Monday, September 28, 2015

Amazon KDP Asks Me For My Opinion...

To avoid any Trademark or other rights issues,
I'm posting this picture of Batman enjoying a great novel
instead of the Amazon KDP logo. Thanks for this, Allen!
When I opened my email this morning, I found an email from Amazon KDP that requested that I fill out a survey. The big yellow button was too tempting, so I made some coffee and clicked it.

While Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing platform is definitely a great tool for authors, there are a number of interesting unfair practices and persistent shortfalls that I decided to share with them.

Normally, I would keep my remarks and criticism under my hat out of a real fear of biting the hand that feeds me, Amazon KDP still provides over 60% of my income, but I know a number of Amazon KDP authors are watching their sales slip pretty significantly, myself included. The biggest reason why that's happening is because Amazon is demanding that authors go exclusive with them in order to gain access to Kindle Unlimited readers, who pay $10.00 a month to read as much as they like (awesome program, except for the exclusivity bit), and authors like me who have a lot of readers who are not interested in a Kindle at all would be cut off. Many, but not all, Kindle Unlimited readers don't look outside that program for their books, so non-exclusive authors have very little chance of getting their attention. There are other problems, as you'll see.

My response to: What would you do to improve the KDP Program?

Remove the Exclusivity requirement for Kindle Unlimited. I am getting complaints and hate mail from readers who refuse to pay for my book because they want it in the Unlimited program, and want me to go exclusive with Amazon so it appears there, and I can't do that.

Change the "Prior Six Weeks Royalties" reporting to a report for the prior four weeks. Six weeks is an awkward, useless timeframe that doesn't apply to real world accounting or properly measuring sales over a time frame that fits into any normal tracking criteria.

Add a secondary security measure to book publishing, such as a phone code, or the firm attachment of an author name to an account so fake books are harder to publish.

Allow non-exclusive authors to use free promotion tools that are available to exclusive authors.

Run your pre-order system the same way everyone else does. Everyone else in this industry (iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc...) allows preorders to accumulate but they do not track them as sales UNTIL RELEASE DAY, mostly because the author does not get the sale until that day. Amazon tracks preorders like normal sales, but readers do not get their book when their order is placed, and authors do not get the sale on the day the order is placed, so Amazon is not justified at all in tracking a preorder as a sale because none of the other mechanisms in the retail system are working for that title! Authors also do not get the advantage of seeing a jump in their books' chart placement because all those sales don't apply to one day, like they would with all the other retailers in the industry. For these reasons, I will not be offering preorders through Amazon again, even though I will get more complaints and hate mail for declining to offer preorders with Amazon and KDP.

There is more, but I have editing work to do, and I expect that this whole questionnaire is a waste of my time. Nothing will change, and non-exclusive authors like me will continue to see sales drop, and I'll get more hate mail from Kindle Unlimited customers...

One stipulation for Question 14, where you ask if I would recommend Amazon KDP to other authors:
It is an unfair question with too narrow a scope. While I would warn any of the authors that approach me about the issues with Amazon KDP, and make them aware of their choices and the possible consequences, I would still advise them to publish through KDP because Amazon is a necessary evil in publishing right now. If your book is not there, you are forfeiting a large percentage of your possible earnings, and the majority of the audience still expects your book to appear there. So, when I say "Likely" that's what I mean. If there was an actual choice, I'd advise them to skip KDP, but there isn't.


While posting this to my blog here, I realised I neglected to mention one of the biggest problems with Amazon and KDP right now, so I sent a note to customer care under the heading of "Amazon Problem". Here it is:

So, Amazon KDP requires that the pricing of our book is the same or lower when compared to all other retailers. I have no problem with this.
THEN Amazon discounts our books so you have the lowest price without consulting the author or publisher.
Meanwhile, if I reduce the price of my book with other distributors to match Amazon's adjusted pricing, my book will be pulled because it doesn't match the price I enter into KDP. This is dirty. Can you fix it please?


Thank you for reading. Even though I don't expect anything to come of my responses to Amazon KDP, I still hope that someone over there sees the light and begins to act on the understanding that, by offering the same tools and opportunities to all their authors, not just the exclusive ones, it helps everyone. Customers get the access they want, Amazon will see higher sales overall, and authors will be able to get their books in front of more readers. With fair practices and other improvements in play, Amazon could become the one to emulate with regards to how they treat their authors again. We do provide them with a lot of the products they sell, after all.


[For legal reasons, I have to tell you that I edited some of the above material to make it more readable, but the intent and message remains the same.]

Look! Free EBooks!

I offer two complete books for free here. One is a Science Fiction Space Opera trilogy collected into one free volume called Spinward Fringe: Origins, and the other is a complete Fantasy novel called Brightwill.

If you want to share them with a friend, please direct them to download copies themselves, since it will cost them nothing, but help push these books up the freebie charts.

Below you'll find a synopsis for each book along with links to popular sites where you can download the books for free.

Thank you for visiting!

The first full horror novel from Randolph Lalonde, finally free. Not for young readers.
iBooks (By Apple)
Barnes & Noble

Brightwill, a land razed by war, on the verge of utter destruction. There are few strongholds left, and few leaders who have the vision and the power to protect their people.

Naze Kinu, the Great Wizard provides a stronghold for the most talented young and old people in the lands. The Amber Refuge is his life’s work, a central stronghold built by his comrades, his power and his reputation.

That is why, when he tells his long time aide, Doril, that he intends to tell all about his secret sibling, Riv. His intentions are met with alarm. Naze kept his relation to Riv a secret for half a century.
Riv, known in legend as the Slasher Gremlin, the Prince
Slayer, and the thief of the Enduring Light.

Despite the damage his revelation could do to his reputation,
Naze is set on telling the true story of his brother, of the days
that inspired the legend. Most of those close to him are left
to wonder why, and to listen as their leader regales them with the tale of his misadventures with his brother and Oroza, the dragonling.

This is the story of Naze and the brother he can no longer deny this is the story of Brightwill in times of drastic change.


In the darkest region of explored space sits a bright beacon; Freeground Station. Serving as a supply and trading post it is home to a select number of human beings that will take a desperate chance to make a difference in their end of the galaxy. - Contains the entire First Light Chronicles Trilogy. A Space Opera Adventure enjoyed across the globe by all ages. 


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Dark Arts 1976

After a lot of writing, outlining, and more writing, I can confirm a lot of things about Dark Arts.

It will be a trilogy.

The first Dark Arts novel will be set entirely in 1976.

It will be released on October 31, 2015.

It will fit under the Supernatural category.

Test readers have already seen the first half.

Now, let's take a closer look at those facts. The story of Dark Arts fits into a trilogy that will move from one time period to the next. There will be at least ten years between each book as the plan stands right now. This will be the last book that takes place in the 70's, and this part of the story is the least "horror like" portion because this book is all about how the main character, Maxwell, comes to the Occult and begins his long journey towards the events of the original Dark Arts short, which happens in 1996. This is still not a prequel, because the seven chapter short was just an experiment, and was never meant to be remade into a novel. When the story set in 1996 is told, it will be vastly different, and it has not been told yet. This is a new series starting at book one, Dark Arts 1976.

The 1970's are important to this book because the whole work spawns from a simpler idea. When I sat down to outline the Dark Arts that takes place in 1996-1997, I decided that having three flashback chapters highlighting Maxwell's early life would really help the book. Maxwell, who is in his early forties in the original Dark Arts short, has a long backstory of his own that explains a lot about the world, about what goes on in 1996, and about the characters in that year.

When I started trying to decide which parts of Maxwell's origin and journey to feature in those flashbacks I ran into big problems, because his story was too large, and there was an opportunity to tell a tale about a rock n' roll band who was being pushed off the road thanks to the surge in disco clubs in Canada. In 1976, stages were being torn down so dance floors could be expanded, and over 200 bands in the Toronto area alone suddenly found themselves out of work. Most rock bands who lived on the road, trying to promote themselves and get discovered or take advantage of small record deals, were forced into the ditch - so to speak. Maxwell's band, Road Craft, is just such a creature, a road band who is coming home for the last time. This is a major turning point in Maxwell, Bernie and Zachary's lives, and there was no room to explore it in the three chapter flashbacks I had planned, none at all.

So, the idea of starting a brand new new short series - a trilogy - with the first book taking place in the 1970's  was born, the first Act in a three act play, if you will. The first part would be in the 1970's, featuring Maxwell and his people. The second part would bring it into the late 1990's and would feature an older Maxwell with a complete reinvention of the young characters we met in the original seven chapter Dark Arts: Rising short. The third part isn't something I'm willing to disclose, but it is set in a later time.

I wrote an outline that was meant to take care of Maxwell's 1970's story in seven chapters, and realised that was too small. I tried an outline with fourteen chapters, and it still didn't allow for the whole story to be told. I outlined the first third of the novel and started writing. The chapters all grew, each one twice the size of a normal one, thanks to the addition of a romantic storyline that infuses the story with a sense of warmth and yearning that I didn't expect. It was getting better, but I needed to make sure I could still tell the story I had to, to get to the ending I had planned.

So, heading back to the drawing board after finishing six massive chapters, I tried outlining fourteen big, fat, double sized chapters and voila, a roughly fifty thousand word novel plan that could work. Sadly, that was three times the size I had planned and I would only have about 35 days to write it. So, this year, on October 31, I'll be releasing Dark Arts 1976, the first of three short books that will cover the whole story I have planned at the moment. If this book is successful, I'll make sure I release another Dark Arts novel every October until the trilogy is finished. If it isn't very successful, I'll finish the books when I have time, between other projects. If it is sensationally successful, I have ideas for a second trilogy.

Now, for the last points. The original seven chapter Dark Arts: Rising short was unmistakably horror. Dark Arts 1976 is a Supernatural Drama. The story takes more time to tell, there is more culture, more character development, and the occult is more involved. The rules of the world are explored more, and more attention is paid to the development of Maxwell's situation, and his journey into the Occult. The early chapters that are more drama than action are there to build our relationship with the world, the characters, and to find our way into the emotional story so the second half of the book is more engaging, and we feel for our characters when they eventually find themselves in danger. This puts Dark Arts 1976 firmly in the Supernatural genre instead of straight up horror.

This book is massively different from anything you've read from me before. You will find that the book does not resemble Spinward Fringe, Brightwill or any of my out of print works, it's even vastly different from the original seven chapter Dark Arts: Rising short, which will not be included with this release. The two are too different from each other to share the same cover. I find that this is an enjoyable novel to write, and a great learning experience for me. It's a return to a style I started exploring in my 20's, and abandoned because I felt it was too difficult.

I hope you enjoy it in a little over a month's time when it becomes available, so far the test readers have seen the first half, and the feedback is that they have enjoyed it a great deal.


[Thank you for reading!]

*** Synopsis ***

Maxwell, a guitarist whose band is coming off the road under discouraging circumstances, has come to a crossroad. The minimal success his band, Road Craft, has had is being smothered by an era where bars are becoming discos, and live entertainment is being replaced by larger dance floors. They scored a small record deal years before, but the excitement has cooled, and they never got much radio play. 

The only hope he has of putting his band back on the road for a few more gigs rests in a book he hunted down using contacts and skills he learned from his father, who was an expert at acquiring rare occult objects. Max is not a believer in mysticism, but he knows what he has was hard to get, and should be worth thousands. When he's told it's too hot to sell, his dreams are crushed, and his wallet is left empty. He'll have to tell his band mates that his plan has fallen through, and their next gig may be their last. The members of Road Craft are set to return home during a Pagan summer festival called The Gathering, where hundreds of people gather to celebrate music, nature, and each other. The Gathering also brings Miranda, a woman Maxwell knew when they were children, and the future looks a little more inviting thanks to an undeniable spark.

He doesn't know it yet, but this is the event that will make him a believer, and he will have some choices to make. All the while, there are people who know he has the book, and they are determined to twist the knowledge it contains to a terrible purpose, to break the circle of life, making resurrections possible, to open the door between the living and the dead just enough to embrace forbidden power. Their selfish intent would disrupt the natural order enough to change the world, and not for the better.

Maxwell's music career is about to be the least of his worries.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Brightwill Reviewed in the Book Igloo!

Here's why reviews are important. Few books get attention from conventional press, and even fewer Indie titles get any recognition unless the author lands a deal worth millions.

So, what floats an indie title higher than the rest? Reviews. The ones you leave on the site you purchase the book from can help sink or float a book, consider it your opportunity to give the next reader who comes along some advice on whether or not they should read the book your reviewing and why.

Independent reviews are just as important because the sites they are posted on often have their own audiences that will read titles based on recommendations. They also help lend legitimacy to the book being reviewed, especially since most independent reviewers are not paid for their time. There's no incentive for them to puff a book up a couple extra stars, so you can be pretty sure the reviewer is being honest.

One book that has needed help is Brightwill. It didn't land well with the retailers, and I really didn't know how to market this book as well as I did my Spinward Fringe titles. Instead of selling thousands in the first couple months, it barely sold two hundred, so I went back to the drawing board and made it free, put it in front of people who were more interested in Fantasy, and got some honest opinions from a few trusted sources about the interior material,  the story.

The feedback I got was good, but as far as marketability went, it wasn't like most fantasy titles being released, it needed to discover its own audience. Thankfully more people are discovering it now that it's free. That brings us to the Book Igloo!

Caitlin Lynagh, an author herself, found Spinward Fringe Broadcast 0: Origins, read it and reviewed it on the Book Igloo (Check that out here).  When I thanked her for the review on Twitter I discovered that she was more of a fantasy reader than Science Fiction. Brightwill had just gone free, so I offered it to her.

Some time passed (less time than it would take for a reviewer at a major site or periodical would have taken), and to my surprise, I discovered that she finished a review of Brigthwill that demonstrates a clear understanding of the book, a very clear understanding. She also managed to review it well without dishing out any spoilers.

Long story short, if you're on the fence about reading Brightwill, then this review is for you. You will either be gently knocked back into your own familiar yard, or come leaping out into the unknown thanks to her well worded review. Here's the link!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Character Journeys in Broadcast 9: Warpath - Which one did you like the most?

  Several characters were focused on in Spinward Fringe Broadcast 9: Warpath. Each had a journey to undertake, whether it was emotional, physical, or political. While they all had a significant role in the overall story, I'm sure everyone had their most and least favourite.

In this survey, I'm asking about the characters we shared a point of view with specifically, so if you are worried that you aren't seeing women from the book listed, please don't. It just so happens that Broadcast 9 only had three chapters that looked at the universe from their point of view. It was an intentional experiment that I enjoyed, found more challenging than I expected and don't regret. Rest assured, we'll be looking at things from a couple female perspectives in Broadcast 10, as well as the male perspective. It's going to be mixed again.

Thanks to everyone who votes. Please discuss your choice in the comments section!


[Work on Dark Arts continues at a good pace, check out the Facebook Page for daily updates!]

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Flaws! Oh, Teh Flaws!

I realise that the version of Spinward Fringe Broadcast 9: Warpath that's out there has spelling errors. This is my mistake - I sent the formatter the pre-corrected version of the manuscript, and I apologise if this breaks immersion.
It will be at least a couple months before the corrected version gets uploaded to your devices (for free) in an update because I'll have to pay to get the formatting done again, but, trust me, it'll get done as soon as I can afford it because it's worth doing.
This is sometimes one of the drawbacks of one-room-operation publishing. The author has to keep a lot of plates spinning at once during release, and sometimes one hits the ground. With a situation like this, it's a pretty easy fix, it's just going to take some time. 
Again, I apologise.