Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly #4 Now Available for Free Download

Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly #4 celebrates cyborg romance with a guest column by GAMES OF COMMAND author Linnea Sinclair, an interview with author Eve Langlais (Cyborgs: More Than Machines series), and articles about cyborg romances by Charlee Allden (Smart Girls Love SciFi & Paranormal Romance) and Heather Massey (The Galaxy Express--that's me!).

You'll also discover SFR release coverage from June to September, a review by Ian Sales of Pamela Sargent's WOMEN OF WONDER, sci-fi romance reviews, and much more!

Click here to download your free copy. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

SFRB Recommends #24: Lunar Exposure by Shona Husk #sfr #scifi

Lunar Exposure by Shona Husk

Bounty hunter Callen wants to capture Noga—a terrorist—both for the money and for revenge. But catching a criminal on the sensual resort of Decadent Moon without giving in to all the destination’s sexual pleasures is harder than it seems.

Haliday is the darling of the media, a socialite known as much for her casual relationships as she is for her charitable donations. No one knows she hunts down criminals.

Lust and ambition clash, and Callen and Haliday will have to find a way to work together, despite the distraction of their passionate bond. To succeed they must trust each other, something neither Callen nor Haliday is willing to do.

73pg Erotic Sci-Fi Rom.

Overall, I really enjoyed this read. Would definately recommend. However there were some issues.

For one, I found a bit too much telling and not showing going on. A bigger issue was in her hot and steamy scenes. The word repetition made me want to pull my hair out a few times. I’d love to run this through autocrit to see how many times clit and slit show up. Still, having said that, those scenes worked for me. Loved the heat level!

Well done.

This recommendation is made by Sabine Priestley.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

World Building with K.G. Stutts


When I set out to write the first book in my sweet sci-fi series, Mirror Image, originally I didn’t have to do a lot of world building. The story is set modern day, here on Earth, in Charleston, South Carolina. There weren’t space ports or aliens interacting. Just Madison Mackenzie Rhodes, finding out she’s a clone. The first half of the book is all character building. I knew this story would be very character driven and if my reader didn’t connect with Maddie, then there was no point to it.

One of my best friends is also a writer who spends hours world building. She actually spends more time on world building than she has writing some of her stories. To her, that’s the fun. I never quite understood until I reached the second half of writing Mirror Image.

As a sci-fi fan, the possibility of other planets, cultures, and species has always fascinated me. So when it came time for Maddie to leave Earth, my mind reeled in wonder. I wanted something different than what we have seen on sci-fi programs. I wanted to make the reader feel like they were no longer on Earth.

Inspiration for the Aurora planet, which is a neutral world in the galaxy, came from watching the sunset at the beach. The colors were so vivid. I could still close my eyes and see the sky. That’s what I wanted for Maddie for the first time she left Earth. She needed to ease into it. So the planet was locked in a permanent aurora borealis affect. But if there wasn’t full sun, what would the rest of the planet look like? Small vegetation with rough, brown grass. No birds in the sky. No natural water spring. It all made sense to me.

I’m currently writing the third book in the Mirror series. I always try to top myself whenever it comes to creating a different planet or species. I’ve encountered tall, ogre-like beings, trolls, aliens whose arms move like rubber bands, beings with wings, and so much more. It’s a lot of fun to let the imagination run rapid.

Some writers don’t like world building or think it’s hard. Some, like myself, love it. My advice is to not skip out when planning your story or you might miss something important.
 
 

Here is an excerpt from Mirror Reformed:

Jackson and Mack climbed into a flyer toward the alpha site to meet with the contingent of representatives in the ISC organization. Races from across the galaxy joined to meet with them. There were dozens that couldn’t meet due to the distance in the short amount of time Jackson gave them, so they were being representative by a hologram.

This looks like the Jedi counsel,” Mack murmured. Jackson nodded.

Over sixty representatives sat on red cushioned rounded chairs in a circle. Mack and Jackson stood at the center with a universal translator droid. They took a moment for everyone to get settled before speaking.

My friends, thank you for meeting with us on such short notice,” Jackson began.
“What is this about?” A tiny voice squeaked the question.
Mack looked over at the hologram image of Rachel from the Agonahan home world. “Earth is being threatened.”
A garbled voice from a yellow skinned Senub race grabbed their attention. It took a moment before the universal language droid translated. “By whom?”
“A race known as the Synth,” Jackson explained.

The gathered crowd began to speak all at once at the mere mention of the name. It took several minutes to calm everyone down.

Surely you must be mistaken,” a representative from Bespe spoke up.
“If only we were,” Mack said.
“The Synth died out thousands of years ago,” the Bespian argued.
“Always been a mystery, the Synth are,” said a Solarian said. “Much we don’t know.”
“If they have resurfaced, this could only spell doom for the galaxy,” Rachel squeaked.
“Bed time stories,” a Zomhun roughly said. “The Synth isn’t real.”
“No, they are very real,” Jackson replied. “If you don’t believe me, check your own sensors in quadrant seven. You’ll see their ship.”

Several of the contingents muttered, pulling out their comms to speak with their ship. Mack and Jackson waited with baited breath as the responses began to filter in. Each ship reported just as Jackson had said.

Seems the human speaks the truth,” the Bespian reluctantly admitted.
“Hu-man need help from Argafforn?” the cousin of the Fabrega asked.
“We’re asking for anyone’s help who can give it,” Jackson said.
A Syareblayn named Murokk snorted. “Help? To evacuate your planet?”
“To fight them,” Mack replied.
“You can’t fight them. You can’t reason with them.”
“So what do you suggest then, Murokk?” Mack asked. “For us to give up?”
“Surrender will save millions of your kind.”
“No.” Jackson shook his head.

A long and loud shriek from a Boshol made everyone cover their ears. After a moment, the droid translated.

Your people will perish. Do not ask for mine to do the same.”
“Arrogant,” a Eaygrn huffed. “You Terrans are too arrogant for your kind.”
“We should help,” a Qeete named Murrsee stated.
“I agree,” a Setol said. “The Synth will not stop with the Terrans.”
“Do you at least have a plan other than asking us to risk our lives?” Murokk asked.
“We have a few,” Mack stated.
“We understand this is our fight,” Jackson said. “We do have strategies in place for this upcoming battle. We’re not asking for you to do anything we wouldn’t do for you in this situation.”

The room fell silent. The droid translated for several of the alien races. A murmur began in the crowd, growing among the gathered representatives.

The Intergalactic Security Commission was created for this purpose,” Murrsee spoke up. “What kind of allies are we if we expect you to come to us, but we turn you away in your time of need?”
Mack let out a sigh of relief. “Thank you.”
 
 

Bio:

Growing up in Texas and later South Carolina as the youngest in a house full of science-fiction fans, K.G. Stutts had her natural curiosity and imagination nurtured since birth by family movie nights where they would watch Star Wars, Indiana Jones and even timeless Disney favorites.

A prolific writer of sci-fi, romance and mystery, K.G. draws much of her inspiration from those amazing works that gave her an appreciation for telling rich, compelling, character-driven stories for all audiences.

She is a sci-fi series writer with Distinguished Press and also has several romance novels available. She is also a contributor to http://iwassociation.com and http://thewritingnetwork.com.

She lives in North Carolina with her husband, Brad and works for a customer service call center full time. She's a lover of Star Wars, Star Trek (original, TNG, and Voyager), Stargate SG-1 and Atlantis, Muppets, Garfield, Disney, Indiana Jones and is a big football, wrestling, and hockey fan.

Social Media:

Twitter: @KGStutts

Facebook.com/KGStutts

KGStutts.com

Kgstutts.blogspot.com

http://www.amazon.com/K.G.-Stutts/e/B00K4HTY3I/


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Modern Marketing for the Indy Writer Part II

Part One: Evaluate, Strategize, Execute, Re-evaluate.


Part II
Sales Targets & Solid Foundations


In Part One of this series, my short-term goal was simple: I wanted you to take a serious look at your current marketing efforts and truly evaluate how your book, your cover, your website everything you're doing stacks up to the competition.

But my longterm goal for this series remains the same: I want to change your mindset. I want you to walk away from this knowing that you can and should be selling more books.

But how many? How many books should you be selling? 

That's what we're going to look at today.

What are your goals? Do you have goals? How many books do you realistically expect to sell? What is the book-moving capacity for your chosen target market? These are the the very same questions I've asked every marketing client I've ever worked for, and these are the questions you should be asking yourself—and they're definitely questions your publisher should have very specific answers for (more on publishers at a later date). 

Don't worry about answering yet. Just think on it for a moment. First let me map out why it's so important we address these questions, and why I think you need a sales target.


Setting Sales Targets

The biggest mistake I see so many indy-artists make is that they don't set sales targets when they publish. They either don't have a specific target in mind, or if they do, they've set their sights way, way too low. Yes, low. Setting an achievable and realistic sales target is the first step you need to take to build a solid foundation for your marketing platform.

So why are goals so important?

A sales target is the foundation of any business plan, and yes, publishing and writing is a business.

First, we can't plan a marketing strategy unless we know exactly what we want to achieve. For instance, selling 100,000 units will require a vastly different strategy (and resources) than selling 10,000 units. Second, if you don't set a goal for yourself then it's absolutely impossible to gauge the success or failure of your (or your publisher's) marketing efforts.

If you've ever worked in sales (selling cars, clothes, real-estate, whatever), then you know that every sales person is given a quota. This is done for two reasons: one, it's a great kick-in-the-ass motivator, and two, it's the only way to gauge how well that sales person is doing. Are they exceeding their quotas or falling behind? Should they get a bonus or get fired?

Publishing our books should be no different. We need to know if our marketing efforts are working and helping us reach our projected sales targets?


So how many books can we expect to sell? What should our goal be?

Sales goals aren't about what you want to sell. It's not about wishful thinking. It's about what you should expect to sell (assuming you've researched your market, worked your butt off and done all your homework). I'd love to sell a million books, but I know that's not realistic as a goal—not right now, and not for a while.

So what is a realistic number? Fifty books a month? Five Hundred? How about five thousand?

The answer depends on what market your targeting, and the only way to answer this question is to thoroughly research your target market. We must know what the potential for our market is. We must have a firm grasp of what kind of sales other independent authors are doing in our chosen market of SFR.


Market Research

Before I published, before I wrote my first chapter, I spent months studying what the best-selling indy-authors were doing (in my very specific target-market of science-fiction adventure featuring ass-kicking cyber-women in a dystopian corporate-run future). I looked at how many books they were selling (you can find all sorts of sales data online), who was publishing them, who was editing them, who designed their covers, how often they released titles and what efforts they took to market themselves.

If you haven't already done this, then this should be your very first marketing research assignment. And it's important that you focus on what the best-selling indie-published authors are up to. Don't bother comparing yourself to the trads. Traditionally-published* authors are working with the kind of marketing-muscle we don't have, and their strategy will be very different from what we're capable of.

*SIDE NOTE: By 'traditionally-published' I mean published by one of the big, well-established publishing houses—the kind of house that's willing to unleash an entire marketing team behind your book series, the kind that's going to get you in magazines, on all the big web sites, on TV, youtube, and put you on extensive book tours. So, for the sake of this series, I'll be counting all the small ePress publishers as independents.

While doing your market research it's doubly important that you (again!) be brutally honest about how your book stacks up to the competition, both in terms of the writing and presentation (covers, book pages, websites, etc.). Take some time and read some of these books, too. Find out how your book compares, how it looks, how it reads. Examine how their marketing efforts differ from yours. Chances are you'll end up with some great ideas.

If this sounds like a lot of work, it is. But this kind of market research will reap huge rewards. I promise.

Once you start spending some time online getting to know the books and authors you’ll be in competition with you'll also start to develop a more complete picture of how Amazon works, and how to manipulate Amazon it in your favor. I know when I did this a huge dime dropped for me. I knew then that there was a huge potential to sell a lot of books. And I was right.


Numbers! Numbers! How many, already!

After doing my research I came to the determination that it was possible for me to sell 10,000 books. That number became my goal. I gave myself three years to hit that mark. And because of that research I thought that number was doable, even conservative, though I had no idea if I'd actually achieve it.

Again, this estimation was calculated based on what I saw other indy writers selling, how many titles they had vs. the single book title I was releasing at the time, how many units they sold per month, how I thought my book stacked up against theirs, in terms of quality of writing (story, characters, narrative, etc.), and of course the look of the book (packaging and branding).

Whether or not I would hit this number didn't matter, though I'm extremely happy to say that I did. And it took a lot less time then I thought. But what really mattered was that I had a realistic target in my sights. It was realistic because I'd done my research. I knew what kind of sales were possible. I had a firm goal in mind and I was determined to reach it—and because of that research I had a pretty good idea as to how to go about it.

Best of all, doing this research got me excited enough to actually sit down and finally write my first novel. Something I'd wanted to do for decades. It was the exact motivation I needed.

Depending on your perspective, selling 10,000 books either sounds like a lot or a little. For me, it was a mix of both. I’ve been around the block enough to know that 10,000 books is a drop in the bucket in the publishing world, but I also knew that selling 10K would be like totally freaking awesome for me as a first-time indy-writer-publisher. And it was.

Now that I'm getting set to publish the third book in my series, my new goal is to sell 100k by 2018. I've raised that number up from 10k, because I know that books sell books, and the more you have the more you can sell. Again, this number has not been pulled out of thin air. It's based on what I see similar titles doing. It's not just wishful thinking. It's based on the research I've done into my target market. I also know that if I don't reach this goal I'll have no one to blame but myself. Right now I'm falling way, way behind in my writing milestones and it's putting a serious damper on that 100k goal. But this is my fault. Not Amazon's. Not my lack of publishing support. It's my fault.

Your own sales goal will have to be based on your own research. It's all about how your book stacks up to the competition, how well it stands out from the crowd, and what your target market will bear.

Which brings us to the next section.

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT #2: MARKET RESEARCH

This is what I did before I published, and if you haven't already done it, now's the time.

  1. Pick your target market (smallest, most focused sub-genre on Amazon). Mine was Sci-Fi/Genetic Engineering.
  2. Find four best-selling books by four different best selling indy-authors within that target category. These should be books that you think your readers will also enjoy.
  3. Study these authors. See what they're doing to market themselves—this includes their online presence, who they picked to edit them, who designed their covers, and in some cases who published them if they went with a third-party publisher.
  4. Lastly, research how many books they sell, by month, by year and by total sales. There's a few ways to do this. The easiest is to look them up on a sales tracking site. You can also estimate their sales by their Amazon ranking. If they're ranked between 2k and 3k, then they're selling around 1000 books a month. If they're in the top 1000, then they could be selling a few hundred copies a day. Top 100 ranking means they're selling thousands of copies a day! Use this data to determine your sales target and time-frame to reach that goal.

It's a lot of work, but take heart in the fact that this assignment serves a number significant purposes. I know when I did it I learned a f*deleted-by-editorial-staff-ton about Amazon and how it worked. By the time I published I felt I had a pretty good handle on things. I felt confident that I was launching my book properly, and that it would slot in well into my target market. Within a few weeks, that list at the bottom of my Amazon book page (where it says "People who bought this book also bought these books…") featured all of the very same books that I had researched. Their readers had become my readers. I felt like I'd nailed my target market.


Next Week: Product & Branding

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Love and Sex in the Dark Future by Angelia Sparrow

Romance is all about transformation though the power of love. But what happens when love bumps its nose against control, against a whole world designed to keep everyone in their place and everything moving smoothly?

Dystopia is a popular form of SF, and much of it recently has written for the YA market. (I was deeply disappointed that the Divergent series is written in present tense. I'll just wait for the films) The teens, when everything seems the bleakest, is a prime time for dystopia. I read 1984 and Brave New World, as well as Nourse's The Blade Runner (about an illegal doctor) in my teens. Since then, Ira Levin's This Perfect Day and other books have been added. I've even written a few. My husband likes dystopias. They're almost the only fiction he reads.

Sex in dystopias tends to fall into one of three categories: highly restricted and regulated, used by the government as a constant distraction for the citizens, or slotted into pure routine. Love is discouraged in all forms of totalitarian futures, because love inspires people to irrational acts of individuality and throws society out of kilter.

In 1984, sex is regulated and love is only directed at children or Big Brother. Spouses “do their duty to the Party.” Our hero has or had a wife. He's as fuzzy about that bit of history as he is the year. He doesn't remember what became of her. There is even an Anti-Sex League, dedicated to abolishing the orgasm, and complete propagation by artificial insemination. When Winston and Julia do fall in love, they are crushed under the state's heel, and tortured until they betray each other and despise each other. Their love is not powerful enough to bring down the state.

In The Giver, the Anti-Sex League won. All emotions, all memories, all connection have been abolished. Family units are together for the convenience of the State. And sex is eradicated by a pill. No romances break out to disrupt the steady rounds of society.

On the flip side is Brave New World. Love is meaningless. Early childhood conditioning renders sex a pleasant habit, emotional connection impossible and monogamy an aberration to be stomped out. Families have been eradicated, and freemartins are 70% of the female population. (the term comes from cattle, and indicates a sterile female, twinborn with a male calf) The society shunts its individualists and thinkers off to an island, but there will never be a revolution out of love or romance. The words have no connection to the people.

This Perfect Day, The Sentinel Stars and other futures make sex as dull as possible, part of human routine, like eating or going to the bathroom. This dulls the people and makes them not reach for more than gray little lives.

When reading a SF romance, we tend to expect that if it's a dystopia setting, the lovers will escape it, like Logan and Jessica of Logan's Run, or destroy the system. Indeed, for a happy ending to occur, one or the other must happen. I was collected in Circlet's Like an Iron Fist, which was dystopian erotica. I caught up with CTan, the editor, later and mentioned I was the only one who had an unhappy ending to my story. She thought and agreed it was odd.

While the sex in erotica may transform the couple, it seldom transforms the world. The question becomes whether love in a romance is enough to change the world.

Tell me about your favorite dystopias, and how love can change them, or how your lovers escape.

And while you're at it, pick up a free copy of Nikolai, a fairly unconventional SF love story, (I call it a dark future, kinky, gay Pygmalion) at http://brooksandsparrow.com/NikolaiRevenant.pdf

Or email me at angeliasparrow @ gmail for a .mobi or .epub
 
 
 
Nikolai Revenant Excerpt:

Ligatos followed him in and said a word to the driver, a big man with long dark hair. The prissy blond—the lawyer, Nick presumed—slid into the front beside the driver. Nick just looked around himself as the limo pulled out of the garage beneath 201 Poplar. It rose smooth and whisper-quiet to the street levels and cut through the minimal traffic, a shark among the lesser fish.

“Nice car,” Nick said, still staring at the driver’s hair. If this man could get around the appearance laws, he could get around anything. Long hair was a three-year offense on a man, just as short hair on a woman was a five-year. “Bullet-proof, deep tint. Got a high-powered engine, it sounds like.”

The only response was a conspiratorial smile.

“Fuel-cell, biodiesel or just ethanol?” He had a feeling he already knew the answer.

“Fuel-cell.”

Nick gave a low whistle. The C.S. did not have fuel-cell technology. The United States refused to trade it with them. This foreign-made car just clinched what he already knew about his benefactor. “I’ll bet you got some big fortress of a place, way out in the country, too. All the rich folks are shaking the city dust off their shoes and setting up their own little plantations these days.”

“I live in the city.” He settled back into the seat as the driver cruised the late night streets of Revenant territory, Poplar and Central, Pauline and Danny Thomas. Past the projects, fallen yet again into disrepair, and the concrete canyons and one-way streets of downtown, darkened for lack of nightlife. In the distance, the Beale Forbidden Zone glowed, contraband generators and alcohol lamps casting lurid shapes in the night.

Nick’s eyebrows went up. “That ain’t safe for a man with money,” he said after a long pause.

“You won’t be seeing my home for some time.”
Nick shrugged as much as he could manage. “Whatever you say. I’m the one sitting here in cuffs.” He tried not to think about how cold and numb his hands were. He squirmed a little and got them into the small of his back.

The smile turned into a far less pleasant smirk, making Nick wonder again what that mouth would feel like on him, what it would taste like against his. Vlad had been the first after two years of celibacy and now he couldn’t seem to stop the desire.

The car rolled into an underground garage, somewhere in downtown. Nick had gotten distracted looking at his benefactor and it was hard to read signs through the deeply tinted windows. It stopped and a big black man wearing a gun opened the passenger side door. Another anomaly. Ten years ago, weapons had been forbidden by law to the Sons of Ham.

Nick hesitated, staring, and the guard pulled him out of the car and onto his feet. He stumbled a little and regained his balance just in time to meet a shove between his shoulder blades.

“I’m going!” he snapped, which earned him another shove toward the bank of elevators on the far wall. He walked as fast as his off-balance position allowed, which wasn’t fast enough for the guard, who shoved him most of the way.

Ligatos followed, taking his time. Nick heard him talking to the men behind him, catching only the words, “Excellent reflexes” and “Good balance” in voices that were not Ligatos’.

“I wasn’t wrong about this one,” came Ligatos’ voice. Nick waited in the elevator until Ligatos joined him.
 
 
About the author:
 

Angelia Sparrow is the author of 17 novels (12 published and 5 in various edits) and nearly 90 short stories. She lives quietly in the MidSouth, crocheting and knitting when saving or destroying the world becomes too much. She runs Inkstained Succubus Press with Gabriel Belthir. Her next release is unknown, but will be showcased at http://brooksandsparrow.com She blogs at angelsparrow.blogspot.com and as valarltd on Livejournal, Pinterest, Tumblr and FetLife. She can be found on Facebook as Author Angelia Sparrow, or under her own name.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Think Like A Reader by Lynn B. Davidson


I think one of the most important things to remember when using social media is to try to place yourself in the reader’s position. With only one book out and one book being released soon, I still feel more like a reader than a writer most of the time. One of the things that still makes me scratch my head is some author’s social media strategies on Facebook. When I see authors posting ads in groups that don’t allow promo, or posting political opinions or trashing other authors I wonder if they have thought about their actions from a reader’s perspective?

There are many kinds of Facebook groups. Some allow promo, some don’t and some are hybrids. When you join a Facebook group, take a look around the group and read the rules before posting an ad for your book. The last thing you want to do is turn off potential readers by the appearance that you can’t or won’t follow rules or directions.

For Facebook groups that allow ads, look at the last fifty posts. Are they all ads for books with few or no comments? Chances are, those groups are not attracting many readers. If the group is not one where you would find a new read, it probably isn’t where your potential readers are looking for new books. I’m not saying it doesn’t have value or you shouldn’t post there, but it may not translate to sales.

For Facebook groups that don’t allow ads, don’t try to circumvent the rules. People are perceptive and will see through your attempts to try to subversively advertise for your book. Remember authors are readers too, and you don’t want to irritate authors in your social media strategy.

Refrain from posting about your political views. People with differing political views read all genres of books. If there is any chance that what you are sharing is going to offend someone with the opposite political view, you may have just turned off a faithful or potential reader. This also applies to posting your religious views.

Don’t trash other authors or books. They only thing that some people hold as dearly as their political beliefs is their love of their favorite books. Faithful fans will not appreciate your distain of the characters they love. They also may decide that if you hate something they love, that they wouldn’t like your work.

Facebook can be a wonderful and useful tool for writers, especially if you are aware of the pitfalls. If your goal on Facebook is to attract new readers, keep faithful readers and interact with other writers, keep in mind how what you post may be perceived.



Sincerely,

Lynn B. Davidson
 
 
 
 
 
Golden Perspective:
 
Evie and Tyler were captured as slaves and forced into intimacy by the captors. As time went by, they found solace and love together, but when they miraculously escape, Tyler must finally tell Evie the truth. He is a prince on his planet, and marriage with an Earth woman is unacceptable. He loves her, but he has to put the needs of his people first. Heartbroken, she understands.
 
Evie begins a new life on this alien planet where she meets the gorgeous and loyal Dylan. Dylan’s single minded pursuit and devotion convinces her that they can overcome their cultural differences, and love once again is possible. Tyler sees Evie falling in love again, and realizes nothing is more important than loving Evie.
 
Now he must win not one, but two hearts. Can Evie overcome her fears and learn to love these two men, and embrace the vibrant and sexual culture that would have all three of them loving one another? 


You can also find Lynn B. Davidson at these locations:
 
 
 
 
  


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