Cynthia Woolf has interviewed me. Pop on over and find out a little more about me and Morgan’s Return. You could also win an e-book of The Iron Admiral, just by answering a simple question in a comment. Tell me what it was inspired the virus in ‘The Iron Admiral: Conspiracy‘, and you’ll be in the draw to win an ebook copy of The Iron Admiral – which is an omnibus of both my Iron Admiral books. (The answer is in the post, folks – and please tell me what format ebook you’d like – epub, mobi or pdf)
Here’s the link. http://cynthiawoolf.com/blog/interview-with-greta-van-der-rol/ See you there.
I’m not one to use pictures of real people as ‘character cues’, if you see what I mean. I know many writers do, but I’m happy to have a picture in my mind. It’s often quite detailed, too. After the book is done and dusted, it’s quite fun to have a ‘casting couch’ session – trying to work out who you’d have when the movie offers roll in. I did a casting couch for Morgan’s Choice, if you’d care to have a look. We decided on John Abraham for Ravindra, but to be honest, I wasn’t entirely convinced.
I came upon this picture here quite by accident, on Facebook. The gentleman is Jiddu Krishnamurti, an Indian philosopher who died in 1986. He was into peace, love and the unity of all mankind.
An added note: A few people have asked about the abs, since they’re an important component of the package. I was thinking something like this.
In the last couple of days, my book sales have escalated, propelling Morgan’s Return into the top 20 for space opera (which is the genre I write). Its predecessor, Morgan’s Choice, is also back in the top one hundred. Please understand, I won’t be giving JK Rowling a run for her money anytime soon. We’re not talking huge numbers, but it’s nice to have an audience. Very nice.
A few people have asked how I managed to do that.
The answer is simple: I haven’t a clue. As I said in the title, maybe it’s magic. Maybe a sprinkle of fairy dust landed on my shoulder, and caused Amazon to send out the ad at top left. If we exclude the possibility of fairy dust, I don’t know what I did to have Amazon send that out – but it did and my languishing sales took off. Maybe – and I’m guessing – it has something to do with the fact that Morgan’s Choice was in the top one hundred for several months a few months ago. Maybe Amazon thought it was worth telling people I’d written a sequel. But I didn’t pay for the ad. It’s sort of an adjunct to the emails we all regularly get, listing a selection of books in a genre you’ve bought. I usually get a list of my own books, with a couple of others, like that one there.
Let me tell you a few things that didn’t cause that spike in sales.
I’ve written a ‘good book’.
I don’t know what that means. ‘Good’ is subjective at the best of times and has different meanings. Does it mean it’s a great story? What you think is good, someone else will think is a crock. If ‘good’ means the book has been well-produced in that it’s been edited, has very few typos and is correctly formatted, well, yes my books are all those things. But again, so what? Readers don’t much care about those things. Writers do.
I have bought advertising but what I’ve bought for this book has not yet appeared. I’ve bought ads on The Romance Reviews and the-Cheap – even on the mighty Zon, where I paid $100 to be in the Amazon Book Club, which I feel was a waste of money. Morgan’s Choice was in a list of twenty or so books, not sorted by genre or anything else, a grab-bag listing for the day. I have seen no spike in sales that I could attribute to any sort of advertising. Except that headline one up there.
I participated in blog tours.
Not for this book, I didn’t. I did for Starheart, where I managed my own tour, and I bought a tour for Black Tiger because it was a different genre to my usual space opera. Again, in my experience, blog tours don’t really work.
I have a huge web presence.
Not really. I have an author page on Amazon, Omnilit and Smashwords. I’m on Facebook, but I recently whittled down my friends list to people I actually interact with. I have an author page with 400 ‘likes’. I have a website where I talk about writing and science, a separate site for historical topics and a third where I share my photos. (I’m a keen photographer.) I don’t do a newsletter. My name is on sites across the web where I’ve signed up but don’t actually participate. Oh, and I’m no longer on Google+ or on Goodreads. After all, how much time can a person spend updating sites? I also don’t touch the Kindle Boards.
I bought reviews.
At the time of writing, Morgan’s Return has no reviews on Amazon or anywhere else. I don’t ask for reviews, and I certainly don’t buy them. I have placed the book at two review sites on the basis of a free book for an honest review. Morgan’s Choice has a full house – one star to (a lot more) five stars. That’s okay.
I bash the book on Twitter.
Yes, I do some sales tweets. I’d be stupid not to – but that’s certainly not all I do on Twitter. I participate on Triberr and I’ve found a lot of great blog sites that way. The best way to turn people off is to shove your product down their throats. I don’t.
It’s on Kindle Select.
Morgan’s Return isn’t on the program.
It’s a cheap read.
Yes, it is. $4.99 is cheaper than the big league. But it’s not $0.99. There are two reasons for that. One, I work hard at what I do. I think I’m entitled to a fair compensation. And two, the readers of the planet aren’t stupid. If you give your book away, or undervalue a 100k+ word book, why should they give it any respect? To be sure, there are well-produced, well-edited, free or ultra cheap books out there – but there’s an awful lot of garbage, too. I don’t want my work to be automatically lumped into the garbage category.
I’ve stewed on that subject for a while. I don’t know why Morgan’s Choice took off, either, or why it suddenly declined. But there is no doubt that if one book takes off, the others are towed along in its wake. So…
Write more books. That’s it, in a nutshell. If you have a backlist, readers can discover one book, then happily go and read your other work. I do that all the time. If I find a writer I enjoy, I’ll dig out everything they’ve written. It’s a network effect, a web. The more books you have available, the more entry points you have, the more chances you have to establish readers as fans. This latest surge is an illustration. At the time of writing, Morgan’s Return was at 19 in space opera and Morgan’s Choice was at 27. What this means, folks, is that NEW PEOPLE ARE BUYING Morgan’s Choice.
However, I will add one thing; it’s easier if you write one genre. My space opera sells. My historical fiction novel, To Die a Dry Death, won a bronze medal in the 2011 e-lit awards and has a swag of excellent reviews from a wide range of sources. But it hardly sells. Some people have given it a try after reading my SF, and have been pleasantly surprised, but that’s rare. The same thing has happened with Black Tiger, which is just as fast-paced and action-packed as my SF – but it’s a paranormal romance. (Or at least, as close to a romance as you’ll ever see from me.) The reviewers on the blog tour all said the book was different from the usual paranormal, and they were surprised they enjoyed the read. Again, I have done the same thing, only the other way around. I remember buying a well-credentialed Elizabeth Moon book which became a DNF. It wasn’t space opera, you see.
So there you have it. You’ll find there are a whole raft of people offering to help you sell your books – for a price. By all means give them a try, people can’t buy what they don’t know about. Just bear in mind that what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. I firmly believe word of mouth is the only real way of making sales. But why people decide to buy particular books is beyond me.
I’m sure not complaining and I’m ridiculously thankful to Amazon for that ad. And if it did involve a sprinkle of fairy dust, it’s all good.
Here’s another snippet from my new release, Morgan’s Return. Morgan has just noticed her lover, Admiral Ravindra, sitting with another woman in a crowded bar. Having spent some time in the ladies room, talking herself out of scratching the other woman’s eyes out, she has accepted she can’t afford to make a scene.
Taking one more deep breath, she pushed the door release and went back into the party atmosphere of the bar, striding toward the table where Partridge was sitting, his eyes wide as he sipped his drink.
The name was shouted so loud the noise in the bar lessened for a moment. Before she had time to turn, strong hands gripped Morgan’s waist and swung her around in a circle. She knew that voice. The man set her down, then hugged her. “Good to see you, babe. Where’ve you been?”
Tall, dark blond hair. He beamed, lips spread in a huge smile. She had to bring the face up from her implant. Junior Commander Biel Fisher, hot-shot fighter pilot. They’d had a brief affair five years ago.
“Er, hi, Biel. It’s been a while.”
“Sure has. Last I heard you’d disappeared somewhere around Calisto’s Veil. Hey, what’ve you done to your eyes? Contacts?”
“Um, yeah.” She edged back, hoping he’d let go. Oh fuck fuck fuck. She was supposed to be Marion Sefton, not Morgan Selwood. And she’d made it obvious she’d recognized him.
“Marion? An old friend?”
Oh, double fuck. Ravindra’s voice was deadly as a leashed vulsaur.
Be sure to check out all the other SF Romance snippets
Take note, authors and publishers. Amazon is a very large organisation and like many other monoliths (Government Departments, Apple and Microsoft come to mind) flexibility in dealing with clients is in very short supply. This is a cautionary tale.
A few weeks ago, I decided to bundle my two Iron Admiral titles (The Iron Admiral: Conspiracy and The Iron Admiral: Deception) into one volume and sell it for less than the combined cost of both books. It’s a common practice after books have been out for a while. While I was at it, I thought it might be nice to add the new book to Kindle Select, maybe interest a few new readers. After The Iron Admiral had been out for a couple of weeks, I received a message from the Kindle Select people.
“We found the following book(s) you’ve published doesn’t meet the KDP Select content guidelines. Books enrolled in KDP Select must be exclusive to Amazon in digital format while enrolled in the program. The Iron Admiral (ID: B00AWU85FA) is available on:” with the link to The Iron Admiral: Conspiracy on Barnes & Noble. “In order for your book to remain in the KDP Select program, we’ll need you to ensure that it is exclusive to Amazon within 5 days from the date of this email. If, after this 5-day period, your book is still not exclusive to Amazon, it will remain for sale in the Kindle Store, but will be removed from KDP Select. Upon its removal, it will no longer be eligible to earn a share of the KDP Select fund.”
I’d read the Guidelines and checked my interpretation with a friend, who agreed I wasn’t breaking the rules. So I wrote back to them, explaining this wasn’t the same book, that The Iron Admiral was an omnibus, with a different ASIN and ISBN. In hindsight, you might think my mistake was obvious. It wasn’t to me. In any case, here’s Amazon’s response.
“Thank you for your email.
Publishing your content in multiple parts or a varied format on another site is not acceptable. All content made exclusive to Amazon in KDP Select must remain for sale on our site only. However, you may choose to make up to 10% of your book available on other sites as a sample.
Please note that digital content that is available elsewhere is not made eligible for KDP Select by adding or removing additional book content, adding a bonus chapter, author’s commentary section, introduction, illustrations, making minor language edits, or changing the book’s cover art, title metadata, etc. We reserve the right to determine the types of Digital Books that we accept in KDP Select. Your book will be removed after 5 days of receiving our initial message.”
I thanked them politely for clarifying and said I wouldn’t be taking down the two books in the omnibus (Conspiracy and Deception) from other retailers, and that I assumed they would remove The Iron Admiral from the Kindle Select program without any further intervention from me. To which I received this response.
We’re sorry to hear you’d like to cancel your content’s participation in KDP Select. Your book is enrolled in KDP Select until April 4th and cannot be excluded from the program during this time.
If you don’t want to renew, simply go to the book’s “Edit book details” page anytime during the current term and uncheck the box next to ‘automatically renew this book’s enrollment in KDP Select for another 90 days.’
As your book is currently still enrolled in KDP Select, please ensure that it meets the requirements of the program.”
At this point, I’m rolling my eyes. Left hand… right hand.
So what the hell. I pulled the books (Conspiracy and Deception e-book versions) from Smashwords and Omnilit. After all, my main purpose was to gain new readers, so Kindle Select was probably more useful to me than not. There’s usually a delay in moving from Smashwords to B&N, but there wasn’t. The e-books were removed forthwith.
This is the next missive from Amazon.
“As we emailed to you earlier, KDP Select content guidelines require that books enrolled in KDP Select are exclusive to Amazon.com while enrolled in the program. As the following book(s) is not exclusive, it has been removed from KDP Select, but remains live in the Kindle Store. It is no longer eligible to earn a share of the KDP Select fund, however you will be paid for any borrows that your book accrued prior to its removal from the program.
The Iron Admiral (ID: B00AWU85FA) is available on: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-iron-admiral-greta-van-der-rol/1112380196?ean=2940011221439“
That link goes to the print version of The Iron Admiral: Conspiracy on B&N. I sent the pixies an email pointing out that fact, and have not, to this point, received a reply.
- an omnibus is not a new book in the eyes of Amazon.
- Automated replies seem to be the go at head office.
Make sure you understand the rules, and play within them. Noted.
Today I’m guest blogging at Devon Ellington’s site, talking about sequels series and all things related. I’d love to know what you think. http://biblioparadise.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/series-sequels-greta-van-der-rol/
If you didn’t read the previous post, my sister had died in New Zealand, and her husband, an Australian, wanted to come back to Australia. Frank was a resident in an accredited aged care facility. How hard would it be to transfer him from one home, to another in Australia? Should be easy, surely? After all, the New Zealanders are our first cousins. We don’t need visas to visit each others’ countries, Australia has the largest population of Kiwis outside Auckland, we are rivals in rugby, netball, hockey, cricket, and we share the ANZAC tradition. Not to mention Phar Lap and Russel Crowe.
The first hurdle was to find his passport. When I said everything was jumbled up in that lock-up, I meant everything. Somewhere in that mess was Frank’s documents. While Cathy fought with the piles of stuff in New Zealand, I took up arms with Authority in Australia. I soon learnt that getting Frank into a home here wasn’t going to be easy. Authority would not accept any of the documentation from New Zealand. Frank’s physical state, and his financial state, had to be assessed in Australia. To be considered for a place in an aged care facility, he would require both of those assessment documents, and in both cases, Frank would have to be in Australia before assessment could be considered. Further, although I had Enduring Power of Attorney in New Zealand, this mattered not a jot in Australia, which caused delays as Frank, who suffers from dementia, was obliged to give his permission for disclosure of information. I had hoped, you see, that if the assessment people in Australia were given medical reports from the aged care hospital in New Zealand, this could fast-track the process. In hind-sight, it was a total waste of time.
After writing to our local member of parliament for help without success, my husband and I wrote to Tanya Plibersek (the Federal Minister for Health) and to Julia Gillard (the Prime Minister). In that letter we outlined Frank’s situation, described the steps we had taken to date, and proposed a compromise, wherein Frank would be admitted to a home, based on the New Zealand assessment of his condition. At that time, he could be re-assessed and moved, if need be. He wasn’t asking for financial support, having ample funds to pay for his accommodation. He was one lonely old man, wanting to spend what was left of his life in the country of his birth. Surely the rules could be bent? Just a little? Christmas caused even further delays, but after a gentle reminder had generated a ‘the cheque is in the mail’ response, we received a reply laced with sympathetic platitudes and the underlying message, them’s the rules – tough. (We had asked why New Zealand’s health care system was being seen as no better than a third world country’s, when our governments are negotiating a joint pharmaceutical benefits scheme, but that was adroitly ignored.)
The next step was going to be to approach the media, and let the shock jocks battle it out on our behalf, but it had been four months and nothing had been achieved. I decided, with some trepidation, to take on Frank’s care for the time it will take to get him into proper aged care. Because proper aged care sure ain’t me. I’m not a nurse, I’m not a sympathetic person. I’m an introverted, non-social woman in her sixties who loves her own company. Still, faced with no choice, I’ll do my best. But I digress.
This article is entitled ‘a question of identity’ for a reason. Because in our digital world, with the internet and databases, if you want to prove you exist, you need bits of paper. Even the Australian passport Cathy eventually found under a mountain of stuff in the lock-up would not be enough to satisfy the Australian Authorities. The 26-page application for an aged pension (with 28 pages of accompanying explanatory notes) indicated what was needed. Despite the fact you can’t get a passport without showing your birth certificate, and date and place of birth are shown on the passport, a passport was worth 70 points out of a required 100. What’s more, Frank would have to show he’d lived in Australia for at least ten years, a minimum of five years contiguously.
You might wonder why. The reason is financial. At one time, people from countries like Greece and Italy (and no doubt others – I’m not singling anybody out, here) would migrate to Australia, live there long enough to gain Australian citizenship (two years), then go back home. They could claim an Australian pension, which, given the exchange rate and cost of living, gave them a very comfortable living in another country, for very little contribution to the Australian tax coffers.
How to prove Frank’s claim? Frank would have had tax records lodged before 1972 when he left for New Zealand, but I wouldn’t think the good folk at Centrelink, a monolithic Government body which administers all welfare payments, would want to go looking for those. Fortunately, the wonderful Cathy had found Frank’s apprenticeship papers, his birth certificate and his marriage certificate amongst the remains of his life. So we should be okay for that. I hope.
Frank is booked on a flight for Australia next weekend. A person from the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT – don’t you love this acronym shit?) will visit him the following Thursday. In the meantime, he will have to accompany me to open a bank account, apply for a pension and grant me Enduring Power of Attorney so I can sign documents such as the application for a place in an aged care facility, on his behalf. We’ll have his sheaf of papers, proving he exists.
So let that be a lesson. As far as Authority is concerned, you might be nothing but a number being crunched through a process, but, despite the e-revolution, bits of paper do matter – very, very much. To misquote Tolkien, keep them secret, and keep them safe.
The photo? That’s the sun setting over Auckland – somehow very fitting, don’t you think?
My sister died last September. Oh, don’t feel sorry. She’d had a good life and towards the end, she was more than ready to go. Always an intensely private person, the inevitably intrusive care became harder and harder to take, increasingly an affront to her dignity.
Even so, death has its impacts, mostly on the only one really close to her, her husband, Frank. They’d been together for forty years and more, no children, few friends. My husband and I travelled to New Zealand from our home in Australia to attend the funeral and do what we could to console Frank. We held the funeral service at the nursing home where Frank and my sister had lived for the past several years, a brief and simple service shared with a group of inmates at the home. Their turn would be coming up, soon enough. We were the only relatives there. The only person outside the hospital to attend was the gentleman who looked after my sister and her husband’s financial affairs.
One thing about death is, life goes on. Since we were now responsible for Frank, who has dementia, we did what we could to sort out his affairs in the few days we had in New Zealand. We were told he and his wife were admitted to an aged care hospital in the space of a day. They went to see a doctor, who took one look, and sent them into care. They never went home again. The house, of course, had to be sold and to do that, it had to be cleared. The contents were packed into a storage locker. You know the type. A space like a huge garage, for which you had the keys.
Despite the threat of rain, we obtained the keys to see what was there, thinking to perhaps take some important papers and family photos with us. Getting the lock-up open was a chore in itself. The lock hadn’t been opened for several years, and needed WD40 and some elbow grease. The door lifted, and there it was. The remains of a life.
Everything from a house was in there. Whoever had transported it, hadn’t packed the goods properly. Items had been shoved into old grocery boxes, glasses weren’t wrapped, nothing was sorted. We were confronted with a higgledy-piggledy pile of… stuff. A lathe stood next to a glass-fronted dresser. Frank’s tools (he used to be a master carpenter) in their home-made wooden boxes, were to the front. Figurines stood next to anonymous boxes. The frame for the water bed, built by Frank and inscribed F ♥ L, stood against the wall. The bladder was somewhere at the top and back, beyond the sofa. In a few hours we examined what we could, feeling a bit like mountaineers without safety gear as we clambered up precarious piles. We took a few family photos, a magnificent piece of scrimshaw, and a few of Frank’s antique and beautiful tools with us. It was all we could manage.
Fortunately for us, a lovely lady who is now a friend, offered to sort through the lock-up, looking for photos and documents. Everything that could not be sold, would be disposed of. Over the next several weeks, she would tell me what she found, some funny, some odd, some poignant. The people who had emptied the house, had not even thought to throw away food. She found packets of biscuits and other perishables all thrown in with the pots and pans, and out-of-date medication.
When it was all over, the auctions held, the lock-up emptied, Cathy told me of the profound effect the process had had on her and her husband. Fragments of a life, a thing of the past, all too soon forgotten in the march of time. Yet Cathy saw a life well-lived, not the old and frail couple she’d known at the nursing home. Time was when they were young and fit and strong. Frank and my sister had travelled extensively around New Zealand, had lived on both North and South islands. They would go out in their station wagon and see the world. At night, travelling on the cheap, they slept on a mattress in the back of the car. They had also been overseas to America, a couple of times back to Australia. And a few family members had visited them. Sure, gravity had its way over the years, as it does with us all, but in their fifties they still had a photo taken with Santa. I guess for me, it was enough to know that life had been good for them.
Meanwhile, stage two was unfolding. Frank was born in Australia, and he and my sister married in Australia. In the early nineteen-seventies, they decided to leave family ties behind and travel to New Zealand, where they’d lived ever since. But Frank had mentioned to me when I went to visit them briefly a couple of years ago, that he wanted to come home. To Australia. And at my sister’s funeral, he said that again. “I want to come home.”
Of course, I agreed to make it so. It would be easy. Of course it would.
Morgan and Ravindra are on a planet where the women are in charge. It’s not Ravindra’s scene, no, not at all.
Two people, a man and a woman, dressed in cream trousers and shirts, their belts bulky with attachments, ambled toward him. No doubt the local police. He noted each carried a nerve whip, and a sidearm in a holster. The two slowed down, glancing at Jirra and Prasad, who sat together on a low wall.
The female police officer stared at him as she approached, looking him up and down as though he were a piece of meat. She licked her lips, a glint in her eye, her gaze sliding down to his groin, undressing him with her eyes.
The last time a woman had had the temerity to look at him like that, he’d been a callow youth fresh out of the Academy, a target for older women looking for some action while their husbands were away. He glared at her.
She stopped in front of him and turned, standing with legs apart, hands on hips, a hint of a lascivious smile lurking around her lips.
“On your feet,” she drawled.
Ravindra’s hackles rose. Still, this was another planet, different rules. He stood, taking his time, and folded his arms, gazing down at her. “Is there a problem?”
Be sure to check out all the other SF Romance snippets
Morgan Selwood is back in a brand new, full-length adventure with her Manesai admiral, Ashkar Ravindra. Morgan is taking the boyfriend home to meet the cousins and, needless to say, they stir up a whole lot of trouble.
When you delve into ancient history you never know what strange forces you might unleash.
When Morgan Selwood and Admiral Ashkar Ravindra travel to Morgan’s Human Coalition to learn more about the origin of Ravindra’s people, their relationship is soon sorely tested. Morgan is amongst her own people and Ravindra is overprotective and insecure, afraid of losing her. But not everyone is keen to welcome Morgan home, not when they’d gone to all that trouble to get rid of her in the first place. Soon Morgan and Ravindra have a rogue Supertech on their trail with only one goal – kill Selwood.
Together, Morgan and Ravindra follow a tenuous trail back into humanity’s past, to the time historians call the Conflagration. But what begins as an innocent archaeological investigation escalates into a deadly peril for both humans and Manesai when Morgan and Ravindra are thrust into the middle of an unexpected conflict. And that rogue Supertech’s still out there, itching for revenge.