Originally called the Spaced Out Library, it began in 1970 with the donation of five thousand books from science fiction writer and editor Judith Merril. Now it contains over 80,000 works of speculative fiction including science fiction, fantasy, horror and magic realism.
This year, this crazy year, is the collection’s fiftieth anniversary.
The Merril Collection graciously allowed me to hold the book launch for my debut novel A Time and a Place at the collection (which I wrote about here).
To mark the Merril Collection’s anniversary, several award-winning writers, editors and scholars of speculative fiction have shared their thoughts about what makes Merril so special. I am honoured to have been included among them.
I’ve just made my short story collection Other Times and Places available for .99 cents until the end of January 2021.
Because it’s Christmas.
And I’m a swell guy.
Because I’d like you to check it out. I think you might like it. It’s got seven whole stories in it! You’re bound to like at least one of them. Maybe even two! Or six. (I’m an optimist.)
Here’s the official jacket copy:
What do a thief, wizards, a platypus, ghosts, soft drink salesmen, God, the devil, and a spaceman all have in common? Together they will make you laugh, think, sleep better, open your mind, spark your imagination, and quite possibly improve your complexion* as Joe Mahoney brings them all vividly to life in this humorous and thoughtful collection of seven tales of the fantastic.
Featuring an updated cover by Nathan Caro Fréchette (based on the original by Jeff Minkevics) this 6 x 9 jacketed case laminate edition also features a gloss cover finish, slightly updated text, and a full index.
It’s available in several marketplaces online, but for the moment is featured best at Barnes & Noble. (Update: it’s now up on Amazon as well.)
The softcover edition is also available from Barnes & Noble and other online retailers.
And the ebook and audiobook editions are still out there as well. Happy reading!
This past month I was fortunate to have sold plenty of copies of A Time and a Place. About 1400 copies, all told. And copies of Other Times and Places, too. People have been reading my work, and forming opinions about it. This is great, and I’m pretty happy about it. It has resulted in reviews and ratings on several platforms, primarily Amazon, Kobo, and Goodreads. And not just Amazon Canada, but in the US, Australia, and Great Britain as well, and some of the ratings from those locations have shown up on Amazon India too.
Although I wish I was impervious to reviews and ratings, I’m not. Maybe one day I will be (I kind of doubt it). Whenever I notice a new review or rating has been added, I get butterflies. My curiosity gets the better of me, and I scroll down to see how one tiny portion of the universe has reacted to my work. Sometimes the response is positive; sometimes less so. You have to take it all with a grain of salt. You have to develop a thick skin. But that can be easier said than done.
The work I’ve publicly released into the world, that I consider worthy of an ISBN, that I dare to charge money for, is the best I was capable of producing at the time I created it. I gave it all a great deal of thought and in most cases injected massive amounts of time and effort into it. If someone indicates that they’ve liked it, I’m gratified and feel a tiny bit vindicated. If someone indicates that they really dislike or hate it, I get a bit deflated, at least temporarily. If someone reveals that they’re ambivalent to my work, or they kind of like it but consider it flawed in some way, I’m disappointed but okay with it.
I’ve received a couple of one star ratings on Goodreads. They haven’t been accompanied by reviews, so I consider them meaningless. I’ve heard Goodreads described as “crazy town” by other writers, so some of what shows up there you just have to ignore.
Now that I know how much work goes into writing and publishing a book, I’m a bit bemused by the whole concept of ratings and reviews. Sometimes I think you shouldn’t be allowed to simply rate someone else’s work without an accompanying review. You should have to defend your rating. Shouldn’t you?
A writer spends (in some cases) years of their life working on their opus only to have someone read it in a matter of days (perhaps not even closely) and then dash off a rating in few seconds (or a flippant review in minutes). It doesn’t seem quite fair. Fortunately, this doesn’t bother me too much. I have long since abandoned the idea that life is fair (it’s a recurring theme in my work, after all).
For ratings and reviews to be fair they would have to be produced with integrity. Ideally the reader would read the work reasonably closely and reflect upon it before producing an opinion that they then back up with a cogent, considered argument. Although I much prefer to receive four and five star reviews, I don’t mind receiving a three star review if it’s accompanied by a solid rationale explaining why my book only merited three stars. I might even agree with it.
Myself, I can’t rate any book less than four stars anymore (although I have done so in the past). I just can’t bring myself to do it because I relate too strongly to the authors of those books. I know they’ve worked hard on their book, and they’re trying to sell it, and anything less than four stars isn’t going to help sell the book. I hasten to add (for those of you who have given my work three stars) that this is just me. I’m not complaining about your rating or asking you to change it (something I would never do). Different ratings mean different things to different people. Megan Lindholm (writing as Robin Hobb) posted the following on her Goodreads account:
“I am shocked to find that some people think a 2 star ‘I liked it’ rating is a bad rating. What? I liked it. I LIKED it! That means I read the whole thing, to the last page, in spite of my life raining comets on me. It’s a good book that survives the reading process with me. If a book is so-so, it ends up under the bed somewhere, or maybe under a stinky judo bag in the back of the van. So a 2 star from me means yes, I liked the book, and I’d loan it to a friend and it went everywhere in my jacket pocket or purse until I finished it.”
So that’s what a two star rating means to her. It’s not what it means to me! Myself, I’m appalled that she would even consider rating the work of a fellow writer two stars. Three stars I could see: the existence of three star ratings accompanied by a well-reasoned review helps lend integrity to the rest of the reviews. But two stars? That’s just insulting. And I say that as a fan of Megan Lindholm’s work. The Wizard of the Pigeons is one of my favourite books. I rated it four stars (instead of five) because of the ham-fisted execution of the final three pages, which, in my opinion, almost completely undermines the quality of what comes before. Perhaps I should revise my rating to two stars.
I know that ratings and reviews are ultimately meaningless. All that really matters is that we do the best we can when we produce our work. We mustn’t derive our self-esteem from external sources. True value (and self-worth) comes from within.
As promised, a brutally honest account of my BookBub Featured Deal.
It was quite the ride. I’m still not sure quite what to make of it.
Brief recap: A few weeks ago I applied for a BookBub Featured Deal for my novel A Time and a Place. This is a newsletter that goes out once a day to (in the case of science fiction) about 1.7 million people in India, Australia, Great Britain, Canada, and the United States. Statistically they figure that if you discount your book to, say, 99 cents for a few days around that time about 1900 of those 1.7 million people will buy your book (there are different packages involving different price points, including giving your book away for free). I gather BookBub gets about 200 submissions a day of authors trying to get their books into this newsletter, of which BookBub chooses one book. The books they choose are carefully curated; they only pick books they think will appeal to their audience.
So anyway, I applied for the science fiction package involving discounting my book to the painful price point of 99 cents, of which I would only receive 29 cents of each sale after Amazon and Draft2Digital take their cut (from Amazon, at least… BookBub would also direct potential readers to Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Apple. They would have included Google Play but I didn’t have that set up yet; one of several mistakes I made during this promotion). The BookBub package itself cost $754 US. To my surprise, they accepted my book.
I was immediately suspicious.
At the time I had only the vaguest notion of what BookBub was all about. I quickly researched to determine whether this was a scam (um, if you can call a search on Google research). Cuz ideally the money flows to the writer, not the other way around. I quickly determined that, no, it wasn’t a scam. In fact, it’s considered one of (if not the) best ways to promote your book in the world of indie fiction. Many indie authors have taken advantage of it multiple times.
So I accepted their offer and the BookBub Featured Deal promotion was scheduled for Sept 13th, this past Sunday. My research suggested that a good way to optimize the promotion was to “stack” multiple promotions with other, more modest newsletters in the days leading up to and following the BookBub promotion. So I purchased additional promotions with Manybooks (Sept 11th, including an Author of the Day feature), Read Freely (Sept 12th), eBookSoda (also Sept 12th), The Fussy Librarian (Sept 23rd, the closest date they had available), and Reading Deals (a free service; never did figure what day, if ever, this ran). All of this cost $225.96 Canadian, on top of the $992.69 Canadian that the BookBub Featured deal cost, for a whopping total of $1218.65.
Hey, you only live once, and I wanted to give this a serious try.
So how did it work out?
It’s not quite done yet, as The Fussy Librarian promotion has yet to run, and the book is still featured on some of the newsletters’ websites, including BookBub. But this is where we’re at as of Thursday Sept 17th, four days after the BookBub newsletter went out.
I don’t get my sales results in real time because I’m mostly with Draft2Digital which only produces results the day after. Monday morning, the day after the Featured Deal ran, I woke up around 7am and saw that I’d sold about 300 books.
I was kinda bummed.
I checked again around 11am and that figure had jumped to 899.
I was less bummed.
Still, I had a ways to go to make up the cost of all that promotion. Over the next few days I watched as A Time and a Place clawed its way to number one on several platforms, garnering the coveted #1 bestseller tag on both the Canadian and Australian Amazon platforms in its category.
I sold roughly 1200 copies within a span of 24 hours. I thought, wow, if this keeps up I should easily make my money back by the end of the week. BookBub is apparently well known for its “tail,” where books keep selling long after the promotion. Unfortunately, sales dipped precipitously the following day, and now sit at 1287 for Amazon, Kobo, B&N, and Apple. I’ve also sold one copy to Overdrive, four audiobook copies, and 4 copies of my collection of short stories, Other Times and Places. I do have books on other platforms, but they’re new there and I don’t anticipate any appreciable sales from those.
1019 of those sales were with Amazon.
92 were with Apple.
90 were with Barnes and Noble.
88 were with Kobo.
4 were with Audible.
And 1 was with Overdrive.
So far I have made $457.04 in Royalties, which puts me at a deficit of $761.61. So yeah, I’m probably not going to make my money back for some time.
Now, I know that some of this is my fault because I’m new at this and did a few things wrong. Really, the promotion was way premature because I only have one other book out, a collection of short stories. To make this work, I should have had at least two other books out in the same series, so that the promotion drove readers to those books at a higher price point. Also, I lost money because I had the book through Draft2Digital as opposed to direct with Amazon. And I should have had Google Play properly set up and ready to go. And I probably should have skipped those other newsletters (except the free one). Hey, I’m still learning.
Still, I don’t regret it (I’m good at rationalizing). It has put A Time and a Place in the hands of 1288 additional readers (and maybe one additional library). And I’ve learned a few things.
Most importantly, that I need to write more books.