The Start of a NEW Series!

This is both exciting … and nerve wracking.

Martian MorningNext Monday, September 15, will see the release of The Enclaves of Sylox, Book One of my new sci-fi series featuring the character Jason King: Agent to the Stars.

This story is somewhat different from my Human Chronicles books, yet also very similar, if that makes any sense? It’s still a space opera adventure dealing with Human interaction with alien civilizations and empires. Yet this story revolves around the activities of a hot-shot real estate broker working on the planet Sylox, the capital of the Galactic Union. Of course, Jason is much more than just a money-grubbing opportunist. He’s also a former Army Ranger with a set of deadly skills which come in handy in the second part of the book.

Essentially The Enclaves of Sylox is a mystery, however, it’s more of a ‘who’s behind it’ rather than a ‘who dun it’ type of mystery. There’s layer upon layer of conspiracy involving a quasi-religious artifact, whose theft is about to trigger a galactic war. The Earth has also become ensnared in this conspiracy, placing her squarely in the sights of two vindictive alien species bent on our destruction. Now all Jason King has to do is recover the artifact, capture the thief, prevent a galaxy-wide war from starting and save the Earth from annihilation. And do all this between his real estate closings. Oh, and there’s also a super-hot woman right in the thick of things, too, just to make it interesting. Plus chases through star systems, and shoot-outs, and fist-fights — you know, all the normal stuff I like to put in my books.

The other noticeable feature about this new book is the humor. A lot of my readers really enjoy the street-wise, genuinely-Human type of humor throughout The Human Chronicles books. In The Enclaves of Sylox, I took off the restraints. It’s much more prevalent in this new book/series, yet it’s observational humor, not slapstick. After all, Humans do have a funny way of looking at aliens, and we’re not afraid to express our opinions. But let’s face it, most aliens are basically pretty goofy. Right?

Just remember, my loyal readers: This is NOT another Adam Cain book. That’s actually coming in December! This is a Jason King book. And although you will find some subtle — as well as not so subtle — references and tie-ins to my other series, this one is a story unto itself. After all, how many space opera heroes have you seen who are real estate brokers? I’d hazard a guess that Jason King is the first.

So be looking for The Enclaves of Sylox available on Amazon.com, Monday, September 15.

I’ll be emailing to all my fans announcing the release (and offering a special NEW RELEASE PRICE DISCOUNT for the first three days after release). If you’re not on my email list, just drop me a line at bytrharris@hotmail.com and I’ll put you on the list.

And also remember: I write fun and light sci-fi adventures. I’m not trying to provide any major social commentary or predict a dire future for mankind as a result of the poor decisions we’ve made in the past. In fact, I’m a pretty big fan of Humanity. That’s why in my books it’s the Humans who out in the galaxy kicking-ass and taking names, and not some obscure mold spore enslaving the entire race. After all, let’s get real. We ARE bad-asses!

Check out Conversations with George

June 4, 2014:

I have a new column on my blog called Conversations with George. It’s a Q&A email session I had with an aspiring author and my answers to his very good questions. After a few emails, I realized there are probably a lot of other people who might find this information helpful so I’m posting one Q&A per day.

The conversation went on for nine emails, so check back often for the next question. After the nine have been posted, I will continue the series with other subjects which I think could help aspiring authors.

Conversations with George can be found in the main category listings at the top of my homepage.

T.R. (Tom) Harris

2013 Sales Figures

50 dollars rooled upI’m a big advocate of self-publishing, believing that anyone with even the slightest interest in writing should give it a try.

With self-publishing, the question as to whether or not you’re wasting your time on your novel becomes null and void. No longer does your manuscript need to languish in the drawer, waiting for some publisher to bless you with their attention. Once your book is done, you can get it out to a world-wide audience essentially overnight. Then it’s up to the readers to decide if your work is good enough. Yet until you get your book out to the reading public, you’ll never know.

In the old days, the Big Five publishers served as very effective gatekeepers, separating readers from the writers. That’s no longer true. Now it’s the authors who have the final say as to when and how their books are released. And even though you may not make a million off your first book — or even your twentieth — if you have even modest talent and can spin a good yarn, you should be able to make a decent living as a self-published author. (The numbers I reveal at the end of this post go to support this statement.)

Sale Figures

There seems to be a trend these days for authors to reveal their sales records, with dollar amounts included. I have no problem with this. In fact, although I love to write, I still need to pay my bills, and it was by seeing what other authors were doing with ebooks back in 2011 that I developed the incentive to create my first book. Without this information I may have continued with my day job and never taken the leap.

These days I spend a lot of time speaking with people about self-publishing and giving advice and encouragement. I don’t feel other authors are my competition, believing truly that the market is large enough for all of us. And being as empathic as I am, I want everyone to experience the same joy and satisfaction I’ve experienced over the past two years in my writing career.

It’s been during these conversations, that I occasionally experience some discounting of my efforts by people who do not consider self-publishing as a legitimate endeavor, since I haven’t been vetted by a professional publishing company. I’m sure many self-publishers have also experienced this same condescending attitude from a few purist authors. However, when push comes to shove, I simply quote my yearly earnings … and that seems to shut them up, if not change their attitude about self-publishing.

I have to say I’ve met quite a few authors — both in person and online — over the past two years, and I do realize my results are not typical. Many have made far less, while a few have earned in the millions. Seriously! It also seems that most of us started about the same time — in 2011 or afterwards — so the success some of us have experienced is newfound, and therefore very prominent in the our lives. I have to say, it’s been a real head-rush!

So now, without further ado, I offer those of you who have read this deep into this post my 2013 sales numbers.

I don’t do this to brag, but rather to show what can be done with self-publishing. And I’m the first to admit, I’m not the best writer, but I have been fortunate that my first foray into self-publishing was with a series of science fiction books that have found a loyal and enthusiastic audience. I did this with essentially zero promotion, except what’s provided by Amazon to every author — which should be another source of encouragement for would-by authors.

The bottom line: If I can do this, then you can, too. And in these times of tough economic prospects, becoming a self-published author could be your way out of a dire financial situation. It could happen.

Summary of 2013 Sales:

Background: The numbers for 2013 are for a total of seven titles (books). They are: The Fringe Worlds, Alien Assassin, The Human Chronicles Saga (a compilation of both books one and two of the series), The War of Pawns, The Tactics of Revenge, The Legend of Earth and Cain’s Crusaders.

Fringe, Assassin, The Human Chronicles, War and Tactics all saw a full year of sales. The Legend of Earth came out in February 2013 and Cain’s Crusaders came out in August 2013, so these totals are for only a portion of the year.

Here’s where it gets a little complicated. My fiscal year runs from November 1 to October 31. The reason is because Amazon pays royalties sixty days after the close of a sales month, so my December royalties are for the prior October and my January royalties are for the prior November. Since the IRS deals in calendar years for tax purposes, I only count the royalties when they’re received, so my 2013 revenue covers sales from November 2012 through October 2013.

The average number of books I had selling fulltime for 2013 were six, since Legend and Cain’s were for only part of the year. Combined, they equaled one fulltime book, so my numbers are based on what are essentially six books selling over 12 months.

Please note: The numbers below are ONLY for the Amazon.com website (USA sales) and does not include any foreign sales, although the total dollar amount includes all sales. (FYI: Foreign sales totaled 6,712 copies for the year, but they’re not broken down by book.)

The Fringe Worlds = 6,114 copies sold for 2013 (originally published in Oct. 2011)

Alien Assassin = 6,437 copies sold (originally published in March 2012)

The Human Chronicles (compilation, not a new book) = 5,774 copies sold (originally published mid-June 2012)

The War of Pawns = 11,060 copies sold (originally published mid-June 2012)

The Tactics of Revenge = 18,809 copies sold (originally published in Nov. 2012)

The Legend of Earth = 15,070 copies sold (originally published in March 2013)

Cain’s Crusaders = 6,528 copies sold (originally published in August 2013)

(Please note: Sales cutoff date was October 31, 2013.)

Total books sold in the United States in fiscal year 2013 = 69,792 (plus 6,712 foreign sales)

Total books sold in fiscal year 2013 = 76,534

So … if you sold this many books in a year, how much money would you make?

My fiscal year 2013 income was … $222,254.00.

Now that I have your attention, you can see that making a decent living writing light science fiction adventures in ebook format is possible — and without needing the blessings of a traditional publisher.

(There was another blog I saw recently by a traditionally-published author with sixteen books on the market — both in ebook format and mass-market paperback. He made a little over $60,000. My contention is that if he bypassed the traditional publisher and went for the higher royalty rates self-publishers get, he would have made a lot more money … just off his ebook sales.)

And now after seeing these numbers, I hope this has motivated you to get to work on that novel you’ve been thinking about for years. You may not make $222,000 in a year — you may make a lot more! But you’ll never know until you complete your book and put it out to the reading public. And guess what … it’s only YOU keeping this from happening — and from changing your life forever.

Now — get to work!

T.R. (Tom) Harris

New Beginnings

It’s the first of January, 2014!

It’s hard to believe, but for a person like me who grew up in the late 60’s and 70’s, THIS is the future. And as a writer of science fiction, I’m a little disappointed that there aren’t permanent settlements on the moon and that we haven’t already landed people on the Mars. In other areas of science and technology, we’re right on schedule, with regards to computers and medicine. In other areas, we’re way behind the vision of the future we all had back then. I really can’t blame society that much, since we’ve already invented the airplane, the automobile and other major leaps in technology, and cellphones are pretty well on the way to Dick Tracy-type devices. Advances today are more subtle and they seem to creep up on us when we least expect them.

Even then, opportunity can reveal itself in the most unexpected manner. Here are a few examples:

In the mid-80’s I owned a print shop and one of my regular customers told me about this opportunity he had to invest in a thing called a ‘facsimile machine.’ I often wonder where he is today and whether or not he went through with it.

Also, in the mid-70’s I was in Washington DC and saw a table-top pong game. I was blown away. I was in the Navy at the time, but a buddy and I applied for an SBA-loan to buy some units and put them in the bars in the Hampton Roads area of southern Virginia. Unfortunately we didn’t qualify because we didn’t have enough minority employees at the time. (We didn’t have any, just two pasty white guys trying to get in on the ground-floor of a new technology.) Where would I be today if the loan had gone through? That, too, was a missed opportunity.

There was another moment I remember vividly back in the year 2000. I was thinking about ebooks, and realized that the only thing holding back that advancement from proceeding was the lack of a good reading device. With the internet and PDF’s, producing electronic books was easy, even back then, yet there wasn’t an economical way to read these books, and also in a format where the authors wouldn’t have their work reproduced and passed around without compensation. Needless to say, I wasn’t the one who came up with the Kindle or the Nook, yet I was proved right when these devices began to gain popularity — and changed the publishing industry forever. Now ebooks are the wave of the future, and there’s no turning back, even if the purists want to. There will always be paper books, but in the future they will become the novelty, and not their electronic versions.

It seems popular today for bloggers/authors to come out with their predictions for 2014, so I’ll give it a go myself.

1) Ebooks are here to stay and will dominate sales once again, gaining an ever-growing market share.

2) Traditional publishers will seek consolidation to survive and will change their business models to be more followers of trends rather that creators of trends. What I mean by this is that major publishers will pursue more of the successful indie authors, those who already have a proven audience, and will publish very few first-timers who do not already have a track record in the ebook market. So if you’re an aspiring author, forgo the traditional route and get your book up on Amazon as soon as possible. You’ll not only start making money right away, but you’ll begin to build the audience that the trade publishers will insist upon.

3) Publishing rights will become more fragmented, with successful authors successfully negotiating to retain the ebook rights for most of their books. And even if they do allow the trades to have a piece of the ebook royalties, the splits will be overwhelmingly in favor of the author and not the publisher.

4) More big-name authors will go the indie route, at least for their ebooks (see #3 above). This will put more pressure on the Big Six publishers to adapt or die in this new paradigm. Since paper books will not die completely, there will be survivors in the world of traditional publishing. How they’ll make it economically is still the sixty-four thousand dollar question.

5) Indie’s will become more professional in every way. The days of producing crap and making money off of it are gone. Readers are becoming more savvy and more demanding. However, there is a new sub-industry emerging to help us with regards to editing, formatting, cover design and even submissions to all the ebook outlets available. Soon, there will be no difference between a trade-published book and an indie-published book — except for who keeps the lion’s share of the royalties. And when indie authors have only pay-for-service expenses, rather than an on-going split of the royalties taken by the trades, then it will become easier to make a living as a writer.

6) More books will continue to be bought by readers. With the relatively low price of ebooks, readers appear to be buying more books than ever before, and this trend will continue. When two to three ebooks can be purchased for the price of one paperback, or four to five for the price of a hardcover, it comes as no surprise that readers are loading up their ereaders with more books than ever. Whether or not they’ll ever get around to reading them all is another question.

7) 2014 will be year of the author. Everything is trending in this direction. We’re making more money, selling more books and gaining more control over our destinies than ever before. But remember, you still need to produce a quality product. Ebooks are not the novelty item anymore. They are the accepted format for readers these days, and so your books must stand against all the big-names from the trades, as well as the every-growing ranks of very professional indies. The time for ground-floor entry into this business has passed. Opportunity and access has expanded because of technology and acceptance, yet just as every kid can’t grow up to be a pro basketball player, not everyone who aspires to write a novel will find success. Just do the best you can and accept the fact that there are no shortcuts. Learn your craft and accept the reality that successful authors are not lucky, they are skilled, just as in any profession. Acquire the skill, release your imagination, and then give it a go. There has never been a better time to be an author than right now … in 2014.

T.R. (Tom) Harris

Don’t forget: December 15th for the next Adam Cain novel, The Apex Predator

Book 2 of Part Two
Book 2 of Part Two

It’s almost here. December 15, this coming Sunday. Book Two of Part Two of The Human Chronicles Saga will be available on Amazon.com.

The Apex Predator is coming!

Update on The Apex Predator … Book 7 of The Human Chronicles Saga

ApexCover5I’m about to play poker with my next novel. Let me explain.

I wrote this book a little differently that my others; essentially in sections that now must be shuffled together. I have three major plot lines running throughout the book, one with Adam Cain and Sherri Valentine, one with Riyad Tarazi and another with Nigel McCarthy. These are almost complete stories in their own right, yet related to the overall novel. I’ve completed these three storylines, and now I have to shuffle them together to make one complete story.

In nearly all novels, the perspective shifts between characters, either through chapter changes or within the chapters themselves, and as the storyline moves along, the author switches from character to character and from locale to locale. We normally do this within the writing process, so one moment you may be writing from the perspective of Character A, and then the next Character C. And then you may go to Characters B and D before returning to Character A. With this book I decided just to stick with one character throughout and entire section of my master Word document and tell the entire story from that perspective. And then, with the miracle of Microsoft Word, I can cut and paste all the various perspectives together. This will involve some segue writing to tie everything together and then a careful examination of timelines. Yet it has allowed me to blast through one character’s (or set of character’) complete story without the constant switching of personalities and perspective during the writing process. Now it just needs to be all tied together and mingled so that the story flows and makes sense.

I’m planning on releasing the new book on December 15, 2013 … after the editing and proofreading process is complete. I know fifteen to twenty days doesn’t sound like enough time to edit and proof an entire book, but in the world of ebook publishing things can move very quickly. I have a number of beta readers already lined up who will receive advance copies and check for typos and other issues, while my editor and professional proofreader are on standby as soon as I do my last run-through of the book and email it to them. The Apex Predator should be my best-edited and proofed book. At least that’s my goal. (Of course, some things will fall through the cracks, and when this happens I hope my readers will email me with the corrections. Again with ebooks, I can make changes and upload a new version of the book in about five hours.)

Galaxy Cover60With The Apex Predator being book 2 of part two of The Human Chronicles, it will end up being the middle book of a trilogy. As such, it picks up where Cain’s Crusaders left off and sets up the reader for all the wild climax stuff that happens in the final book of the trilogy — A Galaxy to Conquer. I had the opportunity this time to essentially plot out two books at once, so the day after I send The Apex Predator to my editor, I’ll be starting to work on A Galaxy to Conquer, with the projected release date around the end of January 2014. This will the soonest I’ve released a follow-up book, so hopefully my continuing fans — plus all the new ones who come onboard during the holiday season — will find gratification sooner than others have in the past.

It appears — at least for now — that The Human Chronicles Saga will run for a total of eight books. But don’t worry, I’m sure Adam Cain will surface again in the not too distant future — he always does. However, as an author, I have a number of other projects rumbling around in my brain that I’d like to get to first. I’m not quite ready to announce these yet, since I still have two more Adam Cain novels to release. But rest assured, if you like my writing style, you will find the same in every book I complete. And no matter what the subject, they will always contain their fair share of humor, along with unfiltered realism. One thing I will never be accused of is bowing to politically-correctness!

Now, back to my poker game. I’ve got some shuffling to do!

T.R. (Tom) Harris

As always, I will be sending out broadcast emails to my registered fans announcing the release of all my books, so if you haven’t been put on the list yet, go to Contact Me at the top of this page and send me an email. Thanks.

What’s In A Name?

Alien Talking“So you come from the planet Dirt?”

That’s one of the questions the aliens ask Adam Cain, the main character of The Human Chronicles Saga, when they learn he comes from a planet called ‘Earth.’ Just as the auto-correct on your phone tends to screw up what you’re typing, the alien translation device in this instance saw the word ‘earth’ as dirt, soil, ground, etc. You can see how this could happen.

Which is the subject of this post: Lack of context when communicating with aliens. Which is something I do all the time (communicate with aliens). What about you?

Yes, to others, we’ve named our home world dirt. Simple, basic and to the point; however, I have to admit we were NOT very creative with the name. Sure, Gia, Terra and a few others may sound more exotic, but that’s only to modern English-speaking ears. In Latin, Terra is Earth. So the impression a name conveys is often in the eye — and the ear — of the beholder. Still, why not Solar-3 … or even Fantasia?

And a little off subject, I have another gripe: The common house Fly. We went and named something a FLY! We take an insect with a couple of wings that buzzes around in the air … and we call it a ‘fly.’ Well, duh! So using this logic, a fish should be called a ‘swim,’ a cheetah a ‘run,’ and a grasshopper a ‘jump.’ C’mon, people, we can do better than this! The aliens are expecting a little more creativity out of us.

I mention the above because as a science fiction writer, I get to have fun with things like this. In my stories, I often examine some of the absurdities of language and how outsiders (aliens) would interpret certain words and phrases we take for granted. For instance, the common word ‘bullshit,’ when translated literally has absolutely no correlation to the colloquial use of the phrase. In my books, this really throws the aliens for a loop, especially since we Humans tend to use the word quite often. And not to be too vulgar, but one of my Human characters responds to some new information he’s just received by saying, “No shit?” Just let that roll around in your brain for a moment, with you in the place of the alien. This is really fun stuff for an author!

And I can also bring this subject back down to Earth — literally. As an English-speaking American from California, I’ve often wondered what goes through  the minds of my Spanish-speaking friends when they hear or read words such as Los Gatos — which is the name of a city in Northern California. Do they see this as The Cats, as in “I’m going to The Cats today to visit some friends?” Here’s another: Buena Vista (Beautiful View). Or Vista del Lago (Lake View). They each sound much more exotic in Spanish than they do in translation, and there are literally tens of thousands of other examples, in all languages.

So one person’s dirt is another’s home planet. It all depends on your point of view.

How we communicate with alien races, and how our common objects and points-of-reference can vary, is a big part of my stories, and something which I hope makes them more interesting  — and humorous — to read. I wish more sci-fi writers took these things into account. Common references such as these tend to Humanize the story.

And a few other quick notes.

I always capitalize ‘Human’ in my books, just as you capitalize Vulcans, Klingons and Martians. Why shouldn’t we also received the prestige of a capital letter? Also, some of my alien species are named for the planets they come from (Juireans, Sileans), yet in many cases they have names other than a variation of their planet-of-origin. For instance, one of the main enemies of the Humans are the Kracori … who just happen to come from the planet Elision. I would re-think this if we went around calling ourselves Earthlings, but we don’t. So there.

This reveals some of the crazy thought process that goes into creating my fictional worlds….

T.R. (Tom) Harris