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:

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Thanks for reading, 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.

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Hardcover/Paperback/eBook

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

Brett M. Wiens

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. πŸ˜‰ )

Coles North Hill – Sadly Closed
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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.

Book Launch Learnings 6: Launching

PART 6 – LEARNINGS ABOUT WRITING AND PUBLISHING A BOOK SERIES – Launching

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This post is likely going to be more about what I should have done as opposed to what I did. I really dropped the ball on my launch. I did a lot of research, but didn’t really know to whom I should speak about doing a launch. While I recognize now the achievement that is writing an entire novel, at the time it didn’t feel so terribly grand. Furthermore, hosting a party in my honour didn’t seem very, well, me. It felt like a frivolous expense to play to my own vanity. I’m a bit of an introvert, though not fully, and putting together a launch party wasn’t my fortΓ©.

The mistake

The biggest mistake that I made, and it is a pretty common one among first-time authors, was that I figured if a book is good enough, it’ll sell itself. My friends and family (most of whom have no literary connections – like me) would read the book, be amazed, feel compelled to share it with their friends who would be equally interested and it would catch fire and go viral, selling quickly and widely. I know that this sounds foolish… and it is. Unfortunately, this was my general mindset. To this end, why would I spend money and time promoting the book when I was confident that it would do it by itself?

Pre-launch Reviews and Pre-Orders

There is a bit of a golden period at launch. This is the time where a first-time author really can collect the stats to push the book. I did alright considering my own foolishness. At one point, three days after launch, I reached a high of #20 on the Satire charts on Amazon. Pretty cool, but I probably could have done better.

What I didn’t understand is how important a launch really is beforehand. I could have given out several ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) to friends, family, and a few assorted websites, with the hope and suggestion that I could really use honest reviews in return, or perhaps their assistance in spreading the word upon release. The whole review thing didn’t occur to me until far too late.

Mistake #2

A second mistake I made was I protected my book too much. I had some content in the book that I felt was timely and ludicrously thought that if I let anybody see the book, somebody would steal it, publish it before me and I’d be left in the dark. This is dumb. I only realize it now, but somebody would have to take a pretty crazy shot to do this. Stealing my IP would open them up to litigation, and it is crazy difficult to get a book off the ground, especially if you don’t have the passion that comes from creating it. Be a little free with your book. Trust that your friends and trusted online outlets aren’t looking for a way to screw you. Besides, your first book isn’t very likely to take the world by storm anyway, as previously mentioned.

Related to this was that I had some material, as was the case with Jonathan Swift, that was contemporary. I’ve hestitated to reveal this, but when I wrote the book, a certain neighbouring country was in the process of electing a buffoon to their highest office. I weaved in a fair bit of satire about politics, and a little about that particular cartoon character. One thing that is holding me back from writing my current book is I don’t want it to be heavily influenced by contemporary political oafs (especially one who will be gone by the time the book is published… please?)

Launch Party

I’ve read a lot about launch parties and street teams. I did sell copies to many of my friends. I have great friends and family and I truly appreciate their support. I should have given them time before the launch to read the book, to comment on it, discuss it, and help me push pre-orders. I should have done this, and I should have thrown a party, not for me, but for them and the help that they would give me right away. I guess that is where I lost the plot, I didn’t realize that the launch party wasn’t for me, but for them. Sorry.

Reviews

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I keep alluding to this, and I’ll write an entire piece about reviews soon, but man are they ever important. At launch, you should have a bunch of reviews ready to fire. They may be your friends who are writing them (be aware of the terms of service that penalize close family from reviewing), but strangers aren’t very likely to respond well to a first-time novelist they’ve never heard of and a book nobody has read.

(Hey, please review my book.)

Advertising

Alright, this one is more about just not knowing anything about this stuff. I’ve since taken a bunch of courses in advertising on Amazon, Facebook (which I’m currently not doing), and Google. It would have been a good idea to advertise before launch to get pre-orders lined up and build excitement. I didn’t even know how to start with advertising. Since last year I’ve learned enough about advertising to know how little I actually know.

Summary

Put your launch a little later, collect your launch team, plan a party to reward them. Research advertising and marketing. Line up reviews before the book goes public. Be less guarded about your achievement. And shoot your shot, don’t let it fizzle. I let my launch be a day on the calendar with a Facebook/Twitter announcement and a bunch of author copies for sale at my office. You only really get one full launch of your first book. It is an amazing achievement to sling together 100,000+ words in a meaningful way. Understand the way the market works. Talk to somebody who has been through it and glean whatever you can from them.

I hope this helps prospective writers out there. If it does, let me know! (and hey, my book is available, give it a read – and please review it!)

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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.

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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

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

On Swift Wings Trailer and Giveaway Update

On Swift Wings – A Satirical Literary Fiction Fantasy/Adventure Novel from Brett M. Wiens

A couple quick updates for current and prospective readers. The official trailer has been released. Thanks to Ravinder18 for his work on this, I couldn’t be happier with the result. Also fun watching my kids who love it too.

The second update relates to the GoodReads giveaway I announced three weeks ago. For those who missed it, I’m giving away a hundred kindle copies on GoodReads. I’m hoping for two hundred entries, and right now, with a little under a week to go I’m at 189! Follow this link: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/302467-on-swift-wings-the-travails-of-cygnus You have a decent chance (~50%)

Thanks everybody for reading and following along. I’m looking forward to hearing from you once a few more have read the book!

BW

2019 Season of Giving

Price Drop, Donations and Royalty Summary

December is a fun time of year, and I’m trying to make it a little bit better in my own way. When I released my book in July, I really knew very little about the art of publishing and marketing a book. I would still describe myself as a rank novice in these spaces, but I have learned a lot.

Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation Logo

One commitment that I made and continue to uphold is to donate 20% of the author royalties and other special events to children’s hospitals. This morning I wrote a check to the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation to support their wonderful efforts. I would strongly encourage anybody who is able to donate to their local children’s hospital as well.

CBE Logo

My second drive has been to try to get my book to as many people as I can. I’ve offered the book to several local schools. So far, only a couple have accepted, but I am handing off a copy this morning to a local school. I’m really excited at the possibility of my book helping to elevate literacy and support our schools as well. For any of you that aren’t from Alberta, there has been a great deal of cuts made to our education budget. If I can help out a little, then I’m thrilled to do this.

FormatPrice
eBook$2.99
Paperback$12.95
Hardcover$34.95

At the same time, I’ve donated several copies of books to the local library, and to little free libraries near my house. This adventure wasn’t about the money when I started, and I still would rather a thousand people read the book and from it earn nothing, than have a single reader give me a thousand dollars.

To this end, I’ve changed the price structure of the book drastically in time for Christmas. (They are as low as I can now make them without taking a loss on each copy sold.) – Prices vary at different retailers.

If you are still looking for your own copy of the book, it can is available everywhere online, and in several local bookstores.

Begging for Reviews

Please
Please Review
Please Post a Review!

One last thing, please post a review of On Swift Wings. Amazon, GoodReads, Indigo, or anywhere else. Better yet, post it to all three! The biggest hurdle I face right now is getting outside of the friend zone. The only way I’ll achieve that is by word of mouth. Recommend the book to a friend, or post a review online. I love feedback. A few readers have been keeping me up-to-date on their progress, and I love hearing their thoughts, feedback, and criticisms. It’ll only take you a minute to type in your thoughts, please help!