File 770 is mad at me again, so I explain how authors Get Paid

I got a track back in the comments on this:

http://file770.com/?p=18813 

Glyver has had this weird hate boner for me ever since I meddled in the sainted Hugo process. I can’t imagine why a guy with 28 Hugo nominations would be upset when somebody starts a campaign to get outsiders nominated. Of course, he gets just about everything wrong in his summation of what Sad Puppies is about, but we’re used to that sort of hit and run tactic. At least he didn’t say it was about promoting racism.

I don’t have time to do a proper fisking, but the article is about the latest Vox vs. Scalzi thing, and somehow I got drug into it. Apparently Scalzi got angry on Twitter because people kept telling him I make more money than he does. A. I have no idea if I do or not. B. I don’t really care.

Somehow I got appointed to be the right wing’s “gold standard” so Glyver then goes about to prove how I’m really not and later the commenters helpfully explain how my career is in “free fall.” Hoo boy, here we go. They really shouldn’t say stuff like that to a retired accountant.

First off, let’s go through how the New York Times list actually works. It is confusing, biased, and not particularly accurate. Yes, I’ve been happy every time I’ve made the list. I’m also happy to use the NYT Bestselling bit in bios for one big reason. Most regular people, even those who don’t pay attention to the writing world think it is a big deal. So the title has some prestige to it, but it really shouldn’t, and I’ll explain why.

The NYT bestseller list is based upon the reported numbers from a select, supposedly secret group of reporting bookstores. It is also based on the sales for one week, so it isn’t looking at overall sales as much as sales velocity. For example, if a book sells a thousand copies a week for the whole year, it probably won’t make the list, but if a book sells 10k copies in one week and never sells another copy again, it will be a bestseller. This is how the Snookis and various Real House Wives end up on the list, yet they’re the most bargain binned and remaindered type of book there is.

Because the supposedly secret reporting stores aren’t really secret to any publicist, if a publisher wants to spend enough marketing money they can game the system and shove a book onto the list for a bit.  You just need to sell a bunch of books through the reporting stores (of course it depends on who else has something new you are competing against that week too). Some publishers have been more dishonest about this than others. I skimmed the linked Vox article. That’s what he’s talking about. How I got roped into this, I have no clue.

As for Vox’s article, a couple of things, I’ve got no clue if Tor’s marketing games the system and even if they did, to be fair Scalzi would have zero input over what the marketing department at his publisher does. Most publicists are going to send you to those reporting stores to do signings. Sometimes they’ll do co-op advertising (yeah, the big displays of books at the front of the store? Publishers pay for those).

As for making the list one week, sci-fi and fantasy are such comparatively small genres that unless they’ve got something else going for them they will usually only be on there for a week. Keep in mind that the NYT isn’t breaking it out by genre, which is why the list is usually dominated by thrillers and romances. If a fantasy has a media tie in, like Game of Thrones, Outlander, or True Blood, then that gets it out of the sci-fi/fantasy sales ghetto and keeps those books on the list for long periods of time. The only other fantasy novels that hang on for long times are the A lister stars like Brandon Sanderson or Scott Card. The rest of us show up for a week or not at all.

Making the list is really nice for an author, because then you get a little bit of extra attention you might not have otherwise got, but remember aspiring authors, the important thing is that you GET PAID. It doesn’t take into account most bookstores. It doesn’t take into account eBooks. It doesn’t take into account foreign sales, ancillary rights, audiobooks, etc. All of those things enable you to GET PAID.  And the most important thing in the world for getting paid is that your older backlist of books are still on shelves, and still slowly selling, so you’re still getting paid for work you did years ago.

The most accurate measure of book sales is Nielsen Bookscan, because about 70% of bookstores report their sales to it. It is a way better measure than the NYT, but since most regular people have never heard of it, that’s why you never see authors putting Nielsen Bookscan bestseller on their bios. Keep in mind however that saying something is more accurate than the NYT is damning with faint praise, most of that sweet paying stuff I listed in the previous paragraphs isn’t in there either, so it is only a partial picture of how an author is actually doing.

Here is an article from Forbes about the problems with Bookscan.  http://www.forbes.com/sites/suwcharmananderson/2013/01/07/can-nielsen-bookscan-stay-relevant-in-the-digital-age/   So basically they account for 70% of 50%, but that’s still more accurate than the NYT.

My last release was Monster Hunter Nemesis. It was the biggest release I ever had. According to Nielsen I was #2 in fantasy (lost to Outlander). I hit #1 on all of Audible and hung out in the top 10 for the month. On Amazon, I had the #1 urban fantasy eBook, and hung out in the top 10 for the month. I’m pretty damned happy about that. It didn’t make the NYT list at all.

Glyver called me Garth Brooks… Well, 2 seconds of Google and Forbes says Garth Brooks’ net worth is 150 million, so I wish.  Sick burn, dude.

Then there was this winner in the comments:

Well, according to Bookscan Larry’s sales are in freefall. His first mm pb book sold some 51,000 copies, but that was back in 2009, which was an entire different publishing world, then. His latest book in mass market? 3500 copies, at best. He seems to be trading on past success,but honestly most of his books (and his compatriots) are selling poorly. Hoyt’s latest? 200 copies. Freer’s? 600 copies. If anything a lot of this is just knee-jerking on their part, and suggestive that perhaps they should figure out why their sales are plummeting, instead of picking on others for their misfortunes.

Huh? I’m not sure which misfortunes I’m picking on, and since I keep making more money, I’m not really sure how I can plummet upwards.

For my stats I’m not really sure what he’s looking at there, since my last mass market to come out was Warbound in May, which sold about that many, except it came out in hard cover first and had already done pretty good there (not to mention I earned back most of my advance off of eARC sales on that one!).  I can’t speak for Dave or Sarah, but I’ll go through how those numbers can be extremely misleading.

I want to concentrate on the “trading on past success” bit. This irks my inner-auditor to no end, and I really want to crush it, but at the same time I don’t want to start throwing out my personal finances on the internet. So I’m trying to think about how to phrase this without my publisher or my wife yelling at me.

Every single royalty check I’ve had has been larger than the previous one. If I was trading on past successes, wouldn’t that be going the other way? On the contrary, my last royalty was 11% higher than the prior one. That one was 28% higher than the one before it. That one was up 15%, which was good since it was up a massive 43% from the one before it. (all the accountants are laughing now because they realize I’ve gotten back into the statistical trickery of how it looks way more impressive to go to 3 from 2, rather than 7 books to 8).  One reason my royalties have continued to grow is that my earlier books are still consistently selling and being reordered, so it makes for a nice continual income stream.

The more stuff you get out there, the more backlist you’ve got to sell, the more money you make. Like I said earlier, I don’t know which one of us makes more money, but I’ve only been doing this since 2009, and Scalzi’s got like a 5 year head start on me, so just by sellable backlist growth he should be making more money.

To give those of you who want to be professional full time authors here is an example of how a D List author’s stuff breaks down. My last royalty check was for the 6 month period ending December 31st, 2013. Because there is a delay in how royalties are calculated, my last 3 books aren’t on there yet. This is just royalties, not advances. To be vague but give you a ballpark, my royalties for those 6 months was about four times the median per capita yearly income for my state (thanks Wikipedia!).

Of that, only 1% was from Dead Six. My military thrillers don’t get shelved in the Larry Correia section of your local B&N, so after their release they have fallen off. It was a higher % last statement. Swords isn’t on there yet. Keep in mind that number is only half of what the book made because I’m splitting it 50/50 with my co-author. So you might ask, why bother with the thrillers? Why finish the trilogy? These certainly aren’t the most economically efficient use of my writing time, but I enjoy writing them, and my 50% has still made enough off D6 to pay about 10 mortgage payments over the last couple years.

Hard Magic and Spellbound both made a consistent 21%, for 42% of my royalties for the 6 month period. Warbound will be on the next one. None of the Grimnoir trilogy made the NYT list, but now this is where it gets interesting and we have some fun with statistics. So far in total I’ve made almost as much money off of each Grimnoir novel as I have off of the MH novels. Spellbound and Warbound both had bigger selling release weeks than MHA or MHV (which both made the NYT), so what’s the deal? These must be indicators of my “freefall” right?

Nope. Let’s take Hard Magic for example. Keeping things vague, so far Hard Magic has earned money sufficient to make about 50 of my mortgage payments (for perspective, I live in the mountains by a ski resort in a 4,500 square foot house I built 3 years ago, so it ain’t too shabby), or to put it another way, about 1/3 of that Aston Martin I really want (damn you, Clarkson, for showing me the car that haunts my dreams).  But here’s where it gets interesting. 44%(!) of that money is from subrights.

Subrights include things like audio books and foreign translations. None of the Grimnoir novels made the NYT, but they’ve been some of the bestselling audio books on Audible for a few years now. If I could sell regular books proportionate to how I’ve done in audio, I’d already have that DB9. Foreign isn’t anything to sneeze at either. Of the translations, Grimnoir is doing surprisingly well in France. I’ve got a Chinese translation coming out too that I’m really excited for (Asia loves noir-pulp).

Another interesting stat to be gleaned from looking at Hard Magic’s details, and I can’t say anything more specific about this one because I know Toni would kill me, but the percentage from Baen’s Webscriptions (eBooks direct from Baen) is surprisingly large. These aren’t recorded on any bestseller list, but man, it is like having a second Amazon sized amount of money coming in. There’s a lot of loyal customers on there, and eARCs are awesome.

So now let’s get into the books that pay my bills. 57% of my royalties for that period were for MHI, MHV, MHA, and MHL. Nemesis just came out a few months ago, so I won’t see it for a bit. How these have broken down is that I always get a spike from the most recent, and then it tapers off on later statements. MHV has been out for 4 years, but it still earned enough in this 6 month period to pay 7 mortgage payments (or enough to make sure that DB9 has the nice interior and cup holders!).

The subrights percentage for the MHI books varies, but is a bit lower overall that Grimnoir. It has done better in print, done pretty darn good in audio, but hasn’t had nearly as many foreign translations. (A German one just came out this year, so I’m curious how that will do). However, that subrights percent has been higher on previous statements when I’ve been paid for the TV options (MH has been optioned for TV, Grimnoir hasn’t). Now TV option money isn’t huge, but it is nice. Production on the other hand, that’s huge money.

The way TV and movies work is that a production company “options” your book. That basically means they’re paying you money so they can hold onto the rights to keep you from selling it to somebody else. Then in the contract, if they actually go into production you get paid a whole lot more. You’ll see authors refer to something as being “in development” and that usually means that their book has been optioned. That sounds great and all but you need to realize the vast majority of the things Hollywood options never get made. MH has been optioned for 3 years and they’ve finally brought in screen writers and moved it out of development limbo, but since this is Hollywood, I’m not holding my breath. I’ll believe it when the production check clears. Then it is super car time.

I’ve only talked about royalties and subrights, not advances. Now every publisher is different but normally an author will be paid an “advance against royalties” that you’ve got to earn back first before you start collecting royalties. However, every single one of my books has earned out during the first royalty period so it hasn’t mattered much. I’m not exactly living paycheck to paycheck here, and my paychecks are 6 months apart.

When you are starting out, big advances are nice, because that means the publisher is probably going to spend some marketing energy on you. Maybe. But if it doesn’t earn out in a timely manner, that publisher may now look at you as a financial loser. My advances now are pretty decent, but when I was just starting out they were small. The way my advances are structured I get a third on signing, a third on turn in, and a third on release. I’ll have two turn ins this year. None of the money I’ve talked about so far has included the advances. The way it has worked out for me, advances are nice, but I’ve made the real money long term.

In 2011 my writing income increased 65% over 2010’s total. 2012 I only had an 11% increase. 2013 made up for it with a 56% increase. 2014 is on track to handily beat last year. I’ve already paid more in withholding taxes than I made in all of 2010. So my “plummet” is kind of backwards, since it goes up, but I’m guessing Glyver’s posters aren’t accountants.

The lesson to be taken from this, those of you who want to make a living at it, is that you need to keep producing books. Some will do better than others. But the more you produce, the more likely somebody is to read your stuff and tell their friends. Eventually you’ll end up with a chunk of shelf at the local bookstores devoted to you, which they’ll keep restocking as your backlist sells. The big flashy hit is nice and all, but a steady, reliable, and growing audience is pretty damned sweet.

For example, I don’t think Lee Modesitt has ever made the NYT bestseller list. Except Lee has 50 something books still in print, continuously selling, all over the world. The man has done extremely well for himself.  I’d rather be Lee than a NYT bestseller nobody ever hears of again.

Do you get now why looking at one number in a vacuum can be really misleading? Yes, in 2009 I sold a lot of MHI paperbacks, except I sold almost nothing in eBook, had zero hardcover sales, and zero subright’s money.  Or another way to look at it, I made more money off of writing short stories and game tie in fiction last year than I made in all of 2010. In 2013 I sold $108,000 worth of MHI merchandise.

Apparently Garth Brooks and I both have friends in low places. :)

The Winning Story from the Baen Fantasy Contest: The Golden Knight

The story has been posted over on Baen.com

 http://www.baen.com/The_Golden_Knight.asp 

This was a really hard contest to judge. There were so many solid entries and so many good writers.

##

As one of the judges people have been asking me if we’ll release a list of the final 15 that they narrowed the 506 entries down from. I asked about that, but when Baen set up the rules we specified that we’d be listing the 3 finalists, not the others. So nope.

The Drowning Empire, Episode 62: Upon Pain of LIfe

The Drowning Empire is a weekly serial based on the events which occured during the Writer Nerd Game Night monthly Legend of the Five Rings game. It is a tale of samurai adventure set in the magical world of Rokugan.

If you would like to read all of these in one convenient place, along with a bunch of additional game related stuff, behind the scenes info, and detailed session recaps, I’ve been posting everything to one thread on the L5R forum,http://www.alderac.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=295&t=101206

This week’s episode is from Pat Tracy, following up on the events from last time, where Moto Subotai faked his own death in order to escape from his Kolat black mailers.

Continued from:

http://monsterhunternation.com/2014/08/29/the-drowning-empire-episode-61-ripples-upon-the-moonlit-water/

 

Upon Pain of Life

By Patrick M. Tracy

The old man, Daichi, stood on the other side of the fire from Bayushi Kenshiro. The sounds of the jungle were distant. The rustle of leaves parting against the flanks of a hunting cat. The call of the night birds, the undertone of the tree frogs chirping to each other.

Kenshiro’s right hand was tied to his waist. It had been thus for several days. His face was yet bandaged from the recent beating, his crushed nasal bones causing a whistle whenever he would breathe. The old man threw a stone at him. Reflexively, he swung the bokken in his left hand, trying to hit it. He missed. Again.

Daichi threw the next stone harder. Kenshiro dropped into a clumsy guard, all the angles wrong, and the stone cut his cheek, sending a flare of sparks across his eye. He barely managed to hit the third stone as his sensei pitched it in his direction. Daichi gestured with his chin at something over Kenshiro’s shoulder. He looked, and the old man leaped across the fire, slamming a hardened heel into his stomach, knocking him to the ground, disarming him. Bokken in hand, Daichi pounded Kenshiro about the head and shoulders for nearly a minute. He could only cover and wait for it to be over.

“You still stand like a Moto. What have I said?”

Kenshiro levered himself up. There were bruises all over him, atop older bruises, atop older ones still. Daichi was as much a tormentor as a teacher. Kenshiro said nothing.

“You are not like the others they send me.”

Kenshiro waited.

“You hate yourself far more than they do.”

Kenshiro bowed to his sensei.

“Now stand like a Bayushi. A horse will not appear beneath you. Knees to the front, feel the ground, always stand ready to move faster than your opponent, even when none are visible.”

***

Bayushi Soichiro squinted at the scroll he’d been given. “It says you have a throat injury, and can’t speak yet.”

Kenshiro nodded.

Soichiro shrugged. “Daichi-sama says you may be of some small use, training the men and accompanying jungle patrols.”

Another nod. Kenshiro’s throat would be weeks in healing enough to speak, and would never produce the sound it once had. The sharp pain still lingered. It was not so severe as the pain in his nose. Daichi had used a small knife to dig at the flesh of his face, then moved the bones within until his breath came silently again. Between the scar tissue around his eyebrows and the lumpy wreckage of his broken nose, his face was not the same as it had been. Such were Daichi’s brutal results.

Soichiro was an older man, perhaps 40 winters, but still moved well and had fair muscle tone. “Let us see what we have in you, Kenshiro.”

They went to the practice ring, and Soichiro picked out two parangu-shaped bokken. Kenshiro examined the weapon rack. Most of the practice weapons there were old, splintered, and dented. More than a few of them appeared to have been made by the young bushi, rather than any skilled craftsman. This was a small dojo, after all, far out in the middle of nowhere. Still, he would see to it that the training equipment was improved, even if he had to carve new bokken himself. There was one no-dachi practice sword, chipped and crooked, the protective lacquer worn through. He selected it, left hand foremost, and turned.

Kenshiro had learned much from Daichi. He could see Soichiro’s face tighten and knew that he would not wait for the traditional bow. Kenshiro leaped to the side just as his new officer committed to his attack, placing the edge of the bokken against the man’s neck. With a sword of steel, a simple pull backward would relieve a man of his head. There had been some luck involved, but Soichiro did not have to know that.

Soichiro relaxed. He stood upright, his small mempo slightly askew. “Very well. Welcome to Camp Heron. You’ll be training the younger men.”

The officer straightened himself and replaced his parangu in the weapon rack. It was only later that Kenshiro was to discover that his best weapon was the naginata.

***

“Draw the bow with your back, not your arm,” Kenshiro rasped. Another volley of arrows went askew, flying everywhere but the target.

“You may imagine that you have no need of a bow, but you are fools. You, there! What are the keys to archery?”

The surprised young samurai sputtered. Kenshiro did not bother to learn their names. Those were unimportant, as his own was. Scorpions were not individuals, not faces to be remembered. They were a collection of tools and potentials. There was only the need of the Clan, which answered only to the needs of the Empire. Glory was not theirs to grasp at. Only duty.

“Well,” Kenshiro’s jagged voice asked.

The young Bayushi’s eyes were wide above his simple white mempo. They thought of their new trainer as a thing walked from nightmares. Kenshiro did not try to dissuade them from this idea, for it was true. Nevermind that the nightmares were his own, the hounds of his past gnawing at his hide with every heartbeat.

“Start at the ground,” he suggested, drawing closer, crowding the young man.

“Stance,” he blurted out.

Kenshiro gestured that he should continue.

“Firm body posture. Breath is controlled. Bow hand is relaxed. Elbow is extended. String hand thumb is a hook of bone. Back is tense across the shoulder. Anchor is solid against the jawbone. Eyeline is set. Target is sure. Heart is slow.” The form tumbled out, once started.

“Good. What do we know about archery?” Kenshiro put his knuckles behind his back.

“The arrow knows its way. The bow shoots straight. It is only the archer who fails,” they said as a group.

“Archery has two phases. Learn to hit the target. Then learn to hit the target again. You fools are still in the first phase. You will be running three miles each morning until you progress to the second. I will be running with you. Your ineptitude is a poor reflection upon your sensei. This does not improve my mood. Now, try again.”

***

Bayushi Kuronobo’s mempo frowned. He stood at the doorway like a living stormcloud, a hand casually resting on his katana’s hilt. It was known that he had killed more than sixty men in sanctioned duels. The real number was probably far greater. He was one of the deadliest men Kenshiro had ever met, and he had not lived a sheltered existence.

“It is a feeble disguise, but perhaps it will suffice. Go get your things, we are needed elsewhere.”

Kenshiro bowed and ran to his small room. He did not hide the fact that he did so. He assumed that Kuronobo did not wish him to tarry.

Other than a bedroll, a change of clothes, and his weapons, there was not much to pack. He arrived again in moments. There were two ponies waiting, Kuronobo mounted up, and he followed suit, careful to effect some clumsiness in the action and fumble with the gear he carried.

“You needn’t waste your energy trying to fool my eyes, Bayushi Kenshiro. Even if I were not your patron, I would always sense your deception. Your only advantage is that no one will look for the face of a dead man in your own.”

“Any failure is mine. Daichi was…thorough.”

“What is wrong with your throat?”

“I drank acid.”

“Hmm. Good. We’ll soon be putting this thin disguise to a test.”

Those were the last words Kurnonobo spoke for the entire trip.

As the small Rokugani horses went, the one Kuronobo had selected for him was a poor example of the breed. Even the best of them could hardly compare to any Unicorn horse. In his old life, Kenshiro had owned one of the finest horses in the Empire. He would never see that horse again, never sit astride a steed half so grand. Everywhere he looked, mile he traveled, the true measure of what he had sacrificed became more clear.

His education in misery was only just beginning

***

The White Tiger Shrine.

Toranaka had really made it happen, and better than anything they had discussed. Entering it that night created a potent and almost overwhelming sense of loss. Kenshiro struggled to keep his face impassive, to remember that Moto Subotai was dead, and all his associations were broken. Nothing of him could be allowed to remain. The memories were simple knowledge. Emotion could not rush from them like ink being smeared upon wet rice paper.

He stood at Kuronobo’s side, hands folded before him, eyes seeing everything, heart deadened against what he feared would be.

And then they arrived. Subotai’s friends. His brothers in arms and deeds and blood spilled upon the earth.

Akodo Toranaka.

Yoritomo Oki.

Tamori Isao.

Even Doji Shunya, with yet new strips of colorful fabric decorating the hilt of his blade.

But Bayushi Kenshiro did not know these men, did not care greatly about what befell them, other than the hope that they would work to the betterment of the Empire and die as samurai should. He was an impartial observer, an outsider to all this.

It was the moral imperative that Kenshiro held onto with a white knuckled grasp. If he allowed himself to feel, to identify, to soften toward these good men, he would be doomed. Everything he had destroyed with his own hand would have been for nothing. No. Subotai had to remain dead, and Kenshiro could only parse through a dead man’s memories as one read a history scroll or looked at paintings upon a wall.

Toranaka, as commanding as ever, as sharp and quick as his blade.

Oki, still haunted, perhaps more hard bitten and fatalistic than before.

Isao, wiser, now motivated by the urge to follow in his master’s steps, he had the air of willing death around him.

Shunya, calm and sophisticated, matured somehow, but no less driven to be the epitome of a Crane Duelist. He goads Kuronobo in oblique ways, testing to see if there is any emotional currency he can gain, wondering if he will be able to call the man to a duel one day and spill his blood.

None of them trust him. Nor should they. Kenshiro is an unknown, an honorless dog. A faceless Scorpion killer.

Without Uso, without Shintaro, there is no center to them anymore. They are not a group, so much as men gathered from their individual enterprises.

This was a place that Kenshiro hoped he would never be, with the few men who had known Subotai best, with the one audience to which his feeble artifice would hardly be sufficient. Perhaps he could fool them for a day, or a week, or even a month, but they would learn. One of them would see some tell-tale that there had been no time to train himself against.

All he could do is hold them at the greatest possible distance and play for time. There would be a moment, some point when allowing them to know who he had once been. That moment was not today.

Kenshiro listened as Kuronobo told them of the current crisis, the reason that the White Tigers were being called. There was a great sea beast attacking the coast. The gaijin fleet had been found. Great and awful tidings.

Subotai would have had much to say. Kenshiro dared to say nothing, dared to betray no emotion or hope or fear. The man before them did not have the luxury of such things.

Kuronobo forced Toranaka to swear to take Kenshiro into their group, to trust them as they trusted the Shogunate orders they received, to keep him safe from harm at all costs.

The unspoken predicate to his words were to force Toranaka, when the truth came out at last, to spare Kenshiro’s neck from his blade. Not that he would raise a hand to defend himself against the Angry Lion. Kenshiro would accept a death blow from this man, and understand why it would fall. All that had lead to Subotai’s demise and Kenshiro’s invention would be outside Toranaka’s ability to understand.

Had he confronted dishonor, he would have knelt upon the ritual mat and washed the sin from his family in his blood. He was the better man, the greater soul, and thereby had the right to judge as harshly as he wished.

This was why Subotai had told him to leave Ikoma Uso’s journals unread. Sometimes it is no good to know too much about a friend. Sometimes the small fictions we allow ourselves to harbor are the only things that keep friends from becoming enemies.

Kenshiro could see that Toranaka felt as if he had but few true friends to count on. Those closest and firmest in their resolve had fallen away, killed or taken down other paths. He was surrounded by strangers and those he only half trusted. There was nothing that he could say or do that would decrease the Akodo’s skepticism. He continued to stand in silence, impassive on the outside while his heart was a raging storm within his chest.

And then there were noises within the shrine to the fallen.

Toranaka burst in, blade to the disheveled man who was in the process of grabbing Uso’s no-dachi off the wall.

There was much shouting and disagreement. The vagabond, the tattered man holding Uso’s sword spoke only in quiet tones, calm against the storm of their emotions.

“Who was this shrine built for?” he asked. The voice was familiar.

“The honored dead of the White Tigers. To their memory,” Toranaka spat.

“For the dead, then. If it is dead men you honor, then this sword does not belong here.”

Kenshiro watched them, watched them marvel at the man who had come back from the dead, for Ikoma Uso stood before them, his flesh torn and broken by wounds that he could never have survived, his handsome face a wreck, now covered by a mempo.

But it was Uso, and his return was not greeted with pleasure, for Toranaka had learned what he was, learned that beneath his carefully crafted image, Uso spirit traveled darkened roads.

Uso met his eyes. He knew in a moment. Kenshiro had been born into a world where Uso was dead. Uso sighed, ignoring the heated words all around him, and pointed at Kenshiro’s no-dachi. “Really?”

Kenshiro raised one eyebrow and shrugged. They both had secrets. They were both dead men walking. For the moment, though, it appeared that Uso was content to keep that to himself.

And so they were reunited. Much like a broken vase, though, there were pieces missing. Points of fracture spiraled outward between all of them. Oki stalked away with sullen eyes. “Uso is dead!” he shouted over his shoulder.

Toranaka gritted his teeth so hard that his jaw quivered. Isao looked between one face and another, perplexed.

They were sent to their tasks, far from united, Kenshiro subject to the scorn of the group, with only Uso to speak with, as they were both equally distrusted.

Not for the first time, Kenshiro reflected that things would have been far better had he never been born, had Subotai before him never been born. As it was, he was consigned to the pain of living, and would suffer it for as long as necessary. Perhaps there would be a day when the gaijin and the Dark Oracle of Water would be vanquished, when a time for endings would come to pass. Perhaps then, he could finally rest.

##

To be continued next week:

http://monsterhunternation.com/2014/09/12/the-drowning-empire-episode-62-upon-pain-of-life/

A Note on Book Reviews

So yesterday MHN held another successful Book Bomb. We got John Brown’s whole trilogy up into the top of some genre lists, sold a whole mess of books, and most importantly that means the author GETS PAID (remember, all authors should have GET PAID in their mission statement).

But John pointed out something interesting to me from the time we Book Bombed the novel Bad Penny. We sold several hundred copies that day, but the added attention meant that over the rest of the month John moved a total of 12k copies. Twelve thousand copies in a month for an independent book is really impressive. Something John said about that stuck with me. One of the reasons was because he got a bunch of enthusiastic reviews from the people who participated in the Book Bomb, and that helped him get continued attention.

I don’t really think of reviews as a sales component too often. Usually when I think of reviews it is to read through them for the self esteem boost or to relentlessly mock the really dumb ones. :)  (because Hard Magic is literally filled with talking animals!) But apparently reviews do actually matter.

So I’d ask you guys, if you are so inclined, after participating in the Book Bombs, would you post some honest reviews on Amazon and other places? My goal with the BBs is to give worthy authors an attention boost, so if that helps, then I’m all in favor of it.

Book Bomb: John Brown’s Dark God Saga

Today is the day. We are Book Bombing John Brown’s awesome Servant series.

I’m doing this because I’ve Book Bombed #1 before (which from the results and reviews, you guys loved) and #2 and #3 just came out.  For those of you who missed out on the last one, I’ve put a link to book 1 also. John has also put them all on sale for this also. This is a historical first because I’ve never bombed a whole trilogy before!

For those of you new to Book Bombs, this is how it works. I do them to give a deserving author a much needed boost. You can buy the books wherever makes you happy, because the important thing is that the author GETS PAID. However, I try to steer as many people as possible to Amazon because they have a sales ranking system that updates hourly. The more people who buy a book in a short period of time, the higher the book gets in those rankings. The higher it gets, the more new people see it, the more it shows up in searches, etc. Once we get a book onto a bestseller list for its genre, then lots of new people see it. Success breeds success.

To give you an example, I Book Bombed John Brown’s Bad Penny and this is what he had to say about it:

I just want you to know that your readers are not only a pleasure because of their enthusiasm, but they also set me up for the huge run Bad Penny had in July. We moved more than 12,000 books. I broke the top 30 in Amazon for a few days. In Nook, I was a best seller the whole freaking month. How did this happen? I got a BookBub promotion. How did I get that? Well, one thing they look at are the reviews. And your folks who enjoyed Bad Penny came out in spades. When you post the book bomb, you need to tell them this author loves the Monster Hunter Nation.

So please tell your friends. As the day goes on I will post the sales ranks of the various books to see if we’re making a difference. Having done a lot of these I know there is a delay in how Amazon calculates so we usually start seeing a real difference in the afternoon, and then it will climb through the evening.

##

Why did I pick John Brown for another Book Bomb? Well, John is a friend of mine. We started out about the same time. His first novel, Servant of a Dark God came out about the same time as Monster Hunter International. So being two relative nobodies we decided to go on a book tour on our own dime. We set up signings (basically whoever would have us) and then we went on a series of gigantic road trips across the western US. We went to San Diego, Phoenix, and Denver. And the Denver trip  across Wyoming was like an adventure novel. Long story, but it involved burning trucks, poached elk, car wrecks, a crazy guy on the run from the reptoids of the Hollow Earth, and a 12 hour drive through a blizzard.

So I have spent a lot of time in a Ford Focus with John Brown.

John is really talented writer. Since we started at the same time, and he works just as hard, and hustles just as much, he should be where I am, EXCEPT John got hosed. He had a contract with one of the biggest publishing houses, and then he had a professional conflict with his editor. After his first book came out, John turned in the sequel. I’m probably getting the timeline/details wrong, but this is just to give you an idea. After months of sitting on it, the editor told him to make a bunch of drastic changes. Okay, not a problem. That’s what editors do. My second book came out. John turned in his revised version. The editor sat on it for a while, and then ordered him to make a bunch of other drastic changes. My third book came out. John turned it in again. Now it was too long. Cut a third of the book. My fourth book came out. John changed everything around, now put back in the stuff you cut. My fifth book came out. Etc.

And the thing is, I read one of those drafts, and it was awesome. Steve and the guys at EBR read all of those drafts, and they loved them. And those guys know the fantasy market better than anyone. So it wasn’t like John was turning in crap books. Sometimes you just get an editor and an author who should not be working together, and in this case John got screwed.  If his second book was ever going to come out from this major publisher, the market had already forgotten about number one, and for a new author, that is the kiss of death. That is a career killer. So John asked to get his rights back and go indy.

One happy bonus to that, all of the negative reviews John got about Servant of a Dark God mentioned the same couple of issues, mostly related to the order of the chapters and the intro. Which is funny, because those changes were mandated by his editor. So when John got his rights back and published it himself, it is the “author’s cut” where he put everything back the way he originally had it. Thanks to his friends and fans, the new Servant is doing well, and now the rest of the series (as he intended it to be written, and not mangled for 5 years) is out, and available to Book Bomb the hell out of today for cheap.

So please tell your friends. Let’s get John Brown some exposure! Let’s once again demonstrate that the Monster Hunter Nation and friends is more effective than a major publisher’s entire marketing department. :)

##

So here are the stats as of 8:00 MST

The 1st book in paperback Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #366,069 

In Kindle:

The 2nd Book in paperback Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #630,173 in Books

in Kindle: Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,753 Paid in Kindle Store

And the 3rd Book in paperback Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,121 in Books

EDIT:  So let’s take a little break from wrapping up this fantasy novel rough draft I’m working on today and check to see how our little Book Bomb is progressing so far:

Book #1 

Book #2 

Book #3 

Way to go guys! 

EDIT 2: 

So now that it is time for bed, let’s see how we did today

Book 2

And Book 3

 

Morning Edit: The numbers continued to climb through the night, but this bit is particularly cool: We didn’t just bump up John’s books. We bumped up John. 

Amazon Author Rank

SLC ComicCon 2014 After Action Report

Wow. What a busy con.

I haven’t heard if it is official or not, but if Salt Lake City wasn’t bigger than San Diego’s Comic Con, then it was really, really close. On Saturday the word was that we’d broken 120,000 people. The entire state of Utah only has 2.8 million people. That’s 4% of the state’s population in one building. This was only the 3rd time we’ve done this.

That is one powerful nerdy state.

This was a really different con for me. Normally I like to just go and wander around, be on some panels, maybe do a book signing for an hour or two, that’s it. I’ve never been tied down to a table before, but Kevin J. Anderson and Peter Wacks invited me to have a spot at the WordFire Press booth. So I went for it. KJA had a brilliant idea, and he’s been trying to put together this sort of author “super booth”. I spent most of the con sitting between Peter Beagle (Last Unicorn) and Brandon Sanderson (Way of Kings).

There were more books stashed. It still wasn't nearly enough.

There were more books stashed. It still wasn’t nearly enough.

It was like a good book signing, that was non-stop for three days. By the end I’d been cleaned out of nearly every title. All I had left was some MHN and Warbound hard covers. By Saturday morning I was out of book 1 of every series. And that’s not counting the ones people brought in, or the hundreds—not a typo—of people who just wanted to come by and say hi.

I’m not kidding when I say that I probably shook a thousand hands. My hand is sore. Now I understand why celebrities use the fist bump (to be fair, some of my fans are really STRONG). Protip to authors, if you see a guy with tree trunk arms and tactical beard standing in line, go for the fist bump. If you are me, and half of your fan base looks like that, suck it up. Ace wrap that shit and get back to typing. :)

Because there was over 500 guests they capped the number of panels that we were on to four. All of mine went well, but my favorites were the one in the big room on Friday. Brandon Sanderson was the moderator, and it was me, Brandon Mull, Tracy Hickman, Margaret Weiss, and Dave Wolverton.

One HALF of the room...

One HALF of the room…

To put this in perspective, this panel was about How to Write Good Magic Systems. That is a geeky writing topic panel. That is a 1,500 person room and we filled it. I found out after that there were more people outside who couldn’t get in. Where else can you get 1,500 people to come and listen to geeky, nuts and bolts, writing topics?

The other half.  And yes, ComicCon wants to make sure the guests remain properly hydrated.

The other half.
And yes, ComicCon wants to make sure the guests remain properly hydrated.

And that room is a tiny fraction of how many people were there. The green room overlooks the floor, and I’m kicking myself for not getting some pictures from up there of the crowds. This year, because I had an actual booth, I didn’t hang out in the green room as much, so I didn’t see as many celebrities and didn’t get to meet any of them. I missed Patrick Warburton by a couple of minutes, which is a bummer, because Brock Sampson is the greatest character ever. I was hoping to suck up and get him to record my voice mail as Brock Sampson. “You’ve reached Correia. LEAVE A MESSAGE… AT THE BEEP.” Come on. You know that would be awesome. I didn’t see Ron Perlman or Bruce Campbell either, which is a bummer.

I had another fun panel on Friday. I was the moderator and the topic was How to Write Awesome SciFi and Fantasy. Good bunch of writers, I was sitting on the end so I could see down the table, “small” room with only 200 people in the audience, so I’m really looking forward to it. Right off the bat I asked the audience by show of hands how many of them want to be professional authors, and 90% of the hands go up. Good. Now I know what way to take the questions.  So I tell everybody that we’re not going to waste time with college professor bullshit like defining genre or any of that nonsense, but let’s get down to business, nuts and bolts, tips and tricks, what do we actually do to make this stuff work.

The panel is going great except for one tiny little thing. It turns out that we are next door to something that I would find out later was Zombie Laser Tag, and the folding partition between the rooms isn’t sufficiently sound proof to stop the Screecher Zombie, whose riveting dialog consisted of HRAAAR HRAAAAAAAA HrEEEEEEEEECH HreEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECH HrEEEEEEEEEEEEEECH over and over again.  

So it was funny at first… A few minutes in, starting to get annoying. So I signal one of the volunteers at the back and they disappear, hopefully to get Screeches to take it down a notch. Nothing. It keeps going. Apparently the moderator is starting to look annoyed because people I recognize in the audience as Monster Hunter Nation fans are giggling. Then when Screeches drowned out John Brown (who has perfect radio announcer voice, so I know if I couldn’t hear him, the audience probably didn’t either) I’d had enough.

So I hopped off the stage, pounded on the wall and ordered them to KEEP IT DOWN IN THERE!  I used my firearm’s instructor voice (you’ve got to speak from the chest) so that whole section of the convention center heard it. That worked. The zombies shut up. In fact, I didn’t hear them again until the 5 minute warning. The audience enjoyed it. If the moderator had been anybody other than the guy who makes his living off of zombie killing, it wouldn’t have been nearly as funny.

Now SLC ComicCon wasn’t without its glitches. On day 1 there was a huge bottleneck. The people who’d registered early and paid extra for Gold or VIP passes ended up in the same line as general admission, so people who’d already paid were stuck out there for 3 or 4 hours trying to get inside. That killed half their Thursday. The Con had set up satellite locations where people could pick up their badges early, but you can’t expect people to go out of their way and change their behaviors in sufficient numbers to make a dent. Hopefully next year they’ll do what other big cons do and mail those badges in advance or something.

On Friday I brought my three oldest kids with me, and I let them wander ComicCon unsupervised. The deal was they had to come and check in with dad every hour, which they sort of, almost did, if you consider two hours like one. One nice thing about SLC ComicCon is that it has an atmosphere where I could let my teenagers wander around and not be too worried about them. Serious props to the volunteers and security for working their butts off to keep it that way.

Since this is ComicCon even the working professionals still have our geeky fan boy moments. My geeky highlight was when I got Margaret Weiss and Larry Elmore to sign the 1985 Dragonlance trilogy I’ve had since I was 10 years old. I already had Tracy’s signature, so that’s both authors and the artist, and I could honestly tell all three of them at once that it was those novels that got me writing in the first place.

It was 120,000 fans flying their geek flags high. I had a blast.

Reminder, BOOK BOMB tomorrow! John Brown’s Dark God series

Just a reminder for everyone to mark their calenders because we will be book bombing John Brown’s series tomorrow on Amazon. I’ll post more details and links in the morning. 

I figured I needed a reminder post because the last one was stuck beneath two fiskings of the Village Idiot, and those take up a lot of space just from the magnitude of nonsense. 

Anyways, John will be putting all 3 books of the series on sale for this too, so for those who didn’t get in on the first one when I plugged it last time you’re not missing out.

If you are curious what a Book Bomb can do for an author check out this message I got from John while setting this one up: I just want you to know that your readers are not only a pleasure because of their enthusiasm, but they also set me up for the huge run Bad Penny had in July. We moved more than 12,000 books. I broke the top 30 in Amazon for a few days. In Nook, I was a best seller the whole freaking month. How did this happen? I got a BookBub promotion. How did I get that? Well, one thing they look at are the reviews. And your folks who enjoyed Bad Penny came out in spades. When you post the book bomb, you need to tell them this author loves the Monster Hunter Nation.

So there you go. Tomorrow I’ll post up all the links and details. 

Thanks

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