Digging Deeper Into Author Earnings

Ruth Nestvold:

An interesting analysis of the influential Author Earnings reports by the very savvy Phoenix Sullivan.

Originally posted on David Gaughran:


The Author Earnings team are attempting to do something which hasn’t been done before, and their work can’t be refined and improved unless there is some intelligent criticism of their approach and findings.

Today I’ve invited Phoenix Sullivan to blog on the topic. I’ve known Phoenix for a few years now, and if there’s a smarter person in publishing, I haven’t heard of them.

KBoards regulars will already know that Phoenix understands the inner workings of the Kindle Store better than anyone outside Amazon. And I can personally vouch for her expertise: she was the biggest influence on (and help with) Let’s Get Visible and also the marketing brains behind a box set I was in, which did very well indeed.

Phoenix offered to take the raw data from Author Earnings, drill down and analyse it, and then see if her conclusions differed from theirs, and whether there were any…

View original 3,243 more words

The search for the apple for WIPpet Wednesday

In the last week and a half, I have managed to delete about 3000 words in notes and unnecessary scenes from Shards of Glass. Once I finished that task, I started added new (and hopefully better!) words this week. After having been up to 16,000 words, Shards is now coming in at 14,100. Progress is once again being made!

Of course, most of my time is being spent on the translation. I still want to devote a post to that relating to our recent trip, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. Maybe sometime in the next week or so, now that I seem to be settling into a more regular routine again.

On to WIPpet Wednesday! My math today: 2+7 for the day of the month to give you 9 paragraphs from Facets of Glass. Last week, we left our intrepid reluctant hero trying to figure out how he is going to find a glass apple with a room full of people nearby. In order to not bore you too much, I’m skipping some of the search scene. And here’s a nice photo from a palazzo on Murano to give you an idea what the room where he is searching might look like:

Gaetano marched purposefully around the chest of drawers to stand at attention at the opposite corner, nothing more than a soldier doing his duty. And no one noticed the oddity of his action.
From this corner, he would be able to sweep his foot both to the side and in the front of the cabinet. At the next opportunity, he tested the area in front.
Still nothing.
Several teary guests left the room where Minerva lay, breathing but lifeless, and exited through the double doors of the audience chamber. No one gave him a second glance. He was as much a piece of furniture as the commode and the cabinet between which he stood.
Once the group was gone and the audience chamber quiet again, Gaetano gently swept his booted foot backwards along the side.
And felt something. There was a tinkling on the floor behind him. But before he could turn to inspect the object, more guests entered the audience chamber. As soon as they disappeared through the side door, he glanced backwards.
An object red and round rested next to the wall.
There was still no activity in the audience chamber. He bent over as if to adjust his bootstrap and reached behind to grab the apple. Something sharp cut through his leather glove, pricking the skin beneath. When he examined the apple, he saw that it had lost its stem and leaves in its roll across the floor. It was the broken shard left of the stem that had pierced the glove of his right hand and the skin of his finger. But the apple itself was still whole.
Then for a moment, the image of the apple in his hands swam and blurred. When it came back into focus again, he seemed to be seeing the apple when it still had it’s leaves and stem intact — and he felt a distinct foreboding at the sight. Stranger still, beyond the apple he saw himself, dressed as a footman and looking mildly embarrassed. It was as if he were viewing the incident of the day before through Minerva’s eyes.

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts.

“10 Tips for Choosing the Right Book Title” via Anne R. Allen

I just read an excellent article on book titles in the ebook age that I had to share with readers of this blog. Take for example all the great advice in Tip #3 alone:

3) Study Titles that Work

Here are some title categories that are “tried and true.”

The hero’s name
This is the oldest type of title in the book, literally. A title simply stating the name of the protagonist has been around since the birth of the novel. Names made up the most common titles in early fiction. From Don Quixote, Tom Jones, Robinson Crusoe, David Copperfield, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Madam Bovary, Mrs. Dalloway, and Auntie Mame, to Olive Kitteridge and Coraline, the protagonist’s name can be a pretty safe choice for a title.

Then there are protagonist’s names with embellishments like The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, Charlotte’s Web, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Bridget Jones’ Diary, and The Talented Mr. Ripley

The antagonist’s name

Sometimes the villain gets top billing, as with Moby Dick, Hannibal, and Jaws.

Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca is one of the most clever villain titles, because even though Rebecca DeWinter is dead, she casts a shadow over the entire story. The fact the main character has no name but “the second Mrs. DeWinter” makes this title all the more compelling.

The main character’s occupation or title:

The Master Builder, The Vagabond, The Sot Weed Factor, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Master and Commander, The Continental Op, The Good Soldier, Gladiator.

A family member’s occupation or title:

The Mermaid’s Sister, The Duke’s Children, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Father of the Bride, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, The Baker’s Daughter, The Unicorn’s Daughter, The Bonesetter’s Daughter.

You’ve probably noticed that daughters have been in vogue recently. Here’s a piece with an infographic showing how titles involving daughters have expanded in recent years.)

Setting is good:

Mansfield Park, The Country of the Pointed Firs, Brokeback Mountain, Wuthering Heights, Cold Mountain, Mystic River, Echo Park, Dune, Tinseltown, Telegraph Avenue.

These let readers know where the story happens—which helps them decide if they want to go there. Remember you want your title and cover to give as much information as possible to your potential reader without confusing or overwhelming them.

Or use the setting with embellishments:

The Amityville Horror, Murders on the Rue Morgue, The Last Time I Saw Paris, The Incident at Owl Creek Bridge, The Bridges of Madison County

The main character’s place of origin

The Virginian, Bastard Out of Carolina, The Man from Snowy River

The main event or inciting incident:

The Hunger Games, The Great Train Robbery, Escape from Alcatraz, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, The Death of Ivan Ilyich….(or practically anybody). “Main event” titles are informative and contain the hook, so they’re great choices.


These advertise the book’s big picture: Pride and Prejudice, Of Mice and Men, War and Peace, The Beautiful and the Damned. These are especially good for literary fiction.

Quotes from the Bible, nursery rhymes or the classics:

A Time to Kill, The Sun Also Rises, After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, Blithe Spirit, Along Came a Spider, The Golden Apples of the Sun, Tender is the Night, Infinite Jest, His Dark Materials

In fact there are so many from classic literature they have their own Wikipedia page.

Quotes from songs or song titles:

Catcher in the Rye, Go Down Moses, Norwegian Wood, Sometimes a Great Notion, and most of Mary Higgins Clark’s oeuvre from While My Pretty One Sleeps (1990) to I’ve Got You Under My Skin (2014)

NOTE: If you take a line from a song rather than the title, make sure it’s in the public domain. Song titles can’t be copyrighted, but quoting even one line from a copyrighted song can cost you big bux.

Lines from the work itself:

The Silence of the Lambs is a reference to Clarice being traumatized in childhood by screaming lambs.)

To Kill a Mockingbird also comes from the book’s dialogue, as do Gone with the Wind and Waiting to Exhale.

Now get you over the read the rest of this great advice here.

Cover creation advice according to genre, via Freebooksy

Freebooksy posted an interesting visual analysis of successful book covers by genre today:


Unfortunately, fantasy is not one of the genres for which they provide examples of successful covers. And in the “paranormal” category, they throw in Steampunk, which wasn’t exactly paranormal last time I checked. *g*

Despite that, the article is definitely worth a look. Even if using their advice is no guarantee of success. Example: according to the article, successful SF book covers are orange, black and white. May I present you with the least successful of my SF titles?

From Earth to Mars and Beyond

Plenty of orange, black, and white there, I think. :)

Nonetheless, I think it is very solid advice to study covers of successful books in your genre before you either create your own or start consulting with a cover designer as to what you want.

Back to Facets of Glass for #WIPpet Wednesday

I’m slowly getting back into a productive routine again after the disruption of travel and then recovering from jet lag. The translation is going well, and I’ve also gotten back to writing and marketing, organizing several new promos for my books in recent and upcoming weeks. I’m also submitting short stories to traditional markets again — something I have to do more of.

Quantifying the writing, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult. I’ve done a lot of work in hard copy, trying to map out the character arcs for Chiara, Gaetano, Vanna and the Dowager Princess in Facets of Glass and Shards of Glass. I’m very happy with the results and feel like I have a much better handle on where things should be going from here on out. On the other hand, one of the results was that I did a lot of radical weeding in the present manuscript, cutting over 1400 words. So my progress for the past week comes out to -1400. :)

After that cheerful news, let us continue on to WIPpet Wednesday! Today I am returning to Facets of Glass, and the place in the story where I was before I went on vacation. Gaetano has just been ordered back to Murano by the Dowager Princess to find the glass apple. I’m giving you 5 paragraphs for the 5th month:

Minerva had been laid out on a couch in a room adjacent to the audience chamber in the Dragoni family palazzo. At least that. It was going to be difficult enough as it was for Gaetano to find an opportunity to crawl around on the floor in search of a glass apple. But if all the people crowding around Minerva had been in the audience chamber rather than the room next door, it would have been impossible.
When they entered the alcove where Minerva lay as if sleeping, Anastasia pushed through the crowds and knelt at her sister’s side, tears streaming down her face, making grooves in the fashionable powder applied by her maids.
Standing at attention in the door frame, Gaetano stared at the scene. Whatever it was Minerva had done to invoke the wrath of the dowager princess, she did not deserve to be made a living corpse.
He turned away from the alcove and examined the larger room. In his mind’s eye, he could see the exact spot where Minerva had fallen, and where her outstretched arm, hand empty, had lain on the marble.
He gazed in the direction her arm had pointed. There stood a tall cabinet with short legs under which the apple could have rolled. Only how was he going to get a chance to look underneath it with all the people in these rooms?

Once Upon a Time, Ann Macbeth

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts.

One of these days I will get back to posting regularly — once all the other stuff in my life has gotten more back to normal! Hope everyone is having a grand old time in the blogosphere in the meantime. :)

Shards of Glass for #WIPpet Wednesday, and a request for feedback on the cover

Hi again, everyone! Long time, no read. :)

While I was off visiting relatives, assisting with deck building, doing garden work in the garden of my daughter’s new house, and eating fresh crab, the nearly final cover of the third Glassmakers book arrived in my inbox.

Shards of Glass cover

I’m pretty happy with how it looks, but my cover designer agreed to allow me to run it past my readers on my blog and Facebook before finalizing it. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a lot of time for blogging in the last few weeks, and am only now getting around to it now that we are back in Germany. So what do you guys think? The basic design will stay the same, but if you have any suggestions for tweaking, I would be happy to hear them!

Since I’m running the cover for the last book in the trilogy by y’all, I thought I would jump forward in fictional time and give you a first excerpt from Shards of Glass for my return to WIPpet Wednesday. Math: 6 short paragraphs for the sixth day of the month:

Dowager Princess Zilia of House Foscari was in a bad mood. Her morning chocolate tasted like dust, even though she was sure the cook had prepared it exactly to her liking, just as he always did.
No, it was not the cook’s fault that nothing could please her this morning — even though the sun shone bright through the tall arched windows and the reports she was reading were full of positive news regarding increases in Venetian exports of glass, silk and spices. All of which would mean sorely needed tax revenues for the ruling families of Venice.
Unfortunately, Zilia couldn’t enjoy it — not the chocolate, not the sun, not the news. All she could think about was her recent defeat. Not only had her plan to bring the traitorous glassmakers back to Venice been foiled, the magic mirror that had found them had been stolen.
Zilia was not used to being crossed. She was used to having her every wish fulfilled.
She put aside the reports and rose. Perhaps she needed to take a day off from her duties as mother of the most powerful prince in Venice. She would go to Lido, spend the day in the Foscari villa there, far from responsibilities and disappointments.
The Dowager Princess threw open the doors to her retiring room — and noticed that her favorite, Gaetano, was not one of the guards standing at attention on either side of her sanctuary. His absence had escaped her when she came down from her bedchamber, enshrouded in her bad mood.

Rough stuff still, very much first draft — any and all comments welcome!

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts.

As to progress, maybe I should offer you this:

Deck underway

And this:

Deck completed
Deck completed

That was our big accomplishment on our vacation. I didn’t actually work that much on the deck for my daughter’s new house, but I did do a lot of gardening, dirt shoveling, ugly shrub extinction, and planting while we were there.

Other than that, I was driving up and down the west coast between Eugene and Seattle and visiting relatives and friends I only rarely see. I did a little bit of translation, a little bit of brainstorming, and even less writing. But over the years, I have come to believe that it is okay to take a vacation from writing. I write 5 days a week on a regular basis, usually more, and I manage consistent word counts that I compensate for on days when the writing doesn’t go as well. Given those circumstances, I think I deserve a vacation now and then. :)

I may still blog in more detail about our trip, given time and opportunity, but I’m not promising anything. The incident with the lost camera would definitely deserve a post, if I can manage it! Not to mention my husband’s collision with a chainsaw …

Hope everyone has been doing great while I’ve been mostly absent. :)

Villa Diodati 14 (and 13 too … )


A little over a week before we flew to the States to visit relatives, I got back from the most recent incarnation of the Villa Diodati workshop. VD14 was once again in southern Spain, but probably for the last time, since we are losing our venue, unfortunately. Ah well. We will find other cool places to meet, I am sure.

This workshop was one of the biggest we’ve had, with ten participants.

Group shot VD14
Front row: Sylvia Spruck Wrigley, Ruth Nestvold, Grayson Morris, Christian Walter, Jeremy Sim
Back row: Frances Silversmith, Bo Balder, Floris Kleinje, Jeff Spock, Stephen Gaskell

It was also one of the most reading intensive. We put a cap on submissions for critique at 10,000 words, and usually most participants play by the rules. This time, four out of ten submitted works that exceeded the 10,000 word limit, which meant a lot more reading and critiquing than usual. I think in future I will have to exert my dictatorial powers more effectively, and create truncated versions of the works submitted for critique that conform to the rules. :)

Critique session
Critique session

Despite all the reading and critiquing, we still had time for other exercises and discussions. Among other things, we had a long talk on marketing. I was encouraged to submit a novella I wrote with Jay Lake (and was revising when he died) to Analog, which is where it is now. I also got some ideas from the group mind as to where “Pool of Souls” would fit, the short story I brought to the workshop. Unfortunately, that is not yet out, since I haven’t had time to address the critiques I got at VD14.

We also did a wonderful brainstorming session around the pool, where a number of us tossed out ideas we had for input from the group mind, or described stories that were flailing and might need some outside input. Sylvia and I got some great ideas on where to go with a collaboration we’ve written.

Brainstorming around the pool

We even got a chance to play the Surreal Oracle game again!

And of course we ate, and ate well, like we always do at Villa Diodati workshops. :)

Eating well
Eating well


The autumn 2014 workshop took place in Picardy, France. When I got home, we had a bit of a family medical emergency, which was why I never got around to posting a report. I figured the report for VD14 would be a good opportunity to make up for that. :)

The fall workshop in France was much smaller than VD14, with only six attendants. Here in the group shot you see only five of us, since Sylvia Spruck Wrigley wasn’t feeling well when we took the pictures. At least her crocheted Cthulhu made it in (next to my knee):

Group shot VD13
Ruth Nestvold, Aliette de Bodard, Jeff Sock, Nancy Fulda, Grayson Morris

We did many of the same awesome things we usually do besides critiquing, such as brainstorming and market discussions. Jeff also gave a talk on creativity.

During the brainstorming, I got some excellent ideas on how to continue with the Glassmakers trilogy. Not only that, since Sylvia was crocheting her amazing Cthulhus while we did critiques, she promised me and Nancy our own personal monsters if we could finish the novels we were working on by the end of January.

Critiquing and Cthulhu-making

Since things got very complicated at home for a while after I got back, it was an incredible incentive for me to return to writing and finish the first draft of Facets of Glass by January 31. Nancy finished her novel as well. After all, who doesn’t want their own cuddly monster?

I think we really should consider adding incentives for each other to our regular agenda of activities. An outside deadline can be an incredible motivator.

The sadly rabid puppies: Link update

I’ve been hanging out with friends and family I don’t see very often, so I haven’t been following the whole sock puppies scandal very closely. But it keeps cropping up on various discussion threads and lists I’m on, and I can’t help but reading up on the scandal. Here are some of the better posts I’ve come across in recent days.

My Clarion West instructor George R.R. Martin wrote an excellent summary on why the sad puppies are rather deluded regarding their feeling of being excluded by the new, evilly diversified SF of recent years:


George also wrote a highly recommended follow-up post on Hatespeech:


My fellow Villa Diodati member, Floris Kleinje, provides a great analysis of the ballot and what to do about it. While I don’t agree with his solution for the future (making voting memberships so cheap anyone could vote), he provides a very considered, informative summary:


Obviously, the Hugos are broken and mean absolutely nothing this year, but hopefully somewhere down the road the system can be fixed in such a way that excellent SF can once again be rewarded with a major award.

Second quarter goals

I got a bit sidetracked yesterday by the hijacking of the Hugo Awards for SFF, which I wrote about in my last post. Now that is off my chest, I can get back to business: my goals for the next quarter.

For the next couple of weeks, this list and my blog will be largely on hiatus while I try to catch up with relatives on another continent.

Shards of Glass Writing:

– Write an average of 2500 words a week.

– Finish Shards of Glass (that btw is not the final cover, so any and all comments and suggestions welcome!)

– Write 3 new short stories

– Revise “Pool of Souls” and send it out


– Write a report on Villa Diodati 14

– Wrap up the series “Starting out as an indie author”

– Update my book page here and on my web page, ruthnestvold.com

Writing business:

– 500 words a day of translation

– Schedule more promotions for my books

– List books with Babelcube & Noisetrade

– Publish “Starting Out as an Indie Author” as ebook

– Publish “The Shadow Artist” as ebook

– Put together collection of my writing articles with Jay Lake

– Put together collection of fantasy stories with Jay

– Write newsletter update for my subscribers

– Find more reviewers for CIAM and Island of Glass

– Start splitting up Shadow of Stone like I did Yseult

Wishing everyone a successful Round of Words!

The Hijacked Hugo Awards, 2015: New Tales of Beset Manhood

Ignore the dinosaurs

Well, that at least was what I intended to do when I first found out what was behind the exceedingly odd list of Hugo nominations this year. What, no Asimov’s? No F&SF, Strange Horizons, Interzone, or any of the other big names besides Analog? And who in the blue blazes is this John C. Wright person, who has THREE nominations in the novella category, as well as one each in short story and novelette? I cannot think of a single heavy-hitter in SFF in my lifetime who has dominated the ballot that way. And how in the world is some unknown publisher by the name of Castalia House so prominent among the nominations? And PATRIARCHY HOUSE? Where in the world are we now? How can this possibly be the specfic world I know and love?

I haven’t been very active in the SFF community for a number of years, although it is still what I read and write. But aside from the Villa Diodati workshop for writers of specfic in Europe, which I founded almost a decade ago, I don’t often go to the places where writers in my genre hang out anymore, aside from a few intimate spots on the Internet. Before all this crap hit the fan, I hadn’t even heard of the poor Sad Puppies (not not to mention their more rabid counterparts, the Rabid Puppies), who feel so irked and threatened by ethnic diversity and literary SF that they started a campaign to free “their” genre from the yoke of what they call “SJWs” (Social Justice Warriors, a term I also only learned today) and lead it back into the “Golden Age” of SF.

The problem is, it’s my genre too. And I never liked the “Golden Age” of SF. In high school, I cut my teeth on The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness, still two of my favorite books. Those books are all full of politics and gender issues and sexual diversity. The freedom to make up worlds like that was what I always loved about speculative fiction.

This new big uprising of the dinosaurs hit me out of the blue. And I tried to ignore it, I really did. But then I realized I had to add my 2c just so I could get all this crap out of my brain and get back to important stuff like writing and translating and preparing for the next trip.

Here a quote from the discussion thread over on the Passive Guy blog from “Kudzu Bob”, a supporter of the poor Sock, er Sad Puppies:

As for the SJWs, they think that racial, religious, and sexual diversity is a supreme good that somehow magically increases the sum total of human happiness, but is this really the case? As sci-fi fandom has grown more and more heterogeneous in nature, it also has become more and more divided against itself, at least to judge by recent developments. And if diversity makes people more miserable rather then less, then the SJWs are doomed to failure, no matter how noble their intentions.

Um, no. I don’t have any noble intentions. I don’t vote for what I think is best for world peace, I vote for what I like. Certain tropes bore me and make it impossible for me to read to the end — while for some readers it will be precisely those tropes that will make them clap their hands enthusiastically. There should be room for both of us, for all of us. I like diversity. I realize that there are many people out there who do not, but that does not mean they are liberating me from some onerous chore when they impose their uniformity on me. I don’t feel any misery in the online and face2face SF community I have, despite our national, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, and religious diversity. We get along just fine, thank you, despite our differences. Sometimes we even learn from each other.

I also like “literary” SF. I admit, I have a PhD in English Literature, (luckily the eggs that will now be thrown at me are only virtual) but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be entertained. For me, SF with a literary sensibility gives me the best of all worlds: great plots with beautiful language exploring meaningful themes. Not tough guys stomping out monsters or conquering new planets. Of course there is a place for that for people who want to read it, but how in the world did it become something that involved some poor sad sock puppies hijacking the Hugo ballot?

This all reminds me of a little kerfuffle in the SFF community 10 years ago which inspired an article I wrote with Jay Lake for IROSF, which is still online, although the zine has folded, “Tough Times for Beset Manhood: Or, Where Has Good Old Golden Age SF Gone?” The Sad Puppies movement is definitely (among others) a male thing. While the poor deprived male puppies put a handful of token women on their slate, the list is predominantly male authors. With the exception of one woman writer (whom I know and like), I can’t find a single woman who supports these poor puppies.

This is much bigger than the few flame wars on various discussion forums that inspired me and Jay 10 years ago, however. It has deprived a number of writers whose names were not on the sock puppies list of a chance to be nominated for a major award.

I feel like a sad puppy today too.

Clay Hackett (Flickr, Creative Commons)

A bunch of people who have said much more meaningful stuff than me on the issue:

Matthew David Surridge

Charlie Jane Anders

Chuck Wendig

John Scalzi


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,365 other followers

%d bloggers like this: