Monthly Archives: July 2016

review of Augment by Heather Hayden

Augment

★★★★★

reviewed by Cy Wyss

Vicissitude (Vicki) Wandel is a sixteen-year-old runner with a loving family and an unusual computer friend. Her government mandates that augmentation (by changing your genetic code) and upgrades (artificial implants) must be distinct: if you have augmented, you must not upgrade, and vice versa. Vicki has upgrades on both legs and in her brain after a terrible accident when she was younger. The upgrades have always worked well, so why are they now suddenly failing periodically? And why does her blood test indicate augmentation, when she was always listed as natural?

Augment is not a long book. I found it a bit slow in the beginning, but by the middle it went faster, and by the last third I was genuinely thrilled. Vicki is a sympathetic heroine and her adversary, Agent Smith, is also sympathetic, which made the conflict interesting. Other characters aren’t as well developed, but nonetheless managed to hold my attention. The plot is good, especially once things start happening in earnest. Overall, I liked this offering very much and don’t hesitate to recommend it.

marketing: the impossible problem solved in 3 simple steps

Marketing is one subject of perennial interest to me. It also causes a lot of consternation. I don’t understand marketing. I’m not a sales mentality person. But, being a self-publisher, learning something about marketing is essential. I do have a little (very little) money to put toward it, but where would that do the most good? Recently I’ve read or watched several works on marketing:

So what did I learn? Too much, and not enough. Here are my takeaways.

successful self-publishers have a ton of books

The 3-step formula from Write, Publish, Repeat is in the title. Their (rather sanguine) hope is that if you just publish enough, you’ll win the lottery with something and people will suddenly start buying you like crazy. I like to think of this as the “Hugh Howey” method. He was publishing short works on Amazon, not having much success, and put Wool out there and forgot about it. Before he knew it, Wool was selling like hotcakes. I guess I could also call this the “no marketing is good marketing” approach.

This also seems to be a common theme in the Gaughran book, at least in the author testimonials at the end of the book. Gaughran found 30 successful self-published authors. A theme seems to be “I did nothing but people suddenly bought my book and I woke up one morning to find success had found me.” Sometimes their first book performed like this. Well, I guess it can be interesting to read about, but I don’t find it helpful in terms of “do this and you’ll have a shot at success.” The advice on the whole amounts to “keep buying lottery tickets.” Someone will win, just not me.

there is no failsafe marketing approach

Also in Write, Publish, Repeat, there is a theme of “nothing replaces hard work.” It was good to see this, especially after the (slightly shady) webinars I watched promising me bestsellers up the wazoo if only I give them $500 or more dollars for their online course. One of the webinars seemed to be advocating seeing what was bestselling, slapping together a similar work, then putting it out there. Advanced basket weaving might be bestselling right now but I’m not going to be able to contribute much there. As with most authors (I think), I write what I like. It’s mainstream enough that I believe there is an audience out there, but it’s not likely to be the hottest topic of the week or month in any given time period.

If there’s no marketing that works, what is a self-published author who’s not selling to do? Fortunately, there are sources that are more optimistic about marketing efforts.

no…wait, there is a failsafe marketing approach, just give me money

There is a certain type of webinar aimed at self-publishing authors. It promises to reveal the secret formula to selling (say) 10,000 books and making 100,000 dollars in 18 months. Or was it 1,000 books a day for 90 days? Anyway, the promises are big and enticing. The webinar is disappointing, though, as you realize near the end they haven’t actually given any workable means of doing anything. The webinar turns out to be a half hour (or hour) long advertisement for their larger online course. These courses can have eye-watering prices, too: $500 and up.

I was thinking Nick Stephenson fell into this category. But then I realized that, no, he was actually giving actionable items in his 3-video mini-course about marketing. More on this next.

the 3 steps I’ll be attempting

Stephenson has hit the jackpot himself, clearing 7 figures in 2014. (Must be nice!) His videos are well-produced and easy to follow. Best of all, they’re free. Although he does have a premium course, you don’t get the feeling you absolutely have to buy it to hear some of the meat of what he has to say.

He has a 3-step process to getting tons of sales.

  1. Offer something widely, like a free book, giveaway, etc.
  2. In the offer #1, include a link to what you want the potential readers to do, whether it’s signing up for your email list (recommended), or buying a book.
  3. Offer something of value for doing what they’re supposed to in #2, like something else free, and good content, stuff like that.

He puts it more succinctly, but you’ll have to check out his videos for that, I don’t want to steal his thunder.

So, I’m going to try this. I already offer Sinking for free for signing up for my mailing list. So my idea is to make Polygraph (another Richter short story) free and include links to a sign-up page. That’s it. Stephenson says such a plan will make passive income with all the people signing up to your mailing list (people you can then contact when you have book launches, ad campaigns, etc.).

Will it work? I have to say, it seems like a sensible approach. But I’m also not expecting much. Stephenson says hundreds of people tend to get free books, and a certain (low) percentage of them will click the link and sign up. I’m going to take a guess and say that I’ll be surprised if I get a handful of signups a month this way. That’s a far cry from his 10,000 readers. On the other hand, it’s better than I’m doing now with about zero sign-ups a month.

Stay tuned! I’ll keep you posted about my marketing endeavors. What do you think? Have you heard about any marketing methods lately that made sense to you? Let me know in the comments!

review of Ogden by Cory Abernathy

Ogden

★★★★☆

reviewed by Cy Wyss

A lab assistant accidentally pricks herself with a syringe that contains an experimental drug. This seemingly harmless incident leads to a deadly infection that turns people into zombies bent on consuming human flesh. The infection starts with one or two people and quickly spreads exponentially, leading to hordes of infected zombies staggering down the streets of Ogden. Law enforcement is at a loss for how to deal with such widespread devastation. One law man, Detective Desmond King, gets embroiled in the Ogden mess and tries to save as many of Ogden’s 1,200 citizens as he can.

Ogden was a fun read, if somewhat clichéd. I found the simple prose easy to get through, and the style improved as the book really got going. The cast of characters was believable, although the part of William Decker, the maniacal National Guard leader stretched reality perhaps a bit too far. Still, every book has to have a villain, and Decker made for a decent, if overdone, bad guy. People have commented on the King’s two dogs, as they are almost the only domestic animals seen in the book. The dogs provide a bit of relief from the heaviness of the story and it is fulfilling to see them play a large role by the end of the story. I do have one question, though. What happened to the cow? Other than that very minor (and largely tongue-in-cheek) concern, the book has a satisfying ending. A reasonable read for a summer afternoon.