I Call BullSh*t: Authors Shouldn’t Read Reviews

productReviewI know I haven’t been the best about blogging regularly lately. So many new things going on and so many excuses to give you.  So now, I wanted to get back into this with the regular feature I promised, but never delivered on. The I Call Bullshit series where I take things I was told starting out in writing and blow them apart.  The first one was on how I was told that social media marketing was really easy.  It is not.  This time I am going to go over a big one.

I was always told, don’t read the reviews of your work.  Just ignore them all and keep putting out books.  But that is complete bullshit. Perhaps if you are George R.R. Martin you can pass on reading the reviews, I suppose your success tells you what you need to know.  But even still, I think he should be reading his reviews too. And who knows, maybe he is.

First people tell you that everyone is a critic, and this is true. It is also true that you can’t please everyone.  Some people will genuinely hate your work and for no other reason than your style. Not every book is good for everyone. I think once you realize that, there isn’t any reason not to read the reviews.  Even the bad ones have something for you in them.

And there is the reason you should be reading your reviews, there is feedback from actual readers there. You would listen to your Beta readers if they told you they didn’t like something, you may not change it, but you would listen. So why wouldn’t you listen to the person who paid money for it? Some of that money you received.  Readers should be the reason you are writing stories. So to ignore their comments is a spit in the face of the reason you write.  Sure, you may write for yourself. Or you may write because you like to create. But if you took that writing and had it published in anyway, you did it because you wanted someone else to read it.  So you should be listening to their reviews.

Reviews, good and bad, are a precious gift. They are so hard to get.  I have had just one review on Volition Agent since July 6th of 2013. One review and a year of nothing.  Broken Trust has had just one review since itsrelease over a month ago.  And Dissolution of Peace has 20 reviews, but it has taken three years to amass that many.  So getting reviews is far from easy. I have given away free copies asking for a review in return. I have done promotions to get the book in thousands of hands through a KDP free day.  And, I’ve begged and pleaded with my friends to write a review. And it doesn’t come easy.

The point is this. Even a bad reviewer took the time. Something so many readers will not do.  They took the time to tell the author and other customers how they felt about the book. So I make sure to check them at least weekly and to read them. I do this because it is feedback. Feedback from someone who took the time to let other readers know what they liked and disliked.  It is the reviews that lead to a second edition of Dissolution of Peace, because there was consistent feedback that too many typo and grammar mistakes slipped through the cracks.  And it is the same set of reviews that has pushed me to get the sequel out.

And I am not just talking about Amazon or Goodreads reviews.  I am also talking about the blogger, the Facebook comment, the Tweet, and all the other ways that authors get a review.  We should be reading those because they speak volumes about what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong (or at least not to our reader’s enjoyment).

Because I will tell you my stance.  Getting no reviews for a full year, that stings a whole lot more than getting a sub-par review.  I am sure there are people who read it who must have liked it, but they couldn’t be bothered to review it. And that feels like I did something really wrong.

I have noticed a shift starting to happen in this “don’t read reviews” movement. That is the independent author.  Authors like me who are publishing our own work.  I am seeing more and more independent authors saying that we should be reading reviews. And I think this comes from the fact that we are typically the struggling artists who finally decided to take our work into our own hands and put it out there for the world to see. And, we are desperate to know if we made the right choice.

valid-stampThe main difference is that Traditionally Published Authors already have that validation. They have an agent, editor, and publisher that loved their work enough to put it out on shelves and stamp it with their name. Where as the independent author, the only validation that our work gets is from the readers.

But, as time passes I suspect we will continue to shift away from this idea that authors should avoid their reviews. I think it is important we listen to our readers and become better from it.


DetCon1 is Coming Fast!

If you follow me on on Facebook and Twitter, you no doubt have heard me mention DetCon1.  You may have even gathered that I am pretty excited about this.  And, it is just over two weeks away!

What is DetCon1?

The simple answer is the DetCon1 is the North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC).  But for those, like I used to be, who are not sure what that means, let me clarify.  WorldCon, to me, is the grand daddy of all Science Fiction conventions.  Well, when WorldCon is going to be outside North America (this year it is in London), there is also a NASFiC.

This year, DetCon1 is being held in Detroit at the Marriott Renaissance Center from July 17-20th.  If you have not thought about going, it is not too late. I strongly encourage any author, publisher, or fan of Science Fiction to attend.

Why should I go?

Last year I finally made it to my first convention. I went to Lone Star Con 3, last year’s WorldCon. I figured I’d go big or go home.  And let me tell you, I was not disappointed. I walked away with a wealth of knowledge for my writing, my business, and my reading list.  It was an entire weekend of fun and it cost me almost nothing.  A small membership fee (way less than $100), hotel and a flight.  But the things I learned made it all worth it.

Anyway, I made up my mind that I was going to go to every WorldCon I could attend.  There are two reasons this is a good idea.  First, it makes me get away once a year.  Second, WorldCon always moves around.  Thus making it a great way to see new places.  I really loved San Antonio, and I would never have thought to go there if it wasn’t for the WorldCon.

Well, as I mentioned above, this year it is in London.  And my move to Washington made it just financially impossible to go.  But even if you are going to London this year, you should also go to Detroit.  The conventions are at different times, just so those that can attend both have that ability.

But here is why you should go:

Panels: DetCon1 will have four days full of panels.  What are panels? A group, typically 2-6 people, discuss a assigned topic for about an hour.  The topics at DetCon1 are very vast. They range from Literary to Scientific, Music and Art, and on and on.  You get to hear experts, novices, publishers, artists, doctors, and other qualified individuals discuss these topics and offer their advice.  Sometimes, if time permits, you even get to ask a few questions. And many panelists are willing to talk to you after the panel, if their schedule permits.

I went to so many panels at WorldCon. And one thing I knew I wanted to do was to speak on a panel. Why? Well, like this blog, I like to help people, and I do that with my ideas and thoughts.  Panels are a great way for me to share those.  And, I applied to be a panelist at DetCon1 and they said yes! (more on that soon).

Workshops:  Where panels are more of a one way communication, a lot like a lecture, workshops are more of a two way street.  You work with others to develop a certain skill or item.  There are a number of these and they vary in type and style.  While you learn a ton of stuff from panels, you practice a lot in Workshops.  These are often intense periods since time is limited. But I love the fast learning method.

Film Festival:  I wish I had known about these earlier when I was at Lone Star Con, because I missed some good ones. Film Festivals show short films made by talented folks. The one I attended showed ten different short films in about an hour and half.  They were amazing!  This is a great way to take a break from the hustle of the convention and see some excellent media art.

Art Show: I could have gone broke at the Lone Star Con art show. And Detroit has some awesome artists.  The Artist guest of honor is one of my favorites, John Picacio.  My hope is to get a chance to meet him and maybe (finances permitting) pick up something of his.  But even if you can only look, I can assure you you will fall in love with the art at the convention.

Kids Programs: This year I am going alone. But last year I went with my whole family and the Kids programming was a life saver for my young kids.  DetCon1’s programming appears to be the same way.  Kids can only take so much adult stuff before they go nuts. Kids programming is built just for them and includes a number of crafts.

Dealers: Merchants of as much variety as you can imagine come to the convention to show and sell their stuff.  Of course you won’t leave without a book or two, but there are also shirts, comics, patches, jewelry, and other great things to buy. I don’t know what dealers will be at DetCon1, but my wallet is already opening.

Also, I discovered some great writers by browsing the Dealer room. The books are excellent and I wound up grabbing a few new names because that was the point. To experience something new.

So much more: Exhibits, Parties, Masquerade, Gaming, and so much more.  DetCon1 is certain to have some great exhibits to check out.   I missed the Masquerade at Lone Star, so I hope to attend this one (but I have a busy schedule already).  I also missed out on a lot of parties last time. I didn’t find out about them until late Saturday. So I hope that I can attend a lot more this time.

So you see, there are more than enough reasons to to go to DetCon1.  You can register online for the full four days for just $75 for adults, $25 for kids (4 and under are free!).  So if you can get to Detroit, you see the value is there.  Not sure if you want to register online, you can do so at the door too.  They also have one day memberships that vary in price based on the day.  So please, go check it out!

I almost forgot the biggest reason you all should go!

I’ll be there. I applied to be a participant this year, and was so honored when the programming staff selected me as one of their participants.  I am even more honored by how many panels they have have assigned me to.  So it would be great if a few of my fans, and fans of Plasma Frequency could come out and see me.

Please note, the below list of panels is not final. Although the programming staff say it is “done” (their quotes, not mine), these things are always subject to change.  You’ll want to check the program when you check in.

Of course when I am not on a panel I will be attending them, and also I will be around looking at all there is to see.

So here is where they have me scheduled (*again subject to change so check the final program).


The Very First Thing: Story Titles

Description: How do writers choose story titles? What makes a good title? Who gets to decide what the title will be? And which comes first, the story or the title?

My thoughts: I am lousy at titles, and I have had to adapt to that failing. So I hope to get a chance to discuss how I break down my title block and finally put a title on my stories.

Time: 7pm in the Nicolet A Room*

FRIDAY (18th)

Iron Author Detroit – Late Night Edition

Description: Watch four authors compete for the title of Iron Author Detroit! Witness their efforts at turning the Mystery Ingredient Word into an SF/F short story in five minutes or less. Judge the resulting tales through the magic of the Audience Applause-O-Meter. Who will reign supreme?

My thoughts: I am the Moderator or Emcee for this one. I am excited about this one too. I love short fiction, which is why I publish them. So, getting to see four authors write a story in five minutes or less… oh man this is going to be great.

Time: 10pm in the Nicolet B Room*


What am I Looking For?

Description:  Agents and editors talk about the sorts of projects that interest them individually and answer general publishing questions.

My Thoughts:  I am so honored and so excited for this panel. Obviously I will be representing Plasma Frequency on this panel. But,as of right now the other panelists are Diana Pho of Tor books, Kate Baker and Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld, and Sam Morgan who is an Agent.  Now, Clarkesworld has always been a publication I have admired and has been what I aspired for by opening Plasma Frequency.  So to sit on a panel with Neil Clarke and Kate Baker. Man, I really hope they are there and that aspect doesn’t change. However, I am also excited to represent the semi-pro market on this panel. This is a good one to attend if you’ve wanted to know what it is we are publishing and why.

Time: 1pm in the Mackinac East room*

+/- a Shirt: Starting a Business

Description: How to lose your shirt (or maybe get rich) in starting a business.

My Thoughts: This one wasn’t on my initial itinerary, but I am glad they added me. Plasma Spyglass, my company, is my second business. So I am excited to talk about what I learned from my first failure, and what I know from Plasma Spyglass to be successful.

Time: 3:00pm in the Ambassador Salon 1*

Reading: Flores/Haynes/O’Riordan

Description: Richard Flores IV, Michael Haynes, and Daniel O’Riordan read from their work.

My Thoughts: Of all the items on my list, this one I am the most nervous about.  I don’t know which novel I will read from, but I am leaning towards my most recent one, Broken Trust.  Readings are a great way to hear a book in the author’s voice. That was how I discovered the Split Worlds Series by Emma Newman.

Time: 6pm in the Joliet A room*

SUNDAY (20th)

Hobbies as Research

Description: The best way to write about something is by attempting to do it. But the problem with doing this is that it can be easy to let the research take over the story. How do we balance the story with the fun factoids and tidbits we learn while doing things we plan to incorporate into our novels? How does doing it ourselves lend authenticity and credibility to the story?

My Thoughts:  This is a subject about balance. Obviously research is a big part of writing. But knowing what parts to share and what to leave out is a difficult thing.  This will be a great knowledge builder for new and experienced writers.

Time: 11:00am in the Mackinac East room*

*Remember these are the times and rooms as they are scheduled today. DetCon1 can change these, so please check your programs. And please come see me.


10 Things to Avoid Saying to Writers

Just last week while on the internet I saw a meme titled “10 Things You Should Never Say to Writers” posted by Jessica McHugh. It was really funny, and it got me thinking of a few things to add to that list.  So here is my list of Ten Things to Avoid Saying to Writers.

1. I wish I had such an easy job.

AuthorEASY! If it is so easy where are your novels? I’d love to read one. The problem is people assume that all you need is an idea and you’re off to writing a novel. They further assume that proofreading and editing are the same thing.  Furthermore, they have absolutely no idea what it takes to make a readable story.  Saying being a writer is easy is just like my saying being an accountant must be easy.  I really have no clue.

2. Why do you even need to work?

book_moneyOh man, I get this question every time a coworker finds out I am a writer. The way they often say it is as if I have stolen a job from someone who really needs it just so I can pad my pockets. Never mind that I drove to work in a 18 year old van with one working windshield wiper (when I hit the dash just right), with no air conditioning, and leaks fluids that even a mechanic can’t identify.  I really just enjoy working odd hours and tons of overtime just to add to my Swiss bank account.  This ties into the assumption that the arts pay a lot of money. And in most cases they do not.  Just like every actor doesn’t make millions, every author is not selling record amounts of books.  I need a day job just to live on until people start buying all my books, or maybe forever.

3.  Can I get a free copy of your book?

frustrated_writer_200See above, Jack Ass. Do these people go to restaurants and ask the owner, can I have a free meal? Do they go to a dress maker, and ask for a free dress?  Do they ask the dry-cleaner to clean their suits for free?  No, they don’t. Yet they feel compelled to ask me to give away my hard work to them for free, just because they casually know me. And then they get offended when I tell them about my website’s promotions page where they can enter to win free books when I do giveaways. As if they should somehow just get one.  Come on.

4. I’d buy your book but…

handle_criticismThe list of excuses are amazing. And most of them are kind of bull shit if you ask me. The only one I accept is: “I’d buy your book but I am broke.” Because I understand that. I am also broke.  But telling me you would buy my book but you don’t read science fiction, or you don’t read at all, or you’d rather spend your money on movies (really??), or some other excuse is really just slapping me in the face.  Especially if you’re my friend or family member.

5. I’d write a review for your book but I don’t know what to say.

SurveyOh this one really pisses me off. Listen, I don’t care what authors say about not reading reviews and all that other bull. We need reviews on our books to be successful. And when you have read one and you won’t review it, I suppose that is your choice. But don’t come tell me that you won’t write one because you don’t know what to say.  We are not asking for a New York Times evaluation. We just want you to rate the book and write your thoughts about the book down. Do this once and then copy and paste it on Amazon, Goodreads, and where ever else you see the book. It isn’t hard and it means more to us than you can possible imagine.

6. It must be your dream to see them make your book into a movie.

swearing_3421243It is my dream that people READ MY BOOKS, not watch them. The only reason why I would want my book turned to a movie is because it would hopefully mean more people would READ them.  As any avid book reader knows, they always fuck up the movie.

7. I have a cousin’s friend’s uncle who is a writer.

angry-man-clipartOkay.  I never understood this.  There is only one other career I’ve ever heard this done with; and that is police. Ever notice if you mention a cop someone always has to speak up with how they somehow know a police officer. For some reason people need to tell me how they know a writer. And they always say it as if that acquaintance some how makes them an expert. The best follow up question to this statement is: “Oh, what do they write?”  Because they have no damn clue and secretly I like watching hem squirm.

8. I have a lot of great ideas for books, I just don’t have the time to write.

008968716-clock-and-gears-looping-animat-713-57Some variation of this is always on every author’s most hated thing to be told. Sometimes people want you to write their idea and give them credit. But the worst for me is when someone tells me they don’t have time. I work 40-60 hours a week at a day job, publish a magazine, have a family, and still make time to write. It isn’t that you don’t have time.  You don’t have the passion to write.

9. I am not going to wind up in one of your books, am I?

missing-sign-300x225They always say this with some little hint at it being a joke. You’re not funny.  And there is a good chance that background character I just killed off was you.  I killed him because he made bad jokes too.

10. Someday you’ll be famous and I’ll say I know that guy.

And I will tell security I’ve never seen you before in my life.


Author Interview: Barry K. Nelson

101I am fresh off my blog tour and release party, that took my away from any Author Features in May. But I am ready to jump right back in with an author interview.  Today I have Barry K. Nelson, author of the McKenzie Files series. I am glad to have you here Barry.  Start by telling me a bit about yourself.

BKN: I currently live in Clairton PA. A small town in the Pittsburgh PA area. I’m 54 years old. Born on July 10th, 1959. My interests are X-box gaming, movies, gardning.

RF: When did you start writing?

BKN: I first started writing when I was in high school. I was always very good with it. On a professional level I started about fourteen years ago when I penned my very first novel.

RF Tell us about McKenzie Files.

BKN: McKenzie Files is the first book in a series. It’s a series of adventures involving my main character Colin McKenzie, Diane Christy, and Kelly Lytton. Three characters who are genetically engineered beings called Reploids. Reploids look human and blend into human society. Some Reploids are just like norman humans. But others, like my three charaters, have superhuman powers. My story takes place in the far future when a viral outbreak forces the human race to abandon Earth and seek a new home out in deep space. They establish an empire of colony worlds called the United Protectorate. After a while the United Protectorate makes contact wit ha hostile race of aliens called the Brelac, and a war breaks out. I like to think of mcKenzie Files as a cross betwen Star Wars and Marvel Comic’s X-Men.

RF:Who do you find to be a huge inspiration?

BKN: Rod Sterling, Steven King, Gene Roddenbury, Stan Lee.

RF: What are you reading right now?

BKN: As far as books are concerned nothing right now. But I do keep up with the new Marvel comics. Spider Man, Hulk, X-Men.

RF: What is the most embarrasing mistake that you’ve made as a writer?

BKN: I wouldn’t exacly call this a mistake. But a year ago I was invited to make a presentation on stage with a group of other writers. In spite of spending a full day rehersing what I wanted to say when my turn came up I only managed to get out twenty words or so. Then I had to walk off. That day the embarasment level was in the high numbers.

RF: What is the one thing that always gets in the way of your writing?

BKN: I’d have to say my addiction to my X-box games. And my overconfidence that I can get my work caught up the next day. At times the next day ends up being the next week.

RF: Are there any more projects that you’re working on? And when might we see them?

McKenzieFiles-coverFRONT150BKN: I’ve recently completed the third installment in my McKenzie Files series. Obliteration, McKenzie Files Book Three. I expect my publisher to complete their editing and release it soon. In the meantime I’m working on McKenzie Files Book Four. And I’m also wrking on a fully animated movie of my first book. I’m also starting work on a graphic novel. I’m trying to get all three projects done by the end of the year. I have a lot to keep me busy.

RF: What secrets would you share with aspiring writers?

BKN: Be persistent and don’t let rejections discourage you. And if you’re a first time writer then try to look for the smaller or new publishers to submit your work to. I found that you are least likely to be rejected.

RF: This is one of my favorite questions to ask writers. You’re throwing a fiction character party. What fictional characters would you like to invite? And why?

BKN: I’d like to invite Bruce Banner from the Hulk comic series. I think that it would be interesting conversing with a man who has such a destructive alter ego. But I’d keep him away from the booze. And possibly James Bond. Maybe he’d give me a few dating tips.

Alright, thanks so much to Barry for stopping by my blog. You can have one of my author features too.  They are free and a great way to let me help you spread the word on your books.  Find out more here: LINK


Broken Trust Release Party is Over!

Whew! The month long release party is over. And boy has it been nuts! First of all I learned a lot about marketing a big release, and I wanted to share with you the things I learned. This way perhaps you can have a big start to your marketing project too!

1. Don’t waste your time with preorders!

I put a lot of work on setting up preorders, and I even had massive discounts. And not one person preordered the book.  Not one. Despite all the promotion of it, no one order one.  Not even my family. I don’t know why that is. I think it has to do with the fact that people would rather order from a trusted source. But I don’t know that for sure. And since Amazon won’t let me do preorders on there, I just was stuck with doing it through PayPal.  In any case, this is the third time I have offered preorders, and the first time I have offered it for an extended period of time (three weeks).  And I have never made a preorder sale. So I won’t be wasting the energy setting up that on Paypal and my website.

2. Plan your release early in the party.

My goal with this party had been to build a buzz, and create preorders. I think I did get the buzz going, but since my book didn’t release until the end of the party, I think I may  have lost out on some sales potential.  So for my next book, the release party will come either right after the book releases or maybe just a week into it.  That will be a better option.

3. Too many giveaways means too few entries.

There were so many giveaways in this party. Book a Day in May, Goodreads, Grand Prizes, Kindles. I just had so many.  I really liked the Book a Day in May.  I will do that again, but I don’t think I will do it the same way. Perhaps one entry form with a drawing each day.  This way entrants don’t have to fill out so many forms. That does get rather tedious.   I’ll be experimenting with Raffle Copter to see if that can be done. I also don’t think I will release a book in May while doing this giveaway.

I think the magic number for giveaways is 1 at a time. Yeah, just one.  Otherwise it is hard to focus on them and get a lot of people entering. Of course, GoodReads tends to always draw a lot of entries. But RaffleCopter is solely based on how much work you put into marketing it.  So I will limit myself to just one.

4. Hire a Blog Book Tour Company

I did a blog book tour with Dissolution of Peace, I hired OrangeBerry to do it. And while I wasn’t 100% satisfied, I did get a much better response from it. Putting on a book tour is harder than it looks. I tried to do it myself with Broken Trust. I wound up with four days unfilled out of ten total days. That is really bad for such short tour. With OrangeBerry I ordered 30 days and they gave me 30 days, with most of those 30 being within a 30 day period. So from now on I will pay a little bit of money and not have all the hassles of doing it myself. This includes all the scheduling, finding bloggers, and coordinating the releases.  It just wasn’t worth it to try and do it for free.

5. No one cares about the games.

I created Quizzes for the tour, two of them. And they were hardly touched. I had a trivia game, no one showed up to play. I did an answer this question and win a book, no one did it. I did a first five to share this link wins, and no one shared it. People just didn’t care about the games. They could enter to win without jumping through hoops. Do I think I would have better success with less giveaways? No. I’ve tried this time and time again and it never works.

6. Trivia Facts and Quotes from the book.

Now this I think I will do again.  This people seemed to like. One of the the things people liked most: These quotes and Trivia facts were not accompanied by any “buy me” links. People seemed to like that they could get a sneak peek at the book and not be followed with a “buy me” sales pitch. That’s just it, it wasn’t a direct sales pitch. It was a marketing tool, that is for sure. But, it is not direct and in your face.  The quotes on the graphic (picture) rather than in the body was also really successful for shares and re-tweets. But I think next time I will mix up the quotes with different graphics. I think after a bit, people see the same graphic and assume it is the same quote.  And to be fair, I didn’t think of this graphic idea myself, I saw S.M. Boyce doing it of her books. So naturally I borrowed the idea.

7. Scheduling your posts for various times works.

It is very tedious work.  I planned every promo post for the entire month. I planned them for different times through out the day.  Why did I do this? Because my followers probably check at different times. And I wanted to make sure no one group of followers always saw the same thing.  So I spread it out and it seems to have works. No one complained of post overload and I didn’t lose any followers during the release party.  Also, I never posted the same stuff at the same time on both Facebook and Twitter. I always spread it out. It is a pet peeve of mine when people post the exact same stuff at the exact same time on all their social media. Why follow all of them then?  Anyway, that seemed to work out too.

8. Hire someone to do your Book Trailer

I’ve always hired someone to do my cover art, but did the book trailers myself.  This time I hired someone, and it seems to get a better response from viewers. It is being shared more, that is for sure. So from now on I will hire someone to do them. It just makes sense. I’ll stick with writing and leave the graphic arts to those that know what they are doing.

9. Plan for things to not go as planned.

I got hired a started a new job right in the middle of all this. Had I planned to just do the tweets live, this never would have worked out.  Luckily I scheduled them and they could go on while I tried desperately to focus on my new job. There were also technical issues with the blog tour. So I had to handle those. There were broken links, and unexpected blog posts (which I welcome), and much more to deal with on the fly.  So you have to be prepared for things to not always go as you planned they would.

10. Did this work?

I don’t really know.  I sold 3 Kindle copies on release day.  Not exactly the flying off the shelves that I hoped for. But also there were still giveaways going on. And I secretly hope that people are just waiting to buy to see if they win the book. But experience tells me that isn’t the case. I hoped to create a buzz and the only way to measure that is in sales, though that isn’t a fair measurement. So hopefully the sales pick up now that word is getting out that the book has released. Perhaps releasing the book sooner in the party would have created more sales over the month.  Time will tell on that.

Creating buzz when you are a small time writer is not easy. Many of your “followers” are not paying much attention to you. And you don’t have any name made for yourself. You can’t expect instant results.  My only hope is that as each book comes out, more and more progress is being made in the that direction. Eventually I hope to be able to say that I slowly built a name for myself. And this was one step in that build.


Broken Trust Updates, Trailer, and Tour Schedule

IQ8 am now nineteen days into this big release party and I thought I would share a little progress report for those interested in knowing how it is going.  The release party has taken a lot of work. I scheduled over 275 Facebook and Twitter posts promoting various aspects of the book.  I created 12 trivia facts and 12 image graphics with quotes form the book (like the one you see on the right). Scheduling all the giveaways for the Book a Day in May was also a lot of work.

So far I have given away 18 paperbacks (one had no entries) and there are still a bunch more to go. I got a whole box of books here to give away and I don’t plan to keep them laying around the house. So make sure you check the giveaways section of my website for chances to win.

For a little bit of fun I have also created a couple of quizzes you can take.  Click the images below to take them.  Lots of fun.

Take the quiz to find out which of the characters you are. Click the image to find out.

broken trust quiz 2

I don’t think this has created all the  buzz I hoped it would.  So far I have no preorders, not even from family, even with the big discount. I don’t think people are too comfortable preordering. Someday I hope Amazon will let Createspace users choose an advanced publishing day so people can preorder through Amazon.  But it is what it is.

Below you will see that I have a book trailer ready for Broken Trust. I am really happy with this one.  I didn’t make it myself as I did with Dissolution of Peace and Volition Agent.  I used Fiverr.com to find someone to do it for me.  I absolutely love it and hope you do too.  Please make sure to like in on YouTube.  Broken Trust will be out on May 29th!

Of course there are still 12 more days left in the party including the Broken Trust Blog Tour. I am really excited about this one.  Below are the dates and my stops.   I will also be doing a Twitter Interview on May 27th where you can ask me about anything, not just Broken Trust stuff. Have questions about Plasma Frequency, one of my other books, questions about writing, or just something fun to ask.  Tweet those questions on May 27th to @Richard_Flores4

May 22 Meredith Mansfield’s Blog – Guest Post
May 23
May 24 The Chronicles of ChrisLandia – Review
May 25
May 26 Anya Breton’s Blog – Interview
May 27 Twitter Interview
May 28 INYË ÓLËA ATA – Guest Post
May 29 I am Write – Interview
May 30 Little Miss Reader – Broken Trust Excerpt
May 31 Flores Factor Blog

Broken Trust Character Bios

In my last two blog posts on the topic of Broken Trust, I’ve stressed a lot about  how much thought I put into the world.  What I’ve neglected to mention is how much thought I put into the characters as well.  I like characters, not just in my own novels, but in any story I read or watch.  I enjoy characters, I enjoy they way people interact with each other, and I enjoy watch my characters form bonds and break trust (Don’t worry there are no spoilers below).

Typically characters are the first to form in my head when I start a story.  I don’t even have a place for them most of the time.  But once a world is formed I tend to have plenty of characters to put into it.  It is part of the reason why my novels tend to revolve around several main characters. With Broken Trust, I did something a little different.  I actually wrote out a bit about each character, including descriptors and a brief biography.  I thought I might share that with you now.

Wonder which of these characters you are?  You can take the quiz to find out.

Liam Fisher

Height: 6’2″

Weight: 220

Hair: Black

Eyes: Brown

Description: Tall with dark hair, kept real short.  Before the mass extinction he would have been heavyset, but he has lost much of the weight both due to low food supplies early one, and the hard work he has put into constructing a city-state.

Bio: Before the world changed, Liam was married with a child on the way.  He lived in the old city just outside of Lagoon Hills.  He was a well respected physical security expert and has vast amounts of knowledge on “hardening” buildings against physical security threats such as terrorists, thieves, vandals, and corporate saboteurs. He was a fan of survival shows on TV, though was never a survivalist.  A quiet person, he kept few friends.  Though once you get to know him he is very loyal to those he keeps close to him.

After the world changed, Liam struggled to cope and was contemplating suicide when Talya found him.  Though Liam barely knew Talya he went with her in search for a place to live and the two quickly became close.  Liam and Talya discovered a group of survivors and together they founded Lagoon Hills.  The people wanted to make him their governor, but Liam didn’t want to be a leader.  They pressured him into taking some leadership role so he suggested a Council of Leaders, in which he is part of a five person leadership role.  His job is to keep the militia maintained and the people safe.

Talya Brooks

Height: 5’10” (5’11” if you ask the people he commands).

Weight: 145

Hair: Light Brown

Eyes: Hazel

Description: Considered tall for a woman, and very fit.

Bio: Before things turned upside down Talya was in the armed forces.  She has intentionally kept her reason for departing secret and most don’t bother to ask. She has no family anywhere nearby, if they are even still alive.  She has dated several men in her time, but nothing serious ever came from any of them. She has an advanced knowledge of defensive tactics, weapons, and tactics. Many would have seen her as the life of a party, very popular and having many friends.  But the truth was, she has few true friends and recognized this.  She is an avid runner and ans a result has stayed very fit.

After the world went south, Talya went searching for people she knew.  She found Liam and took it upon herself to care for him in his distraught state.  She is Liam’s right hand and most trusted adviser.  Though technically his second in command, they tend to command the militia together.

Rachel Tabor

Height: 5’3″

Weight:  115

Hair: Brown

Eyes:  Brown

Description: Short, thin, and has a plain look.

Bio: Before the end of the world, Rachel was an Army wife.  He husband was deployed and when the government collapsed they didn’t fly him home.  He was left behind with the rest of the troops to fend for himself.  She studied to be a Teacher in school, but was never employed as one.  Rachel was once a rather shy person, and may still be, but the Army life has forced her to come out of her shell to make friends.  She lived on base housing, so she was the last to be exposed to the effects of the rest of the world’s suffering.

The military was one of the last things to collapse in the government, and when it finally did most of the world had long since though the government was dead.  Rachel was given a choice.  Stay where she was and continue on with life the best she could, or take a ration of gas and go where she wanted.  Rachel chose to head south to her hometown.  Though she knew most every one was dead, she had head rumor of one particular person she once knew.  Liam Fisher, her one time high school sweetheart, so she set out to find him.

Take the quiz to find out which of the characters you are. Click the image to find out.
Take the quiz to find out which of the characters you are. Click the image to find out.

Where is Lagoon Hills?

Image by Richard Flores IV
Image by Richard Flores IV

So often, when I write stories, I stay pretty ambiguous about where the locations are.  With Dissolution of Peace, space was a vast enough location that specifics were rarely needed on specific earthly locations.  With Volition Agent, I tried to keep the cities generic because I wanted the story to feel like it could have taken place anywhere.  But I did touch base on a few cities to give a general location.

With Broken Trust, I picked a specific location that I knew.  The world of this story is vast and there are countless cities I could have written in.  But instead I picked Lagoon Hills.  And where is Lagoon Hills in relation to today’s world?  Right outside of Vacaville, California.  I took a few liberties with the location, adding a river and more a circular motion of the hills.  I also distanced it from the freeway a bit.

Growing up in Vacaville, I’ve been to Lagoon Valley Park many times.  I’ve driven past it more times than anyone could count.  As a child I would ride my bike out there all the time.  And as I got older, driving out there with friends was always something fun to do.  The location isn’t really a lagoon in the text book definition.  I guess it would be a lake?  But it is one of the smallest I’ve seen.  California is a drought ridden state right now, so it is even lower than I remember it growing up.

When I was putting together the world of Broken Trust, I realized that I needed a location for the main city.  I knew that Liam was going to be a person who was defensive minded.  And when you drive by this little lake every day, you can’t help but start to see some of the advantages to establishing a new city there.

Of course, the location is fictitious, and though based on this location they aren’t exactly the same.  But that is the joy of fiction,

Picture by Richard Flores IV
Picture by Richard Flores IV

especially fiction set in the future, you get to take certain liberties on the location.

But this location has more that just a defensive posture I was looking for.  It also had a key factor:  Being surrounded by population centers, but not right on top of them.  Lagoon Valley is about an hour from both Sacramento and San Francisco.  One of the things I theorized in creating this world, is that when everything was said and done, and the world as we knew it was over, people would eventually want to band back together.  And chances are they’d head for the major population centers.  More survivors would be in the major population areas, just by the odds.

It was important, though not completely shown in this novel, that Liam and his friends be the biggest-little guys.  I wanted them to be surrounded by other groups of people, or City-States, because it becomes an important part of both Broken Trust, and any possible sequels.

Another reason, I couldn’t resist a chance to give a little shout out to my hometown, where I lived most of my life.  So that is the behind the scenes on the location of Lagoon Hills.

Don’t forget, you can preorder Broken Trust now until May 28th. m It released worldwide May 29, 2014.

Would you want to live in Lagoon-Hills? Or are one of the other City-States better for you?  Take the quiz to find out.  Click the image below to get started.

broken trust quiz 2

Surviving “The End”: How Broken Trust Came to Be

One of the most common questions any author gets asked is, “Where did you come up with that idea?”  Well, that might be second only to, “When are going to bed?”  But the truth is each idea comes from someplace new.  The number one source for my short stories is the dream realm.  But oddly enough my novels never come from the things I dream.

Broken Trust is no different than my first two novels, in that small ideas slowly grew into something larger than life.  But Broken Trust is very different in one key way, the world in which it happens.  I spent more time working on the world of Broken Trust than it took to write it, edit it, send it to beta readers, edit it again, and have my editor fix it.  That is something that was new for me.

You see I am a “seat of my pants” writer.  I don’t outline, I don’t plan.  I get the ideas in my head, formulate a story line, put the character into the box, and I let them play.  It isn’t the easiest way to write, I know plenty of authors who cringe at the thought of no outlines.  I even know many authors with giant cork boards used for plotting out their epic novels.

But, Broken Trust did have a little planning in it.  But it happened by accident.

Let me back up to beginning. I started a short story, I never finished it.  The story was about an ex-cop who survived a recent mass extinction event.  The event was caused by the over use of antibiotics leading to a super bug that devastated the human race in a short amount of time.  Anyway, I began to write about this man and what he was doing.  Eventually the goal was to lead him along to the end of the story in which he discovers a group of humans trying to rebuild some resemblance of a society.

And that sparked a thought in my head.  What would the rebuild be like?  So I started planning that aspect of the story.  I wondered about the whole world.  And I started to craft all these different population groups, with different government structures all around the world.  The world grew and grew.

And, well it out grew a short story.  It even outgrew the story I had originally planned to tell.  I decided that I wanted to focus more on the world several years after the apocalypse after many in the world were starting to shift from survival to rebirth.  And that was the initial start to what is now Broken Trust.

The story evolved even more since that point.  It became very much about how damaging to would be on people to survive in a situation like that.  It became about people taking on roles in life they never thought they would, and do things they never wanted to do.  It became about friendship, love, and very much a story about people. Characters who were supposed to be background and secondary characters jumped up and demanded more attention. And, as my characters often do, they took the sandbox I gave them and built a wonderful story.

The story is a lot like my other stories, in that it follows a three main character format.  The story has heavy romantic overtones, and has some of my trademark action sequences.

Be sure to check it out.  The book is available for preorder from now until May 28th.  You can get it for up to 50% off the cover price.  Preorder the paperback and I will sign it too.  It releases worldwide on Amazon May 29th.

Here is the book blurb:

broken trustEarth is no longer teeming with human life. After a major mass extinction event, the world is no longer able to function as it once had. Governments have collapsed and those that survived are left to figure out what is next for the human race.

Liam Fisher never wanted to be a leader. But after finding survivors, protecting them, and founding the city-state of Lagoon Hills; the people demanded he be their leader. Instead, Liam agreed to sit on a Council with four other leaders.

Together with Talya Brooks, the person who saved his life after the collapse, Liam runs the militia of Lagoon Hills. And though it was tough early on, the people of the city now live in relative comfort and safety.

But Liam is fighting his own personal demons: The loss of his wife and unborn son. Rachel, a past lover he never really got over, has suddenly arrived at the city gates. And the mounting stress of a neighboring city-state threatening war.

The people of Lagoon Hills are counting on Liam for their safety. Can he keep himself together and be the leader everyone wants him to be? Or will the people closest to him be the greatest threat of all?

I Call BullSh*t: Social Media Marketing is Easy

Dung-heapI’ve decided to start a new regular post call “I Call Bullshit”.  In these articles I will take  common themes, rules, myths, and legends about writing and publishing, and I will call out the bullshit behind all of them.  Call me the Mythbuster of the writing world. Unless that violates some copyright, then just call me Richard.

Anyway, one of my favorite sayings is, “I call bullshit.”  Why? It has so much more of a punch than, “I don’t think that is true. ”

This time around I tackle the myth that Social Media marketing is easy.  You wouldn’t believe how much I heard this starting out as a business owner, and now as a writer.  And on the surface it sounds easy.

Here are some of the things I have heard:

All you have to do is post a lot and people will follow you and buy your products.

Once you have followers, the word will get out about your projects.

If you write engaging articles, people will continue to read your blog.

Getting followers is easy.

Well, I call bullshit.

I am not a social media expert, and I think anyone who claims to be an expert better have some concrete evidence to this title.  But, I have used social media for my old security business.  And I currently use if for my writing, and for Plasma Frequency.  I am constantly on social media, not just for business but for personal use too.

First, simply posting doesn’t attract followers.  You have to post things that either engage your audience or entertains them.  And you have to get them to like it enough to share (or ReTweet or ReBlog) it to their followers.  And it has to be good enough that their followers than choose to follow you.  This can be excellent articles, a hilarious Tweet, information that your audience might enjoy, or anything like that.

Again, that sounds easy, but it isn’t. Lets look at my author account on Twitter.  I’ve been on Twitter for going on three years.  Not a long time, but I have almost 4,000 tweets in that time.  Or,  roughly four tweets a day.  That doesn’t sound like a lot and compared to others, I am a novice.  But, even still I can only think of maybe twenty tweets that actually gained mass popularity and directly resulted in adding one or two follower.  I know of only three tweets that directly brought on 10 or more followers.

Now, my blog on the other hand does tend to attract more followers with each post.  I usually get one follower for every three to four posts I make.  But, I have had some posts, such as my self publish one, that brought on a ton of followers.  And my articles on writing tend to draw more attention that my promotional posts (I’m getting to that).

I haven’t had a a follower of Facebook is ages.  Facebook is becoming the vast wasteland of social media marketing.  And I will get to that soon.

Now, posts resulting in purchases…. I hate to tell you this.  But I can not account a single sale on any product to Social Media posts.  Not one.  For one reason it is hard to measure that.  I am sure people see my book is out and go buy it.  But my guess is most of those people were going to buy it anyway because they know me, or know my work.  They just needed the reminder it was out now.  But, how many people have read this blog and decided they wanted to buy my book?  There is no way to really know that.

I will say, as a big time consumer of books, I have never seen a promotional post by an author I didn’t know and decided to buy it.  My promotional post I mean “Here is my book link.  Please go buy it.” Followed by a link.  Any why not?  Well that is a lot like a hard sale.  Imagine walking into the car dealership, which is already a hard sell location, and the first think the salesman said to you was, “Here is a car, please buy it.”  You probably would leave.  And I doubt you would buy the car, you know nothing about it.

The same is true in social media.  You need to get people to buy your books because they like what you have to say.  That means they like what you post on your blog, the Tweets you post, the Facebook things you share.  And then, only every now and then, you give them a reminder that you have a book out.  Or you integrate reminders through out your posts.  I often reference my books and my magazine in posts.  But not in a “Buy me now” way, but in an example or a causal reference.  Like product placement on TV.

And that takes a lot of work.  I go back through my blog posts to add these links you see.  I have to constantly update my website and blog to show relevant books.  And even still those only result on a few clicks.

Promotional posts are not outlawed.  There are several promotional rules out there.  Some say the one-in-three rule, or the one-in-five rule.  I personally use the one-in-ten rule.  That is that one in ten of my tweets or Facebook posts are promotional.  Now, that doesn’t mean that I count my tweets.  It is a general rule of thumb.

Lets say you are lucky to have a vast amount of followers.  I certainly don’t.  But maybe you are lucky.  You may actually be unlucky.  Here is why:

Facebook has stacked the deck against authors, especially broke ones.  It is a game of percentages. Not all those people will see your posts.  Not even half of them will.  Not even a quarter of them, unless of course you pay for that.  Promote your post and it will pop up everywhere and to everyone, even people not following you. But it comes at a price.  Of my last few posts on my Author Page, only 2.5% to 8% of my followers saw the posts I made.  On Plasma Frequency’s page it was a bit better, 9% to 41%.  Note, the 41% was on those posts that were shared by others (like when an new issue releases and all the authors share).

So here lies the problem with Facebook:  Getting Followers, and getting those followers to see what you post.  The solution, and the only one I know of, is to pay Facebook.

But I am a small press that doesn’t make a profit.  My books are not making a profit yet either.  I am unemployed, trying to make a living off of writing.  I don’t have “extra” money to pitch into a Facebook campaign.  And even if I did, a little research will show you that there are plenty of people who didn’t get much for their money.  And what would I have to pay to get all my posts seen all the time? My wallet just started crying at the thought of it.

You may be thinking Twitter is the way to go.  Sorry, to tell you that simply being free has not solved the problem.  Getting followers can be easy.  Follow a shit-load of people and so many will follow you back.  Then, I know people who go back and unfollow all the people who don’ follow back… I call bullshit on that too, but that is another topic.

Anyway, I see people with 5k followers and following 5k people.  I follow 400 people on my account.  When I go on Facebook, I can go back for an entire day and read all the post from a day.  Maybe it would take an hour, or two tops.  Go on Twitter, I can read Tweets for four hours, and only get about 3 hours down my timeline.  There are so many people out there shouting on Twitter that things get lost.  Some of my favorite Tweeters are constantly missed by me.  I find myself skimming over my timeline and bypassing any tweet with a link in it.  Anything that sounds like “buy me”.

And that got me thinking. If I am doing that with 400 people, what is the person who follows me with 5k other people they are following.  I can guarantee they are not reading Tweets by a small time author with sarcastic humor.  So while Facebook will tell you that they are not showing your posts to everyone.  Twitter is showing it to everyone, but I contend that just as few are actually reading what you Tweet.

And, WordPress tells me how many views I get on each article I write.  None of them add up to all of the followers I have.  In fact of the last ten posts, the readers number worked out to about 25%, on average, of my follower count.  And that is just the ones that clicked the link.  Not that actually read the article.

And if that is the case, simply having followers does not mean they are hearing about your projects.

Write engaging articles, Tweets and posts, and people will read what you write.  Well, what the hell is engaging? You can answer that for yourself, but not for other people.  It sounds easy.  Just write about writing.  Sorry, but every independent author and writer out there is putting out self help articles on their blog.

So what makes yours stand out from the crowd?  Your personality.  Certainly the fact that this feature has “bullshit” in it will mean some readers won’t read it.  But, it is also giving this article a bit of my own style.  Regular readers know that I tend to have a rambling, sarcastic, and sometime crass humor in the topics I write about.  Every single one of my blogs oozes with my opinion, and that gives it my own flair.  You can get my information anywhere, but my opinions and humor you can only find from me.

All that still doesn’t mean new followers.  They have to find your blog, Twitter, or Facebook before they even decide if they want to read what you say.  And while WordPress does well to attract new people to my articles, the rest is up to me.  It isn’t easy.  And, I can write one really good article, but not everyone is going to read it.

Finally, getting followers is easy.  Three years I have been fighting my way up to getting good quality followers.  And you see, that is the real trick here folks.  Getting followers is easy.  You can get thousands of egg avatar followers on Twitter, but those bots aren’t reading shit you write.  You can use programs to gain more followers, or be part of “Team Follow Back” and get thousands of followers quickly.  But they are not reading what you say, and that defeats the entire point of everything you’ve been working for.  Why write at two thousand word blog, such as this one, if no one reads it?  Why keep tweeting away when no one is reading them?  That is not an effective social media marketing strategy.  That is a scam of trying to make yourself look popular in the hopes that you might get more followers based on your perceived popularity.  It won’t work.

There is only one way to get quality followers on any social media platform.  Time.  Develop a strategy and stick with it.  Modify it as you find out what works, and keep plugging away.  I certainly get more hits to my blog now than I did three years ago.  My interactions on Twitter have gone up.  But it takes a lot of hard work.  Why do think major companies hire social media team members to manage their pages?  Because it takes a full time marketing team to really work on it.  And let’s face it you are only doing it part time around all the other jobs of being a writer, publisher, and/or editor.

To say social media marketing is easy is complete bullshit.  Like all marketing, it takes time, strategy, know how, and hard work.  It also takes the added step of being social and being yourself.  There is nothing easy about it.