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Stewart Hotston

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The price of free

I decided last week in discussions with Matt at AR, that we should put the kindle version of my debut novel up for free at Amazon for 72 hours. That 72 hours runs out tonight. This post is about what’s happened and my feelings about it.

The first consideration was this: lots of people, including a not inconsiderable number of friends, have stumped up proper money for either a physical or ebook copy of A Family War. A decent number of those have then gone on to post very kind and honest reviews about the story they experienced.

I have been really concerned that they’ll feel a little bit cheated that the book has gone for free for a short period. I worry that it might put them off buying anything more of mine in the future because they’ll think ‘I can get it free later on anyway’.

I also worry because they’ve bought the fricking thing, have been supportive and have given me great feedback.

However, at the same time, I’m a fledgling author who’s is trying to establish an audience not just for this novel but for its sequel and all the other ideas that are trapped in my skull screaming to get out. I want this book to get to as many people as possible and create that market that an unknown author like me simply doesn’t have through the machinations of a massive marketing department.

So we come to the event itself – the book has been free since Saturday morning. In that time at least 2,000 downloads have occurred – definitely more as I’m still waiting for today’s numbers to come in. I have NO IDEA how people have found it, I have NO IDEA how it’s got to where it is in the charts – #1 in US Sci Fi, #1 in US Sapce Opera, #111 on the whole kindle store while in the UK it’s been #4 or 6 in the same categories.

I truly don’t understand how people found it at that point or how it’s propelled itself up the charts among other authors who’ve written lots of novels and have well oiled marketing programs. I’ll be trying to figure that out in the coming days with Matt as getting this kind of attention was exactly the kind of outcome I was dreaming of (even though not expecting in any way). It’s something to learn from, to understand and then to figure out how to make it work for me when book 2 comes out.

At the same time, I’m waiting to see if any more reviews pop along, if people continue to buy it when it returns to the heady heights of two bucks a copy and if this does actually help build an audience over time.

I’m an author – loving writing. However, I’m also an author who wants to get his work out there, selling for real money preferably, but also who has just enough self belief to think my work is, on a good day, worth reading. So I wrestle with the idea of creating something and then having to think about how to present it in the best way over time (and by time I mean weeks and months) in order that my secondary wish of getting it in the hands of as many people as possible bears fruit.

The free offer has paid dividends in terms of getting my work out there to literally thousands of people. I have been really tempted to make it permanently free, to ride this wave of people downloading the story to see how far it will take me – the heart gibbers madly, saying thousands could become tens of thousands or even more. Yet I’m listening to those around me who have advised ending the promotion as planned and seeing what happens…Part of me thinks it’s about momentum and that it should stay free, but in the end the argument that it’s actually worth something wins out. We’ll see if readers agree.

Free is tough. I love the people who spent their own money to buy a copy, (I don’t see book 2 ever being free). I truly hope they’ll stick with me as I continue to write and hopefully get published. However, I also really hope that as more people find my work, as some of them even like it, that they will, in future, also think it’s worth paying out their money too!

It’s not that I don’t appreciate anyone who takes the time to try my writing out – trust me I’m humbled that among all the choice out there, you’ve taken the time to pick my stuff up. But I’m trying to figure out how to make this all work and how to ensure that Matt as Alternative Realities thinks it’s worth publishing the next one I send to him.

A Family War – Sample Chapter

Hi there. As promised a little while ago, here is the pdf: A Family War – Sample Chapter

If you like it you can get a copy here: UK or RestofWorld

In case you hadn’t seen the synopsis – the story is an action thriller set in the near future with a strong female central character.

“Helena is one of the Oligarchs, genetically-enhanced, centuries old families who rule the world. As a new world war begins, she is ordered to find a boy who could save the human race from genocide. Yet all is not as it seems; Helena finds enemies on all sides, intent on bringing about the war with all its horrific consequences. To make matters worse, Helena’s own integral AI challenges both her motives and her identity. Yet she has no choice but to accept its treacherous aid if she is to have any hope of surviving those who want her dead.”

As always, let me know what you think.

Also, as far as promotions go, is this a good way of convincing you it might be worth your time?

WIP

As promised earlier this week, please find attached a 1,500 word sample for a new novel that’s completely unconnected to the world of Helena Woolf and the Oligarchs.

The novel is provisionally titled ‘Dreams of Darkness’ and stands alone. It’s currently with Ian Whates at NewCon Press, although he’s yet to read it, so there’s no guarantee at all that he’ll a) like it and b) want to publish it. However, Ian has carved out an amazing business in publishing superb stories, so regardless of my involvement you should seek him out and read the people he publishes cos he has a great sense of out of the ordinary writers.

The story asks the question, ‘what if all our myths were true,’ and then says, but if that’s the case, how is it we have the world we have today where science appears to rule and magic, mystery and legends are footnotes in history books.

The sample takes place very near the beginning and features one of the three main characters, a Fae called Maela from one of the Seelie houses. She’s discovered something of critical importance to her people, whose import she doesn’t understand and is travelling home when this part of the tale takes place. Once you’ve read it you’ll understand why I chose the image 🙂

I’d love your feedback on this, especially whether the action is interesting and if you think it would be something you’d read more of.

Cheers – link below

Dreams of Darkness WIP

The next steps to world domination

I may be overstating the level of ambition here.

Except I feel like that’s what I’m learning alongside my publisher, Alternative Realities. We’re talking every day at the moment about marketing, presence and how to push beyond the audience that already exists and create something larger.

To that end I’ve been persuaded that I need to offer people the chance to subscribe to an email list. I’m going to use it sparingly but I can see the sense. So this is me saying, if you fancy hearing about what I’m up to in the writing space, and occasionally the sword fighting space, since it’s MY website, then sign up.

I will also use this to offer excerpts to people of current WIP for comment, feedback and general discussion, so if you fancy getting your name in my stories or getting the chance to shape plot or characters then you should also sign up for that reason too.

Also, in case you hadn’t heard my debut novel came out a couple of weeks ago now. I’ve put up a free sample on Goodreads – so feel free to head on over there and pick it up if you haven’t already given it a go. There’s a tiny little spot on the left hand side under the cover that says ‘read book’ that has it for you.

ta for now

Stew

The first reviews

I’ve had my first reviews! From people who’ve actually read the book.

It turns out they enjoyed it – which is pretty amazing. So now I sit waiting for others to voice their opinions too, whether they like it or otherwise.

The dreaded bad review is probably inevitable, and then I’ll discover whether I have a thick enough skin. It’s all very well surviving rejection between agent/publisher and author – but that has the benefit of being in private and often being completely unemotional. Most rejection letters are barely more than a ‘thanks for coming in’.

However, in asking for reviews (and I’ve got a long list now of reviewers on Goodreads who are reviewing for me), you open yourself up to public comment. I have to say, that’s something I’ve avoided like the plague most of my life.

Mates and family reviews should (you know, they’re biased!) be favourable, even if they don’t really dig it, but strangers? Well, you’ve read the comments pages on newspapers, right?

So, as the blog tour starts tomorrow, I’m holding my breath again – hoping that reviews actually arrive in ANY form, but when they do they’re ok – for a given value of ok.

In the meantime, I’ve added a photo of Stuart, who is currently winning the best photo with the book. A reader called Bex is second with her shot of the book in a whisky distillery and on the RSS Discovery (not just any old boat as I was reminded just now). Can you get more bizarre/exotic?

 

A Family War – My Cover’s Here!

The cover’s arrived, the cover’s arrived!

So AR are just publishing a short blog on the cover for A Family War, but I thought I’d show it here too. A big shout out again for Lawrence Mann, who did the cover.

I’m really happy with this – it captures the sense of difference between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots. The story is a thriller but it’s based in a world where the 1% really have taken it all.

Politics aside, Lawrence has managed to bring in the feel of the City that plays such a central role in the story, a place where everything man has built is on display. Yet it’s not all sweetness and light – the greatest crimes sometimes occur right out in the open.

AR are going to send the opening chapter out to people who’ve signed up to their newsletter, so get on over there and sign up!

Cheers all

S

 

Listener of books

I was talking to someone yesterday who drives a lot and does most of their ‘reading’ via audio books. I asked them if they listened to abridge versions or full books. They reacted strongly – saying that they never listened to abridged versions. I was surprised for two reasons – the first reason is that I’ve never listened to an audio book. The second reason was that despite reading lots of books to my kids it never occurred to me that there was a big market for adult fiction.

So a question arises – do I consider audio books for Alternative Realities? My mate Gary is powerign ahead on this front for TicketyBoo Press and I think he’s probably right – there does appear to be a large market for this kind of product. Are you a listener of books?

Timing

So I had a great set of conversations this evening – not least with Lawrence Mann, whose art work can be found here and is likely to do a cover for a series of books for Alternative Realities.

We also decided on our first two anthologies today – although that’s still top secret!

What I really want to talk about is timing though. There’s lots of hard work in creating anything of value and although we’re off to a great start we’ve got a lot to do before we forward with any products.

I’ve witnessed a couple of unfolding disasters over the last couple of days – and they are pretty tragic for those involved (for a relative value of tragic) and I was left reflecting on whether our own venture will do any better, deliver any more than so many of those who’ve come before us.

I can’t say we’ll do any better until we’ve done it (or not). I hope we will. Matt and I are very driven guys used to getting stuff done ™ and I hope that will translate into success. However, one thing we will do is be professional. The other thing we’ll do is aim to be realistic and try to achieve exactly what we set out to do in plausible time frames.

That means we’re only going to do two anthologies in this first year. We want them to be the best they can be – from the stories to the production values and that means it will take time to get it right.

Although if you fancied reviewing them we’d like to book a slot with you now! Because the other art in getting stuff done is knowing what needs to be done when. 🙂

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