Shoreseeker: International Bestseller?

The launch of Shoreseeker one month ago was, by my humble standards, a success. A lot of people showed their support, and even people whom I haven’t seen in years surprised me with pictures of them holding their freshly-printed paperback copies of the book. I was floored–and honored–by the number of people eager to get their hands on my debut novel. So, first of all, I’d like to thank everyone who helped out with the launch, from those who bought a copy, to those who reviewed it, to those who sent me a kind message or gave one of my posts a boost. Thank you so much.

One of the challenges all authors, or really anyone with a product to sell, faces is the fact that only people who have heard of you or your product will buy it. It should surprise no one that authors with a large social media following have an easier time marketing their book simply because more people know about it. So now that the people who know about my book have had a chance to buy it, my next task is to expand the pool of people who know about my book.

But one of the surprising things was learning who had already found out about my book. Shoreseeker is enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, which, for those of you not familiar with it, is Amazon’s book subscription program, kind of like Netflix for ebooks. One of the features for authors is that it tells you when someone from one of Amazon’s different markets (for example, the US) reads pages from your book through the program.

Through this, I’ve seen that people from all over the world, from the UK, Germany, Australia, and Japan, are reading Shoreseeker. Since I don’t know anyone from some of these places, that meant somehow people were finding out about the book without me telling them. Which, of course, is beyond awesome. And the best part is, the read-pages count goes up over time. This means that the more someone reads of Shoreseeker, the more they want to read it (though this is slightly guesswork on my part, since Amazon, with a laudable respect for privacy, doesn’t even tell how many people are reading it from a given market, much less who they are).

And this was just the beginning!

So, there’s great news all around. But that wasn’t even the best news.

On a lark, I checked my Amazon ranking in Japan ten days after release and saw this:

That’s right. Shoreseeker was the number one epic fantasy in the country, beating out A Game of Thrones and The Hobbit a mere day after The Hobbit‘s anniversary. Furthermore, it wasn’t merely beating other Kindle books. It was beating every book in every format.

I may have crazy-laughed for a couple minutes.

In a private Facebook group for aspiring writers as well as seasoned pros, I joked that this must make my book an international bestseller. The unanimous response was that it’s no joke. Japan, while a small market, is still its own overseas market, and Shoreseeker was the bestselling epic fantasy in it. Thus making it an international bestseller.

So there you have it. An epic launch for an epic book. I’m going to try to keep the momentum going, as well as continue work on book 2, Drawingpath (which is shaping up very nicely). Thanks again for all your support for helping Shoreseeker‘s release be what it was.

Paperbacks!

Great news! We have Shoreseeker paperbacks over at Amazon! Here’s a peak at the proof copy I received to give you an idea what to expect:

When I published my first stories back in 2012, a lot of people wanted to be able to read a physical copy. Ebooks were still fairly new at the time and didn’t have the popularity they do now. At the time, I was still new to publishing and had only published a handful of short stories and novellas, and by the time I had enough for a collection, I decided to focus my effort on a new project. Many potential fans, the ones who preferred paper books, never got a chance to read my work.

In the end, it was for the best. While I like my early work, I knew my writing had a ways to go before it would have enough appeal among fantasy fans to warrant a paperback. When I put one out, I wanted to show people something truly special. So, while I honed my craft, I built a world and characters that I wanted everyone to read about. I created Shoreseeker.

Releasing this book in paperback is a big moment for me as a writer. But ultimately, I hope it’s a big moment for you as a reader, since you are the reason Shoreseeker exists at all.

Enjoy the book, and once you finish it, consider dropping a review on Amazon or Goodreads or both!

I’m Feeling Confident

My debut novel Shoreseeker drops tomorrow, and I’m feeling very confident about it. To show you why, let me share with you some of the feedback I’ve gotten from people who have read early and current versions of it.

The first time I showed chapters of Shoreseeker to my writing group, the Tokyo Writers Workshop, the chapters featured a side character named Penellia, a middle-aged scholar and magic user traveling through the woods with her less-than-sensible assistant, Stem. The two of them discover disturbing news and soon run into trouble.

One member of the group, who only showed up the one time to check it out, came up to me after the meeting. She said, “You know, I haven’t been interested in fantasy since the Pern books came out when I was a teenager. But reading your chapters makes me want to get into fantasy again.”

I stammered out a thank-you and said goodbye, never to see her again.

Even though they were rough, early chapters about a side character, they managed to interest a total stranger enough to make them want to read fantasy again. I realized, then, that I might have something special with this book.

Fast-forward several months. Another member of the group, this time a regular, said to me before one of our meetings, “Brandon, every month I have to read your submission twice. Once to critique it, and then a second time because I was too busy enjoying it to critique it the first time.” Like most of the TWW writers, she doesn’t read fantasy.

Here’s another, more recent one. This member is more of a literary writer, though his work has some fantastical elements to it. After reading a chapter about one of my younger characters, this exchange happened:

Him: You’re not marketing your book as YA, are you?

Me: Well, it’s not really appropriate for kids.

Him: Good. Because your prose is too excellent. It would be wasted on children.

Me: *silently wipes tear from cheek*

(While I appreciate the sentiment, I do disagree with it. I specifically wrote Shoreseeker so that anyone can enjoy the writing. Content-wise, however, yeah. Not for kids.)

One final example. I recently joined a second group called the Tokyo Fantasy Writers. Some of the members are also members of TWW, but one isn’t, and he had never read anything from Shoreseeker. I gave him the complete manuscript to read. At the next meeting, he said, “I read your book in four hours. And I feel bad that I didn’t pay you for the privilege.”

Because I have received such wonderful feedback throughout Shoreseeker‘s creation, I have put my all into its publication. I hired one of the best cover artists in the industry to do my cover art. And I believe that Shoreseeker has a chance to become a breakout hit.

But if you haven’t read the book and you don’t know the people in these writing groups, this is all just me talking. I want you to decide for yourself if the book is as good as I say it is. That’s why I’m setting the book at the lowest possible price on Amazon for a limited time, and also why I’m enrolling it in Kindle Unlimited, where members can it read it for free. If you’re not yet convinced, check out the sample. I’m confident that if you give the book a chance, you will love it.

Shoreseeker will be available on Amazon in both Kindle version and paperback.

Kickstarter Coming Soon!

With the release of The Birth of Maelstrom: Ghosthand‘s demo just around the corner, I have decided that the best way to get the game into people’s hands is with a Kickstarter campaign.

For those of you just hearing about it, Ghosthand is a JRPG-style indie game that I have been developing for some time now. Completion always seemed like a far way off, but now that I have a working demo that gives players a good idea of what the final game will look like, I can now say with confidence that the game will be finished next year. Getting a game out there takes more than just hard work, though. It takes money, and that’s where Kickstarter comes in.

The first part of the dynamic title menu. Dynamic, because it changes into…

… this! Having a title screen that changes and foreshadows the game’s mood is just one of the many unique aspects of this game. The title song, Soldiers of Ghosthand, reflects this change.

One of the challenges in this world of indie publishing, for both games and novels, is distinguishing yourself from a very crowded field. Most of the time I spent getting Ghosthand where it is now was spend on crafting its identity, giving it a different feel than other games of this kind. One place where I put my stamp was with the game’s music, which you can hear down below. Giving the game its personality took work, but the kind of experience you will get will be unlike everything else out there.

One reason it’s different is because it’s not merely a game, but part of a greater world that crosses different media. I’m calling it The World of Farshores.

I’ve been writing successfully for a while now, having won a couple of awards from the Writers of the Future contest and getting three of my short stories published in anthologies alongside amazing authors such as Brandon Sanderson, David Farland, and Todd McCaffrey. So, in addition to The Birth of Maelstrom game series (with Ghosthand as the first installment), I will release The Farshores Saga series of novels alongside it.

While many other worlds like Warcraft, Forgotten Realms, and the like have crossed media in the same way, they often start out as one thing and get translated into something else, usually by a new creator with a different vision.

With The World of Farshores, I’ve taken a different approach. Both the five-game series and the five-book series will be developed together and released in an alternating schedule.

The Kickstarter rewards will reflect this. While the game will be the main focus of the campaign, the first novel in the series, called Shoreseeker, will be one of the backer rewards. By backing the game, you could read the book in ebook or paperback before it’s released anywhere else. In addition to the game’s demo, I will have a sample of the book available.

I will post more updates as the campaign nears. Your support will go a long way to making this a reality, so I hope you will support it when it starts!

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.

A (Temporary) Change of Direction

From the time when I was a tiny tot, I’ve been rather curious about how the world works. While other kids were busy playing soccer, I was going to garage sales to find chemistry sets and electronics kits. When other kids went with their friends to the beach, I would go trilobite hunting at a known, high-density fossil site, pickaxe firmly in hand, dewy eyes shining in the desert sun. The world was my playground, and discovery was the name of the game.

Fast-forward a couple decades, and I’m still playing the same game, but in a different playground: the worlds that I create for my fiction. I still want to know how everything works, and I’m not satisfied until I finally find the answers. My own worlds are no exception; the only difference is the rules of nature are determined solely by me. While world creation may sound a bit easier than figuring out the principles underlying the behavior of quantum particles (because you’re just making stuff up, right?), the process of discovery has a distinct advantage over that of creation: the rules of nature are already consistent with themselves. When one creates his own universe, however, such an expectation of consistency is not automatically assured.

The reason I bring that up is this: I have recently discovered that my own creation, namely that of the Fourth World, has some issues that need to be solved, particularly as it relates to The Born Sword.

Working in a fantasy world as strange as the Fourth World has its perks, but it has definitely worked my worldbuilding problem-solving muscles. There are certain philosophical questions that arise in such a bizarre universe, and while I get all frothy-at-the-mouth excited when it comes to questions like that, discovering the answers to such questions and then integrating them into a coherent story is a task that will simply take a little more time than I had originally expected.

If it sounds like I’m giving up on that novel, I want to assure you that I’m not. I want The Born Sword to be the best it can be, and that’s going to require some fixing. The reason I’m telling you this is because I have given you the expectation that it would coming soon, so very soon, but I would like to now temper that claim with some realism. I’m not one of those people who like to say that utopia is just around the corner, as long as you continue to demonstrate a little more patience. I prefer to tell it how it is.

Like any writer I’ve ever heard of, I’ve got quite a few stories in me, some of which are more suitable to setting and style different from the ones I’ve already written. As such, I’ve been working on another novel in a completely different world on the side for a while, and in light of the issues cropping up in the writing of The Born Sword, this new novel has recently become the main focus for my attention. It started out as merely something that kept me writing while I was working out the problems in The Born Sword, but has become something much, much greater. It is, I believe, going to be as good if not better than anything else I’ve written. I’m really, really excited about it. The working title of the new novel is The Fall of the Moon, but that will likely change as a result of a change in direction the story has undergone since I came up with the title.

One of the nice things about this new book is that I’ve specifically built in a resistance to the kinds of issues that I’m working on in the Fourth World. It, too, is epic fantasy, but with a stronger focus on plot, character, and theme, and not as much on a crazy magic system (though magic certainly plays a significant role) that creates more problems than it solves. Stay tuned for more details on this new book.

Of course, I am not abandoning the Fourth World at all, not even in the short run. In fact, I’ve got a completed story that, once I finish with the polishing-up stage (and once I have a title for it), will be ready for your consumption. It will follow the same distribution pattern as Dark Tree: free on this website, free on Smashwords and all of its affiliated platforms, and (once they decide to price-match) free on Amazon. I am in love with this story. I think it might be the best one taking place in the Fourth World yet, and for those of you who are interested in the nuts and bolts of how the Fourth World works, it will illuminate some of the more metaphysical (if not the more troublesome) aspects of the universe.

Speaking of which, I’ve created a lexicon of writings from the Fourth World regarding various aspects of its metaphysics some time ago. I’ve been trying to think of a good use for it, and I’ve decided that I will periodically post entries from the lexicon onto my Facebook Fan page. It was content in need of a home, and a page in need of content. A perfect marriage, if you ask me. If you’re interested in the more arcane aspects of the Fourth World, don’t hesitate to like the page here.

For those of you who love the Fourth World stories and were really hoping to see The Born Sword sooner rather than later, I hope that this upcoming Fourth World story will sate your desire for now. If it doesn’t, well… know that The Born Sword will likely be released before the next Rothfuss or Martin book. At least I can promise you that much *winks roguishly*. And who knows? I may even suddenly realize everything needed to finish it and, in a surge of inspiration, get it done before the other novel. Either way, I will keep you posted.

In other wonderful news, the brand new sister (brother?) review site to BestChickLit, called BestChapLit, posted reviews for Dark Tree and The Clans, as well as an interview with yours truly. If you’re looking to discover some good indie authors, I would definitely recommend checking out their sites.

Furthermore! The Clans is now only $0.99 from all distributors (Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo, etc.), so if you’ve been holding out because the economy’s got you down, now is your chance to read it without breaking the bank. Thanks for stopping by!