On Swift Wings – 1st Anniversary Relaunch

It has been a year since the launch of On Swift Wings, my debut novel. To celebrate, I’m relaunching the award-winning novel with a new cover and a new website design.

Order now from Amazon.ca

Cygnus is an average young man working for an airline. When something goes wrong on a transcontinental flight, he is thrust into the adventure of a lifetime.

Many challenges lie ahead of Cygnus. His survival depends on his wits as he encounters mysterious islands occupied by human-enslaving horses, immortals, a race of sorcerers and necromancers, anti-intellectuals, giants, and miniature human civilizations.


On Swift Wings is an action and humour-packed satirical adventure fantasy, rich in vivid detail, following the style and structure of Jonathan Swift. If you like satirical comedy and classical fantasy, you’re sure to love this award winning novel by author Brett Wiens.

As has been the case since its original launch, 20% of all author royalties are being donated to the Children’s Hospital.

Preview the first five chapters

or

ORDER YOUR COPY TODAY

Available at most bookstores in hardcover, paperback or digital format.

Another award for on Swift Wings

I received word this weekend that On Swift Wings won a finalist badge from Indies Today. It is always nice to get an award like this. I also received a really nice five-star review from their reviewer, “Nicky Flowers.” The entire review can be found here: https://indiestoday.com/on-swift-wings-by-brett-m-wiens/. Some of the highlights from the review include:A fabulous retelling of Gulliver’s Travels.

A fabulous retelling of Gulliver’s Travels.

Brilliant formal language.

The humour is subtle and pervasive.

Enjoyable for adults and children of any age.

A worthy tribute to a classic book.

A wonderful adventure laden with deep meaning and complex characters.

Nicky Flowers for Indies Today

Obviously it is fantastic to have reviewers say such nice things and to receive accolades for the work, but the most fun for me is to still hear from actual readers who provide the most meaningful feedback.

On Swift Wings has been a project that I’ve poured myself into for the past six years, and I’ve learned so much along the way, things about writing, reading, publishing, marketing, and so much more. I would really love to hear more from you about what you enjoyed or didn’t enjoy about the book.

I’d even like to hear what is holding you back from giving it a try. Please let me know. I have a few more ideas for the book in the next few months, but more than anything, I really want people to give it a try. To that end, I’ve tried to make it as available as I possibly could.

Ways to try it, without spending a penny:

Click Here for Preview

Ways to support the book:

Order now from Amazon.ca

Thanks for reading, may your world always grow!

BW

Consider Geography

Political unrest is not just a problem of social media, but one of good, old-fashioned, geography as well.

How Geography Shaped Societies, From Neanderthals to iPhones | Science |  Smithsonian Magazine

Watching the events that unfolded last week as President Trump and his cabal incited his followers to storm the US capitol building to “stop the steal” was both shocking and terrifying. Many fingers have pointed to social media and its role as an echo chamber where algorithms serve articles and stories that are easy wins and almost always agree with an individual’s beliefs. It is hard to argue that this effect is not significant, but surely one can’t be fully radicalized virtually to the extreme of risking one’s life to attempt a ‘revolution’ in Washington D.C. supporting an aging demagogue who wants to be king.

A lot of ink has already been spent talking about social media and echo chambers, so I won’t go deeper into this subject here. What I would like to highlight is the importance of geography. Before I really dig in though, I want to state up-front that this post is going to sport a lot of sweeping generalizations. I’ll try to acknowledge each, but I surely will fail. I’m also willing to bet that I’ll offend some people. I’m sorry, but hopefully you’ll read along and recognize that my aim is not to do so.

One of the most difficult things for many of us to understand is why, without any hard evidence presented, and despite claims being rejected as meritless by numerous judges and courts of both republican and democratic states, such a large number of people believe that the election was stolen. Media echo chambers aside, I would suggest that a more significant issue relates to geography.

2020 United States presidential election - Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_United_States_presidential_election

If one looks at the electoral map in the United States… boy that is a lot of red. Without any question, spatially, Donald Trump won the 2020 election. When you look more closely though, you’ll see that almost every big city voted for Biden. Logically, one can recognize that about four-fifths of Americans live in urban areas (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urbanization_in_the_United_States). Not all urbanites vote democrat, and not all rural voters vote republican, but there are certainly strong tendencies in those directions.

Part of the issue with the radicalization of the right-wing is the effect that this split has on different people. For example, if you live in New York or Los Angeles, you are likely to interact (even in times of pandemic) with a large number of diverse people on various spectra (Ethnic, religious, political, etc.). As a result, you are very likely to deal with people whose viewpoints differ from yours. Conversely, take a look at the US heartland (and recognize it isn’t particularly dissimilar politically from many other countries including Canada) and notice that most of those darkest red districts are in rural areas. If you live in a rural area, you probably only interact with a small number of very like-minded people regularly. I live in a city with more than a million people, but it tends to lean right politically. That said, I encounter people who are both fairly extreme (at least compared to me) left and right. I get to “enjoy” the “tempered” arguments regularly. It is exhausting, but at least I get exposed to both viewpoints. (Further: there are never just two viewpoints, but a spectrum of middle-ground that gets ignored scoring political points.)

Consider though, somebody who tends to lean right politically, who is exposed only to news sources Fox or further to the right, that are all reporting Trump’s repeated claims that their landslide election win was stolen by the opposition; who are repeatedly subjected to the same claims on their social media feeds, and then (and here is where Geography comes into play), they go out of their house angrily and talk to their friends and neighbours who are all or almost all of similar mindset and hear that, yeah, we all voted for Trump. This lends credence to the accusation that the election should have been a landslide win. Everybody, or almost everybody that this person hears from, whether on social media, mainstream media, alternative media, in person, or even from the lips of the President of the United States, supports the contention that almost everybody voted for Donald Trump. It is entirely understandable why that person would start to feel like they had been disenfranchised. One doesn’t even need hard evidence when belief and a mob mentality start to take over.

Add to that fire the repeated and unending claims by somebody in a position of authority, occupying a once-respected office, the highest one in the land. It would take quite a lot of nerve to suggest that these people are stupid, for that is not, I believe, at the root of the issue. Unfortunately, the messages they hear from all quarters say the same thing, everybody who doesn’t agree with them are sheep, cowards, and traitors, and that only they have the power to preserve their country from a perceived liberal conspiracy.

Order now from Amazon.ca

Those who have read my book, On Swift Wings, will recognize a number of social and political themes. As most of the islands are isolated environments, separated from the outside world, there are numerous examples of the effects that this isolation has on their political and social structures. If one looks closely, starting right at the foreword of the book, you’ll see that I believe that this is a useful thing, to develop disparate and dissenting opinions and ideas. What I perhaps have not elaborated upon to the degree I would now have liked, is how important it is to bring these ideas together in a calm, humble, and respectful manner. I believe that with strong leadership, this is possible. It is possible to understand people and to discuss in a reasonable way the things that we hold to be self-evident and yet others view them completely differently. I hope that in time, and I’m optimistic, that the extreme polarization of our current society will be replaced with acceptance and partnership.

I hope I have not offended anybody unduly. This is a traumatic and challenging time on a number of fronts, and it is my aim, small though its effect may prove to be, to help heal some of these rifts. At the very least, you’ve now read some of my opinions and you are now able to evaluate, whether you agree or disagree, and contribute your own thoughts. I would love to hear what you think in the comments here, on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Man Box

Me Too and the Bro Culture: Giving a Voice to Oppression

I’m going to take a step outside the book and my writing to make a note about something that I think is really important. Hey, this is my blog, and I can pretty much do whatever I want here, right? In case this looks like an advertisement for my book, I want to note that I only devoted a few sentences to gender equality in the book. I tried to make female characters important, and avoided making them objects, but this really isn’t about the book, and the book isn’t about this.

I’ve been working in the past few months with a women’s group at my company. They are an incredible group of people that are doing their best to help make my company a welcoming, safe, fair, equal, and better place for women. I’ve been attending meetings for several years and this fall I signed on as a director of the Men as Allies program.

The research in this area is incredible. The vast majority of men want to help, for no other reason than it is the right thing to do. Most men want the world to be fair, and would be willing to sacrifice some of their privilege to get there. Privilege, however, is not often visible to the people who have it. We take for granted a number of freedoms of which we are not even aware. This list doesn’t even begin, but think, when was the last time you walked into a meeting and you were the only person of your gender in the room? How often do you get interrupted in meetings? What is the general make-up of your company in terms of gender? I mean if you dig deeper beyond the top line summary of numbers. What if you remove female-dominated departments like human resources from the total? The fact is, despite our best efforts, workplaces in general are not fair and equal. We want them to be, most of us, we are trying to get them there, but they aren’t there yet. I know my company and many others are trying, and that is commendable. I want to help.

I volunteered to be a director because I thought I could use my voice as a man to get the message out about the efforts of this group. I thought they could use me as a megaphone, as a symbol, as an example. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do, mostly I wanted to be a tool that the fantastic women running this group could use to help advance equality. I knew I would have to do some work, but I didn’t really have a clear picture yet.

I’ve learned a lot.

In the past few months I’ve read hundreds of papers on the subject, watched videos and TED talks, and last week I was allowed to attend a Catalyst conference specifically about Men Advocating Real Change. This conference was nothing like I expected. I thought they would talk mostly about what we can do to help women: Tips and tricks for advancing and correcting the culture at our companies. There was a little bit about that from some excellent leaders at P&G and Chevron, but it was more focused on men. A lot of what they said really hit home for me, and I’m going to make an effort to step out of my “man box.” The biggest thing that I took away is that if men want to help, to truly make a difference, we have to recognize and change ourselves and our own culture.

There were some excellent speakers, one of the subjects was about the “Man Box.” I strongly encourage you to watch it. It is excellent, moving, eye-opening, and beautiful.

Tony Porter – A Call to Men

This is a scary time in which we’re living. Very scary. I’m not ashamed to admit it, I am terrified right now.

  • I’m scared of Covid-19 – we’re doing everything we can as a family to protect ourselves and our communities, but it is scary as hell.
  • I’m afraid of constant fighting: the way that communication, negotiation, and understanding have been replaced by arguing, name-calling, and echo-chambers. There is common, middle ground.
  • I’m scared of the world that my son and daughter are inherit, in so many ways. Economically, environmentally, socially, etc.
  • I’m scared that I’m not a good enough dad, and that my kids aren’t going to have the best possible life.
  • I’m scared that I could lose my job, and that it’d be hard to find another one.
  • I’m scared of failing to provide for my family the best possible life.
  • I’m scared, for my kids, that something could happen to me

These are just the ones that came to mind. I’m a man, I’m afraid, and that’s ok.

Men:

  • It is ok to have feelings;
  • It is ok to need connections with people;
  • It is ok to be afraid, sad, happy, worried, angry, etc.;
  • It is ok to be a woman;
  • It is ok to be gay;
  • It is ok to be weak;
  • It is ok to cry;
  • It is ok to follow, or not to dominate others;
  • It is ok to be a man.

You are welcome to disagree with anything that I say. I encourage it wholeheartedly. As with my writing, I only hope to make things better and to encourage meaningful discussion. I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are you scared of?

May your world always grow,

BW

Audio Book

One thing that I heard a lot after publishing On Swift Wings was… when will it be available as an Audio Book? My honest answer was that I hadn’t really thought about it. This entire journey has been an organic one. It started with me jotting down some thoughts in response to Gulliver’s Travels, evolved into me writing a bit of a mission statement which became the foreword, ultimately into completing a full-length (maybe more than normal length) action-adventure satirical fantasy novel with publishing, marketing, editing, cover design, and a million other lessons along the way.

Once the book was finished and published, it became clear that many people prefer to consume stories in media other than print. Reading a book requires singular attention and devotion. Many people feel pressure to do more than one thing at a time, and books are something they listen to on their commute, in the car, while exercising, or as a side-activity. It takes a kind of focus to sit down and read a long novel, so many of my friends said that they’d wait until the (unplanned) audio book. Maybe they were playing with me, but my goal is to have as many people read my book as possible, so I did a little exploration down this alley.

I barely knew where to start. Actually, this could be the title of my autobiography. I knew that Amazon had some Audio Book functions, and some of the writing groups that I follow talk about them a bit. I took to Google and found a ACX, Audible’s exchange program for audio books. Basically, you choose one of three options:

  1. You offer narrators a chance to try out for a fixed rate.
  2. You offer narrators a chance to try out for a portion of the royalties.
  3. A combination of 1 and 2.

I thought this sounded like a pretty good deal, but I did some more research and found that in general the experience on ACX wasn’t that good. Authors felt cheated, narrators felt cheated, no matter how well the book does, somebody feels they didn’t get what they deserve. I don’t like making people feel bad, so I shelved the idea for a while. The idea was still on my mind though, and it kept coming up. Early this year, as Covid forced people inside, I had two choices for what I could do with my writing. I could work on my second book, or I could go deeper into the Audio Book. I started writing the second book, but I haven’t found a voice that I like for it yet. Then I stumbled across a “how-to” series for creating audio books. They gave me a few really good tips, and I got interested in recording my own book.

The face I make when I hear my own voice - Kermit Driving | Meme Generator

Everybody hates their own voice, but this series said something that eased my fears a lot. They noted that the voice you hear recorded isn’t what other people hear, it is your brain’s reconstruction comparing your actual voice and the voice you hear ricocheting through your brain. You actually hear twice the difference in a recording because of this effect. Made sense to me, and with the support of a number of friends who assured me that I had a very good voice for narration, I decided to take up the challenge.

I also wanted to record my own voice reading my own book for my kids. My Grampa narrated Winnie the Pooh for us when we were young and it is a treasured possession to always be able to hear his voice when he was younger. I want my children, and hopefully their children to be able to hear my voice as it is now. This was the biggest driver for me to get this done. I hope that my kids are proud of the book that I’ve written, and no matter what happens in the future, they’ll always be able to hear their dad whenever they want.

XLR Condenser Microphone, TONOR Professional Cardioid Studio Mic Kit with T20 Boom Arm, Shock Mount, Pop Filter for Record...

So, I had decided that I wanted to do and narrate an audio book, but I didn’t know anything about narrating an audio book. I didn’t think my crummy headset would do a good job so I researched microphones and was directed towards a cardioid microphone. I bought everything I needed to make my office into a studio. I put up towels and sheets to reduce echo, attached screens to the phone, sealed the room to keep the noise floor down, used a tablet computer that is very quiet, and learned some tricks about narration.

One of the things I was worried about was, how was I going to read 120,000+ words without stumbling a few times. I read half-an-hour or more to my kids every day, children’s books, many that I’ve memorized now, and I still stumble occasionally. Obviously this is where editing comes in, but even then, I figured I had to at least be able to read a full page without faults. Again, a little education came in handy. First, everybody makes mistakes while reading, and it doesn’t have to be misreading a word. Mistakes include breathing errors (like running out of breath halfway through a sentence) or not maintaining a consistent cadence or energy level, tongue clicks or lip smacks, ambient noise like a cell-phone buzzing or the furnace turning on, and of course the obvious mispronunciation of a word, name, or sentence.

Click Here for Preview

If you’ve read my book, you’ll understand my trepidation. If not, know that I employ a varied and flowery vocabulary, and when narrating, I realized that I didn’t actually know how to pronounce some of the names properly. I also struggled with French words, not because I can’t pronounce them, but because I naturally pronounce them in French, which sounds a little funny in the middle of an English text.

One of the more interesting and useful tips that I learned about narrating: When (not if) you make mistakes, immediately follow them up with a loud “Beep” sound. (Not an expletive, just a loud “beep.”) This way, when you look at the wave-forms during editing, it will be very easy to identify a mistake and really quite easy to edit it out. Another trick that I employed, regarding breathing, was to take a long pause after every sentence to breathe. I would start each sentence with my lungs full of air and ready. It meant that I was full-chested and able to enunciate as well as possible, but I was certainly sore by the end of the narration.

Speaking of sore, reading 120k+ words took around 13 hours of reading at my natural cadence, after editing, this shortened to 10.5 hours. I knew to be aware of the editing process, but even with warning, I didn’t realize how long it would take to edit the work to my desired quality. I estimate that it took roughly 3 hours for each hour of recorded content, so a total of about 30 hours listening to my own voice.

Editing consisted of making pauses between sentences consistent, reducing and removing any background noises, breathing sounds, clicks and smacks, cleaning up subtle mispronunciations, and clipping out incorrect words. Once I was happy with a chapter, having gone through it thoroughly, I exported the file to a high quality MP3. The software I used was Audacity, which was quite powerful, intuitive, and free. There isn’t a single second of the book that I didn’t listen to, review, consider, and optimize. Every pause between sentences was measured and planned to match the tone of the story. When I wrote the story, I accentuated action and tension with shorter words and sentences, the Audio Book features the same attention to detail. When action is happening, pauses are shorter and the book moves more quickly, when in a descriptive period, it slows down with longer pauses and greater verbosity.

Finally, I had to decide how to publish. I had already encountered ACX, but as is typical of Amazon, they encourage exclusivity clauses and generally pay the lowest royalties available. Hearkening to my mission, I wanted the most people possible to read the book, so I wanted to “go wide” as I had with the book itself. After a bunch more researching, I found Findaway Voices. Findaway takes your book and pushes it out, on your behalf, to 43 different retailers including Amazon, Nook, Apple, Google, Chirp, Kobo, Scribd… They take a percentage of my royalties, but again, money isn’t the goal, I want people to read the book and be inspired or consider new ideas. I uploaded all the audio to Findaway, 10.5 hours worth of highly edited narration of On Swift Wings.

It takes time for the audio to be approved and made available on different platforms. The fastest is Author’s Direct, which is hardly surprising, as it is basically my own personal storefront on Findaway. The slowest (and still not available after three weeks) is Audible, though I’m confident that it will eventually be available there if that is your preferred platform.

Humor | Carrie D. Miller

The book is available. Early feedback has been the the quality is good and my voice is clear. I would love to hear more. I would really love to get more formal reviews, especially on Amazon or GoodReads. I don’t know if I can emphasize how important positive reviews are to an author like me. I know you get asked all the time to review products, and it is because it is really important. The only way that I can get word out about my book is if people see at a glance the formal social proof needed to ease their minds.

Please review my book! Please?

On Swift Wings – Audio Book Now Available

It actually happened a lot quicker than promised, but the Audio Book version of On Swift Wings is now available at an ever-increasing number of retailers. The quickest off the mark was Authors Direct. The early listeners there have reported that the audio quality is good, so I’m thrilled to spread the word that it is available!

Furthermore, as with the book itself, 10% of author royalties will be donated to the Children’s Hospital.

Currently, the Audio Book is available from these fine stores:

Click on any one of them to listen to a sample of the audio. I’m very excited to hear what people think! (both of the story and the audio book!) – Reviews are greatly appreciated!

As with the relaunch, I’m going to write a few articles about the process of creating an audio book over the coming weeks. I didn’t expect it to be an easy effort to narrate and edit a full-length novel, but I also didn’t anticipate how much time and energy it would take. I think that you’ll find my experience informative and interesting.

A reminder as well, in case you weren’t aware (and judging by the view count, you probably weren’t), I’m uploading a chapter of the book to YouTube weekly. You can listen to the On Swift Wings playlist there for free! Don’t forget to Subscribe to get future updates.

Order the book now from Amazon.ca
Hardcover/Paperback/eBook

Thanks everybody for supporting this indie author!
May your world always grow!

Brett M. Wiens

Exciting Announcement – On Swift Wings – Audio book Version – Coming soon

On Swift Wings – Audio Book Edition – Coming Soon

Announcements and news has been sparse from BW Literature over the past few weeks. This is the result of work on a major project that I’m excited to announce is about to bear fruit! I’ve been hanging out in my studio recording audio, carefully poring over the resultant files to remove clicks, breathing, etc. and finally, On Swift Wings will be available as an Audio Book distributed widely very soon!

Work has been completed on the Audio Book version of On Swift Wings. The final audio book is available NOW on Author Direct – https://shop.authors-direct.com/collections/brett-m-wiens-bw-literature and within a couple weeks after that at this long list of retailers:

Authors Direct Audiobooks

24symbols / Anyplay / Apple / Audible, Amazon / Audiobooks.com / AudiobooksNow / AudiobooksNZ / Authors Direct / BajaLibros / Beek / BingeBooks / Bokus Play / BookBeat / Bookmate / Chirp / Downpour / eStories / Fuuze / Google Play / hibooks / Hummingbird / Instaread / Kobo, Walmart / Leamos / Libro.FM / Nextory / NOOK Audiobooks / Papaya / Scribd / Storytel / Ubook / 3Leaf Group / Axiell / Baker & Taylor / Bibliotheca / Bidi / EBSCO / Follett / hoopla / MLOL / Odilo / Overdrive / Perma-Bound / Wheelers

The slowest to approve is Audible (Amazon), but they are also the least generous with royalty payments. As the others become available I’ll be adding links here. Findaway voices is the most generous, and coincidentally, the book should be available from there first. Sign up to my mailing list for an update when it is available there.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.
Findaway – Stark Reflections

The Audio Book clocks in at ten hours and thirty minutes of carefully edited narrated content. This has been approved for distribution after QC by my distributor, FindawayVoices. I found an excellent, up-and-coming narrator to do the Audio Book, and I think that you’ll be pleased with the performance and quality of the recording.

I also want to reward those who have generously reviewed the book. If you have provided a written review of the book, and you are interested, I’d like to enter your name into a draw for one of ten free copies of the audio book. Send me a message on the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BW.Literature/. If you’ve read the book and haven’t yet had a chance to upload a review, there is still a week before it releases. Depending on response, I’ll hold the draw on the ominous Friday, November 13th. Get those reviews up soon and send me a message when it is public. (Note: A positive review is not necessary for entry, just a public review available on Amazon (ca/com), GoodReads

, or any public-facing website.

YouTube Serialization

Youtube Logo transparent PNG - StickPNG

Secondarily, I’m going to serialize the audio book on YouTube, releasing one chapter per week on my new YouTube channel. The goal is to enable as many people as possible to read/listen to the book. I am passionate about the book and what I wrote therein. Help me spread the word!

This opens another avenue for your support. I could really use likes, comments, and subscribers. This feeds into YouTube’s algorithms and helps get it seen by other people. If I get 100 subscribers, I’m actually able to have a custom named channel.

A preview of the first three chapters coming to YouTube starting on Friday!

Indies Today – Five-Stars

I love reading reviews. Especially when a reader seems to have really connected with my writing, but even when they didn’t. I’ve been fortunate that the vast majority of the reviews I’ve read so far have been positive, or, where more constructive in nature, they have at least reflected some of the comments that I had expected to read. I don’t think that any review has shocked me too much, but it is great to see people with honest feedback.

I got a quicker-than-expected review from Indies Today – and my book is currently on their front page!

https://indiestoday.com/on-swift-wings-by-brett-m-wiens/

This is one of my favourite reviews as the reader really seemed to have connected with the style, the humour, and the overall narrative. This is the kind of fuel that helps push me to keep going, and I appreciate the review from Nicky Flowers at Indies Today. I’m so thankful for everybody who has read, is reading, or will read my book, and even more so those who leave reviews!

Order now from Amazon.ca

Thank you all so much. I’m making progress on my next, related project, and with Audacity, I hope that within a couple weeks here I’ll be able to draw back the veil of secrecy and share it with the world.

BW

Readers’ Favorite Book Award Winner

https://storage.googleapis.com/readersfavorite-public/images/finalist-shiny-web.png

A little bonus announcement today as I’m in the middle of editing another project right now. On Swift Wings was announced a finalist in the largest ever Readers’ Favorite Book Award contest. This amounts to a fifth-place finish in the very competitive Literary Fiction category!

Readers’ Favorite 2020 Award Contest Winner – On Swift Wings

I’ve got a couple extra ribbons to add to the cover now, with the 4/4 from OnlineBookClub and this one ready to be appended. Thanks again to everybody for supporting my book. The average review on Amazon.ca is 4.6/5.0 with 11 reviews posted. I really appreciate the support and feedback thus far. If you haven’t had a chance to read the book yet, it isn’t too late! While I’m busy working on a related project, the book can still be ordered in hardcover, paperback, or kindle/ebook versions.

If you’re still on the fence, try giving the preview I’ve posted here a shot. You can read the first five chapters absolutely free!

Order now from Amazon.ca

BOOK LAUNCH LEARNINGS 9: Contests and Awards

PART 9 – LEARNINGS ABOUT WRITING AND PUBLISHING A BOOK SERIES – Contests and Awards

Apologies for the delay in publishing this blog entry. I have been at the beach for a couple weeks flexing some 3D artistic muscles while planning the next literary endeavour.

Fun in the sand aside, I had intended to write one last entry in this launch series about contests and awards. I’ve talked at length about how first-time authors need something to separate themselves from the pack. It is still crucial to get good reviews on all the major sites like Amazon and GoodReads, and some paid promotion is pretty important as well, but I’ve also put On Swift Wings into a number of contests.

Why Contests?

Contests are another way to identify and guarantee the legitimacy of your book. If you can get a reputable organization to award it some note of merit, your book immediately edges up a few notches in the to-read list of not-yet fans. I’ve come across a number of these, and I evaluated them based on what I could find online. Ultimately I entered a few of them and I’ve received some pretty good feedback (and a couple wins.)

Wins and Placements

The biggest win for On Swift Wings came in the ReaderViews Literary Awards. On Swift Wings won the best Western Canadian Fiction category as well as second place in the Humour/Satire category. That was a pretty cool win. It also reached the finals in the IndieReader discovery awards. In a couple weeks, I have one more contest drawing to a conclusion on September 1, but it would be pretty cool to pull another credit down to stick on the cover.

To that end, you’ll note that the updated cover has the awards and some 5-star seals affixed now. This is to help it be recognized and to stand out once more. I’m quite pleased with the new cover, as an aside, it is more representative of the book in general. And it is really cool to put a few commendations and awards on the cover to show off a bit.

Thick Skin

Not all contests will be winners. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you write, not everybody is going to love it. In my case, not everybody can even understand it. On Swift Wings was written in the unique style of Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. Swift is a very talented and well-known satirist, essayist, and novelist. I got feedback from the judge of one contest who absolutely hated the book. They didn’t understand the genre (essay), they didn’t understand the words, they hated the style, and they weren’t even familiar with Jonathan Swift or Gulliver’s Travels. That’s totally ok, if you’re putting anything artistic out there, it can be assured that not everybody will be your fan. It takes a thick skin to read some of the negative feedback to be sure, and contests are no different.

I’m really proud of the good words I’ve read about the book. Most of the negative stuff has either been things that I intentionally put into the book knowing that they wouldn’t be everybody’s cup of tea, or the feedback has been unhelpful trolling, which doesn’t bother me except for the diminished average rating.

Launch Summary

I feel like every day I learn something new about the entire process. It has been, and continues to be a pretty incredible ride. I hope that the blog posts I’ve written will prove valuable to you, whether as an author or as a reader interested in knowing more about the adventure.

Order now from Amazon.ca

If you haven’t yet, please give On Swift Wings a try. I’m very proud of it on a number of levels, and would love to hear what more people think. I’m working on a couple projects related to the book right now. I’ve still got “The Immortals” on the go, but it has taken a backseat while I’ve been working on a (not-so) secret project that I hope to be able to unveil and release in a few weeks. More to do, more to learn, more fun.

Thank you for reading my launch learnings, may your world always grow!

BW

BOOK LAUNCH LEARNINGS 8: Reviews

PART 8 – LEARNINGS ABOUT WRITING AND PUBLISHING A BOOK SERIES – Reviews

While the last blog I posted about marketing might have been the most informative and useful. This post is about something that is probably the most important for a first-time unknown author. Reviews. This post will be split between some thoughts bout reviews and a bit about the reviews that have so far been received about On Swift Wings.

I’ve talked about my naivete when it comes to launching my first book. I didn’t really take into account the importance of reviews until far into the process. I’ve said that I figured people would read the book, tell friends, and it would just take off on its own. Once I launched, I realized that people need to be encouraged to write reviews, even their friends. There are rules about close family posting reviews on sites like Amazon, so I didn’t want to risk their accounts and review abilities, but anybody else is free to post honest reviews. Also, though it is very tempting, I’m not going to risk everything to buy fake reviews. I’m not even sure where to go to get them, and I’m not looking.

On Swift Wings is still starving for reviews, any reviews. I have received a couple dozen in various places, several on Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, a few here and there on Goodreads, and a number of professional/semi-professional reviews from several legitimate sources. (I really need reviews! If you’ve read the book, please help me by posting a review to Amazon and/or GoodReads. The more people who comment (especially with 5-stars) the more people are likely to give it a try. A friend once told me that she wouldn’t buy a book without 100 reviews on Amazon with an average of 4-stars. I have 10, with an average of 4.6. So… just 90 more of you and I’m there! – this is an exceptionally high bar to achieve on Amazon. First-time authors almost never legitimately achieve that kind of review number, so she can only read mainstream published books.

Friends/Family/Advanced Reader Group

The first place to go for reviews should be your advance reader group. The only ARCs (advance reader copies) that I sent out were to my immediate family, who are ineligible to post reviews on Amazon… oops. Relax, sacrifice a little control, and give out copies to friends that can provide feedback and early reviews. It would also help to get involved in shared-interest groups. Find people with similar interests and connect with them. These are also more likely to provide reviews. These early reviews are crucial to achieving early traction.

Giveaways

Another way I tried to drum up reviews was through giveaways. I gave away 100 copies of On Swift Wings through a goodreads giveaway. I was hoping to get at least 10 reviews that way, I got 1 review and 2 ratings. There is a side-benefit of the goodreads giveaway, everybody who applies automatically has the book added to their ‘to-read’, so there are 303 people out there who have the book in their ‘to-read’ folder on goodreads. My guess is that a lot of people enter these giveaways pretty blindly and amass large quantities of free books they’ll never read. I’ll talk a little about giveaways and contests in my final blog post of this series.

Paid Reviews *** NOT PAID FOR RATING ***

The next place that I went for reviews was a number of paid reviewers. Note: These are paid for the time, placement and quality of the review, not for a positive review. You can pay hundreds of dollars for a professional reviewer to read your book and say its horrible. Fortunately, all my reviews came back with 75% or better stars. I approached a few organizations to find me some reviewers, either professional, or just people looking for new books:

OnlineBookClub.org – Arite Seki – 4/4 Stars
OnlineBookClub.org – Snowflake – 3/4 Stars

Reader Views – Paige Lovitt – 5/5 Stars

Readers’ Favorite – Romuald Dzemo – 5/5 Stars
Readers’ Favorite – Liz Konkel – 5/5 Stars
Readers’ Favorite – K.C. Finn – 5/5 Stars
Readers’ Favorite – Ruffina Oserio – 5/5 Stars
Readers’ Favorite – Lesley Jones – 5/5 Stars
Readers’ Favorite – Rabia Tanveer – 4/5 Stars

There are a number of other options that I haven’t explored deeply including Author to Author, where you review a book from a pool of curated works and authors from that pool review yours. It is all blind, so you aren’t reviewing the person who reviewed you, but it is a way to gather more reviews.

Something I hadn’t thought about, but will also do in the future, is to include a note at the end of the book asking for a review. It felt tacky the first time I heard about it, but now I recognize that many people don’t do things like review a book without being asked. Whether they don’t think about it, or they forget. You get a lot more of what you want in life by asking for it, so next time, I’ll ask for it. Also…

Please review On Swift Wings!

(You might notice that the more stars you give, the prettier your review. 😉 )

Coles North Hill – Sadly Closed
Order now from Amazon.ca

Anyway, thank you for reading my blog. I hope that some of the things I have written will be of some value to you. If you feel inclined, I would be thrilled if you gave On Swift Wings a try. It is available all over the place, if you are a fan of your local bookstore, they are able to order it from IngramSpark, it is stocked at a few Coles/Chapters locations, although sadly my local outlet has closed permanently due to the pandemic. Of course the book can be ordered from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indigo, and many other sources. A kindle and eBook version are also available.

As always, I’d love to hear back from you. Tell me what you think.