Saturday 28 February 2015

The self-published blogger-challenge

Edit: to take part as an author go HERE

A week ago I blogged about the business of self-promotion.

I realise that this is a lot easier once you're 'off the ground' and that as a new author, particularly a self-published one, it is desperately hard to be heard. It's a signal-to-noise problem. Who knows how many Name of the Winds or [fill in your favourite] are lost to us because they just couldn't be seen? None? A hundred?

So here's my idea. It relies on the labour of others and so it could fizzle and die right now. But let's see.

(I'm thinking here of fantasy books / authors / bloggers, though it could easily be SFF in general.)

I know that many bloggers are very fast readers. Some read over 200 books in a year.

My proposal is to get X of these bloggers to volunteer to become 'agents'. (X will be 10 or fewer).

Each blogger is assigned 25 self-published books, randomly selected from a list of volunteer authors.

These bloggers are NOT expected to read all of these books. Their task as 'literary agents' is to select the single book they want to put their reputation behind and "publish" into the next round of the exercise.

As agents the bloggers will look at the submissions before them. Many they may abandon on the first page as rubbish. Many others may be set aside after a chapter or two. A small subset, perhaps 1 or 3 or 5 will be read all the way through.

After 6 months the bloggers (who are free to review any of the books they were assigned) deliver their verdict. A single book which they review and put forward into round 2. It would also be nice to see a blog from them at some point about their experience as agents and what led them to abandon some books early and pursue others.

This will give us a list of X finalists, one from each blogger.

Over the next 6 months each blogger becomes a blogger again and will read the X books (actually X-1 since they selected one of them). They don't have to read all of each book but should try to give each a fair shake. They assign a score out of 10 to each book and review the one they liked best (not the one they "published"), By totalling the scores we get a single winner from the many entries. Each blogger reviews that winner, thereby giving it the reward of publicity.

I'm looking for blogs with a good history of regular reviews (to indicate reliability) and since I already have too many volunteers I will try to select those bloggers with high traffic/popularity.

Any blogger interested in taking part can comment below &/or mail me at

[edit - we now have 19 highly suitable volunteers for 10 places and more considering, so I'll definitely go ahead. You're welcome to add your name into the hat. I'll select the 10 using a combination of judgement and black magic, with the goal of getting the team most able to offer publicity (through the process) to the winning entries.] 

My first volunteer blogger is Sarah Chorn of Bookworm Blues - so if this goes ahead you'll be in great company!

(these next are provisional as the success depends in part on the bloggers chosen being reliable (and an established regular blog is the best indicator or that) and popular)

Other volunteers that I hope I can be on the final 10 include:
(note - I already have 10 so selection will have to take place but please put your name into the hat)

Richard Auffrey of The Passionate Foodie with 240 books read last year!

Tyson Mauermann of The Speculative Book Review.

The eponymous Sean Smith of Sean Smith

Charlie Hopkins of A Reading Machine.

Katherine of Ventureadlaxre

Mihir Wanchoo of The Fantasy Book Critic

Milo of The Fictional Hangout

Lynn Williams of Lynn's Books

Matt Gillard of 52 Book Reviews

Johann Pollard of Fantasy Opinion

Tim Ward of Adventures in SciFi Publishing

Leona Henry of Blog of Shadows

Bob Milne of Beauty in Ruins

J.R Karlsson of Fiction Garden

Marc Aplin of Fantasy-Faction

Ria of Bibliotropic

Fantasy Book Review are in.

Steve &co at the Elitist Book Review

Kat &co at Fantasy Literature

Friday 20 February 2015

How many fucks were given?

[this leads into opining about bad language in books in general]

I recently had a question asked on Goodreads about whether the use of 'feck' instead of 'fuck' in Prince of Thorns was a kind of accent or a kind of censorship.

I answered:

Accent. There are 15 fecks in the book and 8 fucks. In a book where a bishop gets nails hammered into his head there's no need to censor swearing.

And having counted(*) the number of fucks in Prince of Thorns I went on to repeat the process with all the books in Broken Empire and Red Queen's War trilogies.

(*) i.e gone Cntrl-F "fuck" in the Word document and looked at the number.

So here for your viewing pleasure are the fucks (and fecks) given in my books to date. Note this includes 'fucked', 'fucking' too.

A quick perusal indicates that we have yet to reach peak fuck.

(EDIT: with Red Sister added it seems that The Wheel of Osheim may well have been peak fuck!)

As a footnote: my most recently completed book (The Wheel of Osheim) contains as many fucks in one paragraph of the prologue as are contained within the whole of Prince of Thorns.

(click for detail)

But wait - there's more!

The discrepancy between the tolerance for sex and for violence in books has often been remarked upon. Even by me. But when you think about it the intolerance of 'bad' language is perhaps even more strange.

I saw one review of Prince of Thorns where the reader loved the book but lamented the bad language. There was, he said, a 'fuck' every other paragraph.

Actually, if you run the numbers there's a 'fuck' every 47 pages - which, if nothing else, shows how strongly the issue distorts perception.

However, more surprising to me is the fact the person could read about murder after murder, read allusions to burnings alive, rape, and torture, and yet be unphased until someone opens their mouth and says 'fuck'.


That's a problem but the rest is fine? Everything is good so long as we're polite about it?

I find it wholly bizarre when we enter a fantasy world where ever single word is spoken in English with the same meaning ... until someone hits their thumb with a hammer, and it's "Storms!" or "By the Pit!" or some such... It seems the only difference between the folk of many fantasy worlds and regular humans is that they utter different profanities. Also the whole, no needing to go to the toilet thing.

I've met people in real life who are literally unable to get through a single sentence without using the word 'fuck'. There's a guy like that on the show 'Gold Rush' - a miner up in Alaska, an older guy with a beard you could lose a baby in ...  there are people like him all over - they use 'fuck' as punctuation, as filler, and as verbal garnish. If one of them were a major character in a book I wrote then the fuck-count would zip past 37 and probably top 370.

I think the ability to read about terrible people doing terrible things, but to freak out if one of them says a rude word, is related to the sex-violence dichotomy but an even more exacerbated example of it.

Anyway, what's up with that? Comments welcome if you have an explanation!

[this article has a fuck-count of 15 ... well ... 16 now.]

Thursday 19 February 2015

BUY MY BOOK! An Author's Simple Relationship With Self-Promotion

These days I quite often find myself being asked questions by other authors about self-promotion. On several occasions they've told me "my agent said: go look at what Mark Lawrence does". I see myself cited on blogs and forums as someone who is 'getting it right'.

... which is all very nice, but I've never really felt as if I were doing anything other than having fun online.

I was prompted to this blog by Brian McClellan's excellent blog post An Author's Complicated Relationship With Self-Promotion.

I think it comes down to doing whatever is the best fit for you. I've read Brian's blogs on driving to various far-flung conventions, signings at bookshops and the like. He seems to enjoy getting out there to book fairs and hand-selling his own work.

Which is great if:

i) You have the 'spare' time and can travel.
ii) You're a chatty, people-person who has that magic talent for drawing folks in and sending them away with a book.

On the other hand Brian seems ill at ease with things such tweeting a link to his book, he agonises about spamming his followers etc.

Now for me:

i) I can't travel - I'm always needed to help care for my very disabled youngest daughter.
ii) I'd rather eat a bug than cold sell anything to anyone.

On the other hand I'm perfectly happy to tweet BUY MY FRIKKING BOOK along with a link to the Amazon listing - I don't even bat an eye about it.

(Self-promotion ... I'm not even sorry.)

The reason I'm active online is that it's the only way I ever get to interact with readers - that's my readers and that's readers of fantasy, period. As the parent of a very disabled child (age 10) the last decade has been a very isolating one - when I'm on a forum chatting about fantasy, yes that's me self-promoting, but it's also me socialising. Same with Facebook - yes, I'm posting pictures of my latest book or silly competitions for signed copies or whatever ... but it's also the only chance I get to see into other people's lives - I do it for fun, for entertainment, for company, selling books is quite far down that list. If it happens to look like great marketing to agents etc ... that's really just a happy side-effect.

The other thing I've noticed - and this may just be a personality thing, but I think there's more to it - is that many authors on forums, reddit etc are incredibly guarded, very measured, very careful never to give an ounce of offence. They're there with their marketing hat firmly in place and on best behaviour. They sure as hell don't want to risk pissing someone off. One nutter carrying a grudge could put quite a dent in their efforts and that would be hours of contributions down the drain.

I'm not like that. I just say what I think and damn the consequences. It helps that what I think is (I think) pretty reasonable most of the time - but even when it's not ... I've come to the conclusion that people appreciate the honesty. They might not agree with me all the time but at least they feel they're having a real conversation / interaction with a real person, not some fa├žade constructed to minimise offence and maximise sales.

(look! I did it again! This one even links to pre-order on Amazon!)

My experience has been that fantasy fans respond well to honest expressions of excitement/enthusiasm over the projects authors are involved with, and appreciate honest opinions - even if stated robustly - and openness. Readers don't want to be promoted to - but they know we have to do it. Readers would rather have open/honest interaction with the real people behind the author names than cautious guarded interactions with someone trying to sell themselves. And if you give them that honest and open interaction, your sharp corners too, then when on occasion you do scream BUY MY BOOK, DAMN YOU! at worst they'll laugh it off, and at best they'll laugh and then buy your book.

Saturday 14 February 2015

The Liar's Key - a contest.

(Contest closed - check for winners below)

I have so much stuff to give away that I just have to have another contest.

To enter send me a photo.

It must contain:

i) a lie
ii) a key (of any kind/size)

The more interesting the key, lie, and photo the more points out of 10 I'll give it and each point is a chance to win. Any photo with a key and a lie has some chance to win.


I will give out one prize per ten entries, up to a maximum of 5.

Winners can choose from (subject to availability):

i) An early signed hardcover copy of The Liar's Key (when I get them).
ii) A signed, stamped, trade paperback of Prince of Fools
iii) A Prince of Fools mug
iv) A Prince of Fools T-shirt
v) A signed proof copy of Prince of Thorns
vi) A signed trade paperback of Emperor of Thorns

Closes Wednesday 25th February. Mail entries to me at

Winners indicated in RED selected randomly by Daniel Polansky whose book comes out today (I review it here).

#57 Brandon (2 points) 1,2

#56 Mia (3 points, deductions for cruelty!) 3,4,5

#55 Nele (2 points) 6,7

#54 Obaid (2 points) 8,9

#53 Ryan (4 points) 10,11,12,13

#52 Tracey (4 points) 14,15,16,17

#51 Michael (5 points - the little arm is good and we have the added bonus of theft!) 18,19,20,21,22

#50 Edher (2 points) 23,24

#49 Alice (an underpass in Wolverhampton - 5 points, has the on-location bonus) 25,26,27,28,29

#48 Krista (own work - 5 points) 30,31,32,33,34

#47 Kayla (3 points) 35,36,37

#46 Paul (3 points)  38,39,40

#45 Malin (5 points) 41,42,43,44,45

#44 Gabe (4 points) 46,47,48,49

#43 James (5 points) 50,51,52,53,54

#42 Paul (6 points) 55,56,57,58,59,60

#41 Alex (3 points) 61,62,63

#40 M. (2 points) 64,65

#39 Megathura (5 points) 66,67,68,69,70

#38 Nicholas (so many keys!) 4 points 71,72,73,74

#37 Dusty (4 points, the exploitation worked) 75,76,77,78

#36 Kurt (going out on location to capture Francis Scott Key (top of plinth) and his daughter holding what purports to be an original Monet.) (6 points - for going out in the wild & the most unexpected key so far) 79,80,81,82,83,84

#35 Robert (3 points) 85,86,87

#34 Rob (4 points - for the best key so far!) 88,89,90,91

# 33 Mike (3 points) 92,93,94

#32 Robert (1 point) 95

#31 Angela (3 points) 96,97,98

#30 Colin (3 points) 99,100,101

#29 Hakken (5 points) 102,103,104,105,106

 #28 Andrew (3 points) 107,108,109

#27 Daniel (3 points) 110,111,112

#26 Pen (6 points, for initiative and sacrifice) 113,114,115,116,117,118

#25 Fiona (2 points) 119,120

#24 Jason (3 points) 121,122,123

#22 Alicia (3 points) 124,125,126

#21 Shaun (lies in code with a key key!) (5 points) 127,128,129,130,131

#20 Ralph (4 points) 132,133,134,135

#19 Robin (5 points) 136,137,138,139,140

#18 Barry (4 points)  141,142,143,144

#17 Charlie (5 points) 145,146,147,148,149

#16 Abrar (3 points) 150,151,152

#15 T.O. (3 points) 153,154,15

#14 Nick (3 points) 156,157,158

#13 Dean (3 points) 159,160,161

#12 Lisa (4 points) 162,163,164,165

#11 Connor (spot the 4 keys!) (3 points) 166,167,168

#10 Vikki (3 points) 169,170,171

#9 Paulo (2 points) 172,173

#8 Agnes (5 points) 174,175,176,177,178

#7 Francis (1 point) 179

#6 Glen (3 points) 180,181,182

#5 Carl (5 points) (with a Portal reference!)  183,184,185,86,187

#4  Sean (2 points)  188,189

#3 Paul (2 points) 190,191

#2 Pieter (2 points) 192,193

#1 David (4 points) 194,195,196,197