Chapter 1 – The Corsair Uprising #1: The Azure Key

The Corsair Uprising #1: Chapter 1Chapter 1 Permafree

Welcome! I hope you enjoy the chapter 1 of The Corsair Uprising #1: The Azure Key. If you enjoyed it, you can download the entire book for free on Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, and a number of other websites.

 


Chapter 1

 

2144 A.D. – Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Liam Kidd stood in an alley surveying the bustling street, making sure to check the sky for surveillance drones. A bead of sweat rolled down his scarred face, which he quickly wiped with a gloved hand before it froze in the cold Toronto winter. His bright blue eyes darted between passersby as he searched for his pursuer. They wanted credits, and if he didn’t pay, he’d end up paying a different kind of price.

Takara was a corporate enforcer and sometimes assassin working for Vesta Corporation, the largest asteroid mining company and the first one to hit one trillion credits in valuation. They were an old corporation with ties to every political office on the planet. Earth needed the precious metals and minerals for manufacturing and some fat cats at Vesta had found a way to deliver them from the Asteroid Belt, holding a tight grip on the supply. Even more frightening was their mafia-like tactics that left countless people missing and presumed dead.

Agents like Takara, a former Yakuza member, practically had immunity from prosecution. The system was corrupt, but Liam had never had a problem with it. Until now. He’d done a few freelance jobs for Vesta Corporation in the past. Nothing big. A smuggling job here and a protection detail there. It was easy money. That is, until millions of Vesta Corporation’s credits went missing and he was the prime suspect.

Liam poked his head out from the alley and decided to take his chances. He pulled the brim of his winter hat low over his long blond hair and pulled his blue jacket close. A gust of wind made his thick Norse jaw quiver, his short stubble doing little to warm his face. The fibers of his clothing were engineered to keep heat in, a necessity during the winters up North, but hardly a panacea for the frigid climate. He kept close to the buildings as he walked toward a growing crowd. It was New Year’s Eve and people were already showing up for the festivities. Liam had never been a big fan of crowds, but he would make an exception, just this once.

When he was intermingled in the mass of people he chanced a backward glance. His heart raced as he searched for her face. Takara was hard to miss. She was heavily tattooed and had cybernetic implants on her arms and parts of her face, her normally graceful lines interrupted by cold, sharp alloys. He didn’t know exactly what the implants did, but he was sure it was all to make her a more efficient killing machine.

There was no sign of her. Liam let himself relax a bit. He needed to sort through this mess before he ended up dead, or worse. Liam imagined being sent to the asteroid mines. Though spider bots did most of the hard labor, they needed workers to maintain their systems and to start the refining process. He’d been on smuggling runs to the Mars Colonies in the past, but disliked the cramped quarters and extended length of the mission. Even with the latest ship upgrades it took about three weeks one way. Too long in cramped quarters for Liam Kidd.

The New Year’s celebration had a number of musical acts lined up for the afternoon leading up to the midnight countdown. Kim-Yoon, a Korean pop star, was singing live on the stage. What passed for ‘live’ was a hologram of them singing live in another location. To be fair, the holograms were so lifelike it was hard to tell the difference, apart from the occasional glitch. The same performance was being broadcast in New York, Rio, Los Angeles and everywhere else. It was almost midnight in Korea, which meant their headline act was about to perform.

The song ended and the air was filled with the screams of teenage girls. Video of cheering crowds from around the world lined the screens on the metal frame of the stage. He couldn’t stay there. Now was his chance. Liam made his way through the cheering crowd, keeping low and using the cover of the masses to shield his face. Any minute a drone could recognize him and he’d be done. Facial recognition would only take a moment.

After a few minutes he reached the edge of the crowd and decided to try to make it to his apartment on Fifth Street. It was only three blocks, but it seemed much farther in the waning light of the sun. He was going against the grain as more people began to show up. He cursed. Liam would look out of place to any trained observer, but he had to give it a shot.

He pulled the brim of his hat down and walked along the smooth grey facades of the downtown buildings. Liam only made it a block before he heard the familiar robotic chirp. It was the unmistakable sound of information being sent from a drone to a user. He looked up and saw a spherical drone hovering above him, a small jet distorting the air below it. Its smooth metallic exterior was interrupted by several camera lenses pointed in every direction. Red OLEDs flashed, making the drone appear to glow in the fading light.

Liam ran. The drone followed closely, continuing to chirp frantically as he tried to lose it down a side street. If Liam didn’t get away fast, he didn’t like his odds. He’d been on the other end before and knew that the more time that passed, the less likely he was to live.

He came out on Third Street, the drone trailing by a few feet as he weaved in and out of passing people on their way to the concert, bumping shoulders with several of them and prompting a slurry of snide remarks. The sound of heavily electronic music filled the air once more and a laser-light show began behind him, sending colored beams of light into the cloudy, darkening sky.

Liam passed a side street that was filling up with food carts for the New Year’s celebration. Alley parties were finally catching on in Toronto, though Liam never saw the point. He couldn’t remember one good experience that occurred in an alley. Yet, dozens of vendors were already set up and serving while a DJ erected his speakers. The smell of countless spices floated over to him along with the brief feeling of heat against his face. When he ran past the alley another gust of cold air hit his face and the long scar on his right cheek seemed to tighten.

He was sprinting now, clear of the bulk of the crowds and in a straightaway to his apartment. Liam was in fairly good shape, not too bulky or too skinny, athletic despite his generally poor nutrition. He thanked his genetics for that. As his speed increased the drone started to trail a bit, unable to match his pace. Still, Liam continued to turn his head every so often to make sure he was losing the robotic nuisance. After taking one final glance backward he turned his head back to his front, where he saw a flash of something metal.

Whatever hit him made him lose his balance on the snowy ground so that his feet dug in and found only ice beneath. He lost his footing and flew backward, landing hard on the sidewalk. His eyes unfocused as he stared up into the dusk, until there was nothing left but a dark grey blotch with sprinkles of white fluttering down casually. The buildings and the sky were indistinguishable to him.

“Takara,” Liam breathed, the wind knocked out of him.

“Liam Kidd. Always making trouble.”

Takara straddled him and put her laser weapon up to his head just below his cap so he could feel the freezing metal tip. He squinted, focusing his eyes on her face. He’d never seen her this close before. She might have been very pretty before all of her modifications. Her dark brown eyes now looked like the leads of a circuit, her fine black hair tied back behind heavily pierced ears. She was dressed from head to toe in form-fitting black leather, itself a testament to her moxie since most countries banned the tanning of leather in the 2070s.

Takara gripped his jacket tight and brought Liam’s face close to hers. “Where’s my money, Gaijin?”


 

 

Well, that was Chapter 1 of The Corsair Uprising #1: The Azure Key. Hope you enjoyed it!

Please download the entire book for Free on AmazonNookKobo, or Smashwords! Please let me know what you think in the comments below! The first book is permafree, meaning it will always be free wherever digital books are sold. If you like the first book, please consider buying the other books in the series.

The Corsair Uprising #2: Nightstalkers

The Corsair Uprising #3: Death Wish

The Corsair Uprising #4: The Lost Corsair

Going Wide vs. KDP Select: My Experience

Going Wide vs. KDP Select: My Experience

Going Wide

The publishing industry today has far more options for authors than were available even a few years ago. When choosing how to get your self-published book to market, there are a few questions that regularly pop up on blogs and forums (KBoards) alike. Chief among them: should I be going wide or exclusive through Amazon with KDP Select? Ugh…

Consensus eludes most forums. However, there are two main camps or points of view which persist. There are authors out there who refuse to go exclusive for any extended period of time, such as J.F. Penn at The Creative Penn. She is a huge proponent of ‘going wide’ and has dedicated a large chunk of her blog and web presence to teaching authors how to do it and how to do it well.


As a person with a business background who understands channels, widely distributing your works makes inherent sense to me. However, that tricky Amazon has created some powerful incentives to remain exclusive to the Kindle platform.

KDP Select

When you publish on the Kindle Direct Publishing website, you have the option to be exclusive with Amazon for a period of 90 days. After which, you’re automatically re-enrolled in KDP select unless you check the box and opt-out. Why do this?

KDP Select allows you access to the Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Lending Library. This means you get paid for how many pages are read from a central fund at Amazon, the amount per page varying from month to month (typically between $.0048 and $.0051 per page read).

I know a ton of authors who make more than 50% of their overall writing income from this program. I myself saw my income rise by more than 58% year over year (from 2015 to 2016), much of it due to KENP (Kindle Edition Normalized Page) reads. In addition to getting page reads, I saw absolute sales numbers increase year over year. This could be due to a number of factors. Kindle Unlimited ‘sales’ contribute to sales ranking, which puts my books up higher in the various categories it’s listed under. This helps.

Although there are benefits to KDP Select, going exclusive has limitations and risks associated with it. For instance, what happens if Amazon miscounts your page reads (as has been reported on the KBoards)? What happens if Amazon reduces the fund amount, thus reducing the amount you make per page read? Also, on more than one occasion, Kindle’s page count for my books has readjusted. This makes sales tracking difficult and changes my pay structure per book read.

What do I do?!?

There’s no perfect answer in this scenario, and likely many ways to rise to the top. However, after about seven years of doing this and coming up in the age of the Kindle, here’s my advice:

If you’re a new author, I suggest going exclusive with KDP Select until you have either several books under your belt or a complete (or near-complete) series of books. Once you have a number of books published, it is easier to make good use of your marketing dollars and one sale can often become many (when customers binge your series). This is where you want to be.

What if I Already Have a Series?

The Azure Key going wideIf you’re already an established author with a series in tow, I would consider going wide. However, dip your toe in first. What I did was make the first book in my series permafree by uploading it to Smashwords and getting Amazon to price match. I am currently in the process of going wide, but I anticipate it will take me a year or two to get there.

The goal with a permafree book is to get it into as many hands as possible. Your first-in-series is a call to action. A reader has no barrier to reading your book except for their time. If you don’t waste their time, you may be rewarded with reviews or with subsequent sales of later books in your series. The longer your series, the more impactful this can be.

It took a while for Amazon to price match Smashwords and the Barnes & Noble Nook edition, but once it did I got more than 500 downloads in a matter of days. Better, they keep coming.

Going Wide vs. KDP Select

The decision to go wide or join KDP select is a highly personal one. If you don’t go through KDP Select in the beginning, I found it hard to gain a following at first. As my career progresses, however, it’s becoming a lot easier to gain a following on other platforms. Still, sales are slower for my non-exclusive books than with my exclusive ones. In a year or two I’ll update this blog to let you know how this experiment goes!

If you have any questions as to how any of this works, feel free to leave a comment below!

Competitive Analysis 101: Know Your Place

Competitive Analysis 101: Know Your Place

Competitive Analysis, you say? I don’t have an MBA…

…You don’t need an advanced degree to do a competitive analysis and understand your competition. Use the steps I outline below and discover how to make your book stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Who are your rivals, and what do they do?

Competitive AnaTry to pinpoint the genre you want to apply your work. I know, I know, your writing can’t be categorized in a little box. That’s why Amazon lets you use up to seven keywords and two main categories. Use them all! However, don’t just make up a genre off the top of your head. If you want to be found in the categories Amazon actually uses, look up Kindle ebooks on their website. On the left sidebar (Shown at left for your convenience). Drill down into the various categories until you find several that have less than 5,000 or 10,000 books. This will make it easier to stand out and reach the top 100 lists (something critical for organic sales).

Once you’ve narrowed down the field, seek out books that are similar to your own. Research the authors, including their Kindle ranks in various categories, social media followings, website presence, number of reviews, and anything else you think might be appropriate. Do this for three to five competitors to get a good idea of the current market and what you’re up against. Based on these real-life numbers, set goals for yourself. If you want to stand out, you’ll need to best these other authors in at least one or two of the areas I just mentioned.

Social Media:

As I said before, research the author’s platform (their website, social media presences, and more). Find out if they have a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, or Pinterest accounts. If so, how much do they post? What do they post? How many followers do they have? How long have they had the account? These are all good things to know.

Covers:

Something else you’ll want to look at is your competition’s covers. Do they use real photos or illustrations? Stock photography (Istock Photo) or a professional designer? What kind of fonts do they use? What kind of color schemes? I hate to say that the cover is the most important thing you can do to stand out in a crowded market, but the reality is that statement isn’t far off. I made a mockup of a nonfiction cover for my recent book Your Time and the initial design was way off base. I did more research and found that using illustrations with cartoony people for Time Management books was far more common. I redesigned the cover and now it looks like the book really belongs in the same field. Whatever genre you’re writing has similar standards that will help guide you to a more successful cover. If you have already published a book and aren’t receiving many sales, compare your cover to your competition’s and see if you need to make a change.

Know Yourself

Competitive Analysis
Your competition may be hiding in the most unlikely of places. Take this mythical Beer Dragon for example.

Sometimes doing a competitive analysis of the current marketplace can give you a better idea of yourself and where you want to go. In between novels or stories, it’s good to reevaluate where you’re at see if you need to make a change. I hope this blog helps you discover your place in a crowded market.

Tell me your thoughts in the comments below. What else do you do when conducting a competitive analysis?