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Messages - erikhanberg

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Hello all! After being cocooned in a writing cave recently, I've decided to turn to the web for help threading my prose together. I need some silky words to weave together this blurb about a world where humans live in harmony with spiders.


Ok, that's all the spider jokes I can think of. Anyway, it's a short story I'm working on, about 10,000 words. I'm pretty happy with it. The title is Red Silk Spider. It's sci-fi with one big action scene. Kind of feels like an X Files set 400 years in the future maybe? With spiders. Here are three blurbs that tackle it from different sides. I'm not sure if short story blurbs should be as long as novel blurbs, so I've tried to play with that too.

Any feedback on which blurb you think sells the story best would be very appreciated!

Blurb 1
Four hundred years in the future, spiders and humans will live in harmony. Arachnophobia is bigotry. And the silk of spiders decorate our bodies in elaborate tattoos as part of the spider mating ritual.

For Charlotte and her spider Helena, it’s all perfectly natural. Until a volcanic eruption unleashes a new force on the world that threatens them both.

Blurb 2

Four hundred years after humanity's reckless abuse of the environment causes a catastrophe known as The Fall, humans have bioengineered replacements for the species we used to share the planet with. We live in harmony with everything, even black widow spiders.

But Charlotte and her spider Helena are about to learn that something can still threaten that balance: nature itself.

Blurb 3

"I'll scratch your back, you eat my face."
So thinks Charlotte of her pet black widow spider, Helena. Between the red silk tattoo Helena created on Charlotte's body over night, and the cloud of volcanic ash threatening the city, it's going to be that kind of day.

But when it's discovered that the volcano may have released more than just ash, Charlotte and Helena are going to learn that there are some things more urgent than a spider's mating instinct and more deadly than a black widow's venom.

Writers' Cafe / Audiobook refunds (through ACX)
« on: August 02, 2017, 09:12:40 am »
Over the past couple weeks I've seen a handful of Audiobook refunds—this almost never happened before that I can remember. Has anyone else seen this recently? Did something change in Audible that makes it easier for people to return an audiobook?

Curious if it's just me!

Writers' Cafe / Re: Advice for Writing a Christmas Novella?
« on: April 07, 2017, 06:36:36 pm »
I'd release it on Thanksgiving Day, or maybe the day before. My own experiment with a Christmas novella was that there were some nice sales during the holiday season (relatively for me) but that it was pretty lackluster the rest of the year. Although I published mine in 2012, so much could have changed.

Writers' Cafe / Re: First BookBub!! Please help me with stacking.
« on: March 14, 2017, 11:49:16 am »
I've done one promo on the day before the bookbub under the theory that it's better to start the ranking higher for Bookbub, and then do all the rest in the 1 to 3 days after Bookbub to keep the long tail high. No idea how well it works versus other strategies but I've been pleased with it.

I got the notification email but don't see any of my books in the promo. So who knows what gives! Some in Select, some wide. But without knowing which book, I don't see how to fully participate.

There is no required level of scientific accuracy--the 'hardness' of the science can exist at any point on a wide spectrum, and should be driven by your own aesthetic and thematic goals. If, for example, you want to have a story that asks probing questions about what it means to be sentient, then you would be well served by reading up on the neuroscientific and philosophical discourse on cognition. On the other hand, if the crucial concepts in your story are not scientific and you just want to include 'a cool technology,' it's fine to not have a perfect understanding of how it would work (or even why it wouldn't!)

You are not submitting this to a peer-reviewed research journal, you are trying to tell engaging stories.

I should have added this note too. What are the expectations of the reader in the genre should be an important question before you choose which option to address the potential problem.

Here are the options as I see them:

1) ignore the flaw and explain it in the sequel.

2) hand wave. "Yeah, good thing that we realized how Newton was wrong and that gravity actually works like [fill in the blank with your theory.]"

3) make it sound plausible with technobabble. We'll call this the Star Trek option. The farther your book is into the future, the easier this gets. "What if we recalibrate the gravimetric particle accelerometer into a reverse tachyon cannon? That would stop the ship from blowing up."

4) do a bunch of research into current science and then plot a reasonable explanation.

Personal opinion: If no beta readers are bothered by it, but you are, then I'd hand wave and flesh it out more in the sequel. Most good science fiction is not about the sound-ness of the science.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Star Trek Friday
« on: September 09, 2016, 02:18:18 pm »

Writers' Cafe / Re: The problem in historical fiction is...
« on: August 04, 2016, 04:07:35 pm »
I think you may need to get creative with "how the narrator thinks of someone" versus "how people are referred to."

So you have three men:

James Stewart (55)
James Stewart (35)
James Stewart (15)

The oldest the narrator always refers to as "The Duke" or by his land.
The son reminds the narrator of a black grouse, a Scottish bird. As much as she tries to hide it, she thinks of him as The Grouse. And only addresses him in speech formally and correctly. But in the narration he's the Grouse.
And the youngest is James, because he's still young.

Obviously this would work best in first person narration because it's more plausible an individual would think of someone as "the grouse" than the narrator. But you could probably even sway it with a narrator. "No one would say it to his face, but he looked distinctly like a black grouse rustling in the underbrush. It came in handy—a servant could mention that the Grouse was nosing around again and everyone would get your meaning without risk that he would overhear."

It's a cheat, but I think it could be sold.

Writers' Cafe / Re: I read only women for a year. [blog post]
« on: July 18, 2016, 11:01:12 pm »
Nice post, Erik! I made 2014 my Year of the Female SFF Author. Brief reviews of all the scifi and fantasy I read that year are on my blog, as well as previous posts citing how low my ratio of female to male authors had been in previous years.

It's always good to be more self-aware, and it's nice to see more people trying to diversify their reading habits as well!

I intend to do a POC and a LGBTQ-focused one eventually, but I think next year will be the Year of the Indies. :)  100% books authored by self-publishers and maybe small press, too, I can't decide.

Thanks for sharing the link! Good stuff on there. I've read only a few of those. Will check some out!

Writers' Cafe / Re: I read only women for a year. [blog post]
« on: July 18, 2016, 03:51:57 pm »

To the OP: an interesting experiment. Your article gave me a lot of perspective, things I'd never thought about before.

Thank you! I wasn't quite sure where it was all going when I started. It was interesting to see where it took me!

Writers' Cafe / Re: I read only women for a year. [blog post]
« on: July 18, 2016, 01:41:33 pm »
Good on you, Erik! I'm thinking about doing the same myself. What did you think of Hild?

Hild was the best book I had trouble reading. ;)

Seriously, there were so many old English words and Irish bits. And I'd skim a paragraph and realize something huge was going down and have to re-read it more closely. But I really came away loving the book.

Writers' Cafe / Re: I read only women for a year. [blog post]
« on: July 18, 2016, 01:11:35 pm »

I thought his goals and the post was very well done.

Thank you!

Writers' Cafe / I read only women for a year. [blog post]
« on: July 17, 2016, 09:45:05 pm »
I've finally written up my thoughts from reading exclusively women for a year and I thought KBoarder writers might be interested in the topic.

Here's the post

One thing I didn't get into much in this is the research about bias in publishing: a surprisingly low number of the reviews in industry publications and awards go to women. Self-publishing, combined with the algorithms of Amazon and Goodreads, can help subvert that bias (though obviously the publications and awards committees need to work on dealing with it as well). It was interesting to note that after reading only books by women for a year, Goodreads has started to recommend a lot more books by women. So there's something of a feedback loop: the algorithms finally caught up to my reading challenge, even though they didn't know about it!

Anyway, I hope the post is good food for thought.

Writers' Cafe / Re: So...Audiobooks. Worth it?
« on: March 27, 2016, 07:33:48 pm »
--edited for clarity--

I swear by my audiobooks. Two stories:

1) My nonfiction audiobooks about nonprofits sell modestly well in ebook and paperback, but seem to grab their fair share of Audible bounties ($1,300 total worth by my count.) One of them, about how to be a good board member, consistently sells better in audio than ebook. Modest numbers overall, but audio adds real stability to my monthly bottom line.

2) In terms of fiction, the audiobook of The Lead Cloak (my sci-fi novel) barely sold. But so did the ebook. So I generally agree that a book that isn't selling for you is probably not a good candidate for audio. BUT. I retooled The Lead Cloak, new cover, etc, and went permafree. Sales of the audiobook took off because of the Whispersync pairing. When I got the Bookbub, I sold 400+ audio copies, which paid for the cost of the promotion. In other words, thanks to my audiobook, I'm making money on a free book, plus getting sell-throughs for Book II! It's a pretty great combo and I'm working to get Book II into audio as well.

I think my experience with the nonprofit book is an exception. I wouldn't count on audio out-performing ebook sales. But it certainly is a nice added income stream!

Writers' Cafe / Re: NOOK press calls in quits in UK!
« on: March 03, 2016, 07:36:50 pm »
Reading their letter again, I find this part of some concern:

"NOOK customers in the UK will continue to have access to purchased NOOK Books until May 31, 2016. After this date, NOOK has arranged for the award‑winning Sainsbury's Entertainment on Demand to provide access to customers' purchased NOOK Books."

Does this mean if B&N gets out of the digital business entirely I could lose the books I've bought for my Nook?

When this has happened in the past, another ebook provider has tried to scoop up the readership. Libraries transferred from Sony Reader to Kobo for example, if I remember correctly. Kobo or maybe others (who aren't Amazon) probably have an interest in grabbing a few extra percentage points of market share by getting these readers to their platform.

Writers' Cafe / Re: What is your Pom Speed?
« on: February 19, 2016, 02:23:29 pm »
I did my first pomodoro sprint ever today. I wrote 1036 words between two 25 minutes poms. Thank you for those who have kept this thread alive! That's been a great boost for me. I'm going to try this for a while and see how it goes.

One additional note: a speedy moon like Phobos on Mars moves too fast to probably measure any time by it. So whether your planet has months is dependent on the kind of moon and its proximity, etc.

Weeks are nonsensical. They aren't based on any actual physical or astronomical phenomenon.

Invented planets, like Earth, will have a year, because it circles a star, but who know how long. If it has a single satellite it will likely have a month of some kind. And if it spins it will likely have a day, but again, who knows how long. If it has an orbital tilt it will have seasons.

Don't get caught up in weeks. No one on Earth likes them either! ;)

Writers' Cafe / Re: 3 new ways authors can reach readers via BookBub
« on: February 16, 2016, 10:26:24 pm »
I seriously doubt that. They have no reason to do this. It would be too much work for them to make pennies.

Really? If I paid them to promote Book 1 of a series, and the entire bounce comes from sales of Book 2 at full price, then it's pretty good for them to have Book 2 for sale in their own store. They would 30% of the sale if they matched Amazon's terms instead of 0% (or maybe 4-6% if the sale came through the Bookbub affiliate link). That's $0.90/sale on a $2.99 book. Multiple that by the number of daily Bookbub promotions that have a Book 2 available, and you have a pretty strong revenue if you could make it work.

I'm not saying it would be easy by any means. But if I were BookBub, I'd start testing ideas such as an exclusive launch for an author *before* it hits Amazon, and other things like that. Get people used to the idea of paying BookBub directly and you could build quite a sales platform.

Off topic, sorry to hijack the thread.

Writers' Cafe / Re: 3 new ways authors can reach readers via BookBub
« on: February 16, 2016, 09:34:06 pm »
I have a theory that BookBub is basically building a sales platform and that eventually they will sell ebooks through their site. These new features make me feel like they really are moving in that direction. An author-centric ebook platform is very intriguing.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Kindle Worlds question - tracking sales
« on: January 30, 2016, 02:23:58 pm »
Thank you both for this information!

Actually, it appears that after a year of sales, my tab has disappeared. And the bookmark I had doesn't work. So it's possible that you should be seeing the tab but something is wrong on their end. Because mine isn't there either!

Writers' Cafe / Re: How I revamped a dying two-year old book
« on: January 27, 2016, 01:33:59 pm »
I have been in the Top 10 for New Releases in Hard Sci-Fi since it came out. So I think building interest with the pre-order option was likely the right way to go. My hunch is that if I only started my promotion of Book I now, there's no way Book II would have any audience to lend me there. So we'll see how these first 30 days treats the book. Thanks for the support, everyone!

Just to add: I've been seeing book sales in the KDP dashboard that weren't being reported by BookReport, but the confirm my data button did fix the problem. Mac and Chrome.

Writers' Cafe / Re: How I revamped a dying two-year old book
« on: January 26, 2016, 11:55:08 am »
Thank you all!

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