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Newsletter news and brief update

Hello! Long time, no post!

My efforts these days are going more toward writing the books and newsletters. Today’s blog post is mainly about newsletters.

First off, where am I with writing? I’m 20 chapters into Bite Back 7, Queen of Diamonds, and I was expecting this to be about 70 chapters. Having said that, I’m spending a lot more chapters on the early part of the book, without actually seeing any of the later chapters reduced. Maybe this will be one of the longer books. Hopefully I should finish the draft by the end of summer.

Concentrating on Bite Back 7 means that Bian’s Tale 2 and Among the Stars 3 are both started but on hold.

That’s my weekday writing. As many of you will know, I try and do something very different at weekends (no, I don’t write every day, but most days). I’m back doing something that I did on this blog site a couple of years ago, when I write Among the Stars books 1 and 2 – I’m writing a serial.

It’s another Science Fiction, in the same universe as Among the Stars, but centuries earlier. It’s called The Long Way Home. I will be publishing it in episodes of about 10k words on a monthly basis. I’ll be publishing it as a newsletter.

Episode 1 is available as the opening story in an anthology called The Great Beyond, available for 99c/99p at the moment. To continue reading The Long Way Home, you’ll need to join my newsletter, and new episodes will be released each month, starting with July (this one!). Episodes will be free.

Links below.

What’s it about?

“Their war has just ended. Their struggles have just begun.

Janice Skelling and Bjorn Thorsson are desperate to get back from the war with the technology that will mean the difference between life and death for their remote home planet, out in Frontier space. But nothing is easy. They have to overcome betrayals, corruption, greed… and pirates, on The Long Way Home.

Two easy steps to get on board:

1. Buy The Great Beyond anthology ($0.99/£0.99) to get episode 1.

smarturl.it/greatbeyond

2. Sign up for the newsletter and get free monthly episodes.

https://mailchi.mp/27afed3e7c0c/mark-henwick-scifi-newsletter-signup

BONUS STEP! Get a free 1 hr audio. Jessica Henwick, star of Iron Fist & Matrix 4, narrates The Long Way Home, Episode 1!

bit.ly/thelongwayhomeaudio

I hope you enjoy it!

And reviews. Reviews on any of my books. Reviews are lifeblood for writers. Reviews please, readers. 🙂

Thank you!

Cover reveal and alert for book 6

Inside Straight will be appearing on Amazon sometime today for pre-orders.

Actual release is scheduled for 31st October.

I’m relaunching the series with new covers and advertising.

The full images which will be used for the print books:

And the eBook covers from these:

I’ll be making some merchandise items from these images – T shirts, mugs, etc.

I love these covers. 🙂

 

Update and Angel Stakes cover reveal

The first featured image is Andrew discussing handling weapons with Maria at White Box Studio.

 

Inside Straight

I’ve completed my major edit pass and the text has gone to Lauren for the final checks on spelling and grammar. The book will be published on the 31st October, and I’ll put it up for pre-orders a week or so before. I’ll make sure you know it’s up on Amazon. 🙂

Relaunch of series

The pre-order of Inside Straight will be combined with a relaunch of the whole series with new covers. That means I have to reformat all the print books (previously printed by CreateSpace), change the audio covers, sharpen up the blurbs, and insert a brief (!) summary of previous books and cast list into books 2 – 6. I am so looking forward to that. Lol.

At the same time I’ll start releasing ‘bundles’. The first will be books 1-3 combined into one eBook, and sold at a discount. This is to capture those readers for whom one book at a time is not enough. Yes, this is a thing, and quite a large thing apparently. The second bundle of books 4-6 should go up sometime in December. These bundles will require their own eBook covers, which I will reveal here on the blog.

The relaunch will combine the new covers and bundles with an advertising campaign.

When I first published on Amazon, the only marketing tools under my control were covers, blurbs, newsletters, Bookbub (and similar), reviewers etc. With the possible exception of Bookbub, these tools have less and less direct, primary effect. Why? Because Amazon has changed. They used to have fairly neutral ranking and promotional algorithms. If you sold, and got good reviews, your ranking went up in a straightforward manner, and they promoted you in their newsletters. Now, to get the same effect, you have to reinvest part of your sales in the Amazon advertising machine. That’s what I’ll be doing, to the tune of approximately 20% of my target income. Gulp.

(This is not to say that reviews no longer work. I’m still very keen on reviews. Just a few words if you haven’t already. Please. 🙂 )

I may also try Bookbub and similar newsletters as well. And I’m considering building my own newsletter too. I have a current mailing list, but that is *strictly* for new book releases. The general newsletter will (among other things) explore the lore of the Athanate/Were/Adept world, especially those parts that don’t quite make it into the books. I may write some short stories which would go out in the newsletters.

Merchandise

I hear you. I’ll have some T shirts, coasters and stuff made from these covers and some photos that don’t make the covers. I have no schedule yet.  🙂

Angel Stakes cover

Books 1-4 have concentrated appropriately on Amber with weapons – the handgun, submachine gun and the shotgun. These demanded action poses to convey the best impact. However, although Amber uses weapons in Angel Stakes, there’s a different feel to the book. Amber rights old wrongs. Amber stalks her enemy almost as a personification of justice. The second werewolf ritual takes place in this book as well, and whereas Amber can almost convince herself that the first halfy ritual down in New Mexico (end of Cool Hand) was a fluke, the evidence that it’s an ability she has becomes overwhelming in Angel Stakes.

So I wanted something less to do with physical weapons, but more to do with a rather spooky, witchy Amber coming to get you.

I think Andrew and Maria hit this brief out of the park. What do you think?

Print book image

And the eBook cover

Cover reveal for Bite Back books 3 and 4

Cover reveal – books 3 and 4

I’m in the last few chapters of editing. Good news (I think): the book has got longer.

I’m a guest at a French convention in Lille, Les Halliénales, this weekend, so this week’s cover reveal is a short post concentrating on the images themselves. As I haven’t much to say, you get two for the price of one! Book 3 and book 4 covers!

Feedback always welcome: Do you like the images? Do they convey Bite Back well? Do they feel branded in the same way as books 1 and 2?

 

First, the full images which will be used for the print books.

 

And the eBook images.

 

Roundup and reveal

Special treat for readers who monitor the blog site and Facebook page – advance reveal of the new covers, one or two a week, starting today…

(And I’m keen for feedback!)

Okay, okay. Roundup first.

Inside Straight

Inside Straight is late in the big and little sense of the word. In the big sense, I can’t quite work out how it has taken over three years from Angel Stakes to Inside Straight. In the little sense, I promised publication in 2018, then spring 2019, then summer, and then 30th September, but now it’s going to be the 31st October.

I will be concentrating on writing Bite Back and Bian’s Tale for the next year or so and I hope to do better than one of each per year. We’ll see.

France

Bite Back (published under the series name ‘Amber Farrell’) is doing very well in France. I’m expecting my first 12 month sales analysis from Bragelonne this month, but I already know that the sales are over 20,000 books and there’s 2:1 ratio in favor of printed books. I’ve attended the book festival at Epinal as a guest speaker and I’m also attending festivals at Lille and Dunkirk this year. Things are looking good.

Germany

I’m trying very hard to engage a German publisher on the same sort of basis as France and I’m having no luck. My emails aren’t even getting a response. I may visit the Frankfurt Book Fair next month to see if face to face is easier.

Covers

The launch of Inside Straight will coincide with a new marketing drive for the Bite Back series, including:

  • New book covers for eBook (English and German versions), paperback and audio
  • Amazon and Facebook advertising
  • Bundling (selling books 1-3 as one for a discount)
  • Newsletter promotions.

I’ve never been quite happy with the covers for Bite Back. The series is not a standard Urban Fantasy series, so there was always the argument that the covers should be a little different. At the 20Books writers’ convention in Edinburgh, I got some feedback on the covers and advice to go and talk to Andrew at Creative Edge Studios. Long story short, Andrew and I kicked around ideas, hired a big studio, got the props out, persuaded Maria to join us, engaged a makeup artist and spent a whole day, resulting in over a thousand photos. It was a fabulous day.

Maria is Amber, and she really got into the part. Even standing waiting for the cameras to be set up, she looked bad-ass.

This is not a retouched photo. I have done nothing apart from clipping the background out.

At the end of the shoot, I had the difficult task of choosing one photo for each book.

The overview for the images is a sort of compromise. I wanted the book covers to say Urban Fantasy, but I wanted to hint that there’s a lot of action as well. This is close to the brief for the very first covers I did, but the poses chosen for those were what is called in the trade ‘heroic’. Andrew and I decided we’d include more ‘action’ poses.

Book 1 is the key, the most important image that sets the tone for the series. I wanted Amber’s favorite automatic, the HK Mk 23, and I wanted an action pose with a Urban Fantasy background of Denver including witchy lights and oversize moon. Andrew took that brief and produced this, the full image without titles for the printed book.

I reckon it’s excellent.

And here’s the eBook cover.

 

I love the image.

What do YOU think?

 

 

 

 

Delay of a month for Bite Back 6

Month delay for Bite Back 6…

Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control, there’s going to be a delay in the release of Inside Straight. I had intended to load the Amazon servers with the pre-order on the 16th (next Monday), for publication on the 30th, but that’s not going to be possible.

The text is still in editing and the covers (plural) aren’t ready.

My marketing plan was to boost the series with new, professionally-created covers and a bundle (several ebooks in one at a discount) and an advertising campaign while Inside Straight was in pre-order, so that book 6 got the maximum amount of publicity.

That’s still the plan, but I am now aiming for release on the 31st October, with the pre-order and advertising beginning on the 14th.

I am also scheduling a series of previews of the new covers on Facebook and here, which will serve as a countdown to the marketing.

My apologies for the delay!

Last teaser chapter for Bite Back 6

Absolutely, positively the last teaser chapter of Inside Straight. A short one.

I’m nearly there with the ‘ready for editor’ draft, and Lauren has booked it in for the 6th July. Gulp.

Watch this blog or Facebook for publication news, or sign up for a book alert.

Due to Amazon rules, the teasers have to be removed once the book is up.
Inside Straight is available on https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07ZJK9H4B/

 

 

May teaser and update

Another teaser chapter, but no competition this month. Again, the teasers are only a way to urge me on. You may get another teaser next month, but that will be it.

As I say, no competition, but on the other hand, if you’re from Denver, or you’ve followed my previous posts carefully, you’ll be able to tell me what the picture is and why it’s significant in Bite Back…

My writing is up to the 75% point approximately, and the beta readers have read up to the 50% point approximately. I have a couple of scenes to rework based on feedback, but I’m focused on (1) getting the beta readers to the 75% point and (2) writing the last quarter (often the quickest), and then getting the book to the editor.

Due to Amazon rules, the teasers have to be removed once the book is up.
Inside Straight is available on https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07ZJK9H4B/

 

 

 

Update, Quiz and Teaser

TWO CHAPTERS today. These chapters are just teasers. Their real purpose is to keep me focused on writing progress.

Beta readers will be up to the half way point of Book 6, Inside Straight, later today. I’ve hit a bit of a difficult section and I’m interested to see what they make of it…

Other stuff

Among the Stars – I have broken Amazon support. They finally acknowledge that they allow other series to have the series title as part of the book names, but that mine has still been disallowed. They don’t know why. They have transferred me to ‘Tech Support’, which, from the way they refer to it, is situated on another planet entirely. Tech Support have failed to communicate with me at all. At this point, it’s sheer bloody-mindedness that keeps me going. The lack of a series name makes it extremely difficult to promote the second book. This has gone on so long that A Threat Among the Stars has basically failed – sales are very poor. I may try to revive it, but at this point, it’s all wasted effort.

Okay QUIZ TIME…

This will be very easy for some, especially those who live in Denver, or who’ve followed my posts for three years…
Winners of previous quizzes can of course send me a message, but are not allowed to take part publicly 🙂

What’s the building in the picture and what special significance does it have?

Prize: In Book 7: Either name a new character, or demand the return of a previous character to a significant role…

 

Due to Amazon rules, the teasers have to be removed once the book is up.
Inside Straight is available on https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07ZJK9H4B/

 

 

Update and question for you and a chapter teaser from Inside Straight

I’m about half way through Inside Straight at the level I think of as ‘Ready for Editor’. (ish). Tomorrow (Friday 1st) the first quarter (15 chapters – 28k words) will go to the beta readers, and unless there need to be a lot of changes, the second quarter will go to the beta readers as soon as feedback on the first is in.

There’s more written than that, but I’ve written in isolated scenes, which means the connecting flow sections and segues need to be put in. When they get put in, I find the scenes often need to change slightly.

I’m continuing to put out teaser chapters as below. These aren’t complete episodes, so the chapter will not feel like an episode from Change of Regime or A Name Among the Stars.

Speaking of the ‘Among the Stars’ series… after 2 months Amazon support have finally identified why the series title does not appear on the Amazon book page. So, what I designed (according to all the Amazon help files) was for the book page to be headed ‘A Name Among the Stars (Among the Stars Book 1)’ and for the books to be linked as a series. A month after launch I finally managed to persuade them to link the two books as a series. They claimed undocumented publishing rules prevented that, and just doing what it said in the help documents and emailing them to ask wasn’t enough. I actually had to note in my bio that the two books were part of a series!

Now they have told me another undocumented rule is that the series title cannot be contained in the book title. So the series cannot be called ‘Among the Stars’ because that’s part of the book name ‘A Threat Among the Stars’. Now, there are lots of series on Amazon which avoid this by adding the word ‘Series’ to the series title. So, potentially, the full name + series name would be ‘A Name Among the Stars (Among the Stars Series Book 1).

Here’s your question: do you think ‘Among the Stars Series’ is a good name (even if other books in the series don’t have ‘Among the Stars’ as part of the title), or should I go for something completely different? In the books I talk about humanity’s ‘Expansion’. Do you think ‘Expansion’, or ‘Humanity’s Expansion’, or ‘The Fourth Expansion’ would be better titles? Or something completely different? Suggestions?

What is the effect this has all had?

It’s difficult to *know* what happens in Amazon promotions, because Amazon aren’t telling. Amazon claims it will automatically prompt you, the reader, if there’s a new book from a writer you’ve read before. It claims it will prompt you if there’s a subsequent book in a series you’ve read. It claims it will prompt you if you’ve clicked on the ‘author follow’ button and there’s a new release from the author.

One of my beta readers has read every single book of mine, including A Name Among the Stars, and has followed me on Amazon. He just received an email telling him about A Threat Among the Stars last week, two months after it went up on pre-order. Others still haven’t had any notification.

As you’ll know if you follow my occasional posts about marketing, the first month after release is vital for a new book, and A Threat Among the Stars has suffered, for whatever reason. I can’t claim it’s all about Amazon. I simply don’t know. Once I settle the series title issue, I’ll have to start marketing (including giving money to Amazon for stuff they should have done anyway). Worse, advertising has to be created, which takes time, just like writing. So more marketing means less writing.

Anyway… teaser time.

Due to Amazon rules, the teasers have to be removed once the book is up.
Inside Straight is available on https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07ZJK9H4B/