“Beginning” Finished, Available Now Everywhere

The third and final book in my zombie apocalypse series, The Dying of the Light: Beginning, is out! Get it here:

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He awoke and, for the first time in almost twenty-five years, remembered who he was…

Twenty years after Z-Day, a handful of survivors are left in massive underground bunkers. It’s finally time to take back the surface… and yet, as always, the worst enemy is not the walkers, but each other. When a new and deadlier Z-Day threatens, will Eden Blake and the other survivors find a way to defeat it—or doom humanity to extinction?

If you’ve already read it, as I’m sure some of you have, please leave a review! Reviews are the single easiest and best way to support indie authors and small press. As to the future of the series, I currently have no plans to add any more full-length books (sorry!), but will be adding on to the short story companion volume The Walker Chronicles from time to time.

New Project: “Steak Tartare”

My current work-in-progress is a completely different type of story, and will be much shorter, I expect.

In 1948, former OSS officer Jackson Grey just wants to run his LA supper club and forget the horrors of WWII. When he wakes up thousands of miles away on Waikiki Beach, having been left for dead with no memory of how he got there, one thing is clear: the past has a way of catching up with you.

Filled with intrigue, action, and mysterious dames, this thriller will follow our anti-hero as he figures out why he’s been brought 2,500 miles from home – and how he can get out of the mess he’s in. Told in the style of a 1940s version of Travis McGee, this will (hopefully) be the first in a long series of “summer/beach” reads that are fun, interesting, and engaging. I’m already planning for books 2 and 3 (Arroz con Pollo, set in Panama, and Beef Wellington, set in London, respectively).

So far, the notes from my critique group are highly promising, with comments such as “a very Maltese Falcon feel to it” – which of course is exactly what I’m going for. Stay tuned here and on Facebook for the latest and greatest on that.

Upcoming Appearances

I’ll be on at least one panel next weekend at Comicpalooza, “Indie Panel: Self Publishing – The Ins and Outs” on Friday at 1pm. I’ll also have a table in Artist’s Alley – #2305, right next to my friend and fellow Gecko Jessica Von Braun. I’m debuting some of the jewelry I make for Rolling Dwarf Studios, but of course I’ll have copies of all my books to sell and sign!

“The Dying of the Light” Update

Posted: October 8, 2015 by Jason Kristopher in My Work, Zombies
"The Dying of the Light: Beginning" - Cover

"The Dying of the Light: Beginning" - CoverGood news for all of my patient readers out there: Beginning is now in the hands of my editor!

What does this mean? It means we’re on track for a January 1 release date. It also means the book is now available to pre-order on Amazon and the Grey Gecko Press website. If you want to preorder the print editions, you’ll need to go direct through Grey Gecko, but if you’re a Kindle fan, you can pre-order that on Amazon.com. Here are the links

Amazon.com (Kindle only)


Grey Gecko Press (All Editions)

What do you get for being cool enough to pre-order?

BONUS #1: All preorders will come individually autographed with a special surprise bonus gift, and print orders will get the ebook free, as always.

BONUS #2: As a thank you to my loyal and oh-so-patient readers, and only for the earliest preorders, I’ll send you the ebook as soon as it’s ready to go, a month or so before the official release date (maybe sooner)!


More news! The Walker Chronicles: Tales from the Dying of the Light is now free in ebook pretty much everywhere. Here’s the Kindle link: http://ow.ly/Tb6yV

“The Dying of the Light: Beginning” Update: It’s DONE!

Posted: August 31, 2015 by Jason Kristopher in My Work, Zombies

"The Dying of the Light: Beginning" - CoverYes, you read that right. Over the weekend, I finished Beginning, the final book in my trilogy. It still needs revision, but I’m going to bust my ass over the next month to get that done and get it out to my editor. The current release date is January 1, 2016—exactly 3 years after the previous book, Interval. We’re going to do our best to get it out before then, though.

You can preorder the book right now direct from Grey Gecko Press, and it comes with some pretty cool bonus stuff just for you long-suffering and oh-so-patient readers.

BONUS #1: All preorders will come individually autographed with a special surprise bonus gift, and print orders will get the ebook free, as always.

BONUS #2: As a thank you to my loyal and oh-so-patient readers, and only for the earliest preorders, I’ll send you the ebook as soon as it’s ready to go, a month or so before the official release date (maybe sooner)!

I know everyone has been waiting a long time for this – no one longer than me! I’m happy to be able to give you this news. I hope you’ll be patient just a tiny bit longer. I promise, it’ll be worth the wait (at least, I think it is!).

Like last year, I will be attending Apollocon 2015 as a guest/panelist/workshopist. Here’s the schedule of my appearances and stuff.


This year, I get to run one of my all-time favorite workshops, The Genesis of Creation: Where We Get Our Ideas. It’s very audience-participatory, there are prizes from sponsor Grey Gecko Press (my publisher), and it’s a ton of fun.

This time around, I have some great folks helping me out, including George Wright Padgett, Wayne Basta, Shannon Winton, and Jonathan Guthrie! The other panels look pretty cool, too, so come check out this awesome con!

Apollocon 2015 runs June 19th – 21st at the Westin Houston Memorial City Hotel located at 945 Gessner Road, Houston, TX 77042.

Anthony Hopkins Reads Dylan Thomas

Posted: May 7, 2015 by Jason Kristopher in My Work
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My first book series was named after the Dylan Thomas poem Do Not Go Gentle Into The Good Night. I quote the poem in the book, and it’s read by one of the characters. It’s a fantastic piece, and one I’m happy to be associated with, even if third-hand.

Now, I’ve discovered a reading one of my favorite actors did of this poem, and I wanted to share it with my own readers, fans, and friends. Enjoy!

Yes, true believers, I’m working right now (well, not right now, but this weekend) on Beginning, the third and final volume in my zombie series The Dying of the Light.

And for those of you who just want the facts, ma’am, here they are: So far in the last 24 hours, I’ve written 10,029 words, and completed through Chapter 13. The book is 55% done (at a guess).

I’m at a writer’s retreat until Monday afternoon, at a farmhouse in Central(ish) Texas, with several other writers who apparently write a lot faster than I do. They even type faster than I do, which is a pretty intimidating thing. But the point is that I’m working on it, and I’m on target to meet my goal of 25,000 words this weekend.

Your positive energy, feedback, and encouraging comments help, so feel free to leave some! I’ll keep plugging away, and you can watch that little bar to the left get a little bigger every day!

Carrie Patel

This post is a two-parter: read my review of The Buried Life soon (like maybe tomorrow).

In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I’ve known Carrie for some time, having been lucky enough to meet her and read her work at a writer’s meetup here in Houston. It was clear to me from the beginning that Carrie takes her work as an author seriously, and that dedication to the craft shines through in her debut novel.

The Buried Life is coming to print and ereaders on March 3rd from one of my favorite publishers, Angry Robot, purveyor of great indie authors and stories.

The gaslight and shadows of the underground city of Recoletta hide secrets and lies. When Inspector Liesl Malone investigates the murder of a renowned historian, she finds herself stonewalled by the all-powerful Directorate of Preservation – Recoletta’s top-secret historical research facility.

When a second high-profile murder threatens the very fabric of city society, Malone and her rookie partner Rafe Sundar must tread carefully, lest they fall victim to not only the criminals they seek, but the government which purports to protect them. Knowledge is power, and power must be preserved at all costs…

I had the chance to talk to Carrie briefly at this summer’s Apollocon in between panels and events, and she graciously agreed to take a few minutes from her busy schedule to answer a few questions for me and my readers. Many thanks to Carrie for stopping by, and please, go check out her book – and remember to review it!

1. First question, and always the hardest for most authors: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your book, The Buried Life.

I’m a narrative designer for Obsidian Entertainment as well as a novelist, which means I write dialogue and story for computer games by day and speculative fiction stories whenever I can. The Buried Life is my debut novel, and it follows a pair of detectives and a laundress hunting a murderer in an underground city.

2. You’ve taken an oft-told story – that of a murder investigation – and turned it on its ear by putting in a massive, gas-lit, underground city. How did this particular idea come to you?

I fell in love with the setting first and then figured out the kind of story I could tell about it. I loved the idea of a city mired in secrets and decadence and filled with people who were (mostly) willfully oblivious to their own unique history. Starting from there, a mystery seemed like the most natural story to tell.

3. What’s the most challenging part of being a writer, for you?

Weaving a tight, believable plot. So much has to come together for a plot to work—the individual events have to be interesting and have to form a logical and compelling sequence, characters must have enough agency to act and enough vulnerability to face danger, and all of the characters and factions have to be motivated to do the things that actually comprise the plot. So, there are plenty of places where the process can go wrong.

TheBuriedLife-144dpi4. Are you a ‘pantser’ or a ‘plotter?’ That is, do you write by the ‘seat of your pants’ or do you plot out your books and stories ahead of time? If you outline, how detailed are your outlines?

It really depends on the story. The more complex the plot is, the more I need to plan and outline, which I’ve definitely had to do for The Buried Life and its sequel, Cities and Thrones. I like to know the overall plot arc as well as the story arcs for individual characters, so I generally need a rough idea of most of the scenes in the book.

5. You’re a narrative designer for videogames as well. Can you explain some of the differences in writing for games versus writing a novel and what brought you to that creative outlet?

The collaborative aspect is one big difference, and another is that story doesn’t usually come first in games (though the extent to which this is true varies a lot, of course). In most games, the story supports and complements gameplay, fleshes out the world, and gives the player context for her actions. Working out a narrative that fits the constraints of a particular game is often one of the most fun parts of the process.

As for how I got into it, I’ve been a gamer about as long as I’ve been a reader. A lot of my formative gaming experiences were with the old Sierra adventure games, so I’ve always been interested in games as interactive fiction.

6. I was lucky enough to be part of a writing group with you previously. Do you feel writing groups are advantageous for writers? Why?

Definitely. Writing can be a lonely endeavor, and writing groups help foster a sense of community and collective motivation. Critique groups in particular are helpful, too, because they give writers fresh perspectives on their work. They’re also good (and relatively gentle) training grounds for toughening a writer up for critical and editorial feedback.

7. Angry Robot, your publisher, is one of the larger independents. What was the process like, working with an indie publisher?

Angry Robot has been fantastic. Their staff, from the editors to the interns, are incredibly passionate and friendly, and I’ve been lucky to work with them. One (pleasant) surprise has been the speed at which they move—I signed a contract with them in November and had The Buried Life scheduled for release less than ten months later, which is quite fast in the publishing industry.CitiesThrones-144dpi

8. Now that The Buried Life is on its way to stores, shelves, and e-readers of all kinds, what’s in the works for your readers?

Right now, I’m working on Cities and Thrones, which picks up after the end of The Buried Life and addresses the many consequences of events in the first book. Soon, I also plan to return to a draft of a near-future Mars colonization novel, which I shared with a few members of our common writing group!

About Carrie Patel

Carrie Patel was born and raised in Houston, Texas. An avid traveller, she studied abroad in Granada, Spain and Buenos Aires, Argentina. She completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Texas A&M University and worked in transfer pricing at Ernst & Young for two years.

She now works as a narrative designer at Obsidian Entertainment in Irvine, California, where the only season is Always Perfect.

Find Carrie on Twitter and her blog, Electronic Ink.

I Used BookBub to Promote My Novel, and So Should You

Posted: January 13, 2015 by Jason Kristopher in My Work
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TL;DR – This is a long post about my recent BookBub promotion. If you’re not interested in my results or experience with this promotional site, this is not the post for you. If you just don’t want to read the whole thing but still want to know how it went, BookBub was the best $100 I ever spent on advertising, bar none.

UPDATE 2: This post was written on Jan 13, 2015, just after my first BookBub promotion. I’ve updated the spreadsheet attached with the most recent numbers from BookBub, as of April 7, 2016.

UPDATE: I’ve updated the spreadsheet with some new features. See below.

Many writers have heard of BookBub, the daily email service providing book deals to millions of subscribers. From their site:

BookBub is a free service that helps millions of readers discover great deals on acclaimed ebooks while providing publishers and authors with a way to drive sales and find new fans. Members receive a personalized daily email alerting them to the best free and deeply discounted titles matching their interests as selected by our editorial team.

I, too, had heard of them many times, and though it sounded like a good opportunity, their high prices had made me very reluctant to sign up. As the owner/operator of a small press, every single dollar has to be accounted for, every expense has to justify itself many times over. How could spending so much money without any guaranteed results be justified? And just for one day of promotion? I thought it was too much risk.

I was wrong. So very, very wrong. In the end, my promotion on BookBub was the single most effective advertising I have ever done for my book in nearly four years.

I’ve got some crunchy numbers for you in a second, but here’s some important things to note.

  1. Making your book free is not a good idea for standalone writers. I made my first book ‘perma-free’ because it’s a loss-leader. It’s the first book in a series, so readers get to try the series out and see if they like it, then hopefully buy the others. This doesn’t work for books not in series, so I’d recommend discounting your books to 99¢ in that case.
  2. Not every book gets approved for BookBub. You have to apply, and be accepted by their editors. This means the editors will take into account more than just your star rating (at least presumably), and look at the book as a whole to see whether it will be good for their readers.
  3. Not every genre costs the same. BookBub charges different prices for their promotions based on the genre the book is in and how many subscribers that genre has for them. So, for example, the Mysteries genre will cost you the most, with 2.1 million subscribers, and the LGBT genre will cost you the least, with “only” 110,000 readers.
  4. Nothing is guaranteed. They provide ranges and an average downloads/sales for each genre alongside the costs, but they don’t guarantee that you’ll receive even the low end of the range for your promotion. How could they guarantee that? It wouldn’t make sense. So herein lies the risk.

Do I still think it’s worth it? Hell yes, I do. The truth of the matter is that not everyone will receive the response I did. Not everyone will have a good cover, or an enticing blurb, or any of the myriad of other things. You have to go into this with the right expectation and goal in mind.

My goal with this promotion was to gain exposure, not to sell more books or gain tons more reviews. I knew that more than doubling the number of books previously distributed would lead to more sales of the sequel and add-on, and at least a few reviews. But what I really wanted was my book on 15,000 more Kindles and some Best Seller Lists. And I got that. Eventually, those folks will get around to reading them, and then maybe picking up the second and third (when it’s finished), and leaving some reviews.

But the most important thing was the Amazon Best Seller lists. Yesterday, my book reached as high as #13 on the Top 100 Free Kindle books (it’s still #15 as of this writing), out of close to 100,000 currently listed (I couldn’t find an exact number). Also, and just as importantly, it reached (and is still at) #1 on no less than six different category lists:

  • Science Fiction & Fantasy
  • Science Fiction
  • Science Fiction > Military
  • Science Fiction > Post-apocalyptic
  • Science Fiction > Dystopian
  • Genre Fiction > War

Why is this important? Because the book will stay at that ranking (or close to it) for several days, meaning more downloads and more readers. Given what we know about Amazon’s ranking algorithms, the more downloads over a sustained period, the longer the book stays at a higher ranking. Higher ranking = more downloads = higher ranking… you get the idea.

So from a ‘Did I accomplish my goal’ perspective, this promotion was fantastically successful. But how did it fare in downloads, you ask? Well, here are those numbers I promised.

Since May of 2011 when The Dying of the Light: End was first released, I had sold 11,479 copies. In August of 2014, the book was made “perma-free” through price-matching on Amazon. From September through December, I averaged free downloads of 417 per month. In the year prior, the book was priced at 99¢, and was selling an average of 22 copies per month – a long way from the heydays of several hundred sold at full price every month in the fall of 2011.

I noticed a slight uptick on sales of the sequel, The Dying of the Light: Interval, and the followup short story collection The Walker Chronicles, but nothing to go crazy over. I’ve averaged less than 10 of each sold per month since their release.

Yesterday, January 12th, my BookBub promotion ran. End was in the daily email to all Horror fans, was listed on their website in the Horror section (screenshot here , just in case), and was even included on their Facebook post for that day (something also not guaranteed). The email hits inboxes at different times throughout the day due to the mass volume, but it generally gets there sometime in the morning.

Here are the official numbers from all vendors for sales/downloads yesterday:

  • Amazon (all countries): 14,519 downloads
  • iBooks (all countries): 1,862 downloads
  • Nook: 9 sold

For those playing the home game, the total was 16,390 copies. I also sold 16 total copies of Interval and Chronicles, bringing my total net income for the day to $44.77. The cost of the promotion was $100, so after income from sales, I spent $55.23.

That means for every net penny I spent, nearly 3 copies were downloaded. The math speaks for itself, but I’ll give it a voice: there is simply no better advertising method you can actually pay for. Facebook Ads, Twitter Features, none of it comes even close on a per-copy basis.

There is one caveat, though: my book is currently free. These numbers are based on FREE downloads, not paid sales. Still, with this sort of response, I’m going to be looking at the other books published by Grey Gecko Press to see which ones we can spend the money on. Which brings me to my overall analysis of BookBub and a spreadsheet.

I created a spreadsheet based on BookBub’s own numbers to figure out which categories would be worth a promotion and which wouldn’t. Download that and refer to it, or use it for your own promotion planning, if you like.

Not every genre will be as successful, or as cost-efficient, as Horror was for me. Indeed, using BookBub’s own numbers, their Middle Grade category will actually lose you money if your 99¢ book performs on average. Note: I used current Kindle distribution costs for these calculations.

  • Cost of Middle Grade 99¢ promotion: $130
  • Average Sales of Middle Grade books: 300 copies
  • Net Sales Income: (300 x $0.99) x 35% = $105
  • Total Promotion Cost: $25

Every other category will actually make money for discounted books on average, with the lowest being Chick Lit (net sales income of $137 on a $130 promotion). Of course, this assumes your book is 100% average according to BookBub’s numbers. If your book doesn’t perform to average, things start looking worse for more categories, as you would expect.

I suppose they have those ranges for a reason – someone’s performance has to suck, after all – but by and large, most folks that I’ve talked to have seen, at worst, slightly-less-than-average results. Some categories are surprisingly profitable, at average numbers.

The LGBT category is the best performer (by percentage of net income), with a 288% increase for $2+ books. 510 sold on average at $2.99 gets you $1,067 – a net income of $792 on the promotion price of $275. More appropriate for Grey Gecko Press is the Science Fiction category, earning a 255% increase for $2.99 books. 1,610 sold gets you $3,370, netting $2,420 on the $950 promotion price tag.

NOTE: These calculations are performed using BookBub’s provided data. This doesn’t mean that a $2.99 book will sell 1,610 copies. It means that, with their data, discounted books (meaning those from $1+) sold that many copies on average. The lower the price, the more you’ll sell.

Included on the spreadsheet is a section for you to enter your own actual numbers and see how you did. I hope my readers find that useful. You can also see estimated numbers by tweaking the “Estimated Performance” number at the top left, and enter your own custom price if you don’t use one of the standards price points.

UPDATE: I’ve added a section to the spreadsheet called “Breakeven.” This shows you how many books you have to sell at the various price points to pay for the promotion with net profits from those sales. Next to each item is the percentage of the average required to achieve that total. Here’s an example:

The Mystery category requires a $700 fee for listing a 99¢ book with their service. To earn $700 from sales of the book, you’ll need to sell 2,021 copies. (2021 x 99¢ = $2000.79 x 35% [Kindle distribution fee] = $700.28.).

The average copies sold with a Mysteries promotion is 2,960. 2,021 copies (your sales) / 2,960 (average sold) = 68% (rounded down).

Also the most profitable by percentage, the best performers in terms of this percent-of-average were Religious/Inspirational, Horror, and LGBT. Indeed, in Horror, you only need to sell 65% of the average for 99¢ books, and an astonishing 27% of the average for books at $2.99.

The only categories that don’t break-even are Middle Grade and Children’s, requiring 125% and 102% respectively of average sales to break-even, with their 99¢ discounted copies. Their $1+ promotions are profitable though, according to the sheet.

That’s it, kiddos. To sum up, BookBub gained me 16,000+ new readers yesterday, and was worth every dime (and then some). I’m going to be taking a hard look at promoting other books, too. If you’ve had experience with BookBub – good or bad – I’d like to hear about it! Let me know in the comments.

The Pentagon Has A Zombie Apocalypse Emergency Plan

Posted: October 31, 2014 by Jason Kristopher in Zombies
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From iflscience.com:


You read the headline right, The Pentagon has created a plan for what to do in the zombie apocalypse. We’ll leave it up to you whether you now feel safer, or a whole lot less safe.

Not surprisingly, this isn’t something the US military establishment is keen to talk about, butForeign Policy Magazine dug up the document, which helpfully tells us, “Because zombies pose a threat to all non-zombie human life, [Strategic Command] will be prepared to preserve the sanctity of human life and conduct operations in support of any human population — including traditional adversaries.”

CONOP 8888, as the document is known, is dated April 30, 2011, not 29 days earlier (or 28 days later for that matter). The authors are keen to assure us the document is not a joke, but nor is it entirely serious, saying, “The hyperbole involved in writing a ‘zombie survival plan’ actually provided a very useful and effective training tool.”

Read the rest.

Covers Are Important… Case In Point

Posted: October 28, 2014 by Jason Kristopher in Everything Else
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We all know covers are important for books. Here is a fantastic site that shows what can happen when publishers don’t take that to heart…



See the rest of the mess over at Good Show Sir!