Category Archives: eBooks

The FROSTBORN Outline

Steve writes to ask:

A question… when you start something as big as Frostborn, do you have the whole plot laid out in your head for 15 books, or is it a bit more organic than that?

I totally outline everything in advance. I plotted out the entire FROSTBORN series in 2012, something like six months before I even started writing it.

That’s not to say some things haven’t developed organically over time.

I’d say the biggest changes are the role of Morigna, Imaria Licinius, and Mara. Originally, Morigna and Imaria were supposed to be the same character (more or less), but after I finished writing FROSTBORN: THE UNDYING WIZARD, I realized there was no way that would ever work. Fortunately, Imaria would serve the role just as well, given her massive grudge against Ridmark, which was why she appeared in FROSTBORN: THE MASTER THIEF.

Mara’s change had an even bigger impact on the series. Originally, I basically planned her as Jager’s somewhat dimwitted but good-natured girlfriend. But when I got to her first scene in FROSTBORN: THE MASTER THIEF, I was bored with her character, so I threw in that she was half-dark elven and used to be an assassin.

And THAT really changed the series, because I hadn’t originally designed the world of FROSTBORN to have half-elves. So the Artificer, the Anathgrimm, the Traveler, and Third, all of that came from that one impulse decision to make Mara’s character half dark elf.

Antenora was also a later addition to the series (her character was originally supposed to be male, but I didn’t think that worked and changed it at the last minute), and I didn’t think of the idea of the Sculptor until I was about halfway through FROSTBORN: THE FALSE KING.

But the overall arc of the series was planned out in 2012, and I’m looking forward to finishing at last in 2017!

-JM

obsolete technology

I was reading an Agatha Christie book, and a key portion of the mystery revolves around a wind-up clock set to the wrong time.

It’s always fascinating to read a book that revolves around obsolete technology, or a book with a conflict that would be easily solved with a cell phone.

Romeo & Juliet would have ended very differently if they had access to text messages. 🙂

-JM

James Bond vs the obsolescence of libraries

bondmusic

Recently I heard a librarian talk about fears that libraries would become obsolete.

As you might expect, that got me thinking about James Bond.

Specifically, Bond movie THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH. It’s considered to be one of the weaker Bond films, but I like it, and I do like the music, especially from the scene when Bond uses a jetski to chase an assassin down the Thames. When I bought the soundtrack, all the metadata for the tracks was set as “Music From The MGM Motion Picture The World Is Not Enough”. So when I want to listen to it, I don’t scroll through my music library looking for “James Bond” or “The World Is Not Enough”, I have to scroll until I find “Music From The MGM Motion Picture.”

Which is really odd, because the phrase “motion picture” is kind of an archaism, isn’t it? Like calling a car a horseless carriage or referring to the radio as wireless telegraphy. A movie made in 2016 is still technically a motion picture, but it has very little in common in the way that the original “moving pictures” were made.

That’s true of my books as well. According to the data I have, most people who have read the FROSTBORN series did so on Kindles, Kindle Fires, iPads, and various Android tablets. Ten years ago none of that stuff existed, and twenty-five years ago, the act of reading on a tablet would not have been recognizable as actually reading something. Nonetheless, it is still the same thing. Vastly different, but still essentially the same activity.

So I doubt libraries are going to become obsolete. They’re going to change dramatically, in much the same way that a movie like THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH is vastly different than a “moving picture” from the 1920s, in much the same way that reading the FROSTBORN series now is different than the way you would have read it if I had written it in the 1980s. The library of the future will be different, but it won’t go away.

If you like libraries, you should read my FROSTBORN books because the characters talk about books.

-JM

can you make a monthly income writing?

Let’s talk about the business of writing today! Bradford emails to ask:

I am a new author with my first book out this week on amazon. I have read your frostborn series, Demonsouled series and the Ghost series. I have enjoyed them all so far and looking forward to reading the Ghost Exile series next.

Was hoping you might have a few tips on marketing. Do you have any recommended places to put my money for advertising.Also very curious at what book number did you finally start seeing a steady income?  I have read many a authors tale and some say 3 books others 5 books.

It’s important to remember that there are no guarantees of anything with writing or publishing, and especially with marketing. I’ve tried things that I thought were good ideas, but nothing happened. I’ve tried things on a whim that took five minutes, and it turned out to be wildly successful.

That said, I started seeing (relatively) steady income after eight books – the 1st three Demonsouled books, the 1st three Ghosts books, my Ubuntu Beginner’s Guide, and my Windows Command Line Beginner’s Guide. I had also made the first Demonsouled book free and the first Ghost book free. That especially did the trick, since it’s five years later and there are now ten Demonsouled books and eighteen Ghosts books (nineteen if you count Blade of the Ghosts).

I should also mention that I was something of an anomalous case because I was able to do all of that in four months. I had written the novels over the previous ten years and was unable to get them traditionally published, so I could self-publish them pretty swiftly. Additionally, my Ubuntu books was originally a long series of blog posts for one of my older websites, so I combined them together in a single book.

If I was starting now, I wouldn’t spend any money on advertising until I’ve got at least three or four books in the series. (I won’t really do anything to advertise CLOAK GAMES until after  the fifth book SHATTER STONE comes out, hopefully in December.) I’ve had good results with BargainBooksy, BookGorilla, and BookSends. Bookbub is the best, but you need a certain minimum number of reviews first, and they reject about 90 percent of their submissions, so persistence helps.

Of course, that is true of all things in life!

-JM

fun with Google Play Books

More and more of my book sales over the last year have come from Google Play, but for all that, I’ve never actually used the Google Books app, so I decided to rectify that.

It’s pretty nice! The app looks pretty and loads smoothly, and it’s slick how Google seamlessly syncs the read locations between different Android devices.

I’m not sure how it calculates page counts, though. For some reason it thought that FROSTBORN: THE FALSE KING was 1100 pages, and usually in EPUB format it lands at about 350 pages. But 1100 sounds so much more impressive!

-JM

THE SANCTUARY SPARROW by Ellis Peters


I finished reading THE SANCTUARY SPARROW by Ellis Peters, one of her series about the mystery-solving monk Brother Cadfael, set in medieval England during the civil war between King Stephen and Empress Matilda.

I really enjoyed it! In this book, a desperate singer named Liliwin takes sanctuary at Brother Cadfael’s abbey, pursued by an angry mob that claims he assaulted and robbed a local goldsmith. Liliwin protests his innocence, and Brother Cadfael starts to investigate. Naturally, darker things are afoot than mere robbery.

I always enjoy it when Cadfael teams up with Hugh Beringar, the deputy sheriff of Shropshire. I definitely recommend this book, and the entire series. Always a pleasure to read a really good book from a writer at the top of her game.

-JM

ebook return rates

Recently I was asked if I have problems with returns on ebooks sold by Amazon. Amazon lets people return ebook purchases for any reason with (I think) 7 days. This is sometimes a cause for concern for writers, since they fear people are buying their book, reading it, and then returning it.

I don’t really worry about it. Frankly if someone is unhappy with one of my books, I would prefer that they be able to return it. There are people who do the “read and return” thing, but they’re a tiny minority. The more likely explanations for people returning a book are:

-They bought it by accident – it’s easy to buy ebooks by accident on Amazon.

-Their kid/girlfriend/boyfriend/dog got a hold of their phone and bought it by accident.

-They bought the book, realized that they couldn’t really afford it, and returned it. For many people $3.99 is money they can’t spare.

-They started reading the book, decided they hated it, and returned it rather than finish it.

All of these are good reasons to return an ebook. I think it’s better in the long run for a site to have a generous return policy, since it’s more likely to bring repeat business, and Amazon does eventually delete the accounts of serial returners.

That said, what are my return rates actually like?

On Amazon US in August, FROSTBORN OMNIBUS ONE had a return rate of 0.003%, and GHOST IN THE WINDS had a return rate of 1%. At that level, it isn’t really a problem.

-JM

iBookstore

To be fair, I do criticize Apple a lot (this comes from doing a lot of tech support for Macs), but I want them to do well. I sell a lot of books through iBooks, and they take self-publishing seriously. The top page of the iBookstore has a link to directions on how to self-publish on the iTunes store:

appleibooks

-JM

is the iPad a good ereader?

An article asks if the iPad is a good bargain for ebook readers.

I’d say that a tablet is a good bargain for ebook readers (it doesn’t have to be an iPad – an Android tablet will work just as well). If you have a really big library, it’s easier to manage on a tablet than on an eInk reader or a phone.

It’s also handy for propping up to read as you eat a sandwich with the other hand. 🙂 I have read entire series of books that way.

-JM