Paginations

Winner winner, chicken dinner – the Gabriel: Zero Point grand prize winner announced

And the winner is…

A TIE! So I’ll be selling the Kindle Fire on eBay…

Kidding…I kid. Before the announcement, a huge thanks to all of my spread-the-word contest participants, all the commenters and voters, and most especially my readers. It’s been a fun two weeks, Gabriel: Zero Point is fully ‘launched’, and I’m outlining/drafting a new project as we speak. The enthusiasm and excitement about my current books tends to really push me to get more stories ‘on paper’, so away I go…with any luck, summer will bring a whole new work…sans Gabriel, though.

First announcement – the random commenter $10 Amazon Gift Card. I used random.org to choose a number between one and twenty-five (the number of comments on the voting page):

Winner is “Jaye“! (JWManus I believe?) Please contact me (sumstead AT gmail DOT com) or on Twitter and I’ll get the card out via email.

Now for the grand prize. It was a two man person race from the get-go between Shay Fabbro and Rob Pruneda. Both did a bang-up job spreading the word about the book launch, and a double bang-up job spreading the word about the voting. The past five days have been THE busiest at Paginations, like…EVAR. Friday alone saw nearly 900 page views.

It came down to the final hours…and the winner of the Kindle Fire/Nook Tablet:

ROB PRUNEDA by a measly 5% margin!

Congrats Rob, and great job by everyone. Perhaps in a few months, we’ll be doing this again for the next launch!

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The new-cover paperbacks for the Gabriel trilogy are up and running (and I’ve got photos to prove it)

A few weeks back I made a change to the covers of the Gabriel series, going with a more block sans serif font in white as opposed to the original serif in yellow. I loved the new look, thought it was very eye catching and more scifi-like, so I wanted to spread the updated look to the paperbacks.

Mistake #1: Not being ready to make the changes all at once.

I have the full size cover as high-res PNG images for all four books, so I simply went in and changed the fonts, shifted things a bit, added some cool author blurbs from reviews, and uploaded all four. In a day, I received notifications from CreateSpace that the covers were ready for viewing. I had a busy day that day, so I took a peek, didn’t like the way the layout looked (things had shifted too much to one side for one, to the other side for another, and so on), and put it aside until I had more time.

Mistake #2: Not realizing that by not approving the proof, or fixing the proof, the books were pulled from distro.

Yeah – didn’t think about that. Over a week went by (busy day job projects) and I had it on my list of things to do, not knowing that the books weren’t for sale anywhere. Not until someone messaged me that one of the books was selling for over $100 on Amazon (one of those pirate/scraper/reseller situations). I looked, and lo and behold none of the paperbacks were for sale properly. Panic. No, I’m not paying the rent with paperback sales, but I do get a decent amount each month, and missing an entire week most certainly cost me a few bucks.

A few hours of scrambling last week, measuring things down to the fraction of an inch, zooming in, zooming out, blah blah blah, and the images were uploaded. A day later, I approved the now-awesome looking proofs, and they’re up for sale.

Last night, the first copies of the books were delivered. Well, not the FIRST – Rob Pruneda scored a copy of GR1 before my shipment came in, so he’s officially the first to see it. I was second, and now you (collectively) are third:

And now for my shameless plug – the three individual titles are available from Amazon using these links:

For Gabriel’s Journey (complete trilogy), it’s only available from CreateSpace direct (larger 6″ x 9″ format, over 650 pages) at $24.99.

As for the mistake, a great quote I heard from a TED presentation I watched the other day:

“The path to success is paved with failures, so make sure your mistakes are good ones.”

I think this qualifies as a good one, since I know I’ll never repeat it…

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Book Review: The Prodigal’s Foole by RB Wood (relaunch of book)

My good friend R.B. Wood has relaunched his urban fantasy thriller The Prodigal’s Foole after getting his rights back from his former publisher, and he’s completely redone the cover to something that’s flat-out fantastic. I’m reposting my book review from a few months back, along with a high-res shot of the new cover.

Friends, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy for a measly $2.99 for Kindle (less than the “tall” latte I bought yesterday at Target – seriously, a book for less than that swill?) The story is even more flat-out fantastic than the new cover – one of my favorite reads of 2011. It’s currently available for Kindle and paperback (Mr. Wood chose the KDP Select route, but I won’t hold that against him…too much)

Don’t think about it. Just buy it. Or I’ll find you…

Click for full size

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ORIGINAL REVIEW: 

Demons and magic, shotguns and explosions.

That’s how I described The Prodigal’s Foole by R.B. Wood to my 11 year old son who asked me what the book was about. His attention span is short (what 11 year old’s isn’t?) so I had to summarize, and there’s so much more. Hence, a book review.

First of all, I have to say the opening of the book might very well be my favorite of any I’ve ever read:

“The old lady next to me in the window seat died somewhere over the Atlantic. I know because she told me.”

How’s that grab you? It certainly grabbed me, and never let me go.

This was my first real dip into urban fantasy, and I have to say I loved every minute of it. Wood weaves a complex story with excellent characters, believable magic (is that an oxymoron?), and humor into a hard-to-put-down novel. And when I found out that this was his first work, I was even more impressed. The writing style, the sentence structure, the plot consistency, the nice use of flashbacks, the editing, all are truly top notch.

Symon Bryson is a reluctant magic practitioner called back into action by old friends to combat a growing menace from Hell, and to help find a missing friend. He has to face not only this new danger, but his own dark past as well. The Catholic Church plays a large role in the story, and is not bashed (a la Dan Brown) nor praised (a la, uh, not sure…televangelists?), but portrayed in a modern, realistic way that fits well into the overall story.

The characters are fleshed out very nicely, and the team dynamic is excellent. And can I say Symon Bryson is one of my new favorite characters in any book? His wisecracking, inner emotions, and pop culture references kept me entertained throughout. Wood even pokes fun at some of the more ‘fantastic’ fantasies out there (one line I remember is when a character suddenly morphs into an animal, a person in the room says, “Where do her clothes go when she changes?”).

And here’s the bottom line. Like most readers (I think), I “see” the story as I read it, and in some cases they remind me of other stories or movies. And even though there are no vampires (thank goodness) in The Prodigal’s Foole, I couldn’t stop thinking about the movie Blade with Wesley Snipes. The characters, the modern setting, the demons, the weapons, the action, all mixed together like one of my favorite movies of all time – which meant I truly loved this book.

And the best part? It sets up very nicely for more stories in the series. I’m looking forward to more from Mr. Wood. The Prodigal’s Foole was definitely one of the best novels I’ve read this year…and he’s got me peeking into the Urban Fantasy genre now.

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Time to vote on the most creative/helpful Gabriel: Zero Point posts, winner receives Kindle Fire/Nook Tablet!

UPDATE: The poll has closed as of 11PM ET Friday the 27th. I have the official screenshot of the results and will post them on Saturday. Thanks everyone!

As Rafiki would say, it is time.

Last week, I asked all of my friends, followers, and fans (the three Fs, in social media parlance… okay, I made that up) to help me spread the word about the release of my new prequel novella, Gabriel: Zero Point. I had a huge outpouring of support, and gave away $50 in Amazon gift cards to five random winners last week. But now, it’s the big one – the Grand Prize.

The esteemed accounting firm of Price Waterhouse Coopers has compiled (I made that up again – my family and I) a group of nominees for everyone to vote on. These nominees were chosen for having the most creative, most comprehensive, most helpful posts or series of posts that spread the word about Gabriel: Zero Point. And while retweets and shares were very helpful, they don’t quite rise up to the grand prize level. I was looking for original social media posts, creative reviews, consistent campaigns, and so on.

I found SEVEN. And now I leave it in YOUR hands to choose ONE. That final winner, as of 11:00PM ET on Friday the 27th, will win their choice of a Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet!

Yes, this is now a popularity contest. Those of you nominated, spread the word to your friends and followers to vote for you. Friends and followers of those nominated, vote and continue to spread the word. Vote early, vote often (though only one entry is counted, sorry). And those of you who see a post or campaign that catches your eye that you thought was the most creative and helpful, throw a vote their way.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE: I will award one last Amazon $10 gift card to ONE random commenter on this post, so even if you’re not nominated and have never heard of any of these people (who are awesome, by the way – you should get to know them), you can still leave a comment and qualify for the gift card.

Contest closes at 11PM ET Friday, and the winner will be announced Saturday. So without further ado, here are the nominees (in alphabetical order), a link to what they’ve done, and the voting box:

  • Shay Fabbro for her blog review (If you like military scifi or just scifi in general, or if you like tough guys running around kicking the crap out of bad guys, then you will DIG Steve’s Evan Gabriel trilogy!)
  • W. E. Linde for his blog review (this prequel installment of the Gabriel story is filled with Umstead’s signature elements that bring his characters and his universe alive.)
  • Debra L. Martin for her blog post announcing the debut, which she spread throughout her Triberr contacts
  • Rob Pruneda for a consistent Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus campaign throughout the week
  • Twisted SciFi for spreading the word in the context of marketing techniques used by scifi authors online
  • Tom Stronach for his blog review (A good read and good value for the money and, I am sure,  a good addition to the first three books.)
  • Eric Swett for his blog review (The pace is quick and the action is heavy, but the reader learns more about Commander Gabriel and why he is the man he is in the rest of the books.)

There they are folks. Now tell me who’s the best…and who gets the Fire or Tablet!

POLL CLOSED!

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Win a Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet by helping me spread the word about Gabriel: Zero Point

UPDATES:
Thursday’s winner of the $10 Amazon Gift Card is Mike Crate
Wednesday’s winner of the $10 Amazon Gift Card is Rob Pruneda
Tuesday’s winner of the $10 Amazon Gift Card is Richard Guadagno
Monday’s winner of the $10 Amazon Gift Card is Misti Bryant Swartz

It’s contest time! To celebrate the launch of Gabriel: Zero Point (prequel to the Gabriel scifi trilogy), and to help spread the word about the book, I’m having a two-week giveaway with some very cool prizes (at least I think they’re cool – and if my wife doesn’t think they’re cool, that means they’re definitely cool…)

As Jeff Probst would ask, “Wanna know what you’re playing for?”

Daily from Monday through Friday of this week (April 16-20), I’ll be giving away a $10 Amazon gift card to a randomly selected word-spreader. All you have to do is share a tweet or post through your social media outlets. But two requirements – your post/share must link to a specific page, and I have to be able to track it.

LINKS
If you’re retweeting or sharing one of my posts, there will be a link already incorporated, so you’re golden. If you’re creating your own, it has to have a link to either the Kindle or Nook version of Zero Point, OR my blog page with my books listed. Here are the links (already shortened for you):

Zero Point for Kindle: http://amzn.to/ZeroPoint
Zero Point for Nook: http://bit.ly/ZeroPointNook
My Books at SteveUmstead.com: http://bit.ly/StevesBooks

TRACKING
Muy importante! If I don’t know you shared or tweeted, I can’t count you for the contest! There are four outlets I will be tracking – feel free to use others (I’d appreciate any word-spreading!) but these will be the only four I see, so if you post elsewhere, make sure to mention it using one of these methods. Each one has a way to “tag” you for the contest, and they’re easy:

Twitter: Use the hashtag #GZP (retweeting any of mine this week will have this already)
Facebook: Tag my personal Facebook account OR my author page in your post (sharing my post will do this automatically)
Google+: Tag my Google+ account (again sharing my G+ posts will do this)
Blog: If you’re using WordPress, my linking to my www.SteveUmstead.com WP blog within the text of your post, I’ll get a ping back and count it. If you don’t have a link, or use non-Wordpress, make sure to use Twitter/Facebook/Google+ methods to promote your blog with the appropriate tag so I see it.

Every day this week, Monday through Friday, I’ll select a random “share” as the Gift Card winner. Without a link and tracking method, you won’t qualify!

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

No, you’re not going through all of that for a $10 gift card. There’s a GRAND PRIZE based on your creativity! At the end of the week, my esteemed panel of judges (okay, me and my family) will choose the MOST CREATIVE word-spreaders and the following week, your social media contacts and mine will VOTE on who they think was the BEST word-spreading. (Hint: Just retweeting my tweets won’t get you into the finals…)

The weekend of April 28-29, the voting will be closed, and the person with the most votes will win:

A KINDLE FIRE or NOOK TABLET
plus e-copies of all my titles!

You don’t have to be one of the gift card winners to be in the final vote; you just need to be creative. Write a blog post, run some trivia, dress up in a tutu and…wait, skip that.

So look for my tweets and posts and share them through your social media outlets, or create your own, to help me spread the word about Gabriel: Zero Point. You could win a Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet!


Disclaimer: Maximum of one gift card per person; if repeat card winner is drawn at random, card prize will be redrawn. Grand prize winner chooses Fire or Tablet, or a $100 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card if neither is preferred or possible. No purchase necessary, void where prohibited by law. Random card winner will be chosen daily by importing that day’s mentions/shares/retweets into a spreadsheet, and using random.org to choose a cell within that spreadsheet.

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Today launches Gabriel:Zero Point with special weekend pricing

The official day is officially here – the official launch day of Gabriel: Zero Point, the prequel novella to the Gabriel science fiction-adventure trilogy! Those of you who have read the series can find out more about how Gabriel came to be the man waking up in the seedy Jamaican hotel room at the beginning of Gabriel’s Redemption, and those of you who haven’t yet dipped your toes into the trilogy can start with a bite-sized story (22,000 words) to lead into the overall arc.

It wouldn’t be a launch without a proper promotional price (and a hint of a very cool contest to come). But first – the story:



GABRIEL: ZERO POINT

Prequel Novella to the Evan Gabriel Trilogy
Evan Gabriel wasn’t always a feared and respected North American Federation Navy Commander. Before dangerous missions to the ice-bound planet of Poliahu, the deadly jungle world of Eden, and politically corrupt Mars, he was a simple recruit, fighting to make his mark in the elite Naval Special Forces…and was part of a top-secret military experiment that would change his life forever.Zero Point tells the tale before the science fiction/adventure trilogy, a tale of a young man faced with difficult choices and dangerous trials. Fans of the series will see part of the mysterious past Evan Gabriel carries with him, while readers new to the series get a preview of what is to come in a military man’s haunted life.

Zero Point is the true beginning of Evan Gabriel, and his story is just getting started.


.
I did mention special promotional pricing, right? For THIS WEEKEND ONLY (ending Sunday night the 15th), Zero Point will be less than a cup of coffee from a gas station. A whopping $.99 (£.77 for my friends across the pond). It’s currently available for Kindle US, Kindle UK, Nook, and Smashwords for other platforms (Smashwords is notoriously slow for distributing to Sony, iBooks, Kobo, etc. so I knew it wouldn’t be ready for today – Smashwords.com it is, sorry.)

         

Then watch this space Sunday night for an announcement of the Zero Point “spread the word” contest. I need all of my friends’ help to get the word out about the new release, so I’ll be giving away Amazon Gift Cards daily, plus a KINDLE FIRE or NOOK TABLET to one lucky winner at the end.

Hope you guys and gals pick up a copy, and hope even more that you enjoy it (and if you do, a review goes a long way for us struggling authors).

 

P.S. Hey look, it’s my 100th WordPress post…

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E-Book Pricing Poll Results

You guys ready for the really cool charts? Sorry to disappoint – they’re fairly lame and uncreative, but the results are interesting. Without further ado, the ultra-scientific results of yesterday’s poll – please keep in mind the margin or error is plus or minus 100%.

Bar Graph (nice, huh?)

 

Tried to make this next chart cool with an online site; mistake. Should have just used Excel, but I have a built-in Microsoft aversion. (Had to lower the 31% to 30% to make the numbers add to 100 – the online site didn’t like the rounding parts.)

 

What are the results of the results? An interesting skew towards the higher priced books. Free and $.99 are WAY behind other prices, and the winner by almost twice as much as any other is $4-$4.99.

What does this mean? Not sure… At first I was thrilled seeing the higher pricing opinion, but @RobbieATaylor on Twitter made an excellent point:

“Seems like I might be underpricing myself, judging by the responses. Course, they may all be other writers…”

I’ve got a mix of readers and fellow writers seeing this blog, so yes – it may skew higher because writers truly value their work and want to sell it for as much as possible. But I can’t help but think the cheapies may be becoming a thing of the past. Do readers consider them bargain bin? Do they not expect much? Do they put more value (and time) into books that cost $3 and up?

What are YOUR conclusions?

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What is a fair price for a novel-length ebook?

I was reading Dean Wesley Smith’s blog (I do this weekly – the man can lay down some serious publishing knowledge) and ran across a link he posted to J. A. Marlow’s site with a pricing discussion. The ranges of price for ebooks was surprising, and the comments were as well. So I got to thinking, perhaps I should “ask around” to see what readers thought was a “fair and equitable” price for a novel length (over 60K words) ebook* – for example, one of the Gabriel series, which have sold anywhere from free to $4.99 in the past year.

* Plus I wanted to try out a poll on WordPress…

What say you? Click the button, get counted, make me feel like someone is reading out there…

[polldaddy poll=6128660]

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Just published some short stories – need some horror or scifi in your diet?

Well, lookie here… I snuck some published works in without the publicity frenzy of the media circus that usually surrounds my novel releases*.

* Disclaimer: I’ve never had a media circus. Not even a flea circus, actually. I totally made that part up.

Over the past year, I’ve done some short fiction, sometimes based on prompts, sometimes for informal ‘writing contests’, and sometimes just for fun. (I’ll ignore the short fiction that resulted from me writing a Chapter 1 and abandoning it…that doesn’t count, though lord knows I’ve done that enough.)

I took two of those works, polished them up, put together a cover, blurb, etc. and whipped up some ebook files. And here they are:

       

Now, coincidentally (or not*), both of these were from two different prompts/reasons from my good friend Al Boudreau. Special Delivery was his personal challenge to me (and keeping me in practice – the way a writer gets better is practice..therefore, writing) to write outside my usual genre. He gave me 24 hours, and if I remember correctly, I had it back to him in three. He gave a few lines to open it, and told me to run with it. It ended up just over 1700 words, and was quite different to step outside my usual scifi mindset.

The second one, The Awakening, was part of Al’s “Cage Match“, where two writers in similar genres are given the same prompt and 24 hours to write a short story under 2,000 words. Much more back in my wheelhouse, and very enjoyable. I was honored to go up against one of the most successful independent scifi writers today, Michael Hicks (he of the In Her Name series and Season of the Harvest).

* Coincidence that what I feel are my two best shorts came from Al’s prompts? Not if you know Al, a fantastic supporter of the community who tends to bring out the best in many a writer.

Both are now available for public consumption for all e-book platforms. Unfortunately, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble make it difficult-slash-impossible to publish a book for free all the time (first person to suggest KDP Select gets keelhauled), and I honestly have a hard time justifying charging anything for these stories. Therefore I also posted them on Smashwords, and eventually they’ll feed through to iBooks, Sony, Kobo; they are listed for free. Free as in beer.

Here are the links:

Special Delivery: Amazon Kindle ($.99) • B&N Nook ($.99) • Smashwords (free)

The Awakening: Amazon Kindle ($.99) • B&N Nook ($.99) • Smashwords (free)

 

Enjoy…would love to hear your thoughts.

 

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I’ve cursed an entire cruise ship…

Funny, unrelated-to-books story I had to tell. Well, not funny exactly, as there were some injuries, but funny in an ironic, coincidental, cursed sort of way.

Many of you may know my “day job” is in the travel industry. A couple of weeks ago, an opportunity came up from one of our suppliers for an awards & networking trip in May. It’s a luxury Mediterranean cruise, 12 nights from France to Monaco to Italy to Greece to Croatia, finally ending in Venice. Chance of a lifetime, honestly. Our company mainly handles Caribbean and Mexican destinations, so this isn’t something I ever thought I’d be able to do (plus I never take cruises). And hey, it coincides with my wedding anniversary, so Tracy & I are planning to fly into Nice, France a day early and spend our anniversary there. Croissants and white wine…

This past Friday, I sent in our reservation request for the luxurious Azamara Quest and started working on airfare to get there. One hour after I hit send on the request, I see this:

Cruise ship with 1,000 on board drifts after fire in engine room off Philippines; 5 crew hurt [link]

Being in the travel industry, I’m always looking for headlines about the goings-on, both good and bad. Our company doesn’t deal with many cruises, so I was sure we didn’t have clients affected. But I clicked anyway, and read through. And came to this line:

A tugboat and Philippine navy and coast guard vessels were headed to the stricken Azamara Quest as the crew tried to repair the engines.

Whaaaa??

So it’s true…I’ve cursed the ship. One hour after I book the cruise, the engine room catches on fire.

Word to the wise: don’t let me buy your products. You’ll regret it…

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