End of Days Sale

July 30-31, it is the end of the world. Well, not actually. Not that I am aware of, anyway. If it is the actual end of the world, I think we’re all going to be a bit too busy dealing with the fog-monsters from beyond the stars to care about how I said the world was going to end and then it did.

Instead, I’m talking about the next best thing to the end of the world: a whole bunch of great books about the end of days are now on sale.

For between $0.99 and $2.99–as much as 75% and $5 off per book–read about plagues, invasions, terrorism, and other horrible things that would be awful to live through but are a hell of a lot of fun to read about.

Check out the full list by clicking here. Books include:

 * My apocalyptic thriller Breakers, $2.99

 * Phoenix Sullivan’s medical thriller SECTOR C, $0.99

 * Steven Konkoly’s pandemic survival tale The Jakarta Pandemic, $2.99

 * Amy Rogers’ eco-terrorist novel Petroplague, $2.99

 * And Toni Dwiggins’ geological disaster mysteries Badwater and Volcano Watch

It’s a pretty diverse set, but they’ve all got two things in common: low prices, and a whole lot of stuff going kablooey. Please give them a look. And take that, humanity!

So when we last left off, Breakers‘ free days had rolled off its popularity list rankings. That process took three days to finish (since it had been free for three days). Within a week, its sales had dwindled from 50-70/day to 10/day. I still had decent pop list placement, because it had sold so many copies in the last 30 days, but as each day passed, its pop rank continued to slide, because the old high-sales days were being replaced by new low-sales days. The end was night.

All the while, I was having a pretty obvious thought. If a big free run had propped it up in the first place, what if I did another free run? I probably couldn’t match my previous total giveaway numbers, but if I made it free while it still had a lot of paid sales credited to it, would that be enough to boost me back up the lists and continue the ride for another thirty days?

Meanwhile, I was having a second, far less reliable thought, because my brain can’t leave well enough alone. The thing is, Breakers was outselling a lot of the big sci-fi books around it on the pop list. Its bestseller rank was consistently better than Ender’s Game, for goodness sake. If the pop lists were calculated purely by sales, it wouldn’t have fallen off at all. The only reason it did drop relative to these other books was because they were priced higher, and ever since the beginning of May, price is weighted heavily in how the pop lists are ranked.

So what if I raised the price, too? Before, I was selling at $3.99. Would my sales hold steady (or close to it) at, say, $5.99? If so, when my latest free run ran out in another 30 days, would I be able to avoid eating cliff? Or at least suffer a less painful, more gradual decline?

So I set it free again. For two days. That was all the days I had left. And I waited to see what would happen.

And then Amazon botched my promo.

Instead of starting on June 23rd as scheduled, Breakers didn’t wind up going free until around 2 AM June 24th. I emailed KDP and called AuthorCentral (KDP has no phone number), but KDP was no help. That left me with just under one day to get as many downloads as I could. When it finally did go free, things went about as well as I could have hoped–POI picked me up, and so did ENT–and I finished the day with about 5600 downloads. On the one hand, that was really good, but on the other hand, with another day, I probably would have finished with between 8000-10,000. I needed every one I could get to restore my lost placement.

In the end, it wasn’t quite enough. I bounced back up the pop lists, but not as high as before. Initial sales were pretty good (25-30/day), but even at the higher price, it wasn’t enough boost to keep up with the higher-sales days of 30 days ago that were continuing to roll off my rank. I think my worse bestseller rank was hurting me here, too, but it’s really hard to say. Sales held steady for about ten days, then halved after July 4.

Since that end of the experiment was a bust, I decided to learn what would happen if I raised the price to $7.99. Interestingly, sales held steady around 10/day for another couple weeks. Three weeks out, they halved again. A few hours ago, Breakers ate cliff again, falling from #27 in Science Fiction > Adventure to #113. I’m guessing its sales are going to be pretty slow from now on. (Well, until more magic happens, anyway.)

For all I know, the higher price crippled its ability to stay as sticky this time, too. But I don’t think that’s the only factor. Over the last couple months, I’ve watched several books try this same trick–doing regular free runs to prop up their pop list rank for another 30 days. Every time, they don’t come back as strongly as before. Don’t get me wrong, they still do very well–coming back at #1500 instead of #500, say, or #2200 instead of #1500–but there is, in this limited sample size, a clear trend of diminished returns.

What’s happening? Are these books, including Breakers, slowly exhausting their audiences, even with similar pop list placement as before? Is it the case that, after an initial giant free run, a book is essentially experiencing what it’s like to be a popular new release, and when it pops back up after its first cliff, it’s being met with a lot of eyes that have already seen it?

Likewise, these books’ second and third big free runs are never as big as their first. Not that I’ve seen, anyway. The obvious conclusion–which isn’t to say the correct one, necessarily–is that they’re draining the well, so to speak. Massive free runs depend on just a handful of sites. Once you’ve tapped those sites once, the well has that much less water in it the next time you return. It refills over time as new subscribers sign up, but in my observation, it doesn’t refill completely within 30 or even 60 days. In fact, it may take much longer than that.

We’re back in the realm of speculation now. But the logical conclusion is this that riding free runs every 30-40 days can be an effective strategy (although ENT now says they won’t mention a book within 60 days of the last time it was free, meaning you’re basically down to POI, FKBT, and paid ads for exposure). This can last for several months, anyway. But it appears to be less effective the more you do it, and there is a point where a diminished 30 days of sales + a diminished free run isn’t going to be enough to prop you up to a significant place on the pop lists. When that happens, the run’s going to be over for a while. At least until the wells refill. Or you discover some other way to get your book back up there.

There’s also the question of whether giving away that many books might hurt your long-term sales. I have no answers to that question. People are buying their first ereaders every day. Considering there are already millions of Kindles out there, giving away 50,000 copies of your book over the course of a year may be a drop in the bucket of your potential audience. Readers aren’t a nonrenewable resource. Still, I don’t think it’s an unreasonable question, especially if you might be better served waiting to reach those readers for when you’ve got the next book in the series ready, say.

This is getting far afield. Nearly three months after the new algorithms spraing into being, here are my conclusions, which may or may not be remotely accurate:

 * The Select program continues to reward far fewer books in the past

 * The few books it does reward are well-positioned to continue to exploit their appeal

 * If timed right, and with the right luck, these books can chain several months’ worth of strong sales together

 * However, there will likely be diminishing returns after two or more of these runs, and it is unlikely to be something that can be maintained for more than a few months in a row

 * While Select may no longer be very useful for most single titles, it continues to be quite useful for series

As for me, I’ll be leaving my fantasy series in Select for the time being, but I’m letting Breakers‘ Select contract expire early next month. I’d like to explore the other storefronts with a book I know is capable of selling. I’d like to see if I can build sales that are less roller-coastery. And to be perfectly frank, I’m pissed off at Amazon’s shitty customer support (grumble grumble bitch&moan). I’m sure they will be devastated to have lost my exclusivity.

What might this mean for your book? That is virtually impossible to answer. Maybe you’ll strike it rich on your next free run, but the chances of that are pretty low, unfortunately. And the strategy discussed above certainly isn’t a long-term plan (although giving away and selling that many copies may build you a readership that is very long-term indeed).

At the same time, what’s the alternative? De-enroll from Select, push the book to all the other stores, and pray it catches on? That’s not exactly an active strategy. Yet the other stores don’t have the same kinds of tools for discoverability that Select provides. It’s possible to make books free on iTunes and Kobo, yes, but that doesn’t result in the same list placement going free provides on Amazon. (Well, it kind of does on iTunes, but it’s clumsier, it takes much, much longer, and it’s far from guaranteed.)

In other words, we’re still in the same boat we’ve been in since mid-March. Select doesn’t sell like it used to, but the other sites are a cross between a roulette wheel and a wasteland. I’m growing restless and disillusioned, so I’m going to go exploring. I don’t know what you should do, but I’ll report back with anything interesting I find along the way.

Last time I looked at Amazon’s current algorithms, I speculated what would happen 30 days after Breakers‘ giant free run. At that point, all the free copies it gave away would stop counting towards its rank on the popularity lists. That was a frightening prospect, but at the same time, I’d racked up some 2300 paid sales (and another 600 borrows) in the 30 days since my giveaway. Would those be enough to sustain my place on the pop lists? If not, what would happen? Would I face a slow decline, or a swift one? Would I stroll down a hill, or smash down a cliff?

Well, here’s a look in chart form. Here’s Breakers‘ entire sales history:

Pictured: D’oh

That doesn’t look so bad. That nice, flat line goes on forever and ever. It’s just a little jagged there at the end is all. Wait, let’s take a closer look:

Pictured: D’oh, Part 2

Okay, that’s a better look at what happened. What we’re seeing here is twofold. First, notice that downward slope starting around June 16? That’s when my free days stopped counting. The descent was swift–nearly 1000 ranks a day until I hit #4000, when the decline slowed. That is not a gentle hill. That is a brutal cliff. The drop from #1000 Paid to #2000 Paid is the difference between roughly 70 sales per day and about 40 sales/day. And rank declines more slowly than it rises, meaning my drop was even stiffer than that. Within a week of my free days beginning to roll off, I’d dropped from #1000 to #5000. In terms of daily sales, that was a drop from 50-70/day to 10/day.

I had braced myself for it, but it’s hard to brace yourself for a freefall. Mostly what happens at the end of the cliff is a puddle composed of you.

“But wait,” you say. “Bottoming out at #6000 isn’t so bad. That’s a pace around 500 sales/month. And anyway, rank spiked just a few days after that, taking you back to #2000. What are you bitching about?”

What am I–? Look, we’ll get to that in a moment, Captain Impatience. First, I want to talk about the why some more. Why such a steep decline? After all, my bestseller rank was still really good. #1000 overall, which was something like #8 in Technothrillers and #22 in Science Fiction > Adventure. That’s quite a bit of visibility, isn’t it? And what about also-boughts? At that point, I had a lot of popular sci-fi books pointing back to Breakers in the form of the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” lists.

Well, it turns out those things just aren’t all that important. Ha ha! That is way too flippant of an answer.  Totally misleading. In truth, bestseller rank and alsobots clearly matter to some degree, but the more I do this, the more dismissive I am of them in general: while they certainly help generate sales, the bestseller lists are so volatile your book can sink extremely rapidly, and the alsobots are such a harsh filtering process (basically, your book needs to be on the first page of a book that has just been finished by a reader who is interested in buying another book right now) that they are of limited use. I think if you have a very high bestseller rank, or first-page placement on the alsobots of a very popular book, then that can do a lot for your sales, but otherwise, those are the supporting cast to a book’s sales, not the star.

The star is the popularity lists. And your book isn’t on just one of them, it’s on a bunch. For instance, one of Breakers‘ category paths is Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction > AdventureEach of those is a separate popularity list, which means the book is listed (somewhere) on each of them. Say it’s showing up at #20 on > Adventure; that would place it somewhere around #40-50 in > Science Fiction, and somewhere like #1200-1600 in > Kindle eBooks. In terms of discoverability, it would be very easy to find in SF > Adventure (second page), pretty easy to find in > Science Fiction (page 4-5), and totally awful in > Kindle eBooks (page 100+). No one is going to click through 100 pages in the eBooks category to find it. But this is part of the reason mega-popular books like 50 Shades of Grey or The Hunger Games stay so sticky for so long: when you’re #1 in the store, everyone sees you every time they visit Amazon. Plus the whole “world-destroying word of mouth” thing. But extreme visibility in high-traffic categories leads to a lot of clicks on your book, which in turn generally leads to a lot of sales.

That’s essentially why Select free runs used to do so well on the old pop lists. And that’s why taking a sudden tumble from, say, #10 in > Science Fiction (where I peaked)–the first page of the entire category–to #40-50 or wherever makes such a big difference. And remember, you’ve got another subcategory you’re listed on, too. Once your visibility is lost when a big free run rolls beyond the pop list window, you’re not going to regain it without another push.

Breakers’ peak rank on the Science Fiction popularity list a week before I ate cliff

And giving it another push is exactly what I tried to do next. With another free run. This post is already terribly long, so I’ll explore the mixed results of that attempt–along with my experiments with higher pricing–in the next post later today or tomorrow.

Want to know the best part about finally (if however temporarily) doing well with a book? The sales. Ha ha ha! But the other best part is the sense of having written something other people liked. That’s been my dream for the better part of two decades now, and so it’s fairly surreal to get reviews for Breakers like the newest one at Sippin’ Southern Sass.

I won’t rehash the whole review, but like I said over there, there’s no better way to flatter an author than to compliment their prose.

Neat thing about this modern writing world: the author of the review, LM Gautreaux, found me because we both hang out on Kindleboards. Back in the day (2009!), Kindleboards was touted as a way to sell your book directly to readers, but if that was ever effective, I don’t think that’s its primary purpose anymore. Instead, it’s a place to network with other writers and learn how to sell books–which can be vastly more complicated than “write book, release book.” Everything I know about Amazon’s algorithms started from reading posts on Kindleboards. But posting there is also simply about being accessible.

Being accessible is important. I know that’s not for everyone; writing is often a solitary business, and it draws a certain set, self included, that are often averse to public interaction. But even if public message boards aren’t for you, if you’re an author, I highly recommend sticking your email address at the back of your book. Create a way for fans to get ahold of you easily. They can be a tremendous resource. A few of the people who wrote to me about Breakers or The White Tree wound up being beta and gamma readers for my most recent novel, and they made a huge difference in its quality.

Anyway, this is getting far afield. Point is, even when you hire professionals, it’s hard to do this on your own. Let other people give you a hand, whether it’s by reviewing your book or beta reading before you go live. But it’s much harder for people to find you–and thus help you–without having a public face somewhere.

On a different note, you may have noticed: there haven’t been any posts here in three weeks! Well, that’s because I’ve been absurdly busy. I am about to become less busy. Differently busy, at least. Busy in a way that means I still have access to my computer. With any luck, then, tomorrow I’ll wrap up the series on Amazon’s algorithms with Part 5: Eating Cliff.

In my last post examining the effects of a large free run under the current algorithms, I looked at how Breakers‘ sales had been in the week after giving away 25,000 copies. They looked steady. And given that the book would have very strong position in the popularity lists for 30 days, my best guess was that sales would stay strong throughout that period.

Still, that was just a guess. And I thought it was also quite possible that sales would slow. Significantly so, even–maybe regular browsers of the popularity list would all snap it up in the first few days, leaving it much more sluggish after that. There was no way to know for sure until more numbers came in.

Okay, by my count, it’s now been 17 days since Breakers reverted to paid. Here’s a look at its last 30 days of sales:

That is a line. An almost-straight one. That line represents numbers that are frankly humbling and my-mind-blowing; I’m not sure how to address this without it coming across as bragging. That line represents some 1250 sales and 400 borrows.

Yet it’s also a bit deceptive. That graph is measuring all numbers between #1 and #60,000. How does it look at a more micro level? Here’s the graph for the last two weeks:

By Authorcentral, it peaked May 22, ending the day at #550. It declined every single day after that, reaching its nadir at #1583 on May 31. On June 1, it leapt to #1099; it reached #821 by June 3, and while that graph isn’t showing its latest increase, at 12:45 PM June 5, it’s at #852.

What caused the rebound? Borrows are a big part of it. Breakers has been listed at #1 in Science Fiction in the Kindle Online Lending Library for at least a week now. Despite the top placement in its genre, in the last four days of May, Breakers had 37 borrows, averaging 9.25/day. In the first four days of June, it’s had 110–27.5/day. Clearly, most Prime members had exhausted their monthly borrows by the end of the month; as their borrow refreshed June 1, many new readers snapped up the book.

But an extra 18 borrows a day isn’t quite enough to boost it from #1600 to #800. The borrows can be explained by the start of a new month, but raw sales are also up, too, from 57.75/day in the last four days of May to 77.5/day over the first four days of June. That’s a 34% increase(?!?).

How to explain that? I don’t know. Its pop list ranks have been steady for days now. Presumably, as borrows came in, boosting Breakers‘ rank on various bestseller lists, the additional visibility led to a few more sales, but I don’t think that’s the only–or even the primary–driver of these extra sales. Its bestseller ranks haven’t rebounded that much. All I can offer on this front is conjecture: Are shoppers more free with their money early in the month? Does Amazon send out extra recommendation emails at the start of the month? It’s also gotten 23 new reviews since going free (it had just 9 before); is that helping to convince shoppers to click “buy”?

I don’t know. All I can conclude is that a free giveaway can pay off heavily in borrows as well as sales–right now, Breakers is #12 on the popularity lists in all Science Fiction, but none of the books above it are enrolled in Prime, meaning it gets the #1 spot in the KOLL. The frenetic pace of early-month borrows is already slowing, but that was a nice shot in the arm–my sale : borrow ratio is currently at almost exactly 3 : 1. I believe very few of those borrows are cannibalized sales. My gut feeling, having seen numbers on a bunch of other books, is that a more “normal” sale : borrow ratio would be more like 10 or even 20 : 1. In other words, a full ~25% of my total income so far this month is directly due to having such ridiculously high placement in the KOLL.

17 days in. That gives me another 13 before my free downloads slide beyond the 30-day window of the popularity lists. In another two weeks, then, I expect the gravy train to run out of steam. Possibly to fly off the rails altogether. But it won’t vanish from the popularity lists altogether–by then, it’ll have somewhere in the neighborhood of 2000 sales credited to its ranks, meaning it might only drop from page 1 to page 2 or 3. Even so, that could lead to a death spiral, a negative feedback loop where lower visibility –> lower sales –> even lower visibility –> even lower sales, but we’ll see.

Wherever it goes from here, I can’t consider this as anything but a success. It’s been fascinating to watch, and from a personal angle, it couldn’t have come at a better time–my fiancee’s workplace is reducing everyone’s hours, and our ability to scrape by, already rocky, might have become downright jagged. Even if it crashes and burns in another two weeks, it’s already saved our bacon.

So we’re now three weeks into Amazon’s most recent set of algorithms. I don’t know the first thing about what they’ve meant for the overall activity of the Kindle store, but in terms of books in the Select program and free giveaways, some trends are starting to emerge. And they generally aren’t too favorable.

Yet they aren’t completely disastrous, either (depending on your definition of “disaster,” anyway). Phoenix Sullivan has a week’s worth of data on ten different titles showing a 500% increase in income in the week after her most recent free runs. At the same time, she sees that it now takes a significantly higher number of downloads to see increased sales.

Over at the Kindleboards MEGA-THREAD devoted to the tracking of free data, results are kind of all over the map, but show persistent evidence of decreased post-free sales. (Link goes to results posted after the May 3 changes; when browsing, make sure to look for free runs that took place after that date.) Still, it’s also showing that post-free sales haven’t dried up completely. Meanwhile, Russell Blake, who’s been doing pretty well for himself in part due to free runs and is touch with a bunch of other authors, has mentioned post-free sales are only about 10% of what they used to be back in the glory days. In the episode of the Self-Publishing Podcast I was on, Johnny B. Truant mentioned he’d recently given away 8000 copies and seen no appreciable sales bump. After what Phoenix has termed the Golden and Silver Ages of Select, these diminished numbers are fairly discouraging.

But here’s something else that appears to be a part of the new system:

This is Breakers‘ entire sales history, dating back to its release on February 7. Now let me doctor the charts a little bit:

The two red bars mark the approximate dates of algorithm changes. 0, 1, 2 all fell during the days of List A; 3 took place during the days of List A/B/C; 4 is what we’re seeing with the most recent set. 0 was the release date. 1, 2, and 4 came after free runs. 3 was an ad/sale price promo.

The pattern’s pretty clear, right? Under the old algorithms, books would peak, then gradually decline over the next few days until they returned to Spiky Land, where sales are few and inconsistent. (My Spiky Land sales rate was generally 0-6 per day.) The trajectory looked like the flight of a lofty home run ball in reverse–a swift rise, then a steady downward slope. Since my latest free run under the new algorithms, however, the sales trajectory is more like.. the path of a torpedo. A sexy torpedo. One that doesn’t show any major signs of slowing down.

For another three weeks, anyway, which is when things will get really interesting. What’s happening here is this. Breakers gave away 2.5 shitloads of books on its last free run (where a “shitload” is defined as 10,000 copies–note that we’re using customary measurements, not the Imperial scale). Right before it was free, its popularity list rankings were #121 in Thrillers > Technothrillers and worse than #500 in Science Fiction > Adventure. Where is it now?

Technothriller isn’t the biggest category in the Kindle store, but SF > Adventure is a pretty tough one. This is the category where George R.R. Martin and Wool chew everyone else up and drool them down their sales-fattened bellies. Yesterday, Breakers was actually #12–page 1!–but a new release from Amazon’s 47North imprint vaulted ahead of it today.

Here’s the difference between the old algos (List A) and the new. When Breakers came off free, it would have vaulted to #1 in both categories. It probably had enough downloads that it would have hit page 1 of the entire Mystery & Thrillers genre. This would have produced a rush of sales (almost certainly hundreds), but after a few days, its rank would start to decay. It would get leapfrogged by the latest post-free books off big runs of their own. Within about a week–maybe two, given a giveaway of this magnitude–it would probably be back down near its former rank and sales.

If anything, the opposite is true now for big giveaways. Initially, Breakers hit Technothrillers at #12 and Adventure at #27. It hadn’t sold much over the 30 days prior to being free. 110ish copies, I think. The new pop lists look at a 30-day rolling window of sales. Once it reverted to paid, then, its pop list placement was calculated based on 25K freebies + 110 sales. But since its free run, it’s been selling 70+ copies per day. As the 30-day window advances, then, last month’s low sales days are discarded from the equation while its most recent high sales days are added to it. The result: it has steadily climbed the pop lists ever since.

By now, it’s probably about peaked. And in another 3 weeks, those 25K freebies will roll beyond the window. At that point, it will drop down the pop lists again. How much? That will be determined entirely through how many copies it sold over its new 30-day window. But if that arrow-straight sales line from its sales history holds out, we’d be talking somewhere in the neighborhood of 1500-2000 copies–in other words, enough that it’ll probably still be somewhere on page 1 of Technothrillers, and probably page 3 of SF > Adventure. That would still be a lot of pop list visibility.

In other other words, it could get sticky.

Assuming the algos don’t change over that time, of course. And that I don’t get 50 consecutive one-star reviews. And that the collective unconsciousness doesn’t decide Breakers is 300-some pages of garbage and that its author should be defenestrated with all possible haste. Or that interest doesn’t simply dry up. The U.S.S. Me could be torpedoed at any time.

Back to the big picture. In general, Select is no longer as effective at generating sales as it was just last month. The visibility produced by most giveaways is much lesser than it was before. But if you get lucky enough, that visibility will last for much longer. More visibility, more sales. While in most cases, Select is the least useful it’s ever been–and part of me isn’t happy about that at all–in certain instances, it’s become a more powerful tool than ever.

A couple weeks ago, I started talking to an artist about a new cover for Breakers. A couple days ago, she finalized my new cover:

The artist was Stephanie Mooney. Recommend! This was my first time working with her, and I found her fast, amenable to changes, and very reasonably priced. I’m kind of in love with it. This is really, really close to the original concept I had for it more than a year ago when I was still writing the early chapters.
It needs to be said that I really liked my old cover. I thought it was kind of brilliant. (I especially loved how the title and “a novel” were broken up). I’m upset that I felt compelled to change it. But I did feel compelled–at the end of the day, it’s probably going to sell best when it’s clearly labeled as genre fiction, and I just didn’t think the previous cover was conveying that to prospective readers. I feel like this one does.
That should help me in the long run. Still, that part of me is upset I had to shelve great work. Business is tough! Why do I have to be in business? Why can’t a living just appear on my doorshelf, wrapped in a bow? My dogs would bark when it showed up, but I think they’d quiet down as soon as those ruby-studded collars showed up.

Since last month, I’ve been trying out Amazon’s KDP Select program with my novels. Select is, to boil it down, a deal where you make your book exclusive to Amazon for 90 days in exchange for another sales route (borrows) and the ability to make your book free for 5 days. Being allowed to give your book away for nothing might not sound like much of a positive, but it can be kind of a big deal.

By and large, Select has been a very positive experience for me, one I should really blather about here. For now, check out Jim Kukral’s piece on Huffington Post about the pros and cons of the program. In it, he quotes several authors–including one stunningly handsome one–on their experiences with and feelings about Select. It’s a good snapshot of the ambivalent mood and level of success the indie community has for the program.

Oh, and since Jim started gathering his info for the piece, I’ve had another great Select run. Two days ago, I made Breakers free for one day. It was downloaded about 1600 times. Since going back to paid status, I’ve sold a bit over 300 copies.

So yeah, I’m a fan of Select.

From the product description:

“In New York, Walt Lawson is about to lose his girlfriend Vanessa. In Los Angeles, Raymond and Mia James are about to lose their house. Within days, none of it will matter.

When Vanessa dies of the flu, Walt is devastated. But she isn’t the last. The virus quickly kills billions, reducing New York to an open grave and LA to a chaotic wilderness of violence and fires. As Raymond and Mia hole up in an abandoned mansion, where they learn to function without electricity, running water, or neighbors, Walt begins an existential walk to LA, where Vanessa had planned to move when she left him. He expects to die along the way.

Months later, a massive vessel appears above Santa Monica Bay. Walt is attacked by a crablike monstrosity in a mountain stream. The virus that ended humanity wasn’t created by humans. It was inflicted from outside. The colonists who sent it are ready to finish the job–and Earth’s survivors may be too few and too weak to resist.”

Breakers is available for $2.99.

What’s it about?

Well, read the description you apparently just skimmed! It is about the end of the world. Via plague. I love apocalyptic virus stories. This is a new one. It’s about the end of the world, how two different people from two different places react to it, and how they respond when they discover they may be able to do something about it.

Where’s it available?

I’m beginning to suspect you are just messing with me, as that information is also in the title. It’s out for Kindle. Why Kindle-exclusive? Well, it probably won’t always be that way. But because of the various benefits involved, I wanted to make it a Select title, meaning that, for either 3 or 6 months, it’ll be Amazon-only. After that, I expect to release it through Barnes & Noble, Apple, Sony, etc.

If you are an interested reviewer, however, or anyone else who really, really, really, can’t wait, email me (edwrobertson AT gmail) and we’ll work something out.

Who did the cover art?

Foldout Creative, a Los Angeles-area book cover boutique. I don’t think their website has launched just yet–think it’ll be up any day now, though–but they’re great guys, easy to work with, happy to take requests, and very thoughtful about making the right cover to represent what’s inside. Oh, and did I mention generous? I won my cover through a contest they put on to meet a few authors and help support the local indie author scene. I give them a thumbs up. No wait, I have two hands. Make that two thumbs up.

What inspired the book?

This could be a pretty long list. To be honest, I doubt I would have written this if I hadn’t read Stephen King’s The Stand. And then reread the first third, where Captain Trips wipes out the world, like three or four times, because man, that grabbed my imagination. I haven’t read it in over a decade, but I can still remember the descriptions of dead men behind the wheels of their cars, their plagued-out necks so swollen they looked like the tires on the vehicles they’d died in.

I had a different idea about where the virus came from, though. And while the scope is similar–the fate of the world–I think the approach is pretty different, too. I hope Breakers can be a part of the subgenre The Stand helped define while being something of its own.

Structurally, I was actually inspired by George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. This may come as a surprise, considering I’ve written and commented at length about how I think the series sucks, but it’s a little more complicated than that inflammatory headline. I could rant about this for thousands of words, but in short, I both love and hate Martin’s ongoing cliffhangers. While I found them so compelling I kept reading the series a full book and a half beyond the point at which I started to hate it, I also wound up feeling so manipulated by them–and rewarded with so few payoffs when the plot finally returned to whichever character was last in peril–that I’m still bitter to this day.

Still, there’s no denying they’re kind of great writing. I wanted to see what would happen if I tried to slash out the negatives from those techniques, making the plot (ideally!) very hard to set aside while quickly and regularly rewarding whatever cliffhanger I’d left out there a few pages earlier. That was my intent, anyway. I would be overjoyed to someday read a blog post from an angry un-fan tearing into me the same way I did Martin. It would mean the work got out there.

Also, I’m pretty sure every single book I’ve written has been from a single perspective. I’ve been trying to practice different structures recently, so I wanted to tell this story from two different characters’ points of view.

The major settings were an easy choice. I lived in New York during college and moved to the Los Angeles area a couple years ago. Little-known fact: they’re both huge. Also interesting. Full of very unique neighborhoods, styles, and people. I really like it here in LA, and I really, really liked it in New York. That makes them pretty easy to write about.

The characters come out of questions I’ve been interested in for a long time: what happens when you lose everything? What should you do to hang onto it? Is there any limit?

Also, I didn’t realize this until a few days ago, but there must have been some subconscious influence from Breaking Bad, because the book is called Breakers (for the breaking of the world, mostly) and one of the main characters is named Walt. Then again, everything should be influenced by Breaking Bad, because it is awesome.

There’s probably some other influences at work here, too, dating all the way back to my earliest reading days. The Tripod books, definitely. Maybe a bit of The Hitchhiker’s Guide and the two Red Dwarf books, which I loved loved loved and are probably the main reason I expect every book to be at least a little bit funny. A little bit of John Gardner, as always (which he would probably find weird and possibly offensive, but what can you do). Other stuff I’m definitely forgetting. I always find it disingenuous when an author or artist tries to claim their work came out of nowhere–that much like ODB, there is no father to its style. There were dozens of works that influenced Breakers, and not just books. A lot of movies and TV shows, too.

That was really long. Could you shut up now?

Yeah. In exchange, please check out the book.

About Me

I am a Science Fiction and Fantasy author, based in LA. Read More.


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