Archive for March, 2011

What others are saying about Gabriel’s Redemption

March 31, 2011 2 comments

Just a few links to some great reviews of Gabriel’s Redemption. As any independent author will attest to, reviews are the lifeblood of getting noticed. Thank you one and all for taking the time to read my debut novel, for the time spent in writing such detailed reviews, and most of all for the great comments!

Gabriel’s Redemption has a classic espionage feel mixed with good old science fiction savvy. Steve Umstead definitely did his homework and the result is a rich, involved plot laced with subtle comedic relief and topped with a healthy ladle of bravado. As a former military member, I was instantly taken in by the rich detail of the Naval backdrop for Commander Gabriel and his newly-formed special forces unit.” —Nigel Holderby, blogger at

If you love a good story but the techno-babble of some science fiction steers you away from the genre, this is the book for you…I loved this book and when I set it down I wanted more. ” —Eric Swett, My Writer’s Cramp blog

Umstead has created an inter-planetary landscape rich with believable characters, non-stop action, and all the twists and turns that make for a great story.” —R.A. Evans, author of Asylum Lake

There are good books that are being self-published, and this is proof. It’s old-school science fiction pulp updated for a modern era, full of fun world-building details and characters that are easy to root for.” —Rob Hart,

Gabriel’s Redemption will take you on a thrilling ride full of twists and turns and great characters.” —Dr. Shay Fabbro, author of The Chosen: Book 1 of the Portals of Destiny

The plot has finely woven twists and turns to keep you on your toes. The technology portrayed through out the story is both interesting and believable.” —Glenn Skinner, author of the Keya Quests series

I am not a science fiction person, at all…imagine my surprise when I picked up this novel and couldn’t put it down. –Kaye Peters, romance author,

From start to finish Gabriel’s Redemption is a good, solid read.  A story with excitement, twists, and great pacing.  Believable characters that you come to love, and sci-fi elements that rival some of the greats.— AJ Powers, author & game designer

If you’re into trilogies, give this one a shot, because the ride is just getting started.” —B.C. Young, author/blogger at The Time Capsule


Have you read Gabriel’s Redemption and are interested in shooting me some quick feedback? Please feel free to post a review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords; or send an email to sumstead (at) I’d love to hear what you have to say!

Want to see what all the fuss is about? Pick up your ebook copy of Gabriel’s Redemption for only $2.99. Isn’t it worth the cost of a small latte for a week of enjoyable science fiction?

Amazon (Kindle)Barnes & Noble (Nook)iBooks (iPad/iPhone)Smashwords (multi-format)

Categories: Uncategorized

Are print books a dying breed? Guest post by horror writer R.A. Evans

March 19, 2011 26 comments

What if my next page-turner doesn’t have any pages?

As I write this post I am up to my elbows in finalizing the formatting and interior lay-out for the print version of my new thriller Grave Undertakings (sequel to the acclaimed Asylum Lake). The entire frustrating process has me questioning the future of my titles in print. The far-less cumbersome e-book formatting has been done for some time and it begs the question: am I committing author suicide if my next page-turner doesn’t have any pages at all?

Don’t get me wrong, I love print books. I still haven’t invested in an e-reader (although I have read e-books on my laptop). I guess I’m just old-school when it comes to books – as a reader that is. As an author I have to take a good hard look at the bottom line and time investment of having my books available in print.

It’s not just the formatting, cover art, and printing that takes time, either. There are separate channels of promotion that are tackled when your book is in print. And as any self-published author will tell you, time is everything. Most of us are juggling careers, families, and this writing dream on the side. The more time it takes us to edit, format, and promote a title the less time we actually have to write.

Let me break it down like this. Asylum Lake was printed on an Espresso Book Machine. For those of you unfamiliar, it’s a $100,000 color copier ripped right from the pages of the future that prints, cuts and binds a title in less than 4 minutes. When I started down the path of self-publishing the e-book craze was in its infancy and the emphasis was still all about print. It costs me $10 a book to print – whether I am printing one copy or one-hundred. I couldn’t be happier with the finished 6×9 product.

At a $15 cover price, I receive $5 on each sale of Asylum Lake. That’s a nice round figure that adds up quickly, right? Well, yes and no. I get paid royalties twice a year. Asylum Lake was published in July of 2010 so I have received a grand total of one royalty check. If I had to guess I would say that I have provided roughly 75 copies of Asylum Lake for review and marketing purposes. The quick math puts that investment at $750 in print fees and doesn’t even include the shipping. That investment has landed me some wonderful reviews in traditional media outlets, but just to recoup that investment I had to sell 150 copies of Asylum Lake. You see where I’m going with this, right? Everything is more expensive with print.

Without giving specifics, I’ve done fairly well with sales of Asylum Lake. I had 300 paid pre-orders via the official Asylum Lake website before the book even went to print and was able to use that capital to have more copies printed and on-hand. You see, I released the book online in early 2010 one chapter at a time over the course of six weeks. That’s six free chapters – just enough to get people hooked. Within two months of that first July 2010 printing the Facebook fan page for Asylum Lake had swelled to more than 600 fans – all reviewing and discussing the book. Readers from across the globe were actually talking about my book. It was quite a rush.

Fast forward to when reality sets in. I plateaued. I do marketing & public relations for a living and I was at a loss for what I could do on a shoestring budget to continue the momentum. I did radio interviews, TV interviews, had my book featured on Top 5 lists, did multiple author events at libraries and bookstores, and even was the subject of newspaper article detailing my success as a self-published author. All of these activities increased local sales, but I wasn’t making a dent beyond the 150 mile radius of where I live in West Michigan.

And that is the conundrum I am now faced with. Asylum Lake was a fairly big deal locally and with the upcoming release of Grave Undertakings I am confident that interest will again rise, but my goal is a reach beyond my own community and state.

Recently, I started to promote the e-book version of Asylum Lake via Smashwords and Amazon and have had some success. It’s still time consuming, but there are so many options at my disposal. I can tweak the cover art or description of Asylum Lake with the click of a button. I can use the Kindle Boards to promote and discuss how my title stacks up against others. I can generate coupons and giveaways on Smashwords for discounted and free copies. The possibilities are nearly endless.

So here I sit, roughly 45 days out from the release of Grave Undertakings, and I wonder – what if Grave Undertakings wasn’t on bookshelves? Is it time to focus all of my attention on this brave new e-book frontier? Vanity says I couldn’t live with myself if I weren’t able to walk into a library or bookstore and see my own titles next to those of the iconic Stephen King or his very talented son Joe Hill. I grew up with a book always in-hand and can’t imagine a world without them.

What are your thoughts, as readers and authors – are print books a dying breed?

About R.A. Evans:

R. A. Evans writes.  By day he pours his creative energy into meeting the varied needs of his clients. By night, he writes for pleasure. It’s what he does. It’s who he is.  If you like your humor dark, your blood-letting messy, and the creepiness factor cranked to eleven, he’s the author for you. His debut novel, Asylum Lake, hit the shelves to rave reviews and its sequel Grave Undertakings will be unearthed in May 2011.

A graduate of Grand Valley State University, Evans started his career at a small town newspaper, and has spent the past fifteen years working in marketing and public relations.

For more about R.A. Evans, visit his blog here.

Do excerpts work in helping promote your novel?

March 17, 2011 7 comments

Starting today, I’m going to be posting short excerpts & snippets from my current novel, Gabriel’s Redemption, on my Facebook author fan page. One per day through the end of March, just a couple of lines or a paragraph, to maybe show interested readers scenes that may encourage them to take the next step and pick up the entire novel.


Like me...please like me...


I had some conflicting thoughts on it. Does the posting of excerpts help publicize a novel, and will it generate interest? Or can it backfire and turn off a potential buyer if that particular excerpt doesn’t suit them?

The reason I thought of this is that I’ve enjoyed quite a few books that had some scenes it them that if I had read them ahead of time, the excerpt alone, there’s no chance I would have bought the book. One that comes to mind, and what sort of got me thinking about this, is from my good friend R.A. Evans; his horror-thriller Asylum Lake was a very enjoyable book from start to finish, great characters, good twists and turns, scary action, and the like. However there’s one scene in the book (and I told R.A. about this afterwards, I’m not ambushing him unexpectedly) that, as a non-horror reader, was a bit too intense for me. If I had read that excerpt ahead of time, I probably would have thought twice about reading the entire book (and I would have missed out on a good read).

On the other hand, I’ve read some downright terrible books (if you haven’t heard me rant on Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, let me know – that might be a fun blog post next week) that had decent scenes in them. I felt cheated when reading the entire book compared to back-of-book blurb or snippets I looked at.

I’d love to hear your opinions on it – do you think the possibility of helping generate interest outweighs the possibility of turning someone off?

Oh…and please do stop by my Facebook fan page and “Like” if you…ah, like. You can follow along with my excerpts…I promise they won’t suck…

Review of No Shelter, a Novel by Z. Constance Frost

March 14, 2011 1 comment

This was one of the first novels I downloaded for Kindle, as I’m slowly integrating myself into the wonderful world of e-readers. I saw Frost’s name mentioned on a message forum, so I thought I’d take a look. Very eye-catching cover, intriguing blurb, so I decided to grab a sample. I burned through it in one night, got to the end of the sample section, and immediately clicked to buy the entire novel…it was that gripping.
Holly Lin is a nanny by day, and assassin by night. Frost takes the character around the world, from Vegas to Paris, from shootouts in the desert to a frantic tractor trailer chase scene, and never takes her foot off the gas (pardon the pun). From page one, the story, the action, simply grab a hold of the reader and doesn’t let go until the breathless end.

Holly is part action hero, part innocent young woman, and Frost brings an incredible range of emotion to the character. She writes excellent dialogue and uses the first person perspective very well in bringing Holly’s thoughts and feelings to life. It’s very easy for the reader to get inside her head, and feel the rage, sorrow, excitement, and more.

It’s not all gloom and doom, however; Frost weaves humor and one liners into the story well (one I remember, without giving any spoilers, was when introduced to the Russian guard named Boris, she stops dead and says, “Is his name really Boris?”, and later refers to Natasha – all without ruining the pace or plot line, like many other authors I’ve read have done when trying to integrate humor).

All in all, an excellent read. Fast-paced, hard to put down, full of characters the reader can truly feel for. I understand Frost is working on a sequel; I’ll be watching for that, no doubt. For a debut work by an independent author, No Shelter is an enjoyable, emotional thriller well worth the reader’s time (and small amount of money). Highly recommended – much better value than a latte!

See Frost’s ebook on

Are you writing to write, or for others to read it?

March 11, 2011 11 comments

I’m going to preface this blog post with a warning that it may come across rude or obnoxious towards my fellow writers. That being said, I have something to get off my chest.


I want all of you to publish your stories!

I’ve heard from several authors that they just want to write their story because they have a story they want to tell, not to publish it. It’s a noble cause, they say. I’m not in it for the money, they say. I just want the satisfaction of having written my novel, or short story, or novelette, or collection of poetry, so that I can get my ideas out of my head and onto paper.

Don't end up like Jack...

I say hogwash.

Isn’t the point people write, the true deep-down motivation for pouring their souls into their art, spending hours upon hours clicking at keys or writing in a notebook, because they want someone else to read it? For those of you who swear they just want to tell a story, regardless if anyone ever read it, I have to ask. How can you tell a story, if no one is there to read it? (Insert tree falling analogy here.)

Listen, I’m not saying go out and work your tail off to try to make a living out of writing. The cold hard facts are that most writers – matter of fact nearly all writers – will not end up rich and famous. But the publishing world has fundamentally changed, and as those of you who have followed my young blog have read before, I say it has never been a better time to be an author.

If you have a story to tell, tell it to as many people as you can! Why wouldn’t you want to? Are you really satisfied with sitting back, knowing you wrote a fast-paced 300 page thriller, or a short historical fiction, or a futuristic space opera, and smugly smiling to yourself? Telling your best friend, yeah man – I wrote a book! Or maybe printing out 200 sheets of copy paper off the inkjet, sticking them into a binder, and saying, look mom, I wrote a story!

The technology has never been more available to authors to easily publish your work, and nearly immediately. Will it hit the NY Times Bestseller List? Odds are it won’t, but over 15 million Kindles are in people’s hands right now. The new iPad 2 hit the stores today, and Apple is expected to sell half a million this weekend. As I type this, I’m sitting in a Borders bookstore café watching an older gentleman reading on his Kobo e-reader. Every one of those people has the capability to read your story.

My debut novel, Gabriel’s Redemption (which, just to pat myself on the back really quickly, is receiving 5 star reviews) was the product of a lot of hard work, brainstorming, writing, editing, hair-pulling, teeth-sucking, wine-drinking, late-night terror. So I want people to read it! Not 18-24 months from now (which is the going average for a new novel to finally hit the store shelves, after finally getting an agent to look at, after finally getting a publisher to take a chance on it…so you’d better add a year or two to that figure). I wanted, and you should want, for people to have immediate access to what I created.

It’s not hard…or expensive…to self-publish. The hard part (what I’m going through right now) is promoting it. But if you’re in this to tell a story, and you want family and friends to read it, maybe pass it around to their family and friends, and to have a published work to show and be proud of, jump right in!

If you have a Microsoft Word document with your story in it, you’re already halfway there. Visit Smashwords, sign up for an account, and upload the document. They have a fantastic compiler they call Meatgrinder which will turn that doc into multiple e-book formats, and within a day or two, your story will be published online for the entire country to have access to. Head over to Amazon, sign up for a self-publishing KDP account. Do the same at Barnes and Noble, get a PubIt account. None of these cost any money.

And those of you who may poo-poo the idea of a Kindle or Nook as a fad, or too newfangled? My 65 year old mother’s got one, and has seen the light. Instant access to hundreds of thousands of books…including mine.



Categories: Thoughts

Where do I price my e-book?

March 8, 2011 16 comments

I’m in month two of self-promoting my self-published, self-written (sensing a theme?) e-book, and I’m tossing something back and forth here. No, not a kitchen knife – I’m sure that will come later on in the sales process – but the actual pricing of my e-book.

You see, one of the great advantages to self-publishing, essentially being one’s own boss, is I can set the pricing to whatever I want it to be, whenever I want it. I can make it $49.99 (outlandish), $2.99 (going rate of a lot of indies), $.99 (as low as it can feasibly be priced), or even $16.99 (someone just posted this is the e-book price of Stephen King’s upcoming novel – it’s high because of Simon & Schuster’s rising e-book costs…huh? Rising costs on something with no physical product or manufacturing? Uh, OK…)

Since day one, I was an avid reader of Joe Konrath’s blog, sort of an unofficial bible for self-publishers, as well as the now-famous Amanda Hocking’s blog (can’t go wrong with someone who has sold nearly a million e-books in under a year) and the two big numbers that stand out are $2.99 and $0.99. Why those two?

If you’ve self-published on Amazon, you know what those numbers are – they are the lowest you can go in two different royalty levels. If you price a book between $2.99 and $9.99, Amazon pays a 70% royalty. From $0.99 to $2.98, or $10.00 and up, it’s 35%. So the lowest anyone should go in the hopes of making money would be $2.99, and the lowest anyone should go…period…would be $0.99.

So therein lies my dilemma. A couple of weeks ago I lowered my debut novel, Gabriel’s Redemption, from its initial $2.99 to $0.99 for a couple of ‘social media promos.’ Therefore, I’m making approximately $0.35 or so on each copy sold. At $2.99, I’d be making just over two bucks each. No brainer, right? Well, sort of…there’s the “volume” theory, as well as the “newbie theory.”

Volume theory holds that at $0.99, many more people will buy the book, thereby making up for the lower royalty and payout (the math says six people buying at $0.99 is the same profit as one at $2.99). The newbie theory holds that an unknown name, such as myself, has a better chance to break into the market with a $0.99 price, as well as encourage impulse buys – customers that have no idea who I am, but for a buck will take a chance. (I made those theories up, by the way…)

So now what? It’s about time for the social media promo to end; do I take it back up to $2.99? Leave it at $0.99 and try to get the name out? I’ll be honest – right now, I’m not in this for the money. I’m in it because I really enjoy it and I’m proud of the work I put out. However, getting paid for it is not against my religion. Also, Book 2 of the trilogy will be published in May; would leaving Book 1 at $0.99 to get the name out, Book 2 at $2.99 be a feasible strategy?

My last concern is this – the price-value relationship. Will people see a $0.99 self-published e-book as garbage? Is it priced so low, it demeans its own value? Will people not expect it to be good? Will people shy away from it (ruining the two theories) because it’s so cheap? Would I be better served offering it at $2.99 so it has more value to it? I just don’t know…

Would LOVE to hear everyone’s feedback!

Categories: Thoughts Tags: , , ,

Give away Kindles? Not yet, I say…

March 4, 2011 3 comments

I just read a very interesting article on by Amy Gahran on the theory that Amazon should (or may even be planning to) give away the Kindle to spur interest and sales in e-books themselves. While that’s a very bold theory, and as a self-publisher of e-books myself, one that I’d love to see happen (imagine the explosion in e-book downloads if the device was free?), I see a number of challenges to that theory…at least at the present time.

The “give away the razor, sell them the blades” philosophy of King Gillette has been a business case study classic for decades. So why not apply it to the Kindle? I don’t see it happening just yet, because:

  • Amazon, and Jeff Bezos, are making a boatload of money selling the absurdly-popular devices.
  • The base Kindle dropped to $139 last year, went right through the Christmas season with nary an additional price drop or promotion, and knocked off Harry Potter 7 as the highest selling item at all-time.
  • Apple seems to be doing just fine with their iTunes business model of selling both the device (iPod) and content (songs), and have for years…and I don’t see Steve Jobs deciding to give away an iPod model anytime soon.

There are some great statistics in the piece, such as the Kindle holding 47% market share (destroying Nook and Sony at 4% and 5% respectively), the average e-reader owner consumes nearly half of his or her reading in digital form, and the fact that the market for e-books is expected to triple in the next four years.

But the bottom line is, the model is working, Amazon is cleaning up on Kindle sales, the market is exploding, and just 7% of readers own an e-reader device. That, in my opinion, goes back to my college Microeconomics 101, the law of supply and demand. With a high demand and low to flat supply, prices go up. With a high supply and low to flat demand, prices drop. And with this e-book market expanding exponentially, and the demand going through the roof, why suddenly drop the price?

My suggestion, Mr. Bezos, if I may get up on a parent soap box? If you’re considering giving away Kindles, start with the schools. Make e-readers available to children who want to read, and as they grow up, they’ll become customers, and fans, for life. And maybe, with a little genuine adolescent interest in books again, we’ll just see some US reading and writing test scores start to climb.

What are your thoughts?