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Archive for February, 2014

Good Intentions Gone Wrong

February 27, 2014 Leave a comment

After I wrote Black Widow, the fourth book in The Lost Girls series, I did everything short of promise that I wouldn’t write another. That bothered a lot of people – they wanted more. The main character had been a part of my life (fictitiously speaking) for several years now and I couldn’t subject her to the kind of hurt that a main character goes through.

Then I came up with another idea. I’d closed a few chapters in Katalina’s life and didn’t want to make it any worse for her. But damn it, this new idea…it needed her to make it work. So Katalina came out of retirement for Guardian, book 5 in The Lost Girls series.

Having confessed all of that, I’m not the one with the good intentions gone bad. It’s actually the premise behind the book. There’s somebody who means the best and wants to help out, but they don’t realize the consequences of their actions until it’s too late. Forty years too late.

Here’s the blurb, cover, and all that jazz but before I get to it the obvious question is: what’s next? Will there be a Lost Girls 6? I can’t say. About the same time I thought of the idea for this story I was trying to come up with an idea for some detective agency based fiction. I thought of a bunch of young people trying to both atone for their own screw-ups as well as learning how to get by and do a little good in the process. Katalina would make an excellent mentor, if not a main character. Guardian sets the stage for that with Katalina and Skyler’s second chance home for troubled foster kids.

 

Guardian, by Jason Halstead

Amazon

Amazon UK

Barnes and Noble

Kobo / Sony (coming soon)

Smashwords

iTunes (coming soon)

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

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Gay Rights or Wrongs?

February 26, 2014 2 comments

I was doing something earlier today that involved writing down information on some of my books and checking for reviews and ratings. I was curious on how many I had on a few books because I’m considering some advertising that requires minimum numbers of reviews and ratings on the books being listed. To that end, I’m also hoping to ramp up some reviews rather quickly on my next new release, Guardian.

And since I mentioned it, if you’re a fan of the Lost Girls series and want a pre-release copy of Guardian in exchange for a review being posted on Amazon’s US site when it launches, let me know. I’ll happily hook you up. This, however, is not the reason for my blog post.

So back to this morning when I was checking reviews on my Wanted series. Accidentally I happened to glance at a couple. Really, it was an accident – I didn’t mean to and I didn’t read the entire thing. But what I fixated on was someone bashing the book for the open minded attitude the characters had about sexuality at the end. Really. A novel that has practically nothing to do with sexual orientation gets picked on because a couple of characters in it happen to be confused about their own orientation and / or sexuality. Seriously, WTF?

It made me think though. Not about gay rights, straight rights, or any of that stuff. As far as I’m concerned people can do whatever the hell they want as long as they stay off my lawn when they’re doing it. Want to marry someone of the same sex? Good luck! Seems like half or more marriages don’t fare well these days, regardless of the plumbing (mine is doing awesome, by the way).

What it made me think about was whether a lot of the characters in my books are too open minded. Am I driving away readers because I have a subconscious agenda I’m not aware of? I think the world would be a lot better off if we stopped worrying about who was screwing who and what sort of positions and / or assistance they needed to do it. Just the same that I think we should stop worrying about which flavor of religion our neighbors follow (and they give us the same respect).

But have I pushed people away by hinting or mentioning these things in my books? Maybe. I have one series (The Lost Girls) where the main character starts out as the kind of lesbian you have nightmares about (except she’s short and cute, but she’ll still rip your nuts off if you look at her funny). Her sexuality is integral to the story, but it’s not something that I preached or flaunted in the books. Come to think about it, I’ve probably had less flack about that series than some of my others.

In my Vitalis books, particularly the second one (Resurrection), I’ve got two gay characters that almost get hot and steamy before disaster strikes. I put them in there to prove a point, I admit. I wanted to show that yes, homosexuality is one flavor of humanity and it happens in the future just like it happens now. In short, it’s not a big deal. But I had some very upset readers because of that scene. I say shame on them, not me, but I’m biased.

What’s my point? That this is a damn shame. What’s worse is that I’ll probably try to tone down any such relationships or details like that in future books to avoid pushing readers away. I’m not happy about it on one hand, but on the other hand it helps to teach me a lesson about focusing on the story and making sure I show the characters more than I show any subtle and unknown quirks I may have about convincing people to stop being judgmental dicks. Otherwise they might wield their power of judgment against me!

Some days the art of balancing freedom of speech and creativity with the need to sell books and make a buck is harder than others. I suppose if I can get the Westboro Baptist Church to picket my funeral when I die, at least I’ll have that going for me.

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

 

Be a Writer, They Said

February 22, 2014 1 comment

I’ve been an obnoxiously creative person since the earliest age I can remember. I played with Transformers and GI Joes way longer than my friends did and during my fragile and formative middle school years I found some like-minded fellows and took up playing Dungeons and Dragons. Good, old school D&D too, not the complicated stuff going on these days. 1st edition all the way.

I picked up writing somewhere along the way and found a passion for writing ridiculous stories. Teachers becoming evil and taking over the schools so that the students had to fight back to survive. Aliens, monsters, whatever. Who knew the concept would turn into Hollywood movies years later that I would never benefit from. 😦

I kept writing, having no clue what I was doing, only that I had to write and get my ideas out of my head and onto paper (or a computer screen). And so I sucked. But I didn’t know I sucked. My friends and family either didn’t know it or they wouldn’t tell me. So I kept on sucking. The places I submitted my stories to denied me time after time. Not hundreds or even dozens, but enough that I figured I must suck.

Then somebody saw past the suck and gave me a chance. I was hooked up with an editor and she let me know I sucked. But, and this is important, she also said there was hope beneath the crap. She helped me take that monumental first step to not sucking. And once the first step was taken, I was anxious to keep on climbing.

The great part is nobody told me how many steps I had to climb. Not just to write decent stories, but to have a snowballs chance in hell of having any commercial success in writing. To realizing my dream – being a writer full time. Well, I’m still not there, but I’m getting closer each day.

If I’d have known how long the odds are and how much work it takes, would I still do it? Probably. I’m thick headed like that though. The numbers I’ve been getting from my Amazon investigation via my web crawler tell me there are well over 2 million books out there. Sampling only 10,000 books, I see an average of 2 books per author. I believe that average is only amongst the more successful end of the spectrum. I’m willing to wager there are a LOT more 1 book writers than there are 2, 3, 5, 10, 40, or 100 book writers out there (even aggregated).

Okay, so, a conservative number at this point is 2.3 million books and 1 million writers. Yes, 1 million. According to my Amazon author rank, I’m around 4500 right now, which is down from previous days (down as in worse). Even with that number, if I were single and hadn’t racked up a ton of student loans and other bills, I could live off of my royalties. I’m neither single nor remotely close to debt free though, but let’s make a wild ass guess and say rank 6000 is the cut off for what’s possible for a frugal person to live off of. 6000 out of 1,000,000. Those are long odds, my friends (.6%). To be where I want to be I’m looking at around .25%.

I’ve published 46 books (47 comes out very soon). I have #48 and #49 on deck and I’m halfway through writing #50. And will those put me where I want to be? It’s possible, but unlikely. Maybe when I get to 60 or 80 books I’ll be there. Or maybe 100. Maybe more. It doesn’t matter, I’ll keep on writing because that’s what I do.

And that’s the moral of this blog article. If you’re not in it for the love of writing and the need to create, then you’re in for a long and very painful road. Success is very much measured by putting food on the table, but there are also intangibles that have to be measured. Are you successful if you’re miserable doing what you do? And are you willing to be miserable learning to get better every day for the time it takes you to rise into that .5% and better you need to be in?

This is not my way of discouraging would-be writers. This is my attempt to inform and to inspire. If you like writing, rejoice! You’ve got a lifetime of it ahead of you.

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Cyberpunk or Boy Meets Dragon for the Win

February 17, 2014 Leave a comment

Back in the early 90s I was a huge fan of the roleplaying game, Shadowrun. I dabbled once or twice in a similar game, Cyberpunk, as well. For those that don’t know (and don’t feel bad, I don’t expect many do), both games are near future science fiction that offers a dystopian society with the heroes being people that have learned to merge man and machine. Not quite Terminator-esque, more Robocop.

So what the heck does that have to do with anything? Well, I’ve been hankering lately to dig into something like that. I’ve dabbled in my Lost Girls series and in my Wanted series (which I’m currently writing book 4 on). But I think my next one is going to be something brand new. As in, a brand new series in a setting that has some similarities to it.

I haven’t worked out any details yet, but I’ve been debating if I want to go into a new fantasy series or something new and science fiction. I’m thinking I really want to go for the sci-fi cybernetically enhanced stuff. One or two books there and then perhaps onto the fantasy stuff. I still owe my readers a new Voidhawk book too. Hmm… the ideas are a popping now!

What’s brought this about? Well, as I’ve been talking, I’ve been studying books and sales and all the data I’ve gathered so far (over 10k records now). I’m seeing some impressive numbers in the sci-fi and fantasy lists. Numbers that, dang it, I’d like to hit. I don’t have the marketing or promo savvy to get my name out there worth a darn, nor the money to pay for getting it done. The alternative then is to just write my butt off and get more books out there. Of course a little word of mouth wouldn’t hurt either (wink, wink).

And reviews. How the heck do people have so many !@%^ing reviews on their books? I’ve got a few acquaintances / friends in the fantasy genre that have dozens or reviews or more on their books and they’re doing far better than I am. I know they aren’t buying reviews either, so I have to ask what the heck? Granted, they sell 10 – 20 copies / day than I do of most of their books.

Ah well, I’m grateful for what I get and I’ll keep pushing for more. Couple more days, hopefully by the end of this week, and Guardian (book 5 in the Lost Girls series) will be out. Then before the end of next month I hope to book 4 in the Wanted series out (no title yet).

And I still have a lot of data that’s crunching. Over 10,000 books on file so far. One of these days soon I should be able to make some sort of sense out of it. Stay tuned, I’ll be sharing it (or something else terribly interesting) soon!

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

 

Extra Author Earnings

February 16, 2014 Leave a comment

I talked about http://authorearnings.com in my last blog post and now I’m back to continue the story. I’ve talked to enough people to gain a little more understanding into the results. I edited my post to reflect that. Is the data flawed or skewed? That depends on what you’re looking for. It’s a snapshot of Amazon, nothing more. That’s a powerful thing and it’s a limited thing.

After all, Amazon is the biggest book retailer out there. They do more revenue in books than anyone else, including Barnes and Noble and all it’s brick and mortar stores. B&N may sell more print books, I honestly don’t know and haven’t looked to compare any numbers (if there are any available). Do all the other retailers, brick and mortar and web site, compare when put together against Amazon? I don’t know. Maybe, but I’m really not sure.

So why am I going on and on about this? Simple, I’ve joined the cause. I always thought about using a crawler to browse the web and see what I could get out of it. But I figured it would be pointless or too hard to manage otherwise somebody would have done it by now. Then Hugh and his Data Guy did it. My motto has always been if somebody else can do it, than so can I. So I did.

Last week I put together a web crawler and then over the weekend built up a parsing program to handle all the crawled pages. I’ve been through hundreds of gigs of data so far and I’m closing in on 7,000 books. That 7,000 is all over the place, I’m not aiming for the bestsellers. Having said that, the higher ranked books are easier to find. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a master at navigating Amazon’s website(s), so if anybody has any suggestions to help me crawl through more than bestseller lists I’d appreciate it.

My plan is to put it together when it makes sense (hopefully real soon) and make it available. With any luck I’ll be able to back up the author earnings data with this, or at least offer some different points of view to look at. Stay tuned, hopefully within the week. Trying to figure out by publisher is overwhelming, but a week ago so was the idea of doing any of this. The elephant gets eaten one bite at a time…

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Did the World Just Change?

February 12, 2014 Leave a comment

Hugh Howey, breakout indie author of Wool and other stories, may have just set the world on fire. The publishing world, that is. Not by making gobs of money (which he has), but by extrapolating data from the Internet and exposing the deep dark secrets of the publishing industry.

I’ll post the link below, but first I want to say a few things. It’s more than just interesting, it’s eye opening. It’s jaw dropping. It’s amazing and redeeming. And it’s very, very flawed.

Hugh had a super-secret programmer that build up a program to compile a massive amount of data was pulled together by crawling through Amazon’s bestseller lists with a computer program. They then asked the data questions and it answered, breaking out earnings and volume of units sold. Author incomes were calculated and market share was determined. Not only by author, but also by publisher and publishing type (e.g. indie, small press, traditional, amazon, etc.).

The results? Fascinating. And did I mention flawed? It exposes that more books were sold as ebooks than print books. It shows that more money was made via ebooks than print books. It also definitely indicates that indie authors make more than traditional publishing authors do (overall, there are outliers that vary). Or at least it shows all those things if only the top 7000 bestselling titles are analyzed.

That’s the flaw. At the time of this snapshot of data (Jan 28 – 29), I had no books inside the top 7000 bestselling books on Amazon. I have some that are close, and I have a few that are in the top 10 bestselling subgenre lists, but from my understanding these books were not included. Aw, poor me, right? Not really. (EDIT: I discovered that the list of books involved were selected specifically from genre lists (mystery, romance, scifi/fantasy), and in many instances the books may have an overall ranking up to 100,000 on Amazon’s grand chart. In short, that means I have no freaking idea which books are where since book titles and author names were excluded from the raw data report provided to the masses. Very, very frustrating.)

That 7,000 books work out to roughly 3,000 writers. On a whim I decided to check a book I co-wrote and saw that the low sale rate it’s enduring right now (1 sale every 2 – 4 days) has it ranked around 450,000. As high as that is that’s nothing, I’ve seen some books that are ranked well over a million. That means there are well over a million books out there. Possibly 2, 3, 4, or 5+ million books available on Amazon when factoring in ebook, print, and audiobooks. And how many writers? I have no idea, but if we take the same ratio (7 : 3) and assume a modest 3 million books, that means there are over 1.2 million writers.

So this study grabbed the top 7000 books and 3000 writers. That’s .23%, we’re talking a quarter of 1%. So how many other writers like me are in the mid lists and making money that is impressive, yet not cool enough to hit the overall bestseller lists? Maybe I’m not number 800 after all, maybe I’m number 8,000. Or maybe I have no idea whatsoever, given the lack of definitive data. The data is awesome for a sweeping view from orbit, but useless for pinpointing where we are individually.

Hugh responded to my critique though – they are running a new list going out to the top 50,000 bestselling books. That will include several of mine, but not all. In the first study I wasn’t reported at all. In this new study I’ll be underreported. But hey, at least 50,000 is approximately 1.66% of the books available…

What will really be undeniable will be when all the books are processed – or at least a decent sampling is taken. You can’t sample a population by trimming the top 1% (or less). That skews the results and makes everybody think that writing is the golden road to riches.

So far the findings show that 3,000 writers make 10k or more a year on writing. That’s less than 1% of the writers out there. Pretty dismal odds for anyone that wants to get into writing. My complaints about the lack of specificity aren’t designed out of a competition with other writers, rather a means of evaluating myself and my progress. Or maybe when I reach the point where I’m paying all my bills with my royalties I won’t care anymore. After all, I’m not a writer to do better than anybody else, I’m a writer because I love writing.

Here’s the link to the page. Yesterday it was up and down due to traffic. Hopefully today (or whenever this is read) it’s able to withstand the load of people checking it out: http://authorearnings.com

The part about changing the world? Well all this flies in the face of what the traditional publishing industry has been saying for years. Does this mean they lied to us? Well, um, yes. The years of anecdotal evidence have given way to real evidence now, and it’s only going to get better as more numbers are crunched. Or worse, if you’ve been grandstanding about how great traditional publishing is.

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Who Wants a Guardian Angel?

February 11, 2014 Leave a comment

No, I’m not handing any out. I’m afraid I don’t have any to spare. Or any at all, for that matter. Which is ironic, considering the book I just finished the rough draft of. I’m calling it Guardian and the title is applicable for so many different reasons. For example, the main character is a foster parent aka legal guardian of some troubled teens.

There’s also a spirit out of southwestern Native American folklore that serves as a bit of a guardian angel. With a twist. Then there’s a few other spirits that get involved and a few people doing their best to protect others. It’s a mess and before Katalina (the main character) figures out what’s going a lot of people have been hurt and she’s too late to stop what she set out to do.

Guardian is book 5 in The Lost Girls series and it’s in the hands of my editor now. The cover artist is feverishly at work (or he should be when he wakes up). All that means a potential release before the end of the month. And the inevitable…what’s next?

Building on a blog post I released last week, courtesy of feedback from a reader, I have a couple of options. So I tossed the question out on my Facebook fan page to help me decide which direction to go. I won’t say the response was overwhelming but it was probably the biggest feedback I’ve had on a post so far. The result? Carl Waters, reluctant hero of the Wanted series, is strapping his boots back on and taking a stroll in the near future mildly scorched earth setting.

Carl is a US Marshall these days thanks to some contacts he acquired both in the private sector and their affiliations with the government. His wife, Jessie, has revitalized her acting career. Allison, their adopted daughter, may or may not play a role in the story. She’s turned to technology ever since Carl rescued her from the streets of Houston and demanded she learn to read.

What about the rest of the cast? Tanya, Sarah, and any past players? All to be determined. I’ve got a lot of scattered thoughts that I need to pull together on this one. It’s going to touch on Carl’s new career as well as bring in enough from the prior storylines to continue the series.

What was the other option? A new Voidhawk book that brings some or all of the crew to the world of Kroth. Kroth, for those unfamiliar with the name, is the world that my Blades of Leander and Order of the Dragon series take place on. If I remember correctly the Voidhawk’s crew slipped away from the City at the Edge of Forever with a certain something that belonged to someone very powerful. The very same being that played a part in the formation of Kroth. The really cool part – my subconscious planned all that out without even letting me know! I’m devious and I don’t even know it.

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.