The Joys of Bundling Up

29 Apr

In my previous posts I told you all about the books and authors I was familiar with – but the great joy of book bundles is the opportunity to explore brand new writers (or at least writers new to you) at a very reasonable price.

I’ve already peeked inside all of the books included in the SFWA book bundle from Story Bundle and have to say I’m pretty keen to delve into them in earnest. For just a few bucks you can discover the best that Japanese SF has to offer, travel to our nearest stellar neighbour, find out the ‘real story’ behind UFO visits to Earth, settle a space station around Jupiter and make first contact with a potentially deadly alien race.

Pony up for the bonus books and you are in for an even bigger treat. From first contact to a world at war, from humour takes by some of the best writers in the field to tales of the outcast and underrated, from the promise of everlasting life to the threat of imminent death, this bundle has something for every taste – and moreover, something to remind you what science fiction can really do.

Indulge your sense of wonder and buy this bundle now (before it’s too late – one 5 days left).

What are you waiting for?

All Covers Large

Bundled Up With Friends

25 Apr

I’ve got a lot of ties to the current e-book bundle at Story Bundle (which you really should have bought by now). I’ve already talked about my relationship with Darusha Wehm – whose book I edited and whom I first met in person in London, England at World Sf Convention after her book came out. We’ve seen each other in person a few other times but most of our contact is by e-mail or social media.

I also described my relationship to the other writers in the fabulous anthology Strangers Among Us. Some I’ve known some for a couple of years and others for a couple of decades (Edward Willett sang at my wedding). Most I see once or thrice a year at conventions or other literary and social events while maintaining contact through Facebook and the like. The same can be said for a couple of the other writers in the bundle.

The exception is Robert Sawyer whose Factoring Humanity was a Hugo Award finalist and who is one of only 3 writers I have read everything they ever published. So I was a big fan of his before I first invited him to teach at the Imaginative Fiction Writers Association workshop in 1995. We’ve since been fast friends and spend time together whenever we can. We’ve even dedicated books to each other.

But I want to emphasize that I was a fan of his work before I ever met him – and I remain a fan to this day and consider myself fortunate to also be a friend.

Factoring Humanity is a great book and like all Rob’s books delves deep into the human condition and asks profound questions about the impact of technology on society and individuals. This book has it all: messages from outer space, AI, neuroscience and a rollicking good story. If you haven’t read it, it would be worth buying the bundle just for that.

But wait, there’s more. Factoring Humanity is bundled up with 11 other books which you can get for as little as $15US.

What are you waiting for?

Bundled Up With Strangers

23 Apr

My most personal connection to the SFWA e-book bundle of science fiction currently being offered by Story Bundle lies in the anthology, Strangers Among Us, edited by Susan Forest and Lucas Law. In part it is because I have a story included (Marion’s War) which I consider one of the best short pieces I’ve ever written (including the two stories for which I won Aurora Awards). More importantly, the anthology contains some of the most prolific and best known Canadians working in the field – as well as a plethora of newcomers. Many are good friends; others I only know by their reputations. I certainly felt honoured to find myself in their company.

My story, about an aging former commando who finds herself thrust back into an alien war, was inspired by my own experience with PTSD after witnessing the murder of Corporal Nathan Cirillo at the Canadian War Memorial several years ago. While my own case was mild, it helped me understand the struggles that many former soldiers face every day.

All of the stories deal with similar issues of mental health and alienation and a portion of the sales of the book are donated to the Canadian Mental Health Association. Despite the theme, this is not a collection of despairing or depressing stories. There is humour and adventure, sorrow and triumph, all the range of human (and alien) experience you might imagine.

Strangers Among Us is only one of twelve great science fiction books you will get for as little as $15US.

What are you waiting for? Buy it here.

Strangers_Among_Us_Cover_Final

Story Bundle 1

22 Apr

A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of purchasing and editing M. Darusha Wehm’s book, Children of Arkadia, for Bundoran Press. I knew the moment I read the first few chapters that this was the kind of book I had been thinking of when I purchased the Press. It was a political novel of big ideas, one that built on the history of science fiction while also turning it on its head with a modern thoughtful interpretation.

Plus it was a great story with great characters and a fascinating setting – where could you go wrong with AIs and revolutionary idealists all living and growing together on a space station orbiting Jupiter? Well, as it turns out, the answer to that question is what makes this book great science fiction.

And don’t just take my word for it. David Larsen of the New Zealand Herald (Darusha is a dual Canadian – New Zealand citizen living in Wellington) had this to say about it: “Wehm writes novels of ideas in which the ideas genuinely matter… [I]t’s a pleasure to see political and ethical questions, so often relegated to the background in science fiction, allowed so much scope to drive the story.”

Amazing Stories reviewer, Ricky Brown described it this way: “M. Darusha Wehm has created a complex future where the delusion of choice is blurred by the nurturing guidance of artificial intelligence….  From a fan of dystopian science fiction who is always looking for intriguing points to ponder, this book fits the bill.”

So why Am I talking about this now? Because Children of Arkadia is available as part of bundle of e-books from the good folks at Story Bundle – available now until May 4th 2017. It’s a great deal: 12 books for as a little as $15US. More than that, it is an opportunity to support the educational programs of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

So what are you waiting for?

Children-of-Arkadia-Front-Cover

Story Bundle!

12 Apr

Here is a guest blog from Cat Rambo, describing the SFWA Story Bundle including Children of Arkadia by M. Darusha Wehm.

THE SFWA SCIENCE FICTION BUNDLE

The SFWA Science Fiction Bundle – Curated by Cat Rambo

I am so pleased to present the first ever SFWA-focused StoryBundle. The idea for it has been hovering in my head for a several years but it was only last year that we finally had the contacts and volunteer structure to actually enact it. Last year I asked SFWA members to send in their science fiction and fantasy works for consideration in the bundles, and the enthusiastic response to that call let me assemble this awesome bundle as well as a second one, this time with a fantasy focus, for later this year. Midway through this year, we’ll open up the call for applications for the 2018 bundles.

If you’re curious about other SFWA offerings, sign up for our quarterly newsletter, which features new and backlist releases from our members in the area of fiction, games, and other offerings.

One reason I’ve pushed this StoryBundle along is because it’s a program that works well for our small press and independently published members, whose market agility allows them to make full use of the bundle. The membership voted to accept these new members in 2015 and one of the challenges was making sure SFWA served their needs. They’ve added immense enthusiasm and knowledge to our hive mind, and it’s great to have a way that helps them promote their work while also supporting the organization’s Givers Fund, which gives grants each year to encourage and promote fantasy and science fiction writing, including organizations such as the the African Speculative Fiction Society, Alpha Workshop, Clarion and Clarion West, and Launchpad.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, it’s over 50 years old, and has a membership of professional writers and publishing professionals from around the globe. It administers the Nebula Awards each year. If you’re in the Pittsburgh area, stop by the mass autographing session on the evening of May 19, which will feature (literally) dozens of authors, including many authors on this year’s ballot and SFWA’s latest Grand Master, Jane Yolen. Check out the SFWA website at sfwa.org for information on genre writing, the field, and other services. – Cat Rambo

The initial titles in the SFWA Science Fiction Bundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:

  • Saiensu Fikushon 2016 by TOBI Hirotaka, Toh Enjoe and Taiyo Fujii
  • Borrowed Tides by Paul Levinson
  • The Weave by Nancy Jane Moore
  • Truck Stop Earth by Michael A. Armstrong
  • Children of Arkadia by M. Darusha Wehm
  • Beyond the Gates by Catherine Wells

If you pay more than the bonus price of just $15, you get all six of the regular titles, plus SIX more!

  • Unidentified Funny Objects by Alex Shvartsman
  • Factoring Humanity by Robert J. Sawyer
  • Strangers Among Us by Susan Forest and Lucas K. Law
  • Tech Heaven by Linda Nagata
  • The Burning Eye by John F. Carr
  • The Leaves of October by Don Sakers

This bundle is available only for a limited time via http://www.storybundle.com. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub and .mobi) for all books!

It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.

  • Get quality reads: We’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
  • Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.
  • Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
  • Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America!
  • Receive extra books: If you beat the bonus price, you’ll get the bonus books!

StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.

For more information, visit our website at storybundle.com, tweet us at @storybundle and like us on Facebook.

 

Personal Journeys in the Book Business

28 Aug

It’s been a while but I’ve been busy — publishing three novels and putting together a new anthology. Lazarus Risen is due back from the printers next week and, in the lull, I thought I’d bring you up to date.

Distribution

I recently ended my relationship with my distribution company. That may seem like a crazy thing to do but actually the decision was pretty easy. It all came down to money.

Selling books is hard; selling anything is hard but books are harder because it is the only product that stores can return for a full refund. This practice started in the 1930s when publishers were looking for a way to kick start book sales in the depression. The mass market paperback was relatively new and was designed to be printed cheap and distributed widely. To encourage book sellers – a notoriously conservative lot – to take the risk on unknown writers, the books could be returned for a credit against future sales.

This worked pretty well for publishers, who in those days mostly distributed their own books. They didn’t actually have to give money back – they simply took a loss in the future, which as any economist will tell you, is a discounted loss.

It doesn’t quite work that way anymore. As the world became more complex, sales processes became more specialized. Publishers outsourced their warehouses to distribution companies. Gradually those distribution companies developed their own salesforces (on top of the marketing departments of big publishers) and took over marketing for medium and small publishers.

And of course they took their cut of the sales – which would be okay if they also didn’t charge fees for every transaction they undertake. There is a fee when they send the book to the store and another larger fee for when it comes back. And if the books stop moving, they charge you a fee for storing them and a different fee to dispose of them or return them to the publisher.

Generally you are told you should budget 30% for returns, though the distributor assures you they will do everything possible to keep it below that. But what if they sell your books to the wrong stores – such as stores that don’t sell a lot of science fiction, or stores who won’t keep new or relatively unknown books on their shelves for more than a few weeks? Returns can quickly rise above 30% and, with all the associated fees, it is possible to actually lose money through distribution.

Which is what happened.

I could see that it was coming and I have thought of an alternative – two, in fact. One would be to find a new distributor. There are several out there but getting them to take you on is not as simple as asking. You need to have a certain size back catalog, you need to publish a minimum number of titles each year, you need a certain size print run.

Requirements vary, of course, but obviously, the bigger the distributor (access to more stores, larger sales force, and so on), the stiffer the entry requirements. And returns are still a problem. Still, I’m looking into the possibilities.

Not all distribution companies are created equally and some are as hard to work with for store-owners as they are for publishers. Complex accounting processes and inefficient shipping practices can lead stores to refuse to work with certain distribution companies.

I’ve talked to a few book sellers about the problem and they either suggested a smaller, but reliable, mostly Canadian firm (there are several) or to do self-distribution. If authors can self-publish, why can’t publishers self-distribute?

So, for at least the interim, that’s what I’m going to do. I’ve created a catalog that includes all the backlist (and announces the titles of upcoming publications) and I’ve started sending it out.

My first experience was a good one. A few weeks ago at When Words Collide (which was a great success – we won an Aurora Award and had a successful triple book launch), I approached a couple of regular book sellers with the catalog. One took the catalog and the other took some books. So while supplies last, Calgary readers can buy Bundoran Books from the Sentry Box. I’m hoping to add a lot of names to that list in the coming weeks.

The secret – deep discounts for the book sellers (more than the traditional 40%) and no returns for the publisher. Even with shipping costs I expect to make more money than I did with my big American distributor. And I certainly won’t lose money. Obviously this approach is unlikely to work with the big chain bookstores and it definitely won’t work on Amazon – but it might actually result in more books sold which will be good for both me and for the authors I publish.

E-books

Like most traditional publishers, I publish e-books of all the books I also publish by print. I’ve even published one stand-alone novella. Some have sold okay – mostly when both I and the author independently promote them – but none have been spectacular. The only exception is my anthology, Blood and Water, which sold a lot of copies by being included in a book bundle with nine other Aurora-winning or nominated books.

I’ve done all the usual things to promote e-book (and print sales): Twitter, Facebook, (including ads), Goodreads, blogs, manipulating the Amazon algorithm, but the results have been so-so..

But then there was Stars Like Cold Fire by Brent Nichols, which in the last two weeks has sold more units than all the other titles (except for the aforementioned Blood and Water) sold in the last six months. How did this happen? Neither of us have a clue. It’s not like it has become a best seller in its category (Space Opera) – although apparently that doesn’t mean what you might think anyway – but it has ticked along very nicely. Neither Brent nor I are likely to get rich – but you never know. Maybe a year from now, we’ll be referring to Brent as the new Hugh Howey. And I’ll have sold my company to Random House.

Speaking of e-books, the debate continues to rage over which is doing better – e-books or print books. Some would have you believe that e-books are in decline and print books are on the rise and sales figures would suggest they are right. Total e-book sales have fallen since 2013, while print books have shown a modest but steady increase.

Others would point out that e-book weakness is largely because there wasn’t a breakout YA novel in 2014 or 2015 – which shows how a single author like J.K.Rowling can move the market more than 10,000 other lesser selling authors. And at the same time, the rise in print sales is almost entirely due to the recent fade of adult colouring books.

That’s right. Colouring books. Maybe I need to produce a book of colour-it-yourself space ships and alien landscapes.

My own view is that – publishing is a tough business and few people are going to make a decent living at it. Most people who make a living as a writer start out being supported by family, friends, spouses, and lousy part-time jobs. Or if they live in a country that values the arts – by public arts granting agencies. For Canadians, things recently got a little better – but it’s still a rough go. Here are the median individual incomes in Canada. If you are doing better than that as a writer – count yourself lucky.

Still, we persevere – both as writers and as publishers. After all what else can we do?

Yeah, I know, get a haircut and get a real job

 

Tie a Bow on It

15 Apr

With six days left in the Aurora Story Bundle offer, I realized that I was running out of time to tell you about all the great books included in the bundle – just as you are running out of time to buy them at such a great price. It is time, as they say, to wrap it all up and tie a bow on it.

I first met Helen Marshall a few years ago at the Ad Astra Science Fiction Convention in Toronto when she was working for Chizine Publications as an editor. We only spoke briefly a couple of times – once was in the hub-bub of the infamous Chizine room party – but I was immediately struck by her incisive wit and intelligence. It turns out I wasn’t wrong as evidenced by this tremendous collection of short stories which was an Aurora finalist and, also, the 2015 World Fantasy Award winner for Best Collection. Oh, did I mention she has a Ph.D.? Worked it in around all the great writing, I guess.

Gifts for the One Who Comes After Cover Final

I’ve known Susan MacGregor for enough years that I can’t quite remember when we met – though Facebook tells me we’ve been friends since 2008. Goes to show what Facebook knows. In any case, we met from time to time at conventions in Western Canada, both when I lived in Calgary and later when I made journeys west, where we would have brief but intense conversations. But I knew her best for her association with On Spec Magazine, where she was an editor. It was sometime during that time we discovered a mutual love of flamenco dancing – she as a dancer; me as a spectator. I was thrilled when her first novel – The Tattooed Witch (included in the bundle) – came out and even happier to be partnered with her in this book bundle.

The Tattooed Witch Review

Another convention and on-line friend is Caitlin Sweet, a Toronto writer who I think I first met in Montreal at the World Science Fiction Convention. Caitlin has been writing for years but finally began to get the recognition she deserved with The Pattern Scars which was both an Aurora finalist and winner of the CBC Bookies Award in 2012. Recently her book, The Door in the Mountain, was a finalist for the Sunburst Award. I think we’re going to see a lot more award winning fiction from Caitlin in the future. She’s not someone you want to miss.

The Pattern Scars Review.jpg

Finally, I would be derelict if I didn’t mention my own entry into the book Bundle, the anthology, Blood and Water. While I won the Aurora as editor, an anthology is only as good as the stories it contains. While I can’t mention every story, I’d like to highlight a few writers you may not know but soon will. Gerald Brandt made his first (and only) short story sale for that anthology; Gerald’s first novel, The Courier (book one of a trilogy) was just released by DAW. Brent Nichols and Jennifer Rahn both had stories; this year, I’m editing novels by both of them for release this fall. Derek Kunsken has been published numerous times in Asimov’s and Analog magazines and I’m sure we’ll soon see a novel from him in the bookstores. I could go on but you get the picture.

Blood and Water Review

So that’s it – ten great books at a great price. Now all that’s left to do is for you to head over to StoryBundle.com and pick up the bundle.