Vampire Brides from Planet Hell

“Fang-tastic!”

New review of “Vampire Brides from Planet Hell!” is online, courtesy of Reece Morris-Jones at The Cult Den. A very positive review. Reece gave it eight out of ten. I’ve posted the full text of the review below. If you prefer you can read the original here (it’s quite a bit prettier):

A short pulp story from an author who seems well versed in it, Vampire Brides from the Planet Hell is short but sweet. Our protagonist is sent to rescue a princess from a planet where the remaining inhabitants are vampires, upon pain of death if he fails.

That’s all we’re given- just enough information about the protagonist and his world to propel the story forwards and no more. Not that much more is needed. Brides is the best kind of pulp, trashy but aware of it and determined to make sure you come away with a smile on your face anyway.

Be it the way the protagonist comments on the implausibility of the female vampires bust on their frame, or the rough, slightly camp act of the head vampire, its a story that plays with the normal vampire conventions with a wink and a grim.

The only problem I suppose is its short length, being over and read in under a half hour easily. Not that I would want more mind, lest it retroactively diminish this story.

Vampire Brides from the Planet Hell gets in, gets out and leaves you to simmer in the warm afterglow of an enjoyable tale told well. I look forward to reading more of Malcolm Chandlers work.

* Okay, the phrase “fang-tastic” didn’t actually appear in the review. But he tweeted it. I swear.

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“Fast-paced sci-fi action”

The first of the three reviews of “Vampire Brides from Planet Hell” I mentioned recently is now online. This one is from Brigit at Escape Inside the Pages. Her review is on the short side (fitting for a short story!), but it really captures the essence of “Vampire Brides from Planet Hell:”

Vampire Brides from Planet Hell is definitely unlike anything you have encountered! It is a fast paced short story filled with scifi action and death at every turn. The storyline pulled me in from the start.

Drakken III provided for a thrilling setting that was equally paired with the narrator. You don’t even have to learn his name to appreciate and be thoroughly entertained by his point of view! The dialogue was witty with just the perfect amount of humor. And the ending line could not have been more perfect! Vampire Brides from Planet Hell was a quick fun read! Too bad it was a “short” because it would have been wonderful to see what happened next!

You can check out the original review here.

When it rains it pours (and sometimes that’s a good thing!)

smirking clown

(I simply couldn’t resist using this photo)

When it rains it pours. I guess that’s usually a bad thing. Can it pour instead of rain in a good way? Like if you’re living through a drought, maybe? I rather think it can. See, I logged into my email this evening to find that not one, not two, but THREE different websites are interested in reviewing “Vampire Brides from Planet Hell!”

Not only is this a boost for my ongoing promotional efforts. It also validates the quality of the product I’ve put out  — at least where first impressions are concerned. I assume these reviewers took a cursory glance at my cover, sample pages and blurb available on Amazon. If so they found it all compelling enough to say yes to my request. I will post links to all three reviews on this blog (probably Twitter, too) once published, as I did with The Extremis Review’s piece on “Vampire Brides.”

Meanwhile, I’ll recap a couple valuable lessons I’ve learned about indie book story marketing.

Mainstream indie book review sites may not be the best places to take genre fiction — particularly when it comes to a niche like golden age pulp. I’ve had much more success narrowing my focus down to sites and reviewers who limit themselves to speculative fiction, science fiction and/or horror. A marketing guru would probably say, “duh! You ass. Obviously you’re got to get more granular.” But remember I’m learning as I go. And learning as you go has its own rewards.

A more general, but equally difficult, lesson I’ve learned over the last couple months is that platform building will be a long, hard slog. I think my initial expectations were for too much, too soon. I didn’t even come close to meeting my initial sales goal. Probably because only a miniscule number of readers have ever heard of me. With that in mind I am setting a new goal to sell 210 copies of “Vampire Brides from Planet Hell!” by December 31, 2014.

If anyone else has any marketing success stories (or horror stories, for that matter) I would love to hear them in the comments.

The Extremis Review on “Vampire Brides from Planet Hell”

Julian Munds at The Extremis Review has reviewed “Vampire Brides from Planet Hell.” You can read the whole thing here (and you really should, especially for his insights on the history and qualities of pulp fiction). For those of you with attention span issues, however, here are the bits that pertain specifically to “Vampires”:

Here at Extremis we don’t like to pass judgement on publications through the lens of good or bad. We strive to examine our subjects on their own terms. And so I look at Vampires as a good example of pulp. A story worthy of a read from anyone who likes a pulpy violent adventure for a hot afternoon in the backyard with a beer.

The story concerns a space mercenary, hired by the aristocracy of a galactic empire to save a noble damsel from a coven — can I call a group of vampires a coven? — of alien vampires.

The story feels like a mixture of the tail end of From Dusk Till Dawn, mixed with the language of a Silver Age comic, headed by a hero who is reminiscent of Han Solo.

Without giving too much away, and ruining the short 19 page tale, nothing is what it seems.

I have no qualms with calling this story pulp; pulp that isn’t half bad to read. There are rich characters and inspired sparse description. What you’d want from a short story.

If there is a failing in the story, it is not the story itself, but the narrative voice. The whole yarn is told from first person perspective.

What is tough about the narrative voice of Vampires… is that descriptions that would be common place in third person read as stilted and forced. At times Chandler’s narrative voice feels conscious of itself like he does not trust the reader to fill in the holes. This lack of clarity makes it hard to grasp the protagonist in the beginning.

The self consciousness is only present in the opening few pages of the story and when the conflict gets going the narrative finds a nice rhythm. The archetypes and quick violence of the story carry the reader away to the seedy world of Drekken IIi. By the end, I was sold.

Chandler continues the rich tradition of pulp. It makes you long for the days when you could buy this and twizzlers as you check out your groceries.

Incidentally, Julian and his team put out some pretty great content. As an example I’d offer up this post: “What Star Trek’s Balance of Terror Can Teach Us About the Ukraine Crisis.” The Extremis Review‘s tagline is “Where Fandom Becomes Literate!!!” As you can see they come by it honestly.

Quick indie publishing update

I wanted to post a quick update on the short I self-published, “Vampire Brides from Planet Hell.” In my original goal post I wrote that I wanted five reviews by April 10 and to sell 216 units by June 30.

To date I have my five reviews. Sales, on the other hand, remain negligible.

What I need now is increased visibility. To that end I am in constant search of blogs and other sites that would be interested in posting on the story. I plan on posting an updated sales figure at the end of each month through June. As I noted in my original post, the 216 unit sales goal is based on recovering the cost of my cover art.

My self-publishing marketing plan

Writing a great story is easy. The hard part is selling it. With this in mind I have decided to soft launch “Vampire Brides from Planet Hell.” The difference between a soft launch and a hard launch is simple. A soft launch takes place over a period of 1-2 months and ramps up slowly. It is especially common in the tech industry, where there are often bugs to be worked out in early product releases. A hard launch, by contrast, does everything in one shot and is more common in traditional publishing. There are advantages to the hard launch approach for indie authors, too. Mostly that if you can crack a bestseller list early you will gain massive visibility.

To execute a hard launch properly, however, you need a substantial following. Or at least a substantial professional network. I have neither. Thus, my self-publishing marketing plan hinges on ramping up activity slowly over time, building a network (and hopefully a following) for future projects.

My plan consists of two broad phases:

The Review Phase (Month 1)

The goal of the review phase is simple: get reviews. You could also call this the “quality assurance” phase. I don’t because I hate the phrase “quality assurance.” Makes it sound like I’m manufacturing Tylenol bottles or something. My plan is to work outward from my network:

  • Friends and family
  • Then writers I know
  • Then amateur reviewers
  • Then professional reviewers

My goal is to have five reviews by the end of month one.

The Awareness Phase (Month 2)

Here the goal is to push awareness of the reviewed ebook out to readers through various channels. I am not budgeting any ad spend for this project, so I will be focusing on blogs, websites and social media. While I have a couple ideas I still need to do some more research in this area. An update will follow.

Again, my goals:

  • Secure five reviews by April 10
  • Sell 216 units by June 30

Anatomy of an indie book cover

From the moment I decided to self-publish “Vampire Brides from Planet Hell” I knew cover design would be a significant challenge. Cover design is absolutely critical. Like it or not people do judge books by their covers. For an indie author, a solid cover demonstrates your commitment to putting out a quality product. It’s also probably the single greatest marketing material you’ll have in your arsenal. A good cover telegraphs the book’s content and style. It lets the reader know what to expect. Most importantly, if done well it will get you that all-important 5 seconds of undivided attention that can turn into a sale.

My first foray into indie publishing ended as a miserable failure. One of my major mistakes was not investing in professional cover art. I am not a graphic artist and this was transparently obvious in that product. It had a direct impact on my (lack of) sales.

This time I’m committed to doing it right.

Sounds simple, right? The problem is that good covers are expensive. Fortunately I came across selfpubbookcovers.com, which sells pre-made covers at affordable prices. It also offers a simple set of tools for customizing text over the image. Prices start at $69. Most of the covers I looked at ranged in price from $69-100. A few were over $100. I suspect the artists set prices themselves as there didn’t seem to be any reason or rhyme to the pricing.

I looked at a lot of covers but in the end it came down to these two:

possible cover for indie book

Cover Option #1 – by Santiaguete

I liked the minimalist style of this first cover. However, I was never quite happy with the text no matter how much I played with it. On top of that, I had my doubts about whether the image did a good job of conveying the content and tone of the actual story. As you can probably guess “Vampire Brides from Planet Hell” is a pulpy space adventure. I just couldn’t shake the pirate vibe that came along with this cover.

Option 2 seemed a much better fit:

indie book cover

Cover Option #2 – by Grinder13

It took a while to get the text the way I wanted it, but I think the end result positively SCREAMS pulp. It might have a bit more of a horror flavor, but I’m willing to live with that as I think this is quite the eye-catching cover. At $75 it’s a bargain, too.

So far this project is running even more smoothly than anticipated. In addition to the cover I have a converted draft of the original manuscript ready for proofing in EPUB and MOBI format. While I proof the formatting I plan to make some minor line edits as well. May as well make all the improvements I can while I have the chance. I still plan on having the finished product ready for launch in two weeks at the latest.

This week I plan to proof, read up on distribution and try and get the word out on social media.

As always, I welcome any comments from readers and writers.