March 20, 2013
by J. Mark Miller (@jmarkmiller)

Adults Love Gold Stars Too

Do you remember getting gold stars from your teacher back in your school days? I sure do. I remember the feeling of gratification that came with such effusive praise. Sure, I liked getting good grades, but getting a gold star from the teacher, or seeing “Great Job!” written in their handwriting at the top of the page made me want to go out during recess and conquer the world—or at least the playground.

Now that I’m an adult, I still get that same warm feeling inside when someone awards me gold stars. My new book, THE FOUNDLINGS, has been given some very kind reviews on Amazon, complete with—you guessed it—gold stars. So far I’ve received five 5-star ratings, and two 4-stars.

foundlingscover embed 225x300 Adults Love Gold Stars TooBut the gold star that really made me feel great came on Monday. Joel Friedman runs a fantastic blog called The Book Designer. One of his monthly features is the e-Book Cover Design Awards. Authors and/or book cover designers can submit the covers of their published books. The winner gets to display a nifty badge on their website as proof of their award.

I entered the cover for THE FOUNDLINGS in the February contest, and I’m pleased to report that, while I didn’t win the top prize, Joel selected my cover to receive a gold star. This was the first month he’s awarded gold stars to selected covers, and I think it’s because the general quality of submitted covers is on the rise and it’s becoming harder to choose a clear winner. Here’s what he had to say about my cover:

Shockingly good, a superb ebook cover. A highly-focused and genre-specific illustration along with careful typography and a unique series “look” help propel this cover to the top.

I want to thank Joel for the opportunity to submit my cover, and to my wife for helping me take the cover design to the next level. I’ll be proudly displaying my badge here on my blog soon.

Don’t forget, THE FOUNDLINGS is on sale now at

March 15, 2013
by J. Mark Miller (@jmarkmiller)

The Challenge of Writing the Near Future

I’ve been a science fiction fan since I was a kid, and when I dreamed about becoming a novelist, I often thought I would become a sci-fi writer. Fantasy slowly won over during the intervening years, both in my reading and writing preferences. I still enjoy a good science fiction yarn every once in a while, and have dabbled with writing some sci-fi short stories, but I’m almost certain I’ll never attempt a full-length novel. Why?

Because writing science fiction is hard.

I don’t mean it’s difficult in terms of writing craft, that’s pretty much the same no matter what genre you choose to pursue. Sure, being knowledgeable makes a huge difference, but with diligence and research you can manage to work out almost any deficiency in knowledge.

The challenge of writing science fiction, in my mind, is two-fold. First, you need to create something believable, which means you need to be scientifically accurate and plausible. Second, the huge space opera type of stories that explore the vast reaches of the galaxy have been done and done and done again. You have to be a pretty fantastic writer to follow in the footsteps of Clarke, Anderson, and Bova.

So, that leaves writers like me writing about the near future. This means taking a look at modern technology and advancements, doing some research into the current frontiers of science, then extrapolating what’s coming soon but not yet ready for public consumption.

What’s great is when you get it right.

I wrote a short story a while ago called The Last Silent Place. In the story, the main character, Kage, uses her cyber-hacking skills to take over a hive of artificial bees—cybees. I’ll admit that I had read a few things about the concept, and knew that there were scientists and engineers pursuing such things, but I didn’t know until this week how much closer we are to seeing little robotic bees start operating in our world.

io9 posted a story this week about Harvard’s effort to create a robotic bee, and the engineering and manufacturing involved in bringing them to life. We’re still a few years away from real hives of active robotic bees, but the idea has real validity.

I love getting an idea right.

March 12, 2013
by J. Mark Miller (@jmarkmiller)

THE FOUNDLINGS Launch Week Wrap Up

foundlingscover embed 225x300 THE FOUNDLINGS Launch Week Wrap UpMy debut novel, THE FOUNDLINGS, spent five days on Amazon’s KDP Select free promotion last week. I marketed the book to every outlet available to me at the time, though admittedly if I had waited a few more weeks before a big promotion push there would have been some other outlets open.

In reality, the book had actually been published to Amazon the previous week, and it did actually have one sale. I don’t know how that one person found the book, but I’m grateful something prompted them to buy it.

The novel went free on Monday, March 4, and I thought at first I would reserve the other four free promotion days until a later date, but the book sort of took off better than I’d really expected. So, I decided to go ahead and burn all five promotion days to see what would happen. Much of this decision was due to reading what other self-published authors had accomplished with using all five promotion days in a row, most notably J.A. Konrath.

I’m here to report that I’m extremely pleased with the results. No, I’m not going to make six or seven figures off of the novel this year, and no, I’m not at the top of Amazon’s or the New York Time’s bestseller lists, but I’m still pleased. Here’s why.

Before the end of the first free promotion day, my book shot up to #2 on the Top 100 Free Epic Fantasy list on Amazon. It also made it to #30 on the overall Top 100 Free Science Fiction and Fantasy list.

By the end of the five days of free promotion, the book was still sitting at #2 on the Epic Fantasy list:

2 THE FOUNDLINGS Launch Week Wrap Up

And #14 in the overall Science Fiction and Fantasy category:

Screenshot 3 8 13 11 20 PM THE FOUNDLINGS Launch Week Wrap Up


The total number of free downloads across the five days of promotion was 3,037. You might say, “Wow, you gave away a lot of books. That’s a lot of money lost.” Well, yes and no.

Sure, if all 3,037 of those downloads had been paid downloads, my commission on those books would have been $10,022. But the whole point of doing the free promotion on Amazon was to generate awareness of the book. How successful was that effort? In my mind it’s been worth it. I’m not going to be retiring off of the money from book sales anytime soon, but that’s not my goal anyhow.

As of this posting, the novel has been averaging about five sales and one borrow per day. Keep in mind that the entire first week the book was available it only sold a single copy. I don’t know that this sales rate will remain steady—it can and will rise and fall over time—but I doubt it would be at this level without the free promotion.

I’m just excited that not only did over 3,000 people download my book and might eventually get around to reading it, but that five people a day think it’s worth paying for. I already have one review on Amazon from someone who paid full price for the novel. I have no idea who they are, but they enjoyed the book.

Mission accomplished.

Click here purchase THE FOUNDLINGS.