My ongoing free Kindle story giveaway: things I have observed and learned

/ November 25th, 2012 / 1 Comment »

Friday I launched a promotional giveaway of my three short stories available through Kindle. It continues through Tuesday night. Here’s what’s happened, what it may or may not mean, and what’s meaningless but definitely fun.

I have six e-books uploaded to Kindle. Three of them are, of course, the three Clockwork Phoenix anthologies, which sell on their own at a slow, steady trickle. (For what it’s worth, the first volume consistently outsells both sequels combined. This is also true of the paperback edition.)

Then there’s my three short stories, weird sf novelette “Stolen Souls” (trivia: this piece was my first-ever SFWA-qualifying sale, 13 years ago (!)), and weird fantasy tales “She Who Runs” (from the anthology Sky Whales and Other Wonders) and “Sleepless, Burning Life” (a novelette, from Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories). I picked these for a variety of reasons. They don’t fit in the collection (The Button Bin and Other Stories) I have forthcoming from Dagan Books. Neither “Stolen Souls” nor “She Who Runs” were seen by many people in their previous appearances, and I was able to find art I liked that matched thematically. Steam-Powered, on the other hand, has sold well on a small press scale, and a number of the stories from it have been reprinted in even bigger anthologies. But I don’t think “Sleepless,” being very long and very strange, has much chance of further reprints — and perhaps more importantly, it already had a full color illustration plum for the picking as a cover, created for a promotional post card that was never printed.

So I released these stories, to, frankly, not much interest at all, heh. I’ve observed that free promotions on Kindle don’t necessarily do a lot for a book’s sales — once the promotion ends they tend to snap right back to the sales rank they maintained previously. However, it became clear I’d have nothing to lose by trying a free promotion — I did, after all, write these stories wanting them to be read — so I bided my time until now and went for it.

The thing you fear most with something like this is that you’ll offer your wares for free and still have no takers. I figured if at the end of five days I had 500 individual downloads, I’d call it a goal met.

As of this morning, the start of day three of the Evil Friday Giveaway (because really, every day is Evil Friday,) I’m past 900 downloads. Um, goal met? Goal met!

I’ve learned that achieving an Amazon “sales rank” above 2,000 (at least when it comes to free offerings) works out to about 100+ downloads a day.

Of course, I had to screencap this special achievement, which “Sleepless, Burning Life” managed yesterday. Note the sales rank.

Here’s what’s sobering. For all the flurry of activity, I’ve noticed no effect whatsoever so far on the sales of my not-free books. They’re selling no more or less than usual.

Here’s what’s fun. Seeing that hundreds of copies of these stories of mine really are in people’s hands (and hopefully they’ll actually read them!) Amazon “category bestseller lists” are basically meaningless unless your overall ranking has reached 4 digits or lower (and you’re not, um, giving your books away) but it’s been a trip to see my three strange stories suddenly climb their respective lists like a surprise last minute rappelling team.

Here’s a silly part: watching the download scores go up, I found it impossible not to think in terms of a race. Throughout the first day “Sleepless” had the most downloads, with “Stolen” hanging in at a close second and “She Who Runs” firmly in third place. But yesterday “Stolen” blasted ahead and built what looks like an insurmountable lead. “Sleepless” and “She Who Runs” are now vigorously competing for second.

And here’s something nice: after 13 years, “Stolen Souls” finally got its first new review (5 stars on Amazon, yay!) from Liz Campbell at Dark Cargo:

Stolen Souls by Mike Allen is a future Earth story, a far, far future, peopled by humans, things that were once humans, aliens, and Frankenstein-esque constructs of improved beings and stolen parts.

It opens with a guy being mugged…for his brain. His true love was stolen from him, destroyed when her assailants stole her cortex like a radio from a car. However, he refuses to accept her death as a permanent event and this begins a space-opera sized story of seek and revenge efficiently packed into a novelette.

Allen doesn’t do anything without a bit of horror loaded into his paintbrush, and for me, the horrifying question he presents in Stolen Souls is whether or not we retain our humanity if defying death becomes an option. Grief, death, learning to pick up and move on, accepting death as final, are part of what makes us human, defines much of our spiritual beliefs and the desire to move beyond death has shaped humanity. Are we still human if we don’t have to do that anymore?

Free Kindle stories! A sinister Black Friday celebration

/ November 23rd, 2012 / 5 Comments »

In honor of the wickedly dubious achievement of the three volumes of Clockwork Phoenix having sold a total of 666 copies in e-book form as of today, I am making my three strange short stories on Kindle (“She Who Runs,” “Sleepless, Burning Life,” “Stolen Souls“) available free for any and all to download on Amazon, starting today and continuing through Tuesday. Consider it an Evil Friday gift. (Click on the covers below or the links above to go nab. Also, any help anyone can give signal boosting much appreciated, desperately needed, in fact — feel free to repost this in total or in part.)




(Interested in the promotion? Don’t have a Kindle? E-mail me and we’ll chat.)

“Machine Guns Loaded with Pomegranate Seeds” appears at Strange Horizons

/ November 19th, 2012 / No Comments »

My tongue-in-cheek anti-Persephone-poem poem “Machine Guns Loaded with Pomegranate Seeds” appeared today at Strange Horizons. My thanks to Sonya Taaffe for giving this piece a home. My thanks also to Amal El-Mohtar for this delightful Twitter review:


A new “Tour of the Abattoir” at Tales to Terrify

/ November 16th, 2012 / No Comments »

The latest Tales to Terrify podcast contains my newest “Tour of the Abattoir” column, in which I review stories from the first two issue of John Joseph Adams’ new publishing venture Nightmare Magazine, by Jonathan Maberry, Genevieve Valentine, Sarah Langan and Desirina Boskovich.

 

Mythic Delirium 27 on its way to mailboxes around the world

/ November 15th, 2012 / 3 Comments »

Cover by Paula Friedlander.

The newest issue of Mythic Delirium shipped out yesterday to destinations in all corners of the globe. There’s a darkly romantic theme to its offerings, with a new steampunk sonnet from Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Award winner Ken Liu, as well as contributions from Rachel Swirsky, Theodora Goss, Sonya Taaffe, Shira Lipkin, Sofía Rhei (translated from the Spanish by Lawrence Schimel,) Sandi Leibowitz, Rose Lemberg, Alex Dally MacFarlane, S. Brackett Robertson, Alexandra Seidel, Gwynne Garfinkle, Anna Sykora and Lida Broadhurst. If you want your own copy, here’s how you get one (there’s just a few of the first run left.)

Look for these to start going out in the mail Wednesday

/ November 12th, 2012 / No Comments »

If you want to make sure you get one, here’s how.

Mythic Delirium 27 just a week away

/ November 7th, 2012 / No Comments »

The newest issue of the zine, featuring Ken Liu, Theodora Goss, Rachel Swirsky, Shira Lipkin, Sonya Taaffe, Alex Dally MacFarlane, Rose Lemberg and more, has made the transition to a physical object. Tomorrow it will go to the printer for binding. Evidence below:

Clockwork Phoenix 4 submissions update

/ November 7th, 2012 / No Comments »

If you submitted a story to Clockwork Phoenix 4 in October and you haven’t received a response, it’s either because I’m holding your story for further consideration, or it somehow fell through the cracks in my submission system. Either way I encourage you to query.

We received about 500 submissions in October. In November so far we’ve gotten about 120. In allowing multiple submissions but barring simultaneous submissions, I feel I have an obligation to get back to everyone in a timely fashion so no one ends up with several stories tied up for a ridiculous length of time. My heartfelt thanks to my assistant editors, Sally Brackett Robertson and Sabrina West, who are helping me keep the task manageable.

A Clockwork Phoenix guidelines clarification: “rococo sf”

/ November 5th, 2012 / 2 Comments »

At prezzey.net, Bogi Takács asked me for a clarification of what “rococo sf” means in the Clockwork Phoenix guidelines.

This was my response:

My plea for “rococo sf” has caused puzzlement before. I recognize that recommending that people read the books to see what I mean is both obvious and futile, but if you read the sf stories I’ve actually published in the Clockwork Phoenix volumes (“Palisade” by Cat Sparks, “Oblivion: A Journey” by Vandana Singh, “Choosers of the Slain” and “Murder in Metachronopolis” by John C. Wright, “The Endangered Camp” by Ann Leckie, “Surrogates” by Cat Rambo, etc.) youll see that there is some element of the bizarre and/or the avant garde and/or the poetic and/or the dream-like that permeate them. Most writers who tackle elements like this in their prose and plots choose to do it as fantasy, but it can also be incorporated into convincing science fiction, and when someone pulls it off it makes me very, very happy.

Other sf stories in the pages of Clockwork Phoenix include Jennifer Crow’s “Seven Scenes from Harrai’s Sacred Mountain,” C.S. MacCath’s “Akhila, Divided,” Barbara Krasnoff’s “Rosemary, That’s For Remembrance,” Leah Bobet’s “Six” and arguments can be made for other stories that cross over from the slipstream side, such as Tanith Lee’s “The Woman” or Gregory Frost’s “Lucyna’s Gaze.”

You might ask why not call it “avant garde sf” or “surreal sf”? Well, to my mind that isn’t correct, because though I want the sf in Clockwork Phoenix to have that sumptuous strangeness, I also want it to be comprehensible. So I picked “rococo,” roughly meaning in this case “elegant and ornate” and also “florid” or “artistically complex,” in an attempt to give a sense of what’s different about what I select. Really, those descriptors apply to almost everything I pick in some way. Except when they don’t. (*Insert evil laugh here.*)

Mythic Delirium 27 cover complete

/ November 1st, 2012 / No Comments »

I wanted to show off how Tim Mullins handled adding the poet names to Paula Friedlander’s art.

Next comes printing. Now is a good time to subscribe.

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