To Indie or Not to Indie

As I mentioned in a previous post, a story I had written, called Scrapyard Paradise, had been accepted in an anthology called A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology, published by WordFire Press (you can buy it here and elsewhere). Getting that acceptance email was easily one of the highlights of my burgeoning career as a writer. Another was getting this:

A Game of Horns

One in the hand is worth two in the ereader.

Now, I’m a big fan of ebooks. I’ve got a Kindle and a Kindle Fire, and I often read books on my phone. And having moved around the world, I had to part ways with my large collection of paper books. I think electronic books are the future of reading, and paper books will eventually go the way of the candle. Good for decorating your house, but not as useful as its more technologically-advanced counterpart.

But damn, does it feel good to hold my book in my hands.

I’ve published my own ebooks before, and every time I did, I felt satisfied and proud of the hard work I had done. But none of that came even close to getting this professionally-produced and published book in the mail, seeing its gorgeous cover, feeling the heft of it in my hands. I could never make anything as wonderful as this.

The moment I realized that, I knew what I would do with the Farshores Saga, something I hadn’t yet attempted (with the exception of Scrapyard Paradise): I would seek out a traditional publisher.

Although I’m not entirely satisfied with the Fourth World series (what kind of author would I be if I were satisfied with something I had written?), much of the feedback I received about it was positive. I thought the stories were pretty decent, if a bit unconventional and overly ambitious. Even so, they never really generated buzz or took off by any stretch of the imagination. Part of the reason could be that I never spent the money to give them the professional treatment they needed. I tried too hard to do everything myself instead outsourcing to people who knew how best to publish a book. Another part, and perhaps the more significant part, is that if I didn’t go out there and generate buzz about the books myself, no one would. And I didn’t.

A lot of traditionally published authors say they work just as hard to promote their books as any indie-published author. And that may be true, especially for the more successful ones. But it’s undeniable that simply having a publisher in your corner, someone who was willing to take a chance on you, is itself a promotion of your work. Some of my friends who had never read my Fourth World stories picked up a copy of the anthology simply because they knew it was traditionally published. I think there’s a lesson in there, and it’s that traditional publishing is the way to go for me.

Of course, one does not simply will a publishing contract into existence. You need to have a product that the publisher wants, and you have to show them why it’s in their interest to publish it. My writing group is a phenomenal group of people who, when they combine their powers, are like the Voltron of polishing a manuscript. With their excellent feedback, I’ve been able to take my novel to a much higher level. I’m confident that when it’s finished, it will be ready for the big leagues.

Plus, with Scrapyard Paradise, I’ve shown that going this route is not as far-fetched as I once thought. I know it’s achievable because, in the case of my short story, I’ve already achieved it. Now it’s just a matter of doing the best work I can to make it happen with my novel too. And honestly, while I liked Scrapyard Paradise as a story, Shoreseeker is at least fifty bajillion times better.

But the question of going indie or not is actually a false dilemma. An idea that I had toyed with when I was just starting out with the Fourth World was a hybrid approach to publishing: traditionally publishing some things, independently publishing others. A lot of authors have tried this approach with success, and I think especially given my own inclinations as a writer, this is the best way for me. So I will traditionally publish my novels.

As for independently published stuff? Well, that’s where Super Secret Project B comes in.

Tour Recap and Giveaway Winner!

Thank you, everyone who stopped by during the Making Connections Spear Mother Blog Tour and helped make it such a success! It got a lot of exposure thanks to you all of sharing and participating. Hopefully, people who were itching to read something like Spear Mother will lead happier, more fulfilling lives as a result of the blog tour (hey, I can dream, can’t I?).

There were a couple of reviews as part of the tour. Here are some of the highlights:

“The story was well written and I was pulled into Sandrena’s story… I would definitely read more of Brandon M. Lindsay’s work.”2 Book Lovers Reviews

“There were places where I felt the book was BRILLIANT in terms of the concept and the end really blew my socks off.”The Bookish Foodie Reviews

Elated doesn’t begin to describe how I feel.

Also, I would like to announce the winner for the blog tour giveaway, and she is…

… drumroll…

Linda Bass!! She decided to go with the $25 Amazon gift card, and she was very excited to win. Congratulations, Linda!

Blog Tour!!

I’m stoked to announce that Spear Mother and I will be going on a blog tour (hosted by Making Connections) between June 16th and June 22nd! Please stop by to show your support, check out some rad reviewers, or even if you just want to learn the dirt on Brandon. There may even be a giveaway (details forthcoming on that front). Dates are tentatively as follows:

6/16 – 2 Book Lovers Reviews

6/17 – Judith Leger

6/18 – Michael Sci Fan

6/21 – Making Connections Blog

6/22 – The Bookish Foodie Reviews

The hosts would love to know what you think, so join in the convo by leaving a comment detailing your thoughts on the tour and Spear Mother, your innermost feelings about the universe, favorite family recipes, etc.

A while back I had a campaign to lower the price of Dark Tree to nuthin’, and it was a smash hit grand success thanks to all the help I received from y’all. Now, I’m a cheapskate like you wouldn’t believe, and I watch ebook prices like some people watch the stock market. I might even be more fanatical than most stock brokers. So if you’re anything like me, you’ve been anxiously waiting for the latest ebook by your favorite fantasy author to be available for free. Well, whoever your favorite fantasy author is probably won’t be able to do that, but we might be able to do something about my book. That’s right. I’m talking about price-matching Spear Mother on Amazon.

The process is pretty straightforward. Simply click on this link to go to Amazon’s Spear Mother page:

Spear Mother on Amazon

Scroll down to the Product Details section and click on the hyperlink that says, “tell us about a lower price?” A box will pop up. Click on “Website” and copy/paste in the following URL:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/spear-mother-brandon-m-lindsay/1118972391?ean=2940045785419

For the price and shipping price, type in “0.00.” For the date, just put in today’s. Then click “Submit Feedback.” And voilà, you’re finished. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can do the process again with a couple more URLs:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/spear-mother-tale-fourth-world/id848340404?mt=11

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/421926

Every little nudge helps, so I appreciate everyone who helps out with this!

News News News, and Thank-Yous

I’m pleased to announce several new developments. First of all, the combined 5-day free promotion for The Clans through Amazon was a resounding success, with several hundred copies downloaded worldwide in that short span of time. I was absolutely floored at the response; I know that a lot of those downloads came from readers of my blog, and also from people who heard about it from them. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all for helping out with this. The success of that promotion is due in very large part to all of you, and I want you to know that I greatly appreciate it. My hope is that people who are looking for something a little different in the realm of epic fantasy find it in The Clans, and opportunities to spread the word like this are some of the best ways for this to happen.

Also, on that note, Dark Tree is now free on Amazon as a result of their price-matching policies—which, again, is thanks to all of you who helped out with the “Help Me Save the World” campaign I launched last month. This is huge, as it is likely that Dark Tree will stay free and thus will allow potential readers to become actual readers with no risk to their pocketbooks. I know that some of my readers became fans of the series due to trying out Dark Tree for free on sites like Smashwords, so having that available for free full-time on such a prominent site is incredible. Again, thank you to everyone who contributed in any way.

Speaking of Smashwords, The Clans is now available there. When I first released The Clans, I had wanted to try out Amazon’s KDP Select program, which provided perks like the 5-days-for-free promotion (which was great) as well as the Kindle Lending Library (which didn’t do a thing for The Clans). However, it came with the caveat that no other site could offer The Clans for at least 90 days, so anybody who bought their books from other sites weren’t able to read it unless they got their hands on a Kindle app (a problematic situation if you mainly read on your Nook).

I had heard a number of arguments for and against the program, and I knew that I would be taking a risk by participating in it, but I wanted to know one way or another if such a program could help get the word out for the Fourth World series. As I said earlier, the free promotion paid off, but it was at the expense of those who wanted to get the book from a different site. It was an interesting experiment, but I have determined that it would probably be better just to release future books to all sites and for all formats as soon as possible rather than allowing anyone to have exclusivity to it. After all, isn’t that what spreading the word is all about?

On the writing front, I’ve been plugging away at The Born Sword—which is shaping up quite nicely—as well as a couple of stories for a future Fourth World collection like The Clans. Also, thinking of the deep future for when the Fourth World series is complete, I have been toying with a few ideas for a new fantasy series. I’m getting pretty excited about it, but don’t worry. The Fourth World is still priority number one. *grins*

Well, that’s it for now. I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season! See you next year!

Help Me Save the World…

… 99 cents per download on Dark Tree by making it free through Amazon. It’s easy, doesn’t cost you anything, only takes a couple minutes, and would be really awesome.

Want some undying gratitude from yours truly? Here’s how to get it. Click on the following link to go to Dark Tree‘s Amazon page:

Dark Tree on Amazon

Once there, scroll down to the section titled, “Product Details.” You should see something that says, “Would you like to give feedback on images or tell us about a lower price?” Click on the “tell us about a lower price” link.

A little window will pop up asking where you saw the lower price. Click on the radio button that says “Website (Online).” A URL bar will come up. Copy the following and paste it in that bar:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dark-tree-brandon-m-lindsay/1112440327?ean=2940044762299

For the price and shipping cost, type in “0.00” and hit “Submit Feedback.” That’s it. You’re done. Though if you want to, you can do the same again but with the following URL:

http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Dark-Tree-Tale-Fourth-World/book-wiwhKtkMzk-Cm_2CkUMejA/page1.html?s=J8avGdUgQEWud7pkOGo3qw&r=2

Then you can start collecting that undying gratitude I told you about.

Why do this? Why make a book free when I can charge for it? The short answer is: a free book is a much easier entry point for a reader who hasn’t heard about an author yet than a book that comes with a cost, even a minimal one. Dark Tree had done a pretty good job of drumming interest in its followup, The Clans (now available on Amazon), mainly because people were willing to take a chance on it due to the fact that it was free through most retailers.

However, I hadn’t quite anticipated just how well a free book could do on Amazon. Recently, The Clans had been made free on Amazon for two days. By the second day, it shot up to #20 in the bestselling free Epic Fantasy list, and #78 in the overall free Fantasy list. The number of downloads of The Clans during those two days destroyed Dark Tree‘s lifetime record. It even got a good number of downloads in the UK and Germany. That’s right – Germany. Who could have guessed?

I was astonished. While Dark Tree had been making strides up the rankings on other sites such as Barnes & Noble, it had been slow progress, and almost nonexistent when compared to The Clans’ rocket ride up the Kindle bestseller lists.

Now, part of this (maybe even a substantial part) had to do with the fact that The Clans is a full-sized book at over 100K, and Dark Tree is a novelette. Shorter fiction has always been a harder sell, and while that’s changing thanks to e-publishing, it’s still true that most people prefer longer works to shorter ones. So I don’t discount the length factor. Even so, I also can’t discount the fact that Amazon is still the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to selling ebooks. Other retailers are gaining market share, true, but for now Amazon is still the undisputed king.

Having a free ebook there would only be augmented by the fact that I also have a full-length follow-up book as well. Epic fantasy readers love their series, and they typically don’t like waiting around for the next installment in the series, so when it’s already out, they may be more likely to try it the first one. That’s what I’m hoping will happen with the Fourth World.

I believe that my plans for the series actually will work quite well in this regard. I will be releasing novels in series, starting with The Born Sword, in addition to smaller works which in between novels so that fans won’t have wait as long for new Fourth World books. Some of them will be free, just like Dark Tree.

However, the first step down this path starts with you, dear friends. By telling Amazon that Dark Tree can be bought for cheaper than what they’re selling it for, they will hopefully match the price. Once that happens, readers the world over will have free access to Dark Tree from their Kindles, phones, and computers.

Who knows? By doing this, you very well may save the world… 99 cents per download.

Introducing the Fourth World

July 12, 2012 marked the beginning of a new era for me. This was the day that Dark Tree: A Tale of the Fourth World went live on Amazon as an ebook. The reason that this is so significant for me is because Dark Tree is the introduction to my epic fantasy series, The Fourth World.

It all began many, many years ago (two, to be exact) when I was but a wee lad (aged 26) when I first conceived of a character whose sole purpose was to kill, even though he himself could not die, a weapon of mass destruction that was doomed to live with all the pain and death that he caused for all eternity (although that, of course, is not the end of his story). His name was Bladefray, and he was what I would come to call a Born Sword—the title given to each of the six immortal warriors that lived in what was to become the Fourth World. He was the spark that quickly became a roaring conflagration that has consumed my imagination ever since.

At the time, traditionally publishing novels seemed to be the only way to go, so that’s what I began to do: write a novel that I would shop around to various agents and publishers to see which one would bite. It was the tried-and-true method, if ever there was one, and though it was very difficult and very chancy, it was what I was prepared to do. It seemed to me the only legitimate option at the time.

I had met some other writers who were at a similar stage in their writing career who were considering self-publishing their works as ebooks, but I scoffed at such folly. Self-publishing? Ebooks? Pshaw! Although I decided to watch the phenomenon with mild interest, I didn’t really think it would amount to much, considering the sad and sordid history of self-publishing. I was convinced that if I was going to be a writer, I would do it the old-fashioned way.

Then came claims of publishers misreporting their authors’ royalties.

Then Borders closed its doors for good.

I started to worry, but also, to wonder.

Shortly before those things happened, when I was about 60,000 words into my novel The Born Sword, I went to World Fantasy Convention to peddle another novel that I had been working on for centuries, as well as rub elbows with the people who I had hoped would be my coworkers—the agents, editors, publishers, and authors involved in the fantasy industry. It was there that I bullied a senior editor from a major imprint into dinner with me and some of my peers so that we could finagle our way into his good graces and hopefully interest him in our work.

The “interesting him in our work” part didn’t turn out so well, but he did give me some advice that stuck with me, and that was to write short stories. Once you proved you could write those, he said, then I might consider looking at your longer work.

Well, if that’s what it took, then by golly, that’s what I would do!

The popularity of short stories, especially fantasy stories, seemed to be waning as more and more of the markets that carried them were going the way of Borders. My early years as a reader were shaped by short stories, particular those by Ray Bradbury, so I had long regarded the short story with romanticized awe, and often thought about writing some, even though I believed they would do little to advance my writing career. Armed with my new insider knowledge, I quickly revised this misconception and began to write one in earnest.

Since it was to be a springboard for my fantasy novel (though I had since abandoned the previous one and was now focusing on The Born Sword), it seemed natural that the story I was to write be a fantasy as well. And hell, while I’m at it, why not in the same world as The Born Sword (an idea shamelessly pilfered from fantasist Peter Orullian, who released a whole gamut of related material before his debut novel)? If I could find a magazine that wanted to publish it, great; if not, well, maybe I could give that silly little self-publishing thingy a shot.

One story became two, and I realized that I had a whole lot more of them in me, screaming to get out. Furthermore, these stories seemed like they would be a good introduction to the increasingly complex metaphysics of the Fourth World, and so it was that I decided to collect them into a book called The Clans: Tales from the Fourth World.

It was about that time when I finally realized that publishing wasn’t what it used to be. I had to make a decision: I could place myself in the uncaring hands of a major corporation that expected me to fail and was existing in a bygone era, unwilling to change or adapt; or I could go it alone, without support from the industry, into uncharted territory out of which very few had ever come out alive.

Of course I chose the sexier option, and decided to self-publish all the way.

It was while I was working on the sixth and final (sort of) story in The Clans when I was struck by an image I had seen of Yggdrasil, the sacred tree of Norse mythology. Now, the Fourth World had a bit in common with Norse mythology already: the purpose of life was to prove oneself ready to battle at the God’s side in the afterlife, and I already had a massive tree that was the source of all human souls. The problem with that last was that the Birthing Tree, as it’s called, was three worlds away from the stories I had been writing, and there seemed no natural way to integrate such a nifty image into the Fourth World.

For some reason I can’t fully understand or explain, I had to have that image in my world. It was going to happen. I just had to figure out how.

So while the beta edits for the various stories of The Clans started rolling in, I let the image of a giant tree made of smoky glass, its massive branches sheltering a city from the light of the sun, simmer in the black cauldron of my mind. I even threw in some eye of newt for good measure.

Finally, after several months of slowly coming to a boil, Dark Tree was ready. And what a potent brew I had concocted.

Once I knew what I wanted to do with it, I couldn’t stop the words from pouring out. Dark Tree, at over 13000 words, is a novelette; stories graduate from short story into novelette when they reach about 7500 words. It would normally take me three days of uninterrupted inspiration to write a 7000-word short story.

I wrote the bulk of Dark Tree in two days.

For me, that was an awful lot of inspiration.

I took the time to polish it up, of course, with the help of my beta readers. But the polish was simply that; the story itself was, to me, already immensely satisfying and complete as I had written it. A couple of times, especially with the ending and implications the story has for the series as a whole, I even surprised myself. I couldn’t be happier with the end result, and I am content to send it off into the world.

The facts that The Clans is supposed to be an introduction to the world of The Born Sword, and that Dark Tree is in a way another introduction, may cause you to wonder in what order you should be reading these books. After all, The Clans was mostly written before Dark Tree, and The Born Sword mostly written before that. Should they be read in the order that you wrote them, or in the order you published them, or what?

I would recommend reading them in the order that they are published, but really you could read them in any order that you want. Each work informs the greater narrative in its own ways, adding its puzzle piece to create the larger picture, but is complete in its own right. You could read The Clans and then The Born Sword, and go back to Dark Tree later (and hopefully have an “A-ha!” moment, when you finally break free of your New Wave comic book prison), or you could read it in a completely different order. The chronology only starts to matter with the main sequence of novels, namely The Born Sword and its sequels. If that sounds convoluted, then let me put it this way: jump in anywhere, so long as you read Novel One before Novel Two, and you should be fine.

Which raises the question: what are my plans for the Fourth World? I plan on wrapping the main story in three or four novels and calling it good. No fifty-book series for this guy. I’ve got a whole lot of ideas that I want to write about, and not all of them fit in the Fourth World. I have a clear direction for the series, and as you’ll begin to see once you start reading them, you’ll understand why the series cannot exceed four books.

Given that, I have developed an extreme fondness for stories that are novelette-length, and I plan on writing some more of them. Rather than having you wait in between novels, I will release a Fourth World story or a collection of stories as a teaser for what’s to come. I already have some plans, and I’ve already written most of a story from the next collection.

I have one last announcement. I have made Dark Tree available for free on Smashwords in all electronic formats, so that you can read it on your Kindle, Kobo, Nook, Sony eReader, Web browser, etc. If you’re interested, I’d love for you to check it out. If you know anybody who reads fantasy and is looking for something new, let them know that they can read it for free. If you’ve read it and have an opinion on it, writing a review goes a long way to helping me out, especially on Amazon. I’m not necessarily asking for unconditional praise, but more for your honest opinion (though I wouldn’t at all mind if honesty and praise coincide). Thank you if you’ve already gotten your copy, thanks again if you’ve already written a review, and thanks a million times more for being so supportive of what I’m doing. While I’m proud of what I’ve done, knowing that all of you support it as well really means a lot to me. Oh, and thanks for reading this really long blog post. *grins*

May the God of All Worlds bless you and find you worthy to fight at his side in the War beyond Time.

P.S. For those of you who haven’t seen my cover art, created by yours truly, here it is: