At long last, Liar’s Harvest is out the door and on sale! Huzzah!
I had a lot of fun writing this one and I feel like I learned a lot along the way. Which is as it should be. But! I have a confession to make. These book launches scare me to death. I keep thinking that next time I’ll be a jaded veteran with my feet up, smoking a cigar and heaving world-weary sighs as my latest novel sails out into the world. Turns out, not so much.
Fortunately, I had a lot of help along the way, which makes me feel like at least those parts of the book are under control 🙂
I’d like to thank Vincent Chong for yet another stellar cover. Fun fact, we actually did this cover twice. The first one was good, without a doubt, but I felt like it needed some kind of small tweak to make it stand out a little more. So I asked Vinny for advice, and his thoughts. He came back with a completely redesigned cover, which was a heck of a lot more work than a tweak, and brilliant. Thanks, Vinny.
I’d also like to thank my editor, Neal Hock, and my copy editor, Cory Whiteland. It’s kind of humbling to send out what you consider to be a pretty clean copy and get back a thoughtful, concise list of your errors. Your many, many errors. If this book is readable at all, then you have these gentlemen to thank for it.
I also want to express my sincere appreciation to Jennifer at 52novels.com for the fantastic formatting. She put up with multiple revisions, crazy chapter heading formatting requests, and all sorts of deadline shenanigans with the kind of patience and good humor that I will never, ever possess.
Finally, I want to thank my wife, Susie, for her tireless support and enthusiasm for my work. None of this would have been possible without her.
Likewise, all of you folks. Thanks for sticking with me.
You know what’s a long time from now? Tomorrow, that’s what.
I sympathize with your lamentations, fellow calendar-haters. Like the hallowed chorus of, “Are we there yet?” from the back seat, you have been heard.
I’m giving away three pre-release copies of Liar’s Harvest today. Winners will receive their choice of an epub or Kindle formatted ebook, given away at 8pm CST tonight.
To win, all you have to do is drop a comment below. Winners will be chosen at random by the great and mighty RANDOM.ORG.
HOWEVER! If your comment happens to be in haiku form, well then, your name will appear three times in the Grand List of Choosing. This will not only make your chances of winning go up, but it will also make your opponents seem tiny and ineffective by comparison! It’s a good strategy, I recommend it.
Let the contest begin!
Aaand it’s over, folks! Thanks for the lovely and hilarious poems: we laughed, we cried, we pointed fingers at the monitor. It was lovely.
I do have one confession to make, however. No winners will be chosen by RANDOM.ORG tonight.
In a decidedly un-random fashion, everyone in the comments is a winner! And not in the self-esteem preserving, elementary school science fair sense, either!
Please email me at: langlois.mike (at) gmail.com and specify if you’d like your copy in epub or kindle format. And if you’d like me to send directly to your kindle, please give me your @kindle.com address *and don’t forget to authorize my email account under ‘Manage Your Kindle/Personal Document Settings’ on Amazon so that I can send you the ebook.* Note that this only allows me to send you books, it doesn’t give me any rights on your account or device. It’s just a spam prevention measure.
Thanks again to everyone who commented, and I hope you enjoy Liar’s Harvest!
So, a few of my fabulously
stalkerish perceptive readers have pointed out that I tend to give away a lot of free books, especially around the time I release a new one. This is a true statement. They have also asked if that’s such a good idea for me from an income perspective. I think the better question is if it’s a good idea for me from a career perspective.
Turns out, a new author’s greatest challenge has less to do with money and a great deal more to do with obscurity. I’ve been very fortunate with my sales since the release of Bad Radio back in October of 2011, but even so, the number of copies of my books out in the wild, both free and purchased, is less than 100K. I’m a microscopic drop in a bucket the size of Lake Superior.
From a career standpoint, gaining a reader is more important than making a sale. Every time, no exceptions. As has been mentioned elsewhere, most people are introduced to a new author for free. Either through libraries or being lent a copy by a friend. Today, it can also include ebook piracy, but for my purposes that’s just as good as any other method for getting in front of readers.
Don’t get me wrong, I loves me some book sales. But people who like your work are happy to purchase books when they can, provided the price is reasonable and the quality is there. I spent most of my youth reading out of friend’s collections and libraries. The result was a love of books and an adult lifetime of purchasing them. Even as books trend towards electronic versions that might be hard to get from libraries or lend to friends, everyone should still have that opportunity.
To that end, I will continue to offer all of my previous books for free during the launch week of each new book, as well as periodic surprise freebies every couple of months. It’s not charity on my part, just good business sense. And if it helps keep someone out there in free books, then all to the good.
It’s finally time. Liar’s Harvest will be released at the end of this week on Friday the 16th!
It’s like a party, except without my dog running all over the house barking and popping the balloons. And without cake. I mean, for you. *I* had cake, and I think we can all agree that’s the most important thing. It was good, too. What was I talking about?
RIGHT. If you haven’t read Bad Radio yet, here’s your chance to grab a copy for free. If you know someone who hasn’t read it, and for whatever reason your friendship has survived knowing this, point them in the right direction. Like I always say, it’s never too late for my friends to stop being wrong.
Walker is also free this week because, hey, maybe you’re already caught up on Bad Radio and just need something to do until Friday.
So, there you go. Enjoy and I’ll see you on launch day!
Mmm, I love a good cover proof! Here’s what the back cover blurb says:
Abe put an end to the threat of the Devourer once and for all.
So why does the world keep getting more dangerous?
Unsettling events pile up one after another: animal corpses appear on the front porch each night, an abandoned graveyard in the North Carolina woods is now home to something unnatural, and wooden men with eerily familiar faces are spotted lurking in the nearby town of Halfway.
Abe finds himself caught in a game set in motion long before the rise of mankind. A game in which even the Devourer was merely a pawn and where losing means the death of every man, woman, and child on earth.
Standing with him are the survivors of Belmont: Anne, Chuck, Leon, and his old squadmate, Henry “The Professor” Monroe. Together they intend to hold the line against the encroaching darkness and prove that there are still things in the light to be feared.
Looking forward to launch day, coming up soon!
Based on intensive focus-group studies and two rounds of animal testing, I decided to make a few changes to the cover for Liar’s Harvest. I’m going to go with the animals on this one, it’s 100% pure awesome.
As usual, Vinny took my input and produced something about a hundred times better than what I asked for. Because he’s a badass like that.
Release is coming up quick, so watch for some free weekends for Bad Radio soon. That way you can catch up on the story before release if you have a hankering to do so.
It’s contest time!
A Book Vacation is sponsoring a giveaway of Bad Radio, where one US winner will recieve a lovely paper copy with my signature scrawled illegibly inside, and one international winner will get an electronic copy. Since the electronic copy won’t be defiled with my handwriting, I promise to intone the winner’s name in my most serious voice when the copy is launched into the ether.
For those unfamiliar with the site, I urge to you to take a look. While I do like community reviews when deciding on books, like what you’d find on Amazon, I think there’s a lot to be said for recommendations given by a critic whose work you are familiar with and you trust.
One quick note: I used ABV to find books to read before I was reviewed, so I’m not recommending it because I was lucky enough to get a review slot.
So, go here to enter the contest, and then stick around to find out what you should be reading.
When you get reviews, and Cthulhu willing, you will, some of them will be bad. And not just bad, either. Mean-spirited. Dumb. Incoherent. And the worst one of all, correct.
It happens. Don’t worry about it, and for the love of all that you hold dear in this world, do not reply to them.
If it’s a blog post, don’t comment. If it’s an Amazon review, don’t comment. If it’s on Goodreads, don’t comment. Seriously.
Consider reviews to be in ReaderSpace. You can see into ReaderSpace and learn from what goes on in there, and you should, but if you interact with it, you’ll catch on fire and explode. On the internet. In front of everyone.
But bad reviews hurt my sales!
If most of them are bad, then yes. However, if I might tactfully suggest something, if most of your reviews are bad, your main problem might not be mean people on the the internet. A few bad reviews won’t hurt you, and in fact, if you only have a handful of reviews and all of them are awesome, then people are going to assume those are all from your friends and family.
Go to Amazon, and check out the reviews for books you consider to be above reproach. The Name of the Wind has over a hundred 1 and 2 star reviews. Does that mean it sucks? Of course not, don’t make me punch you.
But the reviewer is complaining about stuff that doesn’t even happen in my book!
I feel your pain. This is actually really hard for me, because completely independent of wanting to refute a bad review, the urge to factually correct someone that your epic fantasy did not, in fact, contain any space aliens, can be overwhelming. People will read all kinds of stuff into your work, and there’s nothing you can do to change that fact. Disagreeing with them will have zero effect on their convictions. Your elf space troopers will still annoy them, whether they are actually there or not.
But I agree that the reviewer found a problem and I want to thank them!
This is wonderful and a lovely sentiment. If you can thank them outside of the review area, feel free! If not, then stifle the urge. Showing up in a review area, whether as an Amazon comment to their review or in a thread on a blog, is a bad idea. It contaminates the area, for lack of a better term, and makes everything weird for your readers. As a result, you might get fewer reviews of all kinds. Or your good reviews might suddenly become suspect. If nothing else, you’ll seem unprofessional.
So if I can’t have my say, what can I do?
Learn from them.
Check for common complaints. For example, the number one complaint about Bad Radio is that nobody knows what the title means. It makes no difference what I have to say about it, if I keep hearing that, it’s a problem. I learned, and hopefully, fixed the issue with a two sentence revision.
Look for words that indicate pacing issues, even in good reviews. Stuff like, “At first it was boring, but then wham!” are warning flags. Just because they stuck with you long enough to be entertained doesn’t mean that everyone will. Make a note of it for next time.
Also, don’t dismiss people complaining that it wasn’t the kind of book they normally like. This isn’t a case of a crackpot randomly selecting your sci-fi book and then whining that it wasn’t a murder mystery, but instead a sign that your cover or blurb may be misleading.
As painful as they are, bad reviews are valuable. Don’t waste them.
Just remember: “Praise is like candy. Delicious, but bad for you.” – Paraphrased from every article on criticism, ever.
This is actually the second day of top ten excitement. Walker is on three Amazon bestseller lists at the moment, one of which is pretty large, Fiction/Action&Adventure. So that’s pretty cool.
Not much has changed, of course. I did a little dance, and then went back to work in the word mines. Glamorous, I know!
Thanks to everyone who sent me notes of congratulations, and even more thanks to everyone who took a chance on a new author this week.
Much appreciated, folks.
When you first begin experiencing stories, either in books, movies, or other media, you become aware of pacing only when it’s done incorrectly. You might complain that a movie dragged in the middle, or that at the end of a book you had no idea who half the characters were. And most of the time, you would have blamed these things on the content. The middle of the movie was slow because the content was boring. The characters were poorly written and not memorable. And while some of that might be true, the real culprit is in the pacing.
You control pacing through both the information you deliver and how you deliver it. When the content and the delivery style are matched, you can achieve both breathless exhilaration or deeply engrossing immersion as you need them. These are the opposite ends of the pacing throttle, and you’ll need both regardless of what kind of story you’re writing.
Here’s how to control your pacing:
Book Level: Scene vs Sequel
Pacing at a book level is determined by the ratio of scenes to sequels in a book. If you’re not familiar with the terms, a scene is where the action takes place, and a sequel is where the characters react to that event and decide what to do next. For more detail, see Jim Butcher’s excellent explanations here and here.
Typically you’ll alternate scene-sequel for the length of the book. At a macro level, scenes increase the pace of the book and sequels slow it down. So for a thriller, you’ll have more and longer scenes, and fewer or shorter sequels. For an epic fantasy, you’ll have fewer scenes, and more elaborate sequels, and for romance you’ll have very few scenes and lots of sequels. The key here is how much of the book is either scene verbiage or sequel verbiage, not the actual number of each.
Scene/Sequel Level: Action vs Description
Within a scene or sequel, you’ll have both action and description. This is where most pacing errors appear. Action and description have opposite effects on pacing, so if you’re writing a fast moving scene and you load it up with description, you can easily introduce drag. Yes, your outfit is very pretty. No, I don’t care what kind of velvet it’s made of during a fist fight.
On the other hand, if you describe your busy market or haunted house with a couple of terse sentences, your audience will feel rushed through the place with no real feel for the atmosphere you’re trying to establish.
Be careful that you don’t try to apply book-level pacing here. One mistake new writers tend to make is to decide that since they’re writing a fast-paced thriller, the entire book should be made of short sentences with limited description. The book’s pacing and the scene’s pacing are very different things. Lots of scenes will increase the pace of the book, but within a scene you’ll still need to establish setting and engage the reader’s senses.
For books heavy on sequels, don’t be afraid to cut the atmosphere and introspection during your scenes. Don’t have the characters think about how that fiery confrontation is going to affect their relationship, just let them shout at each other in the heat of the moment, then think about it later.
Paragraph Level: Sentence Length
On an even smaller scale, you control the immediate, visceral sense of speed with sentence length and complexity. Short sentences with as few words as possible between the subject and the verb will increase the pace, while adjectives and clauses will slow things down. The rule about varying sentence length still stands, you will always need meter or rhythm to your sentences, so a fight scene should not consist of only three word sentences. But taken as a whole, paragraphs describing a fist fight should have noticeably shorter sentences on average than a paragraph describing a sunset.
As you vary your sentences, keep in mind a sense of dynamic tension. In a fight scene, longer sentences will help build a sense of anticipation, like the uphill sections of a roller coaster. For long descriptions, the occasional punchy section will keep the audience from feeling restless.
Regardless, there must always be a variation in pacing at this level. It’s the subtle changing of pace that makes an impression on a reader, not the absolute pace. How boring would a roller coaster be if it were one long slope? A few minutes at a constant speed, and it feels like nothing is happening. The same is true for prose.
Here are some specific tricks that you can use to bend the rules of pacing to get some interesting effects:
Slo-Mo: You know all that stuff I said about fight scenes having short, punchy sentences? Well, there’s one instance where you should do exactly the opposite. At the decisive moment of impact in the scene, such as the final, terrible blow of a fight, the detonation of the hidden explosives, or the death-throes of the monster, stretch out your sentence length and turn up the descriptive prose. You can take a paragraph or more to describe those precious few seconds and create a slow-motion effect, where the audience can savor the moment. Used sparingly, this can really heighten the impact of your action scenes.
Snapshot: During a fast-paced scene, especially a longer one, you may need to bring the reader in close and ramp up the immersion factor. This is frequently done just before the climax of the scene to point out some important part of the plot. For example, the final punch of a fist-fight might mention the glint of light off of a wedding ring, or while a character is fleeing a burning building she might notice a photograph curling in the flames. The goal is to make the descriptive elements as short and vivid as possible, without stretching out the sentence length.
Travelogue: When you have a lot of description to do, try breaking up the prose with dialogue that adds personal context to the things you’re describing. Lots of text describing buildings can get tedious fast, but a few sentences from a character about how when they were kids, they used to play right next to that slaughterhouse before they knew what it was, will pick things right up.
In the end, pacing is about contrast. The difference between a book that feels fast and a book that feels rushed is in the careful application of your slower, more immersive prose. In the same vein, the difference between rich and boring is in how skillfully you manage your action. Just keep things varied, and use the right technique for the right job. Once you understand the basics, it’ll be easy to spot when you’re going against the grain.