Sins of Empire Synopsis

Hey guys! I'm happy to report that I turned in the final edit of Sins of Empire this week and it's officially in production. It's currently slated for for a March 7th, 2017 release. I believe we'll have cover art to show you guys sometime soon, so stay tuned for that as well. You can add the book on Goodreads, and you can find the official synopsis below!

For an early look at Mad Ben Styke, one of the heroes of Sins of Empire, check out Ghosts of the Tristan Basin.


Sins of Empire

Gods of Blood and Powder

Book One

An epic new fantasy series from Brian McClellan, set in the same world as his wildly popular Powder Mage Trilogy.

The young nation of Fatrasta is a turbulent place - a frontier destination for criminals, fortune-hunters, brave settlers, and sorcerers seeking relics of the past. Only the iron will of the lady chancellor and her secret police holds the capital city of Landfall together against the unrest of a suppressed population and the machinations of powerful empires.

The insurrection that threatens Landfall must be purged with wile and force, a task which falls on the shoulders of a spy named Michel Bravis, convicted war hero Ben Styke, and Lady Vlora Flint, a mercenary general with a past as turbulent as Landfall's present.

As loyalties are tested, revealed, and destroyed, a grim specter as old as time has been unearthed in this wild land, and the people of Landfall will soon discover that rebellion is the least of their worries.

Powder Mage Novella Collection #1

Hey everyone! There have been a lot of requests lately from people hoping to get all the Powder Mage novellas in one go. I understand that, from a buyer's perspective, it can be difficult to figure out what all is available from your favorite author. What have you read? What haven't you? That sort of thing.

In response, I've put all four of the novellas into an single package, which is now available at all your favorite ebook stores and priced at $9.99. This'll save you a couple bucks, and is good for all parties involved. You won't miss out on stories, and I won't miss out on sales. Yay!

To catch you up, everything written in the Powder Mage Universe is now included in the Powder Mage Trilogy, the Powder Mage Novella Collection #1, and the short story collection In the Field Marshal's Shadow.

Links to the novella collection at your favorite vendor:

Phoenix Comicon and Poisoned Pen Signing

This coming weekend (June 2-5) I'll be attending Phoenix Comicon. I delayed confirming my attendance because of the move, and because of that I don't have any set programming. I may show up on a panel or two. I may hang around the bookstore. I may just wander around with a satchel full of novellas to sell if you want to get something signed from me. Regardless, if you see me feel free to say hi. It should be a hootenanny of a time. Here is my only confirmed schedule for the weekend:

Wednesday, June 1st, 7-8 PM: I'll be at the Elevengeddon mass author signing at the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, AZ.

Friday, June 3rd, 1-2 PM: I'll be signing at the Badali Jewelry booth #1396 at PHXCC.

Bookstore Closed (temporarily)

Just FYI: my spring sale is finished and I'm shutting down my bookstore until July 1st. I'll still be able to take orders (for the few things in stock), but nothing will ship until after I've finished my move and gotten all set up and am no longer frazzled by the huge number of personal and professional items on my plate.

Thanks again for ordering signed books directly from me. It really does make a difference!

Spring Cleaning Sale

Hello all! If you follow my twitter, you'll know that I plan on moving sometime this summer. In preparation for that, I'm trying to clean out extra inventory so I have to haul as few books as possible across the country. To do so I'm having a double sale: not only will all the signed books in my store be cheap from today until May 10th (especially the trilogy and novella bundles) but every order over $20 will come with a coupon code for the audiobook of Ghosts of the Tristan Basin, which is currently $14.95 on Audible.

I'm not ordering any new books until after the move, so it's first come, first serve. I'll email you your audible coupon code separately. The sale list is below:

 

Ebook Store

I've lately had a lot of people requesting to buy my older novella ebooks directly from me via my web store. I've only kept the most recent one up there because frankly, they don't get a ton of sales after the first two weeks, and the "commerce" feature in Squarespace (where I host this website) has pretty limited functionality. So organizing the store can be a pain.

I finally gave in, however, and created an ebook store. You can get all my novella ebooks there in epub, mobi, and PDF. Have at it!

Upcoming Event: Budapest

I will be in Budapest next week on Tuesday, March 29th. I'll have a Q&A session where I talk about writing, fantasy, and the Powder Mage Trilogy followed by a signing. The schedule is below:

- 29 March 5 pm: Panel and Q&A.

- 29 March 6-7 pm: book signing and meet and greet opportunity for fans.

Location: Rácskert pub, Budapest, VII., Dob street 40.-42.

Really excited to meet my Hungarian fans. Look forward to seeing you there!

Facebook Ads for Authors

This is the latest of my essays about being an author, brought to you by my Patreon page. If you'd like to get announcements, coupons, news, and more, sign up for the Powder Mage Newsletter!


For this essay, I've changed things up a bit by running an experiment in marketing. As far as the "behind the scenes of being an author" thing goes, you're watching me throw crap at the wall to see what sticks. Warning: there will be lots of numbers. Hope you find it interesting.

There's a lot of literature out there extolling the virtues (or more often, the lack thereof by companies like Priceline) of using Facebook ads to help grow your business. I've always wondered whether these ads could be used to help spread the word about my self-published novellas, and upon doing some research found that "Facebook ads for authors" have some very loud proponents out there. Being someone who likes to wade into the nitty gritty of the business of publishing when I can, I was intrigued.

One of the loudest of these proponents I found was an author named Mark Dawson. Mark is a self-pubber who has found great success writing mysteries and thrillers. In this interview, he attributes his success to leveraging a combination of newsletter lists and Facebook ads. His method is straight-forward: run FB ads promising a free book with a newsletter signup. Once you have that email address, tailor newsletters to that person offering to sell them more books in the series.

I'm always a skeptic. Mark claims that the ads way more than pay for themselves for him and several of his colleagues. He buys the ads, the ads bring him subscribers, the subscribers buy his subsequent books, he re-invests profits in ads to get more readers. It's a solid theory, but the success of it sounded suspect, and I figured if it worked as well as he said I would have heard of far more authors using Facebook ads. But I was willing to do a small-scale experiment.

Disclaimer that I'm not trained in marketing or a statistician or anything else. I'm just an author trying to figure out how to expand my audience.

My setup was this: using my Facebook Author Page, I purchased $10 worth of ads for each of seven days, for a total of $70. I targeted people who showed interest in Brandon Sanderson and Brent Weeks, two authors I share a lot of readers with, and offered a free powder mage novella to anyone who signed up for my newsletter. I don't have the newsletter-fu of a guy like Mark, but I set up a separate list on my Mail Chimp account to keep track of things. Here's my ad:

The results were... underwhelming? There are two different sets of numbers, one of which is "paid" and one "organic," meaning the people who would have seen the ad on my author page regardless of any money I spent on it. I'm going to just look at the "paid" results, which you can see below:

  • 67 link clicks (people who decided to take a look at my newsletter signup)
  • 29 page likes (people who now (might) see what I post to my author page in the future)
  • 57 post likes (which means pretty much nothing except that they clicked "like")

My new list wound up with 34 newsletter subscribers, roughly a 50% conversion from people who bothered to click on the link at all, which is pretty decent. It's hard to tell whether page and post likes are actually worth anything, but 29 and 57 weren't exactly thrilling numbers even if they are. (It should be mentioned here that FB has been accused in the past of farming out purchased likes to "clickers" in third-world countries)

Considering all that, let's focus on the newsletter subscribers. If you saw my essay on newsletters last month, you'd remember the subscriber-to-sale rate for that one particular email was .6%. I've had higher and lower, but let's run with that number and see where it gets us, assuming that those 34 people are the right audience for future novels and novellas.

A novella makes me $2.05. Those 34 people at .6% conversion made me 20% of a single sale. So $.41. That means I spent $70 to make $.41. I'm not great with math but that seems less than fantastic.

Some of you might point out (and I'm sure Mark Dawson would), I'm grabbing these subscribers so I can send them newsletters ad naseum, which is totally fair. Let's say that percentage holds true across every release-announcing newsletter I send for the rest of my career. It would take 170 releases for me to make back that $70.

As you saw in my newsletter essay, I'm pretty optimistic about the powers of "spreading the word" and recognize that there are impossible-to-measure factors when it comes to simply getting your books out there in front of people. Ten of those "page likes" I mentioned above could turn into wild fans that buy every one of my books and tell all of their friends and makes it so I can die happy in a pile of money. Statistically, however, that seems pretty unlikely.

Needless to say, I'm not thrilled with the results of my Facebook ad experiment. I was ready to follow the Mark Dawson technique and drop $100/day into FB ads. If they worked. Unfortunately, that won't be happening. I am willing to concede a few points: 1) that I just don't have right combination of mojo/genre/ad wording/etc to really make a FB ad succeed. 2) that a novella in an existing world might not be as tempting as a full-length first novel as a freebie. 3) That FB ads might work a lot better in scale, and that if I had the money to put $1000/day into them I might get amazing results.

Regardless, I'm not going to be advising my author friends to try out Facebook ads any time soon.

Upcoming Event: Dutch Comic Con

I'm going to be a guest at Dutch Comic Con this coming weekend (March 26th and 27th) in Utrecht in the Netherlands. How dang cool is that? This is going to be my first international trip as an author (AND as a civilian) and I'm very excited for it. Here's my schedule:

Saturday

  • 13:30 – 14:30 The Business of Writing – Fantasy & Horror Editie
  • 15:45 – 16:45 Worldbuilding – Making the Fantastic Realistic

Sunday

  • 11:00 – 12:00 Fantastic Action – Writing Action Scenes in Fantasy and Comics

I don't have any dedicated signings, but the convention bookstore will have my books for sale and a spot for me to sign and chat with fans. I'll probably try to be there as much as I can on both days, and tweet when you can find me.

Looking forward to seeing you all there!

Silicon Valley Comic Con Schedule

Hey Bay-area friends! My schedule for this weekend in San Jose is such:

The First Word: Getting Started as a Writer on Saturday at 11:00 AM

It's one thing to want to be a writer, but quite another to type out the first words. Our panel of published authors and seasoned editor will talk about strategies and ways to start a book, and more importantly, how to keep yourself going until the bitter end. Working with editors, coping with draft revisions, and how to know when it?s done and time to send out of the nest will all be discussed.

The Brave New World of Publishing on Saturday at 2:00 PM

The road to publishing has splintered into many twisty paths. Options have never been greater for aspiring authors, but navigating the choices has never been murkier. Where do you start? Indie? Traditional publishers? Or the bumper crop of small presses? What about Amazon and Kindle Unlimited? A panel of authors from indie to Big Five publishers and everything in between maps the routes and outlines the pros and cons of each path in the brave new world of publishing.

The best way to find me is to catch me after one of these panels. I don't have anything scheduled the rest of the weekend, or an official signing, but if you want to get something signed and drop me a message on Twitter Saturday or Sunday, I can try to meet up with you!

Tristan Basin Hardcovers

The hardcovers for the latest powder mage novella have arrived!

And I've got a special treat for those of you who order one! I've commissioned symbols to use in the next powder mage series from the talented Isaac Stewart. The first one arrived late last night, and I was able to get it turned into a stamp before the local office supply store closed. From here on out, I'll be stamping all signed books that take place in Fatrasta with the crest of the Mad Lancers.

The hardcovers will be shipping over the next couple of days. You can still order them here!

Powder Mage Wallpapers

A couple months back, I asked on Twitter if anyone could whip up a desktop background using one of the cool symbols Isaac Stewart did for the Powder Mage Trilogy. Lo and behold, Chanh Quach delivered with these:

I've been using the dark one ever since. It occurred to me recently that others might enjoy them too, so I got both Isaac and Chanh's permission and now, if you'd like to use them yourself, you can download them right here. I'm not sure what sizes these will look best in, only that they look great on my own computer, so feel free to experiment. Enjoy!

Why?

Hey guys! In a future Patreon essay I'd like to talk a little about why people pick up books, so this poll is a little of my own research. Thanks for giving it a quick look!

Why did you first try Promise of Blood? Choose the one reason that really sealed the deal for you.
I loved the cover art.
I loved the concept/description.
Recommended by a friend/relation.
Recommended by an author/creative type I respect.
Recommended by strangers in a bookstore or online (like on /r/fantasy).
The reviews on Amazon/Goodreads/etc.
I found Brian through social media or met him in person and wanted to try his books.
Found it through my book club.
It was on a "best of" list.
Other
Please Specify:
Do Quizzes

Newsletters

This is the latest of my essays about being an author, brought to you by my Patreon page. If you'd like to get announcements, coupons, news, and more, sign up for the Powder Mage Newsletter!


There's a lot of talk about marketing yourself as an author online; reaching your audience, pushing your books, etc. If you're a self-published author this might be one of your primary pursuits every day and even if you're with a traditional publisher, you're probably still worried about what you can do to push your books. Publishers are spread thin these days and rarely do anyone but the bestsellers (or expected bestsellers) get a big marketing budget.

So what does an author like me, who loves the business side of things and wants to do everything in my own small amount of power to further my career, do to get my books in front of more people? Well, there's a ton of little stuff, with varying success rates (all depending on who you ask), but today I'm going to talk about newsletters.

First I'm going to make a caveat: there are authors out there who are wizards with newsletters. They've got dozens of lists and track every report and go absolutely crazy. I'm not one of those guys. I've got a free MailChimp account with 1281 subscribers and I take a middling interest in the reports. It's not huge, but it's mine. I'll also say that these are all my own experiences and theories and mileage may vary.

Second, I'm going to walk things back a bit. In my experience, a newsletter isn't going to get your name out there to new readers. Aww, but that's what you said you were talking about today! Yeah, well newsletters accomplish the second most important part of selling books: they get your stuff back in front of readers.

I use a newsletter to keep my readers informed about what's going on with my writing. I announce new projects, send them coupons for my store, send them info on pre-orders, and buy links when a project hits the shelves. Remember, these are people who already want know about me and want to learn more so the chances of them clicking the buy links are WAY higher than when I post these things on social media. It's also sitting in their in-box rather than just scrolling by on Twitter.

Reader retention is a huge part of the industry and doesn't get talked about very much. I sold the Powder Mage Trilogy to Orbit. Not just one book, but a trilogy. That means I need people to pick up Promise of Blood, but I also need them to pick up Crimson Campaign and then Autumn Republic, too. A lot of that comes down to taste: if they didn't like the first book they won't buy the second. But a huge amount comes down to knowledge. If they don't know the second or third books are out, they can't buy them! The same theory applies to the novellas I write in the Powder Mage Universe. Getting a sequel (or novella) in front of an existing reader is more important than getting it in front of a new reader.

So, back to the newsletter. You might not have a huge audience. It might be 20,000 people, might be 1281, might only be 100. But that's 100 people who want to know that your latest book has come out. To get a better idea of how significant this is, let's take a look at the numbers. Warning: this might get boring.

My latest powder mage novella, Ghosts of the Tristan Basin, came out on Tuesday. I'd already tweeted and sent out a newsletter about pre-orders, so my engagement on Tuesday wasn't it's highest but we're still going to compare it via tweet versus newsletter (on the day of release).

I tweeted an Amazon buy link. It had 2562 impressions (people that saw it). 12 people clicked on the link. That day my Amazon Associates account had an 8% click-to-buy ratio. That means (maybe) one person bought the novella from that tweet. That's .03% of the people who saw it.

I sent out an Amazon buy link via newsletter. 670 people opened the email. 48 people clicked buy links. At 8% that's four sales. That's .6% of the people who saw it. Significantly higher number and I sold five Tristan Basin hardcovers from 29 clicks on a different link in that same email. You can see the information that MailChimp provided me with right here:

Awesome. Great. You can see how a newsletter is much more effective than shouting into the void that is social media. Except wow, look at those numbers. They are not great. I have no idea how they compare to the rest of the industry as a whole, but as a lay person that's super discouraging. So why bother with a newsletter (or Twitter) at all?

Because the above data isn't actually complete. It only contains the minimum number of people who bought my novella directly at that time and place. An indeterminate number probably saw the tweet, or newsletter, then went back later on to buy the item in question, or had already bought it because of previous marketing I'd done. It's commonly understood that most people need to have seen an item in multiple places before they'll actually buy it. Marketing is all about walking this line of saturation (enough to buy, not enough they hate your guts and wish a pox upon your family).

And even if you ignore the intangible sales and benefits, I can do easy math. At this point, because I'm using a free MailChimp account and not advertising via Twitter, the cost of all the marketing I described above was just my time. Let's say twenty minutes all told, and I sold five novella ebooks for a $10 profit, $8 of which came from sending out my newsletter. I'm not going to scoff at a Chipotle bowl and that's not even including the profit of getting people over to my website store.

Newsletters are a hugely useful tool for authors, even those like me that just take advantage of the basics. They can be intimidating, but once you learn how to use them require maybe half an hour every month. And remember as a reader, you can always sign up for the newsletter of your favorite authors to hear about the stuff they have coming out. You know. Like mine.

Ghosts of the Tristan Basin

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you'll know I've been hinting at this new novella for quite a long time. Well, it's almost here. Ghosts of the Tristan Basin is the latest addition to the Powder Mage Universe. It takes place eight months before the events of Promise of Blood. Here's the synopsis:

Taniel Two-Shot is a powder mage with the Tristan Ghost Irregulars, a band of volunteers who have made a name for themselves fighting in the Fatrastan Revolution. They range through the swamps of the frontier, cutting off enemy supplies and raiding towns while Taniel hunts the Privileged sorcerers that make the Kez armies so powerful.

When a desperate call for help comes from the nearby city of Planth, the Irregulars aren't the only ones to answer and Taniel must deal with another hero of the revolution: Mad Colonel Styke. But not all is well within the young Fatrastan government, and more hangs on the defense of Planth than Taniel and his companions could possibly know.

I'm particularly excited about this novella because it's the first glimpse you'll get of Ben Styke: a viewpoint character in Sins of Empire, book one of Gods of Blood and Powder. Ghosts of the Tristan Basin officially releases on all your favorite ebook vendors February 16th, with hardcovers to follow March 15th. If you want to get it right now, you can buy a direct download from me.

Pre-order below:


Another Birthday Giveaway!

Hey guys! Today is my 30th, so all this week I'm giving away a powder mage novella to everyone who subscribes to my email newsletter. All you have to do is confirm your subscription (check your spam if you don't see it) and then click on the link on the confirmation page. I'll be sending all current subscribers a link to the download on Tuesday.

For those of you unfamiliar with my short fiction, here's the quick scoop: I write side stories within the Powder Mage Universe as a way to supplement my novels. It lets me explore themes and backgrounds I don't have time for in the books, and gives my fans a little something extra to read while they wait for the next full-length installment. I try to write these novellas so they can be read on their own, and many readers find them a good launching point into the Powder Mage Trilogy.

Murder_At_The_Kinnen_Hotel_02.jpg

I'm giving away Murder at the Kinnen Hotel. It's a murder mystery featuring a young Adamat, long before he became the private investigator you meet in Promise of Blood. Subscribe and it's yours!

It's a good time to subscribe, because you'll get information regarding the next novella within the coming weeks.