Author Talk – Featuring Nicholas T. (Nick) Davis

Nick MugshotThis is the inaugural interview for my blog. I wanted to start out with a special author. Nick Davis is a friend of mine. We have known each other since we were students at East Syracuse-Minoa High School (Class of 1980). We had lost touch until a couple of years ago when we realized we had some things in common. We both write books and we both are musicians.

We had a chance to connect last year when I was back in my hometown of Syracuse, New York. We’ve been in touch ever since bouncing ideas off of each other. When I decided to start interviewing authors as a new feature on my Blog, I thought Nick would be the best person to start off with.

His latest book, Dimension Lapse II: Return to Doomsday, is a great read and the second in a series. I posed some questions to Nick about his writing and the book and here they are.


DM: Nick, what’s the title and genre of the book you want to tell us about?

ND: Dimension Lapse II: Return to Doomsday, science fiction

DM: Can you summarize your book in one short sentence?

ND: The story is about a young woman who travels into the future, and into another universe through a wormhole to find out what happened to her father.

DM: Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?

ND: I like to think my audience might be young men in their twenties. It’s a fast paced science fiction adventure full of action and suspense.

DM: Well I read it and enjoyed it and I’m in my twenties (plus another thirty). Anyway, how did you come up with the title?

ND: Back in my twenties, I used to watch the Twilight Zone a lot, and when Rod Serling (a Syracuse University grad) spoke about other dimensions of space and time, it gave me the idea. I also was a big fan of Star Trek and other space shows and books of the sixties era.

DM: Tell me about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?

ND: I’m not sure who designed the artwork, I imported it from a free site. I designed the cover using the Adobe Lightroom program. I picked this particular cover because it best represented the story I was trying to tell.

DM: What are your biggest writing influences (another author, another book, a movie, etc.)

ND: I was first influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, but I also loved to read Ray Bradbury, Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov, and Robert Heinlein.

DM: Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

ND: Balta, because of his sly and clever nature and quest for power. I designed him after all of the most villainous characters I could think of from literary works and film.

DM: How about your least favorite character?  What makes them less appealing to you?

ND: That would have to be Malone. He is a miserable human being at best, and is always trying to find the easy way out of things.

DM: If you could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be?

ND: I would have gone further into the Zacharian’s history.

DM: Give me a fun fact or a few about your book or series:

ND: Jeff and Rollings had met before on Mars, but it was so brief they didn’t remember each other the second time around.

DM: What other books are similar to your own?  What makes them alike?

ND: A wrinkle In Time, Dr. Who series, The Time Machine. They all deal with alternate realities and universes.

DM: I know the answer to this, but do you have any unique talents or hobbies?

ND: I also oil paint, write music and play keyboards.

DM: How can we find out more about you and your books?

ND: You can visit my blog at https://ntdavis18dotcom.wordpress.com or my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/NTDAVISDIMENSIONLAPSE/.

My novels are available on Amazon, Smashwords, or Lulu, and are in paperback, hardcover, and on kindle and Nook.

DM: What can we expect from you in the future?

ND: I’m working on the third book of my series, and can see at least three more editions added to it. I’m also working on another children’s book.

DM: What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?

ND: After reading it, posting a review on Amazon or Goodreads, and spreading the word of the tales of Jeff Walker, Angelica Avery, and others of the Dimension Lapse universe.

DM: Do you have any advice for other writers trying to get published?

ND: Find an editor early in the game, to avoid the frustration self editing can be, and even if sales are slow, write because you love it and it’s in your blood.

DM: Can you give us an excerpt from your book to intrigue and tantalize us?

Angelica could feel a rush of cold air from the open section of the ceiling that was torn apart by an explosion. Frozen nitrogen covered part of the walls and floor at the far end of the complex. She entered, shocked and unable to believe what she saw. There was destroyed machinery and rubble, and it didn’t look like any of the computers could ever be operational again. Walking through, she could see human bones scattered amongst the rubble, decayed and charred. There was also something else, something alien. Some of the skulls looked like some form of primate, but with only one eye socket, and then there was some kind of insect exoskeleton, which had six limbs, but obviously walked as a biped. There were also decayed pieces of some kind of humanoid, but not quite human.

It was obvious to her there was some kind of battle here, and an explosion as well. The walls were burned from extreme heat, and ash was everywhere. To the right, there was what appeared to be a landing deck for spaceships of some kind, but most of them were shattered or unusable. Angelica now assumed whatever happened, her father was in the middle of it somehow. She started to cry, but stopped, knowing that it would only use her oxygen supply quicker. She was curious to find out if the air was breathable, so she pulled out a small sensor from her suit pocket and activated the button that checked the air quality. Seeing it was Oxygen, but more Nitrous Oxide, and extremely cold, she felt it would be safer to keep her helmet on for now, and keep her suit temperature control at 68°.

Putting the sensor back, she pulled out her pistol again, and walked in the direction of where the catwalk was. The catwalk ladder was wobbly, but she weighed lighter here due to the gravity, and she felt it would hold her. She climbed it carefully, holding tight to her weapon. She still felt the need for a little added protection; there were no guarantees she was totally alone here.

About Nick Davis

Nicholas Davis is a first time science fiction writer who lives in East Syracuse, NY and has been writing off and on since he was 12 years old. Inspired to write by his seventh grade English teacher, and reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings motivated him to write his own stories.

He has a daughter Kelly from a previous marriage, and a wife named Nancy. He has also worked days at a mental institution as a cleaner for 26 years. He is also a solo musician, and plays social functions occasionally, and likes oil painting as well.

His current books, Dimension Lapse II: RETURN TO DOOMSDAY  and Tobias Meets A Friend are available online on Smashwords.com.,Barnes & Noble and Amazonbooks.com.

Nick’s Books

Dimension Lapse

Dimension Lapse II

Tobias Meets a Friend

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The Birth, Care, and Feeding of a Mailing List – Part 1

Hello out there in Blog Land. I’ve been posting tips about Advance Reader Copies, Beta Readers, and Street Teams. It occurred to me that, for some authors, this might be putting the cart before the horse. In order to form these things, I’ve found that they all come from one thing that I had to establish first, a mailing list.

The Birth of a Mailing List

stork_baby

There are numerous ways to establish a mailing list, both good and bad. What I have found is that, if you want engaged contacts that are likely to read what you have written, you need to concentrate on the quality of your mailing list and not the quantity of people on it.

In order to build a quality mailing list, you have to appeal to the interests of those that sign up. I have built the bulk of my list from two sources which I will expand on in future posts after I summarize them here.

First, I did a giveaway. When I released my first detective novel, Frankly Speaking, I did a giveaway using Rafflecopter. This service lets you set up a giveaway with pictures of the prizes and it collects contact information for those that enter. It’s really important to let your entrants know that you are putting them on your mailing list when you do this. My initial giveaway consisted of three prizes. First prize was a pen with an integrated video camera. It was about $50. Second prize was a signed copy of the book and third prize was an eBook copy. This resulted in about 700 mailing list subscribers.

Rafflecopter is a free service that integrates with another free service, MailChimp.  This service, which I’ll talk about in depth in another post,  allows the management of mailing lists and the setting up of newsletters and mail campaigns. For a minimal monthly cost, you can automate your mailings.

The second method I used, which I believe resulted in higher quality mailing list members, was to use the combination of Facebook advertising and MailChimp to give away copies of my first book to anyone that signed up. With MailChimp, I was able to link to stored .mobi (Kindle) and PDF copies of my book that subscribers could automatically download. Over a period of a month, this resulted in about 1,000 additional subscribers.

I’ve kept the giveaway and the free book subscribers separate on  MailChimp. The reason for this is my perception of the difference in the quality of these two groups. Those that took the chance on downloading my book might actually be more apt to buy future work and may be classified as readers. The giveaway group, in my opinion, is just made up of people that wanted free stuff. The reason that I want to keep them separate will become evident in the next section.

Care and Feeding

care

Once you have a mailing list, you should not abuse it or your subscribers by sending them junk. One thing that you want to avoid is having people unsubscribe and flag you as a spam sender. This will damage the reputation of your mailing list and your email address. You don’t want this to happen or all of your posts will be ‘blacklisted’ and will go to spam folders everywhere never to be read or heard from again.

Be judicious about what you send. Make sure it’s content that your subscribers will be interested in. If you annoy enough of them and they unsubscribe and flag you as a spammer, all of your hard work on building your list will be for naught.

To keep your subscribers interested, you should involve them in your process, give them previews of upcoming work, tell them about events, and occasionally give them some bonus content.

You should not treat them like blog followers. A blog gives someone the choice if they want to look at your content. Filling up someone’s email inbox with content will put you on the road to Spamville in a hurry.

I hope this is helpful to you. I will publish more detailed posts about the use of giveaways and MailChimp in the future.

In the meantime, your comments and questions are welcome.

 

Choosing a Book Title – Make Good Choices

When I wrote my first novel, I wanted the main character to be, like me, and Italian American. There are many Italian-sounding first names I could have gone with, Tony, Johnny, Carmine, etc. I decided to go with Frank. Frank is a name that is common among Italians, but it also gave me the opportunity to be clever with the title. I went with Frankly SpeakingThere were other books with this title, but none in the genre in which I was writing. It was a good title in that it seemed to work and not adversely affect sales.

Then came the sequel. For the sequel, I decided to use ‘Frank’ in the title. To try something different, I actually ran a contest and the person with the winning title had their name used as a character in the book. It was gimmicky, but it worked and I landed on Let Me Be Frank as the title. I adapted the story by having Frank use an alias for part of his investigation.

The second book was well received and I had several readers clamoring for more ‘Frank’.  The story arc across the books had led to a loved one of Frank’s being in danger and him using drastic measures to capture her. I was inspired and went with Frank IncensedI released the book right before participating in the Indie Bookfest in Orlando. I participated on a panel and the subject of book titles came up. I mentioned my series and my hope that I wouldn’t run out of titles before I ran out of story ideas. After the panel discussion, a gentleman came up and presented me with a list of about 25 ‘Frank’ titles. Some were usable. Some were PG-13 to R rated.

I started thinking about other authors that have done this with titles. James Patterson comes to mind with his Alex Cross books that mostly use the word ‘cross’ in the title. Sue Grafton is another with her ‘A’ Is For Alibi, ‘B’ Is For Burglar, ‘C’ Is For Corpse, etc. series. She painted herself into a 26 book series. Janet Evanovich and her One For The Money Stephanie Plum series seems to have infinite possibilities for titles.

If you are working on a series, is it smart to tie them together with a gimmicky title? Some authors avoid this. I am a fan of the Jonathan Kellerman Alex Delaware series of books. They all have unique, unrelated titles with the subtitle, ‘An Alex Delaware Novel’.

I’m curious about your thinking on this. What experiences have you had? How do you choose a book title?

Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

 

Advance Reader Copies – Are They Worth it?

In January I released my 6th book. As I look back over the activities that I’ve used to promote my books it is like going from the Stone Age to the Industrial Revolution. I’m not quite to the point where I can just write. Actually, I’m pretty far from that. As I’ve built up a modest reader base, however, I’ve been able to employ some more advanced promotional techniques.

Issuing advance read copies is one of those techniques that I employed with my last two books. For the book, Frank IncensedI only issued a few. It was partly to get reaction from readers and secondarily to get reviews on launch day. I tried to give the readers enough time so that they could read the book and review it on Amazon, Goodreads, and any other outlet on the day the book was released.

I definitely saw some bump in sales and ranking due to this. For my latest book, Blood Orange, I was much more aggressive in seeking out advance readers. I issued 30 copies to the members of my street team (more on that in a subsequent post) and approximately another 80 copies to people that I sought out through my mailing list. That’s about a 15% hit rate. That resulted in about 15 reviews on Amazon the day that the book was released. Could this have been better? Of course. I was hoping for about 25-30 reviews. This book, however, had extenuating circumstances, but more on that later.

First, what is an advance reader and how does this group differ from beta readers?

Advance readers get the book when it is finished and ready to be published. It is the final edited copy. No changes will be made based on their feedback unless some big, ugly, hairy error is found.

Using advance readers is a coordinated effort. It takes a bit of organization, but you can use technology to help you. Free technology. The first thing I did was compile a list of those that volunteered to be advance readers. The best took I have found to do this is MailChimp. You can import a spreadsheet with your contact list. You can also, for a minimal monthly cost, add automation to the mix. This allowed me to send a reminder to my advance readers a week before the book was released, the day before, and the day after reminding them to review the book. All of this happened while I was happily Internet and eMail free on a cruise ship. The whole MailChimp process is a series of blog posts on its own. Look for that in the future.

There downsides to using advance readers. Of course. That’s why I’ve compiled another handy dandy pros and cons list so you can decide for yourself.

Pros

  • Releasing your book with reviews in place on day one helps your ranking on Amazon
  • You build further rapport with your readers and they enjoy being part of the process
  • Your book appears mature upon release. A lack of reviews makes readers nervous about spending money on your work
  • You get honest feedback from your readers that help you improve quality

Cons

  • Like with beta readers, you are forfeit sales to those that are advanced readers (or do you). I’ve had a number of advance readers purchase the book anyway
  • As with beta readers, you are putting your work at risk. This is true, but it’s at risk even after it’s released as an eBook on Amazon. Most readers tend to be honest.
  • You risk receiving bad reviews. Ouch. If that happens, It probably would have happened anyway, but by giving your book away, you probably increase the odds. You can combat this, of course, by picking your potential audience carefully. The worst review I ever received was my one and only two star review on Amazon. It was one simple word, boring. I was devastated, but when I dug a bit further, I found that the only other reviews this reader had done was for gardening books. And they were just as enlightening. My point is, if you write erotic romance, don’t send your advance reader copies to people who like Christian oriented books.

Advance readers can be useful. Even though the results were not what I hoped for on Blood OrangeI will be using this technique for my next book. The reason it wasn’t as successful for Blood Orangewas the timing. The book was set to release on November 13, 2015. I timed it to be ready for huge Black Friday promotions and planned a marketing blitz throughout the holiday season. If you remember what happened that night, Paris was attacked by ruthless terrorists. Part of the attack was near a sporting venue. My book centers on just that kind of attack. I immediately pulled back on promoting the book and didn’t bother my advance readers, or anyone else for that matter. I didn’t start actively promoting it until after the first of the year. It was a tough decision, but I still feel good about it and I still think the advance reader process is a good one.

Please, those of you who have different experiences with this or questions for me, please reach out through the comments.

The Pros and Cons of Beta Readers for Indie Authors

When I finished my first novel, the only people who read it before it was published were my wife and my editor. I was nervous in anticipation of their reactions, but the suggestions they gave me made the book that much better. Luckily my editor looked at the content and quality of the story along with the punctuation and grammar issues.

My second novel went to a couple of additional readers. I had heard of the concept of beta readers and my editor participated as a beta reader for various authors. A beta reader is someone who reads your book before the final edit. They look for things like the quality of the story, continuity (if your book is part of a series) and the overall appeal of the book.

At first, as I looked at the concept of beta readers, I was hesitant to give away free copies of my book. It was both a matter of trust and economics. As a fledgling indie author, every sale counted. The idea of giving books away, in my opinion, took profits directly from my pocket. Then I looked at this objectively. If these beta readers liked the book, even if they told two friends about my work, my sales could actually increase. Beyond that, I would be able to publish a better product. I know from my work in the Information Technology field, where details are extremely important, additional sets of eyes can help you catch things that you might have missed otherwise.

The group of beta readers that I used for this first attempt at this venture was a small group of trusted acquaintances including my editor’s sister, an English teacher, and a couple of other voracious readers. The benefits I received in return for this preview of the new book were immense. One reader spotted continuity and consistency errors between the first novel in the series and this one. The English teacher spotted some grammatical and punctuation things that my editor missed.

Overall, this was a huge benefit for me and for the quality of the book. Sales were not affected as this book outsold the first by a large margin upon release. For my subsequent novels, I expanded the universe of beta readers somewhat and also moved on to issuing advance reader copies. I’ll have more on that topic in a subsequent post.

I encourage all indie authors to use beta readers. It has helped me improve my product and has helped me further engage with readers. One of the aspects of the reputation of indie authors is a lack of quality. The use of editors and beta readers can help us overcome this stigma and improve the quality of what we produce.

When you are looking for beta readers, you can start with people who have been engaged with you during your writing process. I would avoid family members or fans. You don’t want a flood of positive feedback. You want realistic and constructive criticism that will help you improve and gain more readers and exposure in this highly competitive environment.

So, here are the pros and cons of beta readers as I see them. Your mileage may vary.

Pros

  • Improved quality of your work
  • Identification of significant flaws
  • Better continuity and consistency (if your book is part of a series)
  • More exposure through word of mouth
  • A better idea of how your book will be received

Cons

  • Identification of flaws could mean significant rework and delays in releasing your book
  • Compromising the security of your book. Dishonest beta readers could upload your book to unauthorized download sites. Piracy of eBooks is a huge problem.

It’s up to you whether you use beta readers. I have found benefits that I believe outweigh the downside.

As always, I would love to hear back from you. Tell me about your experiences with or as beta readers. Let’s help each other. Indie authors unite!

Studying the Masters in Crime/Detective Fiction

This post is the first in a series that I will be writing about the individuals that I view as the masters in my genre of choice, crime/detective fiction. I am a firm believer that you become better in whatever field you pursue by following those that excelled and paved the way before you.

Studying the Masters

Part 1 – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

When I look at crime/detective fiction, I view Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as one of the pioneering architects in the genre. His novels and collections centered around his Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson characters are timeless.

Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born in Scotland in 1859. Like his Dr. Watson character, Doyle was a physician. After serving as a ship’s surgeon in West Africa, Doyle became an opthalmologist with a practice in London.

Like many writers, he had a hard time finding a publisher for his work, but finally was able to publish A Study in Scarlet, his first Sherlock Holmes Novel, in 1886 earning 25 pounds for the rights to the story. The publisher further abused their new client when the sequel was published, so he left them.

Sherlock Holmes was a character that was modeled after a professor that Doyle had studied with. As for Dr. Watson, as I read more about Doyle, I realized that this character is somewhat autobiographical. Watson is the first person narrator in most of the Sherlock Holmes tales. I believe this equates to Doyle telling the story himself through Watson.

What struck me as I made my way through the Sherlock Holmes stories is how masterful Doyle was at making the complex deductive process that Holmes employs seem simple to the reader and, by extension, Dr. Watson. He will make an observation about a character that is astonishing and comes across as a wild guess, but then deconstructs the process he went through to make the deduction making it sound so simple that anyone should have been able to deduce the conclusion.

I also like that Doyle’s characters have flaws. Both Holmes and Watson were prone to depression. Holmes was also a drug addict. It resonates with me that Doyle made Holmes a musician. This is something that I’ve done with my own private detective character.

Doyle was not always enamored with his Sherlock Holmes character and threatened to, and actually did, kill him off in one of his works. Outraged fans, however, convinced him to resurrect Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles, one of his most famous works, in 1901.

Doyle also penned other notable non-Sherlock Holmes works including The Lost World, and his Professor Challenger stories.

Doyle’s life away from writing was fascinating as he was a political activist, good friend to Harry Houdini, follower of spiritualism and an intermittent Freemason who resigned, rejoined, and resigned again from the society.

As I look at the life of this fascinating man and pioneer in the genre of crime/detective fiction, I am amazed at how his work holds up today and how the standard that he set for writers in this genre is still valid nearly 150 years after his era. This is not necessarily true of other authors of that time period.

Please look for upcoming posts on other authors that I consider masters in the crime/detective fiction genre.

 

Amazon’s New Bookstore – Why? What? How?

There has been a lot of media coverage over Amazon’s opening of brick and mortar bookstores. If you’re expecting Barnes and Noble on steroids or Books a Billion, you might want to check out this article. I was expecting a possible venue that would feature indie authors. Silly me. With words like ‘heavily curated’ and ‘surplus stock’ you might want to check out this Forbes article for yourself. Check it out here.