Friday, May 25, 2012

The Middle Story of a Trilogy

by Stella Atrium


Consider for our example The Lord of the Rings in movie form.  The Fellowship of the Ring got all the acclaim, and The Return of the King got all the awards.  But The Two Towers (with the walking trees and the assault on Isengard), um… not so much.LOTR

I’m aware of this odd pattern with the middle story carrying much the weight, but none of the praise. So for HeartStone: Book II of the Dolvia Saga, I went the extra mile to secure a Kirkus Review and also petitioned some friendly GoodReads reviewers to look over ARC versions of the story.


The complete paragraphs provided by Kirkus Reviews are below, and one GoodReads reviewer said this:

“The plot of HeartStone revolves around several offworld characters, including Dr. Edna Edwina Greensboro, Lieutenant Michael Peter Shaw, and Dr. Henry Beecham, in addition to Dolviet tribal members, leaders, and outcasts.
      Readers will be reacquainted with old friends and like them try to determine who is truly the enemy of Dolvia, a new one or the same enemy with different tactics.  Either way, the tribal people of Dolvia are the pawns, along with those who choose not to see or act or those who are just naive.

HeartStone         As an orphaned child of an offworlder and a Dolviet, Brianna Miller is condemned to be an outcast among the tribes.  Yet, she strives to better herself so that one day she may travel to Earth, the planet of her father's birth.  With the gifts that Dolvia has provided her, the generosity and teachings from the various characters, the pain that she endures, the compassion she feels for others, and the risks she takes, Brianna prepares for a future...a future she will choose for herself!

        You have a really great series going here.  I love your descriptive writing style!  I really can't wait to see what Brianna thinks of Earth and then what happens when she returns to Dolvia!”

-- Phoenix Carvelli

HeartStone: Book II of the Dolvia Saga
Atrium, Stella
$19.95 paperback, $6.99 e-book
ISBN: 978-1462070442; June 15, 2012

The second installment of Atrium’s Dolvia Saga is a character-driven sci-fi tale that explores profound—and timely—themes of sexual oppression, environmentalism and cultural intolerance.
      Atrium’s intricate novel ranges widely in theme—gender, politics, existential philosophy, mysticism, etc. Set primarily on the planet of Dolvia—where the females of the indigenous, frequently warring tribes of the savannah maintain few rights and are forced to wear burkas—the storyline revolves, at least initially, around Dr. Edna Edwina Greensboro, a bush-clinic doctor whose courage, compassion and vision have begun to change some of the insular ways of thinking.
       Getting married to Lt. Mike Shaw, an off-world military man, and keeping two female gualareps—oversized and sentient iguana-esque reptiles—increases her status. But when she witnesses a “mixed blood” girl being brutally abused, she realizes that she’s working against centuries of oppression reinforced by cultural mores, folklore, myth and cruel men dead set on guarding the status quo. After all, the victims “are only women.”
        The commentary on gender politics benefits from a foreign setting; it’s an exercise in considering discrimination without finger-pointing. But that’s only one aspect of this multifaceted story—as Greensboro fights to save lives and educate the tribespeople, nefarious individuals and companies seek to profit from the chaos.
        Aside from a few instances where the storyline becomes erratic—as with Greensboro’s marriage, for example—Atrium’s saga continues with another entertaining and powerful read, reminiscent of Octavia E. Butler and Margaret Atwood.
         An allegorical, emotionally intimate narrative for sci-fi fans, with broad themes that could appeal to a mainstream audience, too.

HeartStone is “live” this holiday weekend.  Yeah!
As an incentive to get started with the series, we’re offering the ebook version of SufferStone: Book I of the Doliva Saga at the 55% discounted price of $3.09 on  The offer is good through June 2012.

Sign up for GoodReads giveaway of softcover copies of SufferStone to celebrate the release of Book II.  Ten days only!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Self-Publishers: Taking the Long View

by Stella Atrium


FairGirlI live in Old Town in Chicago, as I have mentioned in previous blogs.  We have a series of street fairs in the summer here, and I like to attend to watch the well-heeled residents. At one fair last summer a kiosk was set-up outside the entrance to the actual fair where bright-faced young people were giving away samples of a new energy drink in a red and black aluminum can with a twist top.  I carried my sample around for forty minutes so they couldn’t force another one on me when I passed again.

I was headed home at two in the afternoon when the fair was just going into full swing, and one of the young venders at the kiosk announced that they had sold out.  “We sold out,” she proclaimed, even though there was no cash drawer for receiving funds. “That other booth still has product, but ours is gone because we had the better-selling item.” I didn’t argue with her. It’s not good to discourage young people.

The booth she indicated was actually selling their drinks, at Chicago prices, street fair prices, and was stocked for the entire day, rather than with enough product to last only five hours.  artfair-booth

I turned the corner and passed some overfull trash bins, many holding unopened cans of red and black design.  I threw my unopened can on top.

Self-publishers can take a lesson from this incident. Best-selling is an abused term when talking about 99¢ items, or free items. Maybe more pieces moved out of the kiosk, but what profit was made?

You may argue that promotions are not about profit, but about branding. I would counter that a free sample is not the same as a purchase, and doesn’t imply that I will remember the product’s name, open it, or look for one later at the store. Branding didn’t happen.

Some entrepreneurs advise writers and self-publishers to work at providing the personal touch, spend hours on Twitter and Tumblr, solicit interviews on the websites of other writers, engage with giveaways at reading sites, join in blog tours, lower the prices for ebooks, and constantly reassess what works for your genre or your story. These advisors are the people who are making money – from writers – If we stop the rat race, they would have no audience.

bkstore top10Maybe in the old paradigm short-term sales pushed visibility of a new book. A flurry of reviews followed by a prime location in chain bookstores were coordinated with a print run that ensured enough copies to meet demand after the writer appeared on the Today Show.

Monthly sales were monitored by chain bookstores so that, if a book didn’t move in six weeks, copies were returned to the distributor.

The new era of ebooks changed that need for quarterly sales figures and lists of top ten sales numbers.  In ebook form, the item is not returned so bookstore inventory stays fresh. An ebook is published forever and can gain an audience by word-of-mouth, and by good reviews, over six months or eighteen months.

Or eighteen years.

The writer can reinforce her brand by publishing a second book in a series.  I learned on Reddit that some fans of fantasy (my genre) don’t pick up the first book of a trilogy until all three books are available.  That’s the long view. I’m not published to my fan base until Book III is in print.

HeartStone coverBut where’s the downside of taking the long view?  Book II of my Dolvia Saga titled HeartStone is due out in June 2012.  I paid for a Kirkus Review so some quality press accompanies the release, and a couple reviewers from GoodReads were kind enough to review ARC copies.

I’m considering RAISING the price of the ebook version to a level more in keeping with other writers in my cohort – equalizing the price for Book I and Book II at $6.99, similar to Lois MacMaster Bujold or Robin Hobb or Jacqueline Carey. After all, the paperback copy sells for $19.95.

What is lost if I take the long view? A lot of busywork to keep pace with the Smashwords crowd?

So… if you made it this far.  Please BUY NOW.  SufferStone: Book I of the Dolvia Saga is still priced in ebook version at $3.19 on Amazon.  BUY NOW at this 55% discounted price before June 2012. 
Starbucks drinks

Each ebook version of the Dolvia Saga is well worth $6.99, just like the fantasy novels of Bujold, Hobb and Carey are each worth the cover price. That’s equivalent to two cups of Starbucks coffee.  But today, you can BUY NOW at the discounted price of $3.19.

And you can claim that you’re in with the in-crowd.