Thunderbird Studios Now Live

thunderbird-bg_04You may have noticed my drop of output here. That’s because I’ve divided my personal blog from all semi-professional efforts like reviews and articles. Where have they gone?

Thunderbird Studios.

I’ve been dreaming about this for a few years now. Growing frustrated with the small press market, I wanted to do something bigger, something greater. But I also realized that we don’t need another company pumping out half a dozen titles a year. They needed more of a marketing answer.

I highly recommend you follow Thunderbird on Twitter or Facebook. If you’re a reader, check out the interviews and expect more in the next few months, or take a gander at the various reviews to look into something you like. And if you’re a writer, keep an eye out for the upcoming submissions window.

But yeah, I’m not giving up the blog just yet. But it would just be for my personal thoughts or the occasional book announcements these days.

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Info on Amazon Reviews

primerToday, I want to talk about Amazon reviews. And this is of importance for both readers and authors.

First, I want to give a huge thanks to everyone who has been supporting, reading and helping us promote Outliers: The Shape of Things to Come. We truly hope you’re enjoying our work. It’s also available for free on Amazon until the end of today (September 16th), a magazine-style release complete with stories and artwork so why not pluck a copy to read later?  Last time I mention Outliers until next month, promise!

Now although we’re loving the promotions and marketing side of this, there’s a point that we could really use outside help.

Amazon uses a number of algorithms and business flows to help decide on what to market, what to suggest and promote in front of other buyers. There are millions of titles in the United States, and even within genres you can easily be talking some tens of thousands of titles.

Who knows what they like better than the readers themselves?

Or at least, those who are vocal about it by submitting reviews to the vendor. Right now, there’s a rumor that 20 reviews, good or ill, “bump” the appearance of a title on suggested reading lists. Another piece of gossip states that 50 reviews puts it among the spotlighted positions of mailing lists.

Now, it’s a safe assumption that these statements are just scuttlebutt. Maybe someone noticed a loose pattern in the advertising and drew these assumptions. Or maybe they were or even are true, although the latter is subject to change. Even the Amazon business guys probably couldn’t comment with certainty because code and formulas are always being tweaked and modified. In tech, what’s true today might not be true tomorrow.

But it’s also a safe assumption that there is some validity to it. Reviews undoubtedly have an effect on advertising suggestions. Feelings of any kind are a more valuable metric than numb silence. Whether you love it like the first season of True Detective or hate it like the second, saying so with reviews matters. So please, if you enjoyed or hated our work, say so. Artists cannot grow in the absence of valid criticisms, nor know what to keep producing without compliments to encourage that which is enjoyed.

Now… there’s one final point to cover, and I must admit that this is a saddening factor for authors: Amazon divides its reviews by region as well.

Some argue that it’s cultural preferences. I disagree, as few seem to care geographically where their entertainment comes from. The United States imports some of the finest actors from England, almost all variations of Sherlock tend to do well and Warhammer 40,000 of Nottingham is very acknowledged here. Likewise, I pal with my English friends knowing that we can quote The Simpsons with abandon or even recruit them into my growing Stranger Things cult.

But the stars from the Amazon.com site aren’t appearing on Amazon.co.uk. If nothing else, people browsing work would see far less in the ratings. Amazon is doing a beta of “the most helpful reviews” on the pages themselves which crosses the ocean (for example, with Far Worlds in the UK), but the results thereof are not being added topically into that region’s ratings.

So.

If you read our work, we love you. If you enjoy it, please say so back. And if you’re really feeling generous, try to log onto both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk to leave reviews on both sites. I believe the login credentials are shared which should make it much easier. And thanks again for reading!

Let the ConPuns Begin

It’s Tuesday after a rough, sick Monday. Some kind of summer fever struck. Ibuprofen handled it just fine, as did a nap. But I still lost half a day of work I’m going to try catching up on this week.

Over this weekend, I’ve been gathering information about conventions within traveling distance for sales purposes. These conventions go on all the time, but they vary just enough from theme to theme that it’s not always easy to identify which are the right ones to attend. There’s some flexibility. Literary, science fiction and fantasy genre conventions are usually ideal. Yet some want more established and respected works from verified producers. Other conventions sometimes target more specific mediums, such as comic books.

spartaOthers can oddly get both specific and yet varied, such as SpartaCon which focuses on warrior culture both fictional and non-fictional. While some draws include shows like Xena: Warrior Princess and Spartacus, I’ve read through sources that it can also host historical reenactments and health and fitness coaching like CrossFit, attracting folks who truly want to live the warrior lifestyle. It’s rather badass when a person’s “cosplay” requires 7/24/365 work to earn. Although I don’t joke when I say my body isn’t ready.

I’m also aware that some of these conventions are going to have more barriers to entry. Some openly do not accept self-published authors, while others will probably push them down the acceptance lists for regular publishers. There are pros and cons to these.

Other times, it’s just the sheer number of competitors. George R.R. Martin will be attending MystiCon this coming February, undoubtedly drawing in the fans. This was probably a factor in the closing of their vendor applications despite six months left to go. Still, while this is interesting to know for later, I don’t worry about it too much. Instead, I aim for smaller conventions to get my feet wet. I’d rather the chance to be a bit more personable anyway.

As I padded my list of potential convention to visit, an idea come to me. Why not a coalition program to support various other small press publishers at the vendor tables, with the agreement they repay in kind? Fact is, I’m in a strange limbo place with a few stories published under one imprint, a few more under another and so on.

And even if I were to start my own book company in the next year, we wouldn’t have any titles for almost six months and probably couldn’t fill the table with only our own releases for another year or two after that. Diversity mitigates risk after all. I’ll probably stew on this and throw it into the next “Open Source Thinking” post I’m cooking up.

Anyway, right now my intention is to try and hit at least one convention as a member by the end of the year to get more comfortable. Listen to the authors and watch how they work the crowd, pay attention to the most effective strategies in the vending rooms and probably pick up a fresh book or two. Got to support your industry now.

Book Marketing and the Future

If I have any regrets the last year, it was that I didn’t start using Twitter until very recently.

Fact is, Twitter is a better marketing tool. Brief, to the point, easy to interact with. It can be linked to Facebook. Rather than engaging in ‘mutually beneficial’ friendship arrangements, you simply have followers which you must attract. There are fewer walls and the actual spread of information is way more ‘open’, where as Facebook applies an algorithm to reduce clutter on people’s walls (which can filter you out).

Twitter is actually kind of essential for those reasons. Without walls, fans can connect readily with authors and creators. Although one can get in trouble with the platform, there is quite a bit of power to be harnessed if used carefully.

As I move forward with the anthology, I’m also hacking away at other needs to promote it. I’m examining advertising costs on Facebook. But more importantly, I’m looking at various book reviewing bloggers. Although there are ‘big name’ critics out there in the newspapers, these smaller guys often tend to be quite niche, and really hit the reader bases that we’re writing for. In a way, the smaller guys can be a lot more powerful than the big names, because they know what they want.

This is why, despite an age where anyone can publish anything thanks to Amazon, publishing houses are not going away. They have the power to provide advertising and superior editing services. They usually know their market, and can tap top talent if need be. Self published success have occurred and will continue to happen, but there are services that publishers provide that simply aren’t available to the average author.

Business is really all about networking. Knowing the guy who can do what you can’t, knowing the right people for the job. All of us, especially writers, have to be in business for ourselves. And despite potential competitive aspects of business, a lot of it is also about working together.

Speaking of business, I’ve been thinking about what I’ll be doing next year. I’ve mentioned trying a few drafts against Everyday Fiction. But Narrativium will be in charge of the next anthology, Marching Time. If you’re curious what that’s about, you can check it out. Besides that, there will be the Black Library submission window, of which both myself and several of the Boltholers will have our strongest chance next year to be published.

The major question is whether to attempt my first novel, or self-publish an anthology of novellas. The latter is very tempting. My approach to being published has revolved around an ‘evolving plan’ of difficulty. Flash fiction and short stories started it. There has been at least one novella thus far.

An idea is to go ahead and write more novellas, and get used to longer tales before attempting a novel-length story. Length is a major factor. 300 pages is nothing to sneeze at. My approach has really allowed me to gradually increase the difficulty, while building on the skills I’ve learned in the previous steps.

What I learned from short story telling can be applied to novellas. What I learn from novellas could evolve into a novel. Thus far, that idea has been working. While I don’t want to be complacent, this approach is working thus far.