Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Hitting Publish Today

It can take a couple of days for the paperback to come out, so, since the ebook is due to release tomorrow, I’ll be hitting publish today for the paperback versions of these books. I expect sometime this weekend, the paper version will go live.

I hope you all love this story!

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New Penric novella!

Thanks to Pete Mack for the head’s up; this novella just came out four days ago.

So there we go, that’s interrupting all other things I’m reading this weekend.

Sounds good, too — more stuff happening in this one, I think —

An unholy attack upon his brother-in-law General Arisaydia pitches sorcerer Learned Penric and his Temple demon Desdemona headlong into the snake-pit of Cedonian imperial politics. But they will not travel alone. The mission from his god brings Penric some of his strangest new allies yet, and the return of some of his most valued old ones.

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A blog post title that is not (?) terrible

Okay, unlike yesterday’s blog post, that caught my eye by declaring that “most high fantasy has terrible dialogue,” this one caught my eye because it’s intriguing and attractive in a good way.

From Writer Unboxed: Unapologetic Characterization.

Yes! Is my immediate reaction. Let us by all means write characters the way we want to and not apologize if they’re not written exactly the way someone else wants them. I’m thinking here of all Nicole Kornher-Stace’s many emphatic tweets about writing characters the way she wants to or needs to or feels is right for the story, ignoring every push toward (say) inserting romance.

Of course, I haven’t read the post yet. Maybe it’s talking about something quite different. Let’s take a look …

No! This post is utterly different from what I expected. It’s about characters that apologize for stuff. I did not see that coming! In fact, it’s so unexpected that I think I may borrow a declaration from Robert’s comment yesterday and say, Yep, the trouble with most blog post titles is that they ARE terrible. Or at least misleading.

But fine, let’s see what this post has to say:

“I’m sorry.”

These two words are like a thick blanket someone will toss over whatever unknown coals might be scorching a valued relationship. The words do not acknowledge the harm that was done—they simply allow the wrongdoer to avoid looking at his or her behavior so the relationship can move on unchanged.

Oh, I disagree! Already! That didn’t take long.

The offensive type of apology is “I’m sorry if you’re offended.” That’s the nonapology apology. That’s the one that allows the wrongdoer to avoid looking at his or her own actions; that’s the one that’s meant move on without changing anything. “I’m sorry” full stop isn’t that at all. It’s perhaps not the end of the conversation, but it’s a perfectly solid beginning.

[W]hy do the words “I’m sorry” bother me as a reader—especially when I’m a fan of their lavish use in everyday life?  It’s because in many cases, they gloss over the real, relatable, and often gritty conflicts the author has strived to build into their story. 

Yep, still not agreeing. Well, let me see. Okay, this is a fairly long post, which normally I like. But, scanning ahead to see where the author of the post is going … yep, I basically keep hitting things I disagree with.

If “I’m sorry” isn’t heartfelt, it’s either lame word bloating or manipulative—but it always throws attention back on the speaker, who doesn’t want to feel bad for doing what she’s done.

Oh, it does not. That’s exactly what it does not do. Look:

“I’m sorry. What can I do to make amends?”

There, see? The attention is absolutely directed outward, at the person hurt, not at the speaker. I think you can defend this article’s thesis only if you assume that the speaker says “I’m sorry,” as a cynical means of making the other person say, “No, no, that’s all right, don’t worry about it.” There’s not the slightest reason to assume that’s what’s going on in this kind of interaction.

Ha, this is making me think of Miles attempting to apologize to Ekaterin in A Civil Campaign, and how hard it was for him to make it about her and not about him. That’s one of my favorite fictional apologies.

But a different Miles apology comes to mind in the context of this post. Remember after Miles blows up his secret career and gets fired by Ilyan? And has that talk with Gregor afterward? Let’s see, how does that talk end? Right: he says “I’m sorry,” and that’s it, that’s the end of that conversation. Miles apologizes and Gregor nods and they move on.

Now that I think about it, I wonder if that’s the moment I had in mind when, in the first Griffin Mage book — which, by the way, is $1.99 for the entire trilogy as a Kindle ebook, just saying — anyway, I’m not sure I thought of this at the time, but I wonder now if this scene between Miles and Gregor was one I drew on when I wrote a specific moment that’s somewhat similar between Bertaud and Iaor.

Wow, is this linked post wrong. It is so, so wrong. “I’m sorry” and a little nod or other very minimal response can absolutely be a powerful way to write an apology.

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Dialogue in High Fantasy: It’s terrible (?)

Here’s a post title that caught my eye: The Trouble With Most High Fantasy Dialogue Is That It’s Terrible

I recoiled at once.

I mean, “most” is a pretty strong term. So is “terrible.” Wait, is this the sort of person who’s going to declare right off the bat that Tolkien was a terrible writer? If not that, then WAIT, is this the sort of person who thinks The Sword of Shannara is representative of high fantasy?

If not that, then what in the world?

Before reading the linked post, I instantly paused to think of (many) counterexamples. High fantasy, let me see:

a) Everything by Guy Gavriel Kay. Dialogue: terrible? No. That claim is not even vaguely sensible.

b) Everything by Jacqueline Carey. Okay, everything except her UF series. Everything else she’s written falls into high fantasy. Dialogue terrible/not terrible? Obviously her dialogue is not terrible. These are beautifully written novels.

c) Everything by Juliet Marillier. Dialogue terrible/not terrible? Emphatically not terrible.

What in heaven’s name could the author of this post possibly have in mind?

“I know this [gun],” my player character intoned weightily. “How came it here?”

How came it here. Really? What a terrible way to ask that question. Now I don’t even care how the gun got here. I care about how our language got here.

It’s a line from a GAME. It’s not even from a MOVIE, far less a NOVEL. We’re going to start THERE and indict the whole subgenre of high fantasy? We’re going to go from that to “MOST high fantasy dialogue is terrible”?

Seriously?

Oh, yes, here’s the anti-Tolkien comment.

The Lord of the Rings is an epic, deliberately written to showcase the history, culture, and language of its fictitious peoples. Its characters rarely just talk; they proclaim. 

Actually, to be fair, I’m not sure this is meant as a critique of Tolkien’s writing. Maybe the author of this post is slapping down other writers who take a stab at aping Tolkien’s style, but can’t quite pull it off. I will just point out that if I can’t quite tell what the author of the linked post means here, maybe their very own language might benefit from a little more attention to precision of meaning.

This person IS making a good point. They’re just using an appallingly over-broad title to make their very limited point:

Using a hundred lengthy words in the place of five simple ones doesn’t make a speaker sound smarter. And using badly mangled vaguely medievalesque language doesn’t make a game sound smarter. There is an art to dialogue, in any kind of game but especially in an RPG. 

Fine, that’s reasonable. Here is a title you might have used for this post:

“Badly mangled vaguely medievalesque language doesn’t add anything great to RPGs.”

Or a zillion other titles that would actually be relevant to the point you’re making.

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Finding Comp titles

Comp titles are the titles you propose as being like your book in important ways. You’re sometimes asked for, or sometimes provide unasked, comp titles when you query agents and, I suppose, possibly at other points in the publication process. Or you may just find it helpful to be able to provide a comp title in your book description.

Comp titles are things like:

Like Sense and Sensibility, but with dragons!

Or,

Readers who loved Ready Player One will love this!

Or,

If you love the lush, lyrical prose and complex female characters in Juliet Marillier’s novels, you’ll love this!

Or,

Hannibal Lector meets Edgar Allen Poe in this dark mystery.

Things like that.

I’ve never been great at this sort of thing and I doubt I’ll ever have a knack for it, which is why I don’t really try to write descriptions like that. However, I happened to notice two different posts about how to write comp titles today, so if you’re interested in taking a stab at it, here:

How to Find Compelling Comps for Your Book

and

Titles and Comp Titles — How To Find the Best Ones For Your Book

From the former:

In the end, I used a recent debut novel with similar themes (family secrets) and storytelling methods (multiple POV told in alternating timelines that converge in present day) and paired it with a mystery/thriller that has nuances similar to a sub-plot in my book. As in: “debut X meets mystery Y.” One was super popular (but not ubiquitous) and one performed solidly with laudable reviews.

This author adds that it took months to come up with the comp titles she used. No wonder. She describes the research methods she used and the factors she considered at considerable length.

From the latter:

Do’s and don’ts of choosing comp titles.

  • Do stay within your own genre (or genres if you write mash ups).
  • Do keep it realistic. Choose comps with the same likely sales pattern: out of the gate with a burst or a long, slow and steady sales arc, front list star vs backlist stalwart.
  • Do keep it recent: choose titles published within the last two or three years so that they are still fresh in the minds of reader/agents/editors/sales staff/store buyers. Pointless to choose a comp from a decade ago that no one remembers.
  • Don’t abandon common sense and compare your book to a #1 NYT bestseller or the latest gee-whiz phenom.
  • Don’t mix formats. If your book will be offered in a digital edition, don’t compare it to a hardcover title and vice versa.
  • Don’t jump genres. Compare apples to apples, oranges to oranges. That is, compare scifi to scifi, thriller to thriller, epic fantasy to epic fantasy, literary fiction to literary fiction.
  • Don’t ignore demographics. If your book will appeal to women, be sure to choose comps that will appeal to that same reader. Don’t choose a comp that will appeal to young adult readers or males looking for hairy-chested adventure in the remote jungles of Borneo.

With many suggestions of places to do research about recent titles that might match your book in important ways.

I will add, I don’t get this “don’t mix formats” thing. Aren’t all or nearly all books offered in paper and ebook? Why would it matter? I suppose if the book to which you’re comparing yours was only ever in hardcover and yours will be only offered in audio, that might be a problem. But how often can that sort of thing come up?

Anyway, both posts look helpful if you’re trying to frame this sort of comp for your own book.

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Why yes, I’m just a touch obsessive, how could you tell?

I can’t touch the Kindle ebook edition of the Death’s Lady trilogy after today — the version that’s in the system is the version that will go live on the fifteenth.

You know what that means?

I have literally checked a dozen times over the past few days that the right file is loaded for each book, EVEN THOUGH I KNOW THE RIGHT VERSIONS ARE LOADED.

Despite KNOWING that, I just checked again.

The Year’s Midnight = DeathsLady1Kindle.docx

Of Absence, Darkness = DeathsLady2Kindle.docx

As Shadow, a Light = DeathsLady3Kindle.docx

They are all fine. I’ve checked TWICE this morning.

I’m not an anxious person in general, but as you see, yes, a touch obsessive. This is, however, ridiculous. I hereby resolve not to check again in the next 10 hours. After that, it will be too late and I should be able to relax about it.

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Meaningful backstory

Here’s the second part of this post at Pub Rants about backstory. You may remember my first post about their first post:

[S]hould backstory be a workhorse that earns its place within your manuscript’s structure by serving more than one weight-bearing function? Or should backstory be part of the wallpaper, passively decorative and meant to be glimpsed only now and then in the background? Is there a point at which too little backstory makes a novel feel flat? Or a point at which a big backstory is too big?

And then I showed examples of books with and without weight-bearing versus wallpaper backstory.

Now, this post at Pub Rants comes to this conclusion:

  • The more complicated or developed the backstory, the more I expect it to impact the current story.
  • The simpler or less-developed the backstory, the less I expect it to impact the current story.

That seems quite reasonable — it’s like giving minor characters names and descriptions and bios. The more you develop the minor character, the more the reader is going to expect that person to be important in the story.

It’s a fine line, because sometimes it feels awkward and unnatural not to give even a very minor character a name. That character might not get much more than that; it depends.

Backstory’s like that too. You can add tons of little details that add depth to the world — food, architecture, clothing, weather, animals, plants, modes of address and other customs — and all that can still serve as wallpaper. It’s not necessarily complicated or developed, no matter how many details there might be.

Let’s contrast two very different books that nevertheless seem similar with regard to certain aspects of the backstory and worldbuilding:

a) Shadow of the City by R Morgan, and

b) Pyramids of London by Andrea K Höst

In the former, the (wonderful) worldbuilding details are largely wallpaper. We don’t actually know much at all about the history of, say, the Yaa Empire. The backstory that has to do with worldbuilding is (mostly) minimally developed. However, certain murder-mystery-ish details of backstory do impact the plot in a crucial way. The personal backstory of the protagonist is developed in broad strokes.

In contrast, in the latter, the (equally wonderful) worldbuilding details are crucial to the story. I mean, not everything. There are SO MANY amazing details. But a surprising number of those details crucially impact the plot. Then the protagonist’s personal backstory is important on top of that.

These are really two good choices to read to think about world development and what really ornate worldbuilding can do for a story.

Now, the linked post about backstory actually goes much more in depth about a different concept, one that isn’t as familiar a term:

One key reason backstory is so important is that it’s where the wound event lives. (The idea of a wound event has been explored extensively by story experts like Michael Hauge and John Truby, so check them out if you want a deeper dive.) I’ve worked with lots of writers who’ve never heard of a wound event, or who confuse their wound event with their inciting incident, which can wreak havoc on a story’s structure later on. So to clear it up in the most basic terms:

  • The wound event happens before page one and kicks off the internal arc.
  • The inciting incident happens on or after page one and kicks off the external arc.

In other words, the wound event is a single, critical backstory event that weighed your protagonist down with whatever emotional baggage they’re already carrying when they walk onto page one of your novel. It’s this emotional wound they must overcome by the novel’s end as a direct result of the events that make up the novel’s external arc. In other words, the internal and external arcs are intertwined and resolve together.

This is indeed basically the same thing as the “internal flaw” that gets discussed when talking about romance structure. It’s the source of the emotional baggage that the protagonist(s) have to overcome in order to believe that they’re worthy of and capable of love.

Now … when you’re not talking about romance, I’m kinda thinking that a lot of protagonists don’t necessarily need or have any sort of “internal flaw” or “emotional wound” of this sort. This is VERY specific to romance.

I just picked up the Touchstone trilogy in audio form, and thank you whoever recently mentioned that the narrator is great, because I’m looking forward to listening to something with which I’m already familiar. And yes, the first two books were seriously reduced in price because I have the ebooks already — the third was pricier, don’t know why, maybe just because it’s the third. Anyway, picking up audiobooks after you have the ebooks is definitely something to consider.

But I mention this because Cassandra is a great example of a protagonist who doesn’t have an emotional wound in her backstory. Her backstory is, in fact, entirely unimportant. Any reasonably loving family would have done equally well.

I think — I’m sure — that there are many, many stories like that. Anything, in fact, where you realize the protagonist’s personal backstory is not very important. The Paksenarrion series, which I mentioned before in this exact context. Ryo in Tuyo. Any number of young-person-leaves-home stories of that basic type are going to have a protagonist with no wound event of the sort the linked post thinks is so crucial. The protagonist will start the story with only the perfectly ordinary minor bruises that come from life in even the most supportive family.

This emphasis on the wound event — like here, again from the linked post —

A wound event, because it is both structurally significant and thematically meaningful, is the least amount of backstory you should focus your efforts on developing. … my only question is this: Can you identify a solid wound event in what you wrote? A wound event that resulted in the emotional baggage your protagonist will shed or otherwise confront head-on at the end of your story? …

I already mentioned that the wound event sometimes shows up as a prologue. It can also be a flashback. Or it doesn’t have to be a scene at all. It can be something your protagonist discloses in dialogue. Or something you reveal to the reader through your protagonist’s internalizations. How and when you reveal your story’s wound event is up to you. But one piece of advice I love is that the writer should write the wound event—not necessarily to include in the novel, but so that she can stand beside her protagonist as he endures that event. So that she can bear witness to that formative moment, and then later imbue his scenes with the raw emotional residue it left behind.

This sort of thing simultaneously seems like really neat advice and like completely irrelevant advice. I read the paragraphs above and I think, Wow, this is great, very thought-provoking — and I bet you came out of romances, didn’t you? I can hardly imagine any other background for an agent who writes the above advice. (Could be totally wrong, by the way, I know nothing about this person.)

Bottom line: this is a neat way to frame the emotional arc of a protagonist who is carrying the emotional scars of some important, major past trauma. It’s irrelevant to a protagonist who is young at the beginning of the story, not particularly traumatized by life, and whose major character arc involves growing into himself or herself over the course of the story. That means a lot of adventure fantasy and space opera. Also stories like The Martian, where the protagonist has no backstory to speak of even though he’s not a kid. Also a lot of horror and dark fantasy — think of The Twisted Ones by Kingfisher, for example.

If this concept of the emotional wound event is helpful, then it’s helpful and maybe it’d be a fine idea to sort out that part of the backstory as suggested in the linked post. If it’s not, then it’s not, and I wouldn’t suggest trying to force an emotional trauma into your protagonist’s backstory if there’s no benefit to the story from doing so.

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All these books look interesting

Here’s a post at, let me see, Den of Geek: Top New Science Fiction Books in April 2021

It’s unusual for someone to write a post like this and I’ve not only heard of, but really liked books by, all the authors listed.

Of course I loved Wexler’s Thousand Names series — the actual correct name of the series is The Shadow Campaigns — there are a couple things I might’ve done differently, but fundamentally I LOVED this series. I think it’s one of the top ten, maybe top five, epic fantasy series I’ve ever read.

I have not, however, read anything else by Wexler. Yet. I have various books of his on my TBR pile, but not this one. Here’s what the linked post says about this book:

Publisher’s summary: Kas is a junior researcher on a fact-finding mission to old Earth. But when a con-artist tricks her into wagering a large sum of money belonging to her university on the outcome of a manned robot arena battle she becomes drawn into the seedy underworld of old Earth politics and state-sponsored battle-droid prizefights.

Sounds VERY different and kind of fun.

I also loved Weir’s The Martian. Again, I haven’t actually read his other published title … what’s it called? … Oh, right, Artemis. It sounds fine, but not very much like The Martian, and I just haven’t got around to it. If any of you have read it, what did you think?

Anyway, here’s the description of this new one:

Publisher’s summary: Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

Well, as it happens, amnesia is a trope I don’t much care for. I’ve read novels I liked where this trope was important, but I have to overcome a basic distaste for the amnesia trope to try one. I would be quite interested in what you all think, so if you read this and love it, I hope you will let me know.

And last, I loved Nicole Kornher-Stace’s Archivist Wasp and Latchkey. They’re quite different from each other even though this is a duology, but I loved both books.

Now, here’s the description of this new one, Firebreak:

Den of Geek says: With elements of superheroes, virtual reality, mechs and ecological disaster, Kornher-Stace’s adventure story has plenty of inventive world-building. But it’s the characters who really shine with a clear-eyed perspective on the story of what happens when people fight for what’s right — and meet their heroes.

Oh, that sounds good. I’d personally prefer it if the heroes turn out to be reasonably admirable rather than awful. Still, either way, this does sound like something I would like a lot.

Three new books to at least keep in mind!

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Recent Reading: The Gladiator and the Guard by Annie Douglass Lima

So, this is the second book of the series – my review of the first, The Collar and the Cavvarach, is here. I liked that one quite a bit. I liked this one even better.

Okay, in this book, Bensin gets into serious trouble. As he’s still a slave, really serious trouble. He gets convicted of a crime and sentenced to death by gladiatorial combat. But there’s no strict rule about how long his sentence needs to take, so Red Arena sweeps him up and trains him for life as a gladiator, as is the custom for certain kinds of slaves. Remember, Bensin is already good at a sport called cavvara shil, which translates to a combat style suited to the arena.

All that is setup. You can at once see the basic outline of the story: Bensin’s in trouble, people who care about him want to get him out of the arena before he’s killed, the broad strokes are clear at once. The question is how we’re going to get there.

The first part of the story was a bit hard for me to take. Bensin is a young idiot for quite some time. Then he realizes (finally!) that the Red Arena system is set up to manipulate gladiators into being violent and angry and aggressive and committed to destroying their opponents. Yes, he’s slow, but remember he’s a kid and also basically uneducated. He does realize this. Better still, shortly thereafter, he has a real epiphany: I don’t have to go along with this. I can choose who I want to be.

Laid out baldly like that, you might wonder, could the author sell this personal transformation? When the kid is basically an ordinary kid and not necessarily that bright?

Well: Yes, she could. Lima made this absolutely believable.

From that time on, I was much more on board. I didn’t like seeing Bensin get manipulated and ground down into a much meaner person. I very much did like to see him seize control of his destiny and decide to be who he wanted to be. Plus, though Bensin doesn’t get this, the reader can very likely see it: That kid has every potential to become a fulcrum around which his whole society could shift. He had some very powerful, very public moments that set him up to become a heck of a symbol. After those moments, whether he escaped to freedom or died a martyr didn’t matter. Either ending would let him become that kind of symbol. In fact, the Red Arena staff were idiots not to grasp that whatever they did, they had better not let Bensin become a martyr. They missed that completely. For them, it’s almost certainly better that Bensin escaped. (And a lot better for Bensin, obviously.)

Now, whether Lima’s going to actually give her whole society a hard shove away from slavery during the course of this series, I don’t know. It’s only a trilogy, so it may not offer sufficient scope for that. But it almost doesn’t matter whether anything like that happens on stage. It’s obvious that the potential is there, not just because Bensin’s public moments are bound to linger in public consciousness, but because there are other cracks showing in the system as well. So that’s excellent. I do prefer it when, by the end of the story, a bad system looks like it’s about ripe for a fall.

Meanwhile, while Bensin’s going through all this, what’s going on with Steene, Bensin’s owner? Well, Steene feels absolutely wretched that he didn’t free Bensin long before trouble overtook him. He’s willing to do practically anything to get Bensin out of the Arena. The broad strokes of the plot are clear, as I said.

Steene’s not that smart either, but he manages. (Barely. Pro tip: if you are going to do something like this to get money, don’t ask for the minimum amount you think you need. DOUBLE that amount, to take care of unforeseen contingencies that are certain to arise. Back off the amount you demand only if absolutely necessary. Honestly, Steene!)

However, the important thing is that Steene truly commits to getting Bensin out and that commitment leads to him taking charge of his own choices in a way that he really never has before. His character arc isn’t as sharply defined as Bensin’s, but it’s there, and it echoes Bensin’s arc in important ways. This gives the whole story a coherence and depth that pushes it a step beyond an adventure story. It’s really a very emotionally appealing story, and I think this is a large part of why.

I do want to mention something about the escape itself, but without spoiling it. Okay, I’ll say this: the plan is kind of slapdash – they get hurried into taking action before they’re quite ready – and wow, that is quite a slow-motion escape. The whole thing’s a bit like a snowball rolling downhill: it keeps accreting more complications. There’s a lot of humor in these scenes, though the situation is pretty grim. I loved this whole part and found the book hard to put down from the time the escape began until the end. I don’t think it constitutes too much of a spoiler to just add that broadly speaking, the escape is a success.

Other observations:

In my comments about the first book, I said that there ought to be an Underground Railroad sort of thing going on in this society. Well, there is. So I was pleased about that.

Also, I still like Officer Shigo. He doesn’t get much of a role in this story, but he’s there and yep, still thumbs up.

I’m reading the third book now.

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Book Promotion

If you’re at all interested — and if you happen to self-publish, then I bet you are — here are recent results of various promotion services:

Tuyo free one day via Freebooksy, January: Slightly over 2000 downloads

Tuyo free one day via NewFreeKindleBooks, Awesome Gang, Book Angel, Ask David, and Armadillo books — all free services — February: 74 downloads total. So you see there is a HUGE difference between free promotion services and Freebooksy. Not a surprise. But, wow.

Tuyo free one day via Freebooksy, April 30: Slightly over 1000 downloads. So you can see that there is, or can be, a big drop off if you run the same type of promotion with the same service with just a three-month break. I did wonder.

Tuyo free one day via Booksends, May 1: about 500 downloads

Tuyo free one day via Book Runes, May 2, slightly over 800 downloads — a very good result for a not-very-expensive service.

Tuyo free one day via Book Rebel, May 3, 250 downloads

Tuyo free one day via Fussy Librarian, May 4, a very disappointing 100 downloads. Last year, they did much better than that for me.

These results were enough to bump Tuyo to the #1 spot in Epic Fantasy Ebooks, Fantasy Adventure Ebooks, and Military Fantasy Ebooks. Also #2 for Teen and YA Coming of Age Fantasy Ebooks, Sword and Sorcery Ebooks, and Action and Adventure Fantasy Ebooks.

Tuyo sat at the #1 or #2 spot for most of these categories for at least three days. It didn’t take long to drop! It’s lower again as of this morning. I’m not sure what effect going up the rankings has. There’s been a decent uptick in sales for Nikoles and Tarashana. I’m expecting to see a substantial increase in KU pages read that should hopefully last for some time — we’ll see how it goes!

Promotions for Black Dog last year and this year have ranged from nearly 4000 downloads from Freebooksy with, if I recall correcty, Fussy Librarian and EReaderNews stacked on top, to an absolutely pathetic 170 downloads via (the quite expensive) Books Butterfly this spring. I’ve used up my five free-book days for this enrollment period and won’t be able to set Black Dog free again and use a different promotion service for another several months. On the other hand, I might put that off till October anyway, do it right before releasing the 4th collection.

So … I get that results vary by author and by promotion. But thumbs up for Freebooksy, Booksends, and Book Runes and thumbs emphatically down for the amazingly overpriced Books Butterfly. For Fussy Librarian, Magic Eightball says: Cannot Predict Now.

Working with the free promotion services can add just a touch more oomph, but I’m frankly not sure it’s worth the trouble. I’m glad I ran those promotions separately so I can see how little they would add to the paid services.

I haven’t run a lot of 99c promotions on anything. I may try more later. I need to apply for a Bookbub ad — I want to do that with Tuyo shortly. It’s tough to get those ads, so I’ll probably plan to keep applying until I get one. It ought to help tremendously to have more than 80 reviews and an average rating of 4.7 stars. It will not help to have the book limited to Amazon. If I don’t get a Bookbub ad pretty promptly, I will probably take the whole series out of KU at the end of the current enrollment period, put the books out everywhere, and try again.

Other stuff I’ve learned about promotion, which you may know, but I sure didn’t, so in case you find it helpful:

a) For heaven’s sake, write short book descriptions that are 500 characters, 400 characters, and 250 characters long before you go to promotion service websites. Save those in a specific file. It’s absolutely a pain in the neck to have to write those on the fly. Having to do it twice because you didn’t save your descriptions the first time will make you feel particularly stupid.

Also copy little editorial quotes attributed to whomever, like SLAM THIS INTO MY EYEBALLS — bestselling fantasy author Rosamund Hodge (she really did say that about Tuyo, on her Goodreads review. Her review made me laugh.) Anyway, particularly if the book description is limited to very few characters, it may be better to throw in something like this plus, like, a five-word teaser for the book. Write that kind of description ahead of time too.

I’m still learning how to write good, extremely short book descriptions. There are lots of articles about how to do it best. The best advice so far: save every book description you use and add a note about how well it worked. I didn’t do that at first, and I wish I had.

b) Get all your urls for Twitter and Facebook and whatever and save those in the same file as all the versions of the book descriptions so you can cut and paste them quickly into the required fields as necessary.

c) Copy and paste all your books ASIN numbers into the same file so they’re handy when you want to drop them into the required field.

Doing those three things will make setting up promotions via promotion services far less annoying.

Yet more stuff I’ve learned:

a) You can choose just two categories for your book when you self-publish through KDP. But you can add eight more categories later. You go to the Amazon Author Central contact us page, here. Then you select “Amazon Book Page” and then “Update Amazon Categories.”

Of course you need to know what categories exist and exactly what string to use for each category. So —

b) Open up Amazon. Find any book sort of in the same basic subgenre as yours. Copy its ASIN or ISBN. Then open up BKLINK. Put the ASIN or ISBN into BKLINK. It will show you all that book’s categories, in strings like this:

Books » Books » Literature & Fiction » Action & Adventure Fiction » Fantasy Action & Adventure

or

Kindle Store » Kindle Store » Kindle eBooks » Literature & Fiction » Action & Adventure Fiction » Action & Adventure Romance Fiction

or whatever.

c) Copy whatever strings seem most appropriate into the Update Amazon Categories box at the KDP site, BUT, remove the repeated “Books” or “Kindle Store” at the front and turn all the double carots >> into singles >

Then the requested categories will be added to your title.

BUT

d) The ordinary Amazon page will never show you more than three categories for your book, which makes it look like those categories did not get added. They probably did, but maybe not, so to make sure, get your book’s ASIN and drop that into BKLINK, which will show you all your book’s current categories.

So, how about that? It was Anthea Sharp who told me how to do that, after Sharon Shinn suggested I ask her about book promotion. She was very helpful.

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