Interview Swap with Alex Hughes!

Special treat for y'all today. In a joint venture with very talented author and all around cool lady Alex Hughes, we're doing an interview swap! It's always so interesting to see how other authors work, and I absolutely loved her first novel, Cleana terrifically smart near future thriller with a killer magical system and a great voice. Getting to bug Alex with questions was a huge treat for me, and I hope you enjoy it, too!

My part of the interview where I talk about Paradox, writing, self pub, and all sorts of other fun stuff is already up on her blog, so I'd better get the lead out and post my part. So without further ado, here's Alex Hughes!

RA: Thank you so much for doing this!
AH: Thanks for having me on your blog! I'm excited to swap interview questions.

RA: I really, really enjoyed, Clean, the first novel in your Mindspace Investigations series. I especially loved the way you depicted telepathy both on the personal level (where the power is deftly shown as both a gift and a curse) and in how society would react to the sudden appearance of telepaths among them (badly). Can you tell us a bit more about your telepaths and why you decided to write about them?

AH: I'm so glad you liked the book :). I've always loved telepathy, from Babylon 5 to Anne McCaffrey's Pegasus and Rowan series, to a plethora of books, TV series, and films besides. Telepathy is a way of talking about the double-edged swords of human relationships, our desire to be truly known and to experience true intimacy and yet our deep fear of vulnerability and need for privacy. Telepathy blurs the lines of relationships and boundaries, and adding it to a world makes the world work on a different level, which I love. It also adds power and restraint to the conversation, which is interesting. My telepaths work in a physics-based system, where telepathy is weaker the further you are from a person, and where thought-waves propagate across Mindspace. Emotions leave ghosts behind in Mindspace for a few days, and that's useful for crime scenes, for example. Adam, our hero, is a very strong telepath which a tortured past, working with normals who dislike and distrust him because of what he is as much as who he is. The Telepath's Guild, a strong organization which has earned its neutrality from even the normal governments, has an agenda which they work towards throughout the series. This agenda isn't consistent with the ethics Adam grew up with, and he has to decide which side to take, if any.

RA: I know your work is often shelved under Urban Fantasy, and the police investigation-centric story definitely fits in that genre. To me, though, your books feel much more near-future Science Fiction in the vein of Phillip K Dick or David Brin's Kiln People. Do you see yourself more as a Science Fiction writer or an Urban Fantasist?

AH: I can certainly write either or both, as I love both genres. The Mindspace Investigation series is more truly near future science fiction with a dystopian trend in my opinion, though for simplicity I've taken to calling them telepath police procedurals. I end up shelved in urban fantasy because my characters are strong and personal, my tone is approachable and not given to blocks of worldbuilding, and because some people consider any kind of psychic gift (no matter how well explained) to be fantasy. I also have a strong element of the real current world impacting the paranormal (telepathy), which is a hallmark of urban fantasy. But I take my science very seriously, and the political backdrop of the world will get bigger and more important over the course of the series, which takes away some of the personal emphasis that puts me in UF. (I just gave a talk on urban fantasy this weekend and on why my books both are and are not in the genre.) Still, UF is popular right now, and if the label means people love the work and consider it approachable, then I've met my goals for the series. I just still love my science :)

RA: I read in the interview you did with My Bookish Ways that Clean, which was originally intended as a stand alone, is now the first in a 9 book series. That's awesomely ambitious! Are you still aiming for nine books, and what kind of bigger story should we look for in future installments? Also, what sort of planning goes into building the infrastructure for such a long running series?

AH: Thanks! I've always loved long series, as they let you as a reader get really deep into a world. But I also believe in a series with a definite arc and end; I've read too many series that fizzle towards the end because the writer ended up without a plan. I'm about halfway through my original notes that I did in 2012 when writing Sharp and I have the feeling I'm going to have to restructure now. So, 9 books may grow into 10 or 12, or drop back to 8. We'll see. The bigger story is the playing out of threads I've already built in, with the Guild's agenda and the chess-style long-term plans of Garrett Fiske, who plays a bigger part in Book Four. Book Four is a turning point in a lot of ways. This is the first series I've planned out, and I literally have a chart with different threads (the Adam and Cherabino thing, Fiske, Swartz, the Guild, Adam's addiction, etc.) and how they evolve over the course of the books. But, at this point I'm off-book, meaning due to editorial and beta reader input I've made some choices radically differently from the chart for individual books, which means I'll likely need to go back and rechart the thing. The other planning piece I have is a series bible, a list of all the worldbuilding and character building I've done up to this point, but I'm not very successful at using it yet, and I'm already making mistakes, sigh. Bransen in Book One is Branen (no "s") in Book Two, for example. But the overall story and character arcs should still hold together by the end.

RA: It's not exactly a radical statement to put forth that the publishing world has changed dramatically over the last few years. If you were starting fresh as a new author today, would you do anything differently? And on that note, do you have any advice for someone just beginning the publishing process?

As a new author, I think I would do more intensive work on writing quickly, and have a better career plan. I would have chosen my first agent very differently (chiefly, taken more time asking questions, etc.), and likely started as a hybrid author out of the gate. The best advice I have to someone just beginning the publishing process is that you are the CEO of your own career and that you should feel empowered to fight for yourself and your long term interests rather than just going along with "what's standard" in publishing. Publishing has no standards right now; everything is in flux, and it's no longer viable to just blindly trust a system the way many writers do. Contracts and many other things are negotiable, and it's wise to negotiate. Also, many writers now jump too soon; work on your craft and get very, very good, so that you're confident in your abilities and the value you're bringing to the table. Write quality work, and learn to write it quickly, or at least quicker. The ability to do good things faster than average will serve you very, very well in this business. I myself am working on doing that myself.

***

Alex Hughes, the author of the award-winning Mindspace Investigations series from Roc, has lived in the Atlanta area since the age of eight. She is a graduate of the prestigious Odyssey Writing Workshop, and a Semi-Finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novels 2011. Her short fiction has been published in several markets including EveryDay Fiction, Thunder on the Battlefield and White Cat Magazine. She is an avid cook and foodie, a trivia buff, and a science geek, and loves to talk about neuroscience, the Food Network, and writing craft—but not necessarily at the same time! You can visit her at Twitter at @ahugheswriter or on the web at www.ahugheswriter.com. Or, join her email newsletter for free short stories at www.ahugheswriter.com/email-signup.