Archive for April, 2011

I’m an author unwilling to talk about himself…

April 28, 2011 17 comments

This just in: I’m uncomfortable talking about myself. The problem? It may be the only way to succeed as an independent author…

Hi, I’m Steve, and I’m an author.

[audience: Hi Steve…]

That’s about all I’m usually prepared to say. I mean, who cares who I am, what I do, where I’ve been? My wife, kids, family, friends, they know the answers (and most of the time don’t really care anyway) but now that I’ve jumped in to writing with both feet, I find it’s a necessity to promote my book as a product, me as a brand.

Yes, that’s how I view it. The book I wrote, Gabriel’s Redemption, is a product that needs to be promoted. I’m totally fine with that; I’ve been in some form of sales or another most of my adult life, and most of those years as a business owner. I could easily step up to a podium in front of a hundred industry professionals (my company’s industry, not writing!) and wax philosophically about the benefits of swim-up bars, beach waiters, and mojitos (bet you’re now curious what I do, aren’t you?) without batting an eyelash. However, if I had to stand up there and speak about me, who I am, there would be a plethora of “uhhhs” and “ummms” being uttered. It’s just not me. I don’t feel I’m important (or famous) enough for anyone to care.

However, I can’t keep hiding behind that veil of anonymity. For a self-published author to succeed, he or she must promote not only the product, but the brand itself – the author. And yes, the author is a brand. Say Stephen King, or Tom Clancy, or Stephenie Meyer, or Dan Brown (ugh), and a brand comes to mind. Not really a person (although in King’s case he’s done well for himself as a ‘face’ brand), but a name, a product line. And they’ve done that on purpose. Building a brand means promoting oneself as a name, and that name needs background. A story.

The reason I wrote this post is that I’m currently in the middle of completing an author interview sent to me by one of my great online friends. I just completed one two weeks ago, another two days ago, and I have two more in the near future I will be working on. Each and every one of them not only asks about the product, but also the brand. Me. And I’m forced to talk about myself. I have to tip my cap to Emlyn Chand, as her “twitterview” of me in February, after having been published for a matter of days, was the first time anyone had thought enough of me to want to interview, and it got me off the sidelines.

I’m not one to walk into a room and take over the conversation. I don’t normally think of myself as having an outsized personality, or dominant presence. But in these interviews, I need to! Building a brand means forcefully and truthfully relating who I am to the readers in order to let them know who I really am. How I came up with the motivations for the story. Showing them the face/person behind the name on the front cover of the book. And it’s damned difficult. No, I’m certainly not complaining – I am truly flattered that anyone would even consider the possibility of interviewing me (again my mindset is, who the hell am I?) but it’s trying to put words on paper describing myself that’s causing some angst…

I think I need a bigger ego…


Review of The King Whisperers by Dr. Kerwin Swint

April 21, 2011 5 comments

A few weeks back, I was privileged enough to twitterview* Dr. Kerwin Swint, author of The King Whisperers.

*Twitterview – what a cool word, huh? Even cooler concept. Following along with a Twitter hashtag (#emlyn) and creating a real-time, online dialogue, audience members from around the world can peek in, see Q&A, and even throw in a question or two. I had a blast in March doing several!

Going into it, before taking a look at his work and the overview of his book, I had read that he was a professor of politics at Kennesaw State University in Atlanta. So…thinking back to a poli-sci course I had in college, with possibly the most droll and monotone professor I had in my four (well, four and a half) years there, I was hesitant. Perhaps this wasn’t such a good idea…how interesting could a professor of politics be, and would anyone care enough to ask questions?

Just a few minutes into the twitterview, I found Dr. Swint incredibly engaging, personable, knowledgeable, and really down-to-earth. At the end of the standard questions, audience members jumped in with some great questions, and Dr. Swint had some equally top notch answers. After it was over, I had to (a) rethink my bias towards poli-sci professors, and (b) make it a point to get a copy of The King Whisperers. The first was easy, since I’m not sure how many more professors I’ll run into in the future, but the second took a couple of weeks. Once I received it, I dove into it, and my goodness, it turned out to be a truly fascinating book.

Before I give a little summary of the book itself, I thought I’d pull out some of the most interesting Q&A’s from the twitterview:

  • Q: What do you write?
  • A: Mostly politics and history: The King Whisperers tells the stories of some of the greatest power brokers and manipulators in history.
  • Q: Who were the most fascinating ‘evil geniuses’ you found when researching the book?
  • A: My favorites are the really bad guys, the young Stalin, Hitler’s right hand, but also today’s power brokers like Cheney and Rove.
  • Q: There are so many “whisperers” for every leader nowadays. does this, and pollsters especially, diminish the power of the electorate?
  • A: The messages get clouded up with partisanship and ideology, which is too bad.
  • Q: When it comes to writing political, historical fiction, how soon is “too soon” when covering an event?
  • A: Great question, cause over time the details and interpretation can change, can’t they. Usually it takes 5 or 10 years for context.
  • Q: Sooo…. how is Obama doing?
  • A: Toughest job in the world. would probably be reelected today, but who knows about 2012!

As for the book itself, I found it to be an incredible peek behind the scenes of some of the most famous and most powerful leaders in history. Machiavelli, Che Guevara, Rasputin, and dozens more, all arranged by “type”  – whether they be Fixers, Schemers, Kingmakers, Empire Builders, Rebels, or Silver Tongued Devils.

This non-fiction book never read like a history text, which could be how it appears from the cover, book jacket, and overall theme. It was very well-written, done in layman’s terms, easy to read, and actually hard to put down. The fact that this figures existed, and the stories are so fascinating, makes it an excellent read.

I’ve never been a history reader, but I can absolutely recommend The King Whisperers just from the standpoint of a reader in general. Take a peek at Dr. Swint’s site, as well as some really interesting trailers below.


Tour Notes:

Please vote for my blog in the traffic-breaker poll for this tour. The blogger with the most votes wins a free promotional twitterview and a special winner’s badge. I want that to be me! You can vote in the poll by visiting the official King Whisperers blog tour page and scrolling all the way to the bottom.

The next word for the book give-away is HELPING. Learn more about the give-away and enter to win 1 of 3 copies on the official King Whisperers blog tour page. The other 2 copies are being given-away courtesy of the GoodReads author program, go here to enter. And don’t forget to stop by the Q&A with Kerwin Swint Group to discuss the King Whisperers (including questions from the official book club guide), the author, and his previous works.

Book Trailers for the King Whisperers:

Buy Scifi, get Horror for Free!

April 16, 2011 Leave a comment

My good friend R. A. Evans, author of the suspense horror novel Asylum Lake, is just weeks away from releasing the sequel, entitled Grave Undertakings. I’m closing in on the halfway point of completing writing for the second in the Evan Gabriel trilogy, entitled Gabriel’s Return, with plans to launch soon after Evans. So during an evening of #pubwrite chatter, the light bulb went off for both of us. Why not team up on a promotion to “pre-celebrate” the next novel launches?

In the spirit of cooperation, friendship, and good old fashioned promotional marketing, here’s what we have:

Buy Gabriel’s Redemption at $2.99, and receive Asylum Lake for free!

Yes, the great people at Smashwords, an ebook distributor that publishes in multiple formats, allows us to create a promotional code to download a novel for free. Whether you own a Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader, iPad, iPhone, Android, laptop, or feel like printing out a couple hundred sheets of paper, Smashwords has the format that will work.

How do I get my free book? you ask. Yes, I heard you ask. Simple, really – when you purchase Gabriel’s Redemption (link here) from Smashwords, do a print screen of the “You bought it” page that pops up after purchase and send it to me (sumstead AT Or on Twitter, send me a DM (@SteveUmstead) with the print screen image attached. I’ll email/DM you back with the promo code to download Asylum Lake for free.

How about that? For less than a venti latte, you can pick up a science fiction adventure and a horror thriller for your ereader, and enjoy the reading much more than the long-lasting calories of the latte.

Oh, and did I mention both novels are receiving 4 and 5 star reviews? Pick up Gabriel’s Redemption – hurry, promotion ends April 30th!

Categories: Uncategorized

Review of Loose Ends by AJ Powers

April 15, 2011 Leave a comment


A hired hit man who previously worked for the mafia. An innocent friend by his side. A corrupt corporation with leak. A gruff CEO with a mysterious and beautiful security agent. A target with questionable morals and a shady lifestyle. This is the cast of characters put together in Loose Ends, a thriller novella from debut author AJ Powers.

It’s a short novella, borderline long short story (sorry for the oxymoron), but a very entertaining read. A hitman is sent to clean up a loose end, but finds he gets closer to the job than he expected. Good story flow, page-turning, and realistic dialogue and settings.

Powers has extensive knowledge of weapons, but doesn’t overwhelm the reader with technical details. Good character development, getting inside the main character’s head in first person point of view, something I’ve seen many debut authors fail miserably at (first person isn’t as easy as one might think). And of course, a nice twist at the end, leaving the reader wanting more of the story (sequel, perhaps?)

This is an absolute no-brainer priced at $.99; I’d certainly recommend Loose Ends for a quick, entertaining thriller. Oh, and Powers designed and created the cover art from scratch – an enviable talent to have.

Quick disclaimer: I met AJ online a while back when he was working on Loose Ends, and even gave him a brief beta read on his first draft, so I had a little insight into the story before it hit the digital shelves. I was impressed with the story, and even more impressed that he took several beta readers’ suggestions before releasing the final copy, and turned out a fairly polished debut.

Find Loose Ends, currently only $0.99 (again – no-brainer) here:

Amazon (Kindle)Barnes & Noble (Nook) •Smashwords (multiple platforms)

Fellow ebook authors – what platform sells best for you?

April 13, 2011 21 comments

It’s now been officially two full months since Gabriel’s Redemption has hit the ‘bookshelves’ of the major ebook distributors. I can honestly say I’m quite pleased with the sales; how could I not be? Three months ago I didn’t even have an ebook, just a collection of Scrivener scenes lumped into a manuscript that was undergoing some massive editing. And now, approaching 100 books sold, for a debut author? I’m thrilled. Rich? No. Satisfied so many people showed an interest in my work, and have been kind enough to leave some fantastic reviews? Absolutely.

But in looking (obsessing, perhaps) over the daily sales numbers in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords (where in addition to direct to Smashwords customers, the novel is distributed to Borders/Kobo, iBooks, and Diesel), I noticed a very significant trend in sales. Amazon was cleaning the others’ clocks. I thought about it, trying to figure out why, and came up with a few possible reasons:

  • Public perception – ask anyone to name an ereader; you’ll hear Kindle, then Nook, then, huh? But Kindle will always be first. Whether it’s because of Joe Konrath, or Amanda Hocking, etc. or not, Kindle seems to hold the most mind share. But of course that leads into market share.
  • Market share – at last check, depending on what site you land on when you Google ‘ereader market share’, Kindle led the way with around half of the ereader market. Barnes & Noble recently stated they have 25% of ereader sales, though they backed it up with little to no proof. However, those are probably pretty good indications of where the market stands.*

*I’m not sure if the iPad has yet swept up the ereading public, but it’s certainly on its way…however, since I’ve sold a grand total of zero through iBooks I can’t even factor that in.

  • Me – Yes, me. My blog shows Amazon first, most tweets will have an Amazon link, and any time I’m only able to list one outlet to purchase the novel, I invariably list Amazon. Why? Probably because of the first two reasons. And the irony behind that is, I own a Kobo, a Nook, I’ve ordered an iPad, and there are four iPhones in my household. Not a Kindle to be found…

Looking at the numbers, I’m seeing around a 10-1 ratio of Kindle to Nook sales for Gabriel’s Redemption. Smashwords has a few sales, mostly when I do a promo code, but nothing consistent. So I sit and watch the KDP page, click refresh, and hold my breath, hoping the number goes up by one.

The question is – which platform sells for you? Do you see a significant difference in your ebook sales between Kindle and Nook? Which way, and why do you think that is? Any genre reason? Questions, questions…please help with answers, I can’t bear to keep clicking refresh…

Review of Chasing Filthy Lucre by Jarrett Rush

April 13, 2011 Leave a comment


When a greedy corporate power threatens the status quo in Weber Rexall’s town and he’s tasked to do something about it, nothing will stand in his way.

Tough guy Rexall, his underground fighting ring cohort Berger, and a synthetic Serve-O named Simmer are just three of the incredibly interesting characters Rush writes into Chasing Filthy Lucre, the first part in a novella series, one that entertains right from the first page.

Rush seamlessly blends cyberpunk technology and post-apocalyptic settings with deep characters the reader can truly feel for. The tech itself is fascinating; without giving anything away, when Rush describes the hothouse and its patrons, the remarkable imagery he puts together could easily have been pulled from a scene in today’s world. The scene descriptions, such as the underground fighting and the ‘package delivery’ scene (again without giving too much away) are rich, and really paint a detailed picture in the reader’s head.

The story is fast-paced and progresses logically, with a couple of twists, and an exciting climax, then easily feeds into the next novella in the series. Definitely a page-turner, and very well edited for a self-published work. Absolutely worth the download, I’m looking forward to the next in the series!

Find Chasing Filthy Lucre, currently only $0.99 (c’mon…how can you go wrong?) here:

Amazon (Kindle)Barnes & Noble (Nook)Smashwords (multiple platforms)

More about Jarrett Rush:

Review of The Chosen: Book One of the Portals of Destiny, by Shay Fabbro

April 3, 2011 1 comment



Mekans…even the name sounds foreboding. Machine intelligence, stripping the resources of planet after planet, making their way across the galaxy, leaving burned out husks in their wake. The only hope for the survival of countless species are The Chosen, small groups of four different species who are watched over and trained by Guardians from the planet Gentra. The Gentran prophecy says The Chosen hold the key to defeating the Mekans, but when one Chosen is killed, the prophecy may be in jeopardy. This is the epic science fiction/fantasy story Shay Fabbro has begun to weave with Book One of the Portals of Destiny.

Fabbro paints a vivid picture of five distinct worlds, and pulls it off with no trouble, something many world builders have issues with in just one. There is a wide range of characters, many of which are delved deeply into, enough so that the reader can identify with several at once. Fabbro makes it easy to follow each, as the races are significantly different enough not to get confused. A reptilian warrior race, a clone race, a magical race, and of course, humans – albeit post-apocalyptic.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story, from start to finish. The detail in the worlds, the depth of characters, the grandiose far-reaching plot are all done in an easy-to-follow format and style. At certain points I do feel it gets a bit deep into description, but knowing this is the first part of a series, and knowing the full story will not wrap up by the final page, it all makes perfect sense.

I felt the mix of science fiction (clones, weaponry) and fantasy (magic, transformations) was very well done. The overall crafting of the story reminded me a bit of The Empire Strikes Back, mixing the science fiction scenes with the Jedi training fantasy aspect.

The only negatives I encountered, and completely my personal opinion, would be a little bit of point of view confusion, but only very rarely; and (possible spoiler alert) I felt the key killing of the Chosen happened a little too late in the story (I kept waiting for it to happen, as the ‘book jacket blurb’ emphasizes it). But absolutely nothing that detracts from the overall story, which was well edited…much more so than most independent authors’ works I’ve read before.

I’m very much looking forward to Book Two, which I understand is just around the corner, as Fabbro has put together the beginnings of an epic story arc with very interesting characters. And it’s just starting!

For more about Shay Fabbro and her writing, and where to buy the book, visit