New Year Contributions to Gaming Fiction

My first post of 2019 is one of triumphant fashion.  For those of you who still haven’t succumbed to your that growing, gnawing, ghastly curiosity and gotten yourselves a copy of my novel Pendulum Heroes, featuring gamers stuck in their avatars, it’s now available on NetGalley.  Some of you may remember my last post where I mentioned the extreme expense of NetGalley… fortunately my active membership in SFWA not only proves I can write stories that are entertaining to someone other than me, but also affords me the opportunity to feature my novel on their NetGalley page for a fraction of the cost.  I think this is one of the best perks available for indie novelists like me.

And for those of you who want a teaser, a small taste of my brand of gamer fic, my flash fiction story The Familiar Monsters recently dropped over at Daily Science Fiction.  This makes my eighth time appearing over at DSF and it’s always  a pleasure to see my story debut over there.  They make little fanfare about it, so I kinda know as it hits my inbox or people come from all over the webz to tell me they dug it.  This one’s my first gamer fic to appear on the site and you can see that, just like in the vein of Stephen King when he says it’s never about the monster,  with me it’s never about the game.

So if you’re new to this sub-subgenre, try it out on me.  But hurry on the NetGalley thing… it’s only on there for a limited time.  Sometime next month it’ll go away, I dunno when exactly and February’s a short month, so act now or act now-ish, just as long as you don’t act crazy in the DMV… don’t be that person.

And of course, you can always just drop over to your favorite distributor and buy a fun new novel.

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Confession of an Indie Novelist

Cry Time is over!

I’m going to close out this year with a confession. There was a part of me that wanted to be done with writing. It’s so much work, you know? And not just the writing, the selling, that’s the herculean experience. And it was something I wasn’t doing, selling, not in record numbers or even moderate numbers. My novel was kinda just adrift.

I was running into a wall, problems of white noise and market saturation. Indie writers are legion. There are no barriers to entry. Plus, we’ve all heard the success stories, how nowadays the indies are forging ahead of the Big Name Publishers, getting huge fanbases and reaping fortune and glory. We all want that… if you don’t want that, you’re dreaming wrong.  Envision, a million indie writers trying to move five million books, attemping to wedge into a spot reserved for a handful.

I knew this going in. I was hoping to cut through a lot of the white noise by telling potential readers, “I’ve been published in F&SF, and Apex, and Daily Science Fiction, and Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show (making it a point to name drop Orson to catch some clout), and Lightspeed and Escape Pod and I made the Nebula Recommended Reading List and and and.” This was my way of saying, “I know a book from an indie writer is a crapshoot, it could be garbage so hot it melts your ereader or a brave bold crazy wonderful adventure… you should try me out because I’m vetted. I bring a resume of quality storytelling. Won’t you be my reader?”

Few cared. Even reviewers, which was my other ticket to express laning through the white noise. It’s one thing for me to tell you that my book is fun, savvy, quirky, edge of your seat action, and quite another for someone else to say “Holy smokes this rocked… buy it!” Turns out there’s only a very small dollop of reviewers who accept indie books for review. Nowadays most reviewers strictly go through NetGalley, which is quite expensive for a writer to use, I’m talking $400 for the basic option, $600 for NetGalley to place you in the newsletter… you know, showing folks you’re actually there on the site instead of you hoping that your fingers crossed is its own special brand of attractive magic.

Some of the indie reviewers were cool, most were supremely overbooked to the point of being temporarily closed to subs… I believe one guy had a backlog of 180+ books, I still put mine in the queue and don’t really expect to hear back until this time next year. And there were a few others that just didn’t wanna rock with me, take that book elsewhere, my resume be damned… they had permanently stopped reviewing indies because the aforementioned crapshoot wasn’t worth their time.

So I was running into a vicious loop of new readers not wanting to check me out because I had few reviews and reviewers not wanting to read the book because I was indie. It didn’t help that Beamon is a name that sounds like I should be catching footballs or running track, not writing fantasy and science fiction. I love my name, it’s mine, but it’s not writerly until I make it writerly. I look at this as a temporary strike, it only counts against me in the now but well, now is the time it counts. It felt as if very little, if any, of all the accomplishments I had made from the short story trade had converted into usable currency in this space. Don’t get me wrong, I did have some stalwart, Day One fans (thanks to you all!) precisely because of the short stories, but there are soooo many more days after day one and I started feeling them as sales clicked down to 0. My novel languished and for a brief time I just checked out… played some Bloodborne, watched some YouTube, didn’t check the bestsellers ranks or think about it.

And like any real writer, the ones forged of broken glass and duct tape, I came back. I wrote a couple of short stories that are making their way in the slush right as we speak, wrote a few chapters of the third book, got back down to the business. A writer has to write and no amount of commercial success or lack thereof is gonna keep a writer from doing it. Not until all their stories have been told. And mine are still there jockeying for position to be the next one out of my head, onto the page and into the world.

I had forgotten. I was calling myself a writer in the trenches but in the short story markets it felt like I had climbed out, that I was standing over the maze and catching all day sunshine. Sure, I’d still get rejections, but I was on a first name basis with many of the editors of the top magazines. Many of them I had been featured in, or been published multiple times. I felt accomplished, which is a great feeling but an impossible feeling to someone who’s claiming to be your brother in arms slugging it out in these slushpiles to achieve a slight modicum of recognition in print. It was no longer a slugfest for me, where I wrestled with self-doubt and self-rejection wondering what was wrong with my stories or if it was something else entirely.

Going into the novel world felt like starting over, going back into the trenches, back before that first ever SFWA recognized pro sale. Season’s Greetings that was a hard era! Yes, I used Season’s Greetings as an expletive. And here I am, ready to take this hill like I took the ones before this one, bigger hill or not. Overnight success probably doesn’t suit me anyway, it doesn’t have the visceral imagery of bloody knuckles clutching my final manuscript. Overnight success doesn’t make a rocking bio and I definitely want the rocking bio. And I guess to all the writers out there who are fledgling or still feel fledging, this blog is still a relevant voice when hearing the motivational words of authorities , the big names who have been big names forever, feels like getting advice from mom and dad about a world that’s constantly changing. Bloody and battered, I’m still here for you.

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Are Inkitt Bestsellers Really Selling?

After I published the Dark Side of Inkitt, I started seeing more and more writers respond to and relay their own sour experience of Inkitt to me.  Fellow writer/blogger Enchoseon wrote an article unambiguously titled The Grand Inkitt Scam.  Enchoseon goes in on the people behind Inkitt.  If nothing else, you guys should check it out just to see my appearance via the craziest of Photoshops.

Another writer, Michael Ampersant, contacted me directly after reading my post because of his experience with both Inkitt and coding to express his observations into what seems to be their algorithm, this legendary AI they tout as being able to predict bestsellers.  It was a very enlightening conversation and you can view his observations to me and my followup response in their entirety on his website.

While I recommend you read both these writers’ posts, I’ll summarize and conjecture a sort of group hypothesis: Their algorithm, their AI, it’s magnificently craptastic.  Let me run through the reasons.

  1. It was written by programmers who appear to have had no initial or very limited data starting out.  This is a fairly reasonable assumption, seeing as the CEO is a programmer with an eye on publishing rather than, say a publisher with a penchant for programming.  Like any programmer who believes in the power of machine learning, I imagine the programmers started the algorithm with their own hunches and assumptions of what readership for a bestseller would look like and let the AI learn as it’s relatively empty database began to fill.  Ultimately it feels as if their hunches were derived with little to no knowledge of the publishing industry or how readers actually consume books.
  2. Inkitt relied on faulty means to gather more data.  Empty database remember?  To fill it, they held quasi-contests and promos and promises of pie in the sky to get writers to bring readers to their website.  Once on the website, their database would start to fill based on reader behavior and Bango! Predictive Analytics Achievement award.  It seems they didn’t account for one detail: Would readers across all spectrums use their website?  It seems readers by and large don’t like to read via website… they’ve bought Kindles and Nooks and iPads just so they wouldn’t have to read books via website. Plus Inkitt’s got to rely on writers to drive readership, and writers aren’t exactly known for marketing ability just like programmers aren’t known for their publishing chops.  The result seems to be a lack of participation in some genres and a wealth of participation in others.
  3. And now you’ve got Garbage In, Garbage Out.   If you have malformed hunches and lopsided participation, your AI is going to learn bad.  If you go to Inkitt’s “bestseller” page, you’ll notice that the overwhelming majority of their books are romance novels.  Inkitt and their AI is predicting the next great bestseller is a romance novel.  I’m not trying to crap on romance novels, I’m just saying it’s not taking into account the next Harry Potter or The DaVinci Code or any other novel not a romance.  I wager that the only demographic that isn’t opposed to reading on the website are romance readers.

The Big Question: Are Inkitt Books Even Bestsellers?

They all have a nice yellow ribbon on the Inkitt website that labels them bestsellers, but by who’s definition?  Certainly not the New York Times.  It looks like they’re touting whatever top place they’ve held in Amazon’s ranks to claim this bestseller status.  Appropriately named for this post, let’s look at Fake by Haley Ladawn.

 

As of the time of this post, this book Fake was at 819,150 in Amazon’s Best Sellers Rank, meaning Amazon considers 819,149 other novels to be selling better.  These numbers are transient and temporary, fluctuating as sales pick up or decrease.  My novel’s been in the Top 100 for it’s genre and I wouldn’t go anywhere close to calling  it a bestseller like I’m giving up the day job.  If you want to know how much of a difference one purchase can make, then go to any novel you’ve been looking to purchase,that one that maybe you’ve been putting off… if nothing comes to mind than I highly recommend this ultra-clever, adrenaline fueled fantasy adventure novel.  Highly recommend.  Anyway, check out the Amazon Best Sellers Rank before you buy.  Then buy.  Then check the number again.  Yes.  One sale makes that much difference.

Don’t get me wrong, more than total number of sold factors into that Amazon bestsellers rank.  Some other factors is how many you’ve sold that day and how long you continue to sell over time.  It only takes a few days to slide back a hundred thousand or more… if you haven’t sold many over time.

If you’re still on Amazon and wanting to experiment, type in LitRPG into your search bar.  Pick ANY… I’m not kidding.  ANY of these novels with LitRPG in their subtitle and you’ll see better sales ranks overwhelmingly to what Inkitt’s doing.  Some of these books are also several years old.  This means they’ve sold well and continue to sell well.  The best even, like you know, a bestseller.  The GENRE is wrecking the sales of others on Amazon, to include romance, and to especially include Inkitt’s romance line.

So the next best question is, if Inkitt’s awesome AI can predict the next bestseller, how come none of their books are even in this runaway genre?

 

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187 on the Novel (Hypothet Killing It!)

Hey gristlers!

As I write this my Pendulum Heroes Goodreads Giveaway has exactly 187 entries.  If you don’t know the significance of the number, a quick Google will tell you about it and confirm to you that I’m hypothetically killing it in these trenches.   Not bad considering that my sole advertisement is telling folks it’s there on Twitter, Goodreads and of course here on the gristle.  We’ve got just a little less than a week left before the giveaway ends, so now’s the time to enter if you haven’t already.

Also of pretty cool note, the site All Author has entered the Pendulum Heroes book cover into their Cover of the Month contest for August.  The cover rocks and I think it’s miles ahead of the competition on the site, but I need your help on this.  If you dig the cover too take a moment to go to Pendulum’s All Author page and +1 it.    No need to register for the site or sign up for some kind of mailing list, it’s just a matter of clicking the link and hitting the vote button.

My top competition

Meanwhile, let me update you guys on what I’ve been doing.  I know I said I was going to focus on the novel but I took these last few weeks off to engage in a Codex writing contest.  They keep the tools sharp and they’re too fun to not put some words to.  That said, you guys should expect some flash stories from me later this year.

Did all of you notice the title?  I wanted to make a point and put a mark in the web-sand the difference between hypothetically killing something and literally killing something.  Am I the only one irked when someone says “It was literally killing me” or “I was literally dying” or “my head was literally exploding” and I’m like “ARRRRGHH! I’M NOT A GRAMMARIAN BUT DAMN, DO YOU KNOW WHAT LITERALLY MEANS?!!”  So I’m doing my small part to make “hypothetically” cool again.  I think part of the problem is that it’s too damn long.  And you can’t shorten it to “hypo” because you could mean a dozen words and that’ll just confuse everyone.  I would literally piss off people with hypoglycemic, hypochondria, hypothermia and that’s a huge demographic that never did anything to me.  Notice the usages.  Plus, “hypothet” that sounds cool.  That hypothet works.  Try it for yourselves.  Let’s literally destroy the world’s liberal use of literally.

So less than a week left to enter to win a free epic genre-savvy adventure novel, so don’t put it off.  Click here and enter!

Also, don’t let the cover wither in obscurity when it looks better than a lot of covers gracing the front page.  Only takes a second to click, so  go vote!

HELP IT WIN!

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