Thursday, January 9, 2014

Colin F. Barnes - An Author Interview in the HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Colin F. Barnes. He is a Hybrid writer of dark fiction & Technothriller novels.

Author Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Thriller,Cyberpunk

Website: Colin F. Barnes
Author's Blog: Colin F. Barnes
Twitter: @ColinFBarnes
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Author Description:
Colin F. Barnes is a publisher and full-time writer of suspense and techno thrillers and a member of both the British Fantasy Society and the British Science Fiction Association. He honed his craft with the London School of Journalism and the Open University (BA, English).

Colin has run a number of tech-based businesses, worked in rat-infested workshops, and scoured the back streets of London looking for characters and stories--which he found in abundance. He has a number of publishing credits with stories alongside authors such as: Brian Lumley, Ramsey Campbell, and Graham Masterton.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

Congratulations on your book: Annihilation Point. What do you have on the drawing board next? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

Well, I’m currently finishing up a prequel novella in the same world as Annihilation Point (The Techxorcist). That’s due out in late January in print and ebook, and also a full production audio version, which I’m really excited about. My produce has made a sample of that available here:

You have a good following on twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? How did you build your following in your niche? Did you use forums, newsletters and methods like that?

I think social media serves a good purpose in connecting with readers. As long as you’re willing to engage and share good content and not just ‘Buy My Book’ links it can be a rewarding platform. In terms of how I built my following, I did it organically, following people who I thought I would enjoy talking to, and tweeting them. Some I follow for the news they post so that gives you an idea that users of twitter want good content so I try and share news that relates to my genre along with news of my work. I’m not active in forums as I can end up spending too much time there, but I do have a newsletter that I use to inform my subscribers of new releases, freebies and interesting news.

You have great covers. They carry a theme and your brand with them. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?

I do my own covers as I have a graphic design background, and over the years I paid a lot of attention at how publishers positioned their authors. They always carried a brand across titles, and especially so with series. I always like to have a unifying theme, whether that be the actual design, typography, or color scheme. I do tend to get feedback from my readers at a fairly early stage, usually by offering a number of choices and seeing which ones resonate the most. It’s really helpful to have that instant reaction to find out what catches the eye and communicates the book.

You have written several short stories. Can you tell us if they had an impact on the sales of your novels? Are shorty’s one of your styles of writing or are they created to give readers a sample of your work?

I definitely like short stories for their own right, and so far I’ve not written any to funnel readers into my novels. I did try that, but I end up going to long and writing novellas instead! In terms of sales, they’re disastrous and I’ve stopped publishing short stories. I think there’s an opportunity for perhaps a collection once I have a bigger following, but for now my focus with short stories is to try and sell them to pro markets to help raise my profile and introduce readers to my work that way. Trying to sell short stories as a self-published is a really hard deal in my experience.

What writer support groups do you belong to? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?

I don’t belong to any specific groups. I used to be involved with some writing groups when I was learning my craft, but over time I’ve come to learn to be focused on the work myself. I do, however, have a group of people who help me with the publishing process; beta readers, editors, and some reviewers, which can help with marketing a book in its first few weeks and months. Occasionally I frequent the Writer’s CafĂ© on the Kboards where many other indies share their insights. It’s a good place to drop in and find out what marketing avenues are working (or not).

What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?

I made my first book in the Techxorcist series ‘permafree’ on the various retailers (Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Apple). This has been really good. It’s like free advertising for the rest of the series. I can also buy ads to promote the free book and drive yet more people into books 2 and 3. It’s been very positive. Unless you’re a well-known author or you have already gained a large readership, it can be really difficult to get readers to try you out. By reducing the financial risk to zero, it encourages new readers to try you out. If they like you, then there’s paid books at the other end waiting for them. It’s like giving out free cheese or sausage samples at the supermarket; if you taste one and you like it, the chances are you’re making an extra, unscheduled purchase that day.

How do you start your book launch process for a new book? Give a brief outline of the steps you go through to get your book to market. What methods were the most successful?

This is an area I’m still working on. I tried doing a blog tour for Assembly Code and given the amount of work involved for the return, I don’t think it’s effective. It can be good for certain genres where you have blogs with huge amounts of readers (romance particularly), but for me it was a bust. Now I tend to do a cover reveal on my blog and my social networks, announce a launch date and just try to keep people informed as I get closer to launch day. I’ll send out as many advanced-copies to reviewers as possible so that I have some reviews in the first few weeks.

My next launch will be more structured and ad-supported with the various bargain book newsletters and blogs. They can be really effective, and if your book catches, the Amazon algorithms can kick in and really get it going in those first 30 days when you’re on the ‘Hot New Releases’ list.

Living in England creates a unique selling and marketing situation. Where is your biggest audience? Does marketing online help in this situation?

I often wonder whether being in England doesn’t actually make things more difficult. I sometimes wonder if it puts people off. I’ve had some readers complain about my books using British English instead of US English, but other than that, I don’t think there’s anything different in terms of marketing. There are very few offline marketing opportunities that are effective for writers. These days, everything’s online, so we’re competing in a global market. That means competition for spots on advertising promotions, blog space, Twitter and Facebook attention etc.

One downside to being in England is the time difference. Often, when I’m up and on the social networks, I’m anywhere between 5 and 8 hours ahead of Americans and Canadians who make up 90% of my audience. The UK is a very small market in comparison. So I have to use schedulers to put out tweets, status updates, and blog posts so that my audience is more likely to see them. But then I’m not around to interact as I’m asleep, so it makes it harder to engage.

What is your method of getting reviews for your novels? Do you seek professional reviews, use social media or do you rely on your reading audience to supply them?

I’ve built up relationships with a number of kind reviewers who are willing to read my new stuff as it comes out so I can rely on a number of those. I don’t seek professional reviews as such. Other than Kirkus, who charge a fortune, there are very few outlets who will read indie works, so I have to rely on a number of book bloggers who’ve reviewed me before and asking my readership to leave reviews. Unless your book sells in great numbers, getting reviews, and the exposure they bring can be tough. There are new services that offer various ways of reaching reviewers, but they have mixed results and it can be a money sink. Some people have luck with using Goodreads by engaging with the forums there and doing giveaways. I’ve not had the same luck.

Do you find that the Cyberpunk genre marketplace is wired into social media and a younger generation? Is your audience easy to find because of that?

That’s an interesting question, and I think the younger generation have bypassed Cyberpunk altogether. It’s an old genre that was big in the 80s and quickly died off to dissolve into wider-ranging genres. There are cyberpunk groups around, but engaging them isn’t easy. Maybe I’ve not perfected my approach yet, but so far, most of my readers seem to be older. I wonder if there are many younger people reading cyberpunk and the harder edge of science fiction as opposed to the huge amount of YA that’s aimed and marketed directly to them. It’s certainly an area I’ll like to experiment with more and see if I can bring my books to younger people.

Author's Book List
Annihilation Point - Book 3 of The Techxorcist
The third instalment of the best-selling (#1 Cyberpunk) series.

How much sacrifice should anyone have to give?

Petal and Gabriel are forced to decide, as the mad, digital entity, Elliot Robertson, is determined to dominate the world. His influence, spread by an insurgent group, The Ronin, seeks to control and enslave the last of humanity.

With time running out, Petal and Gabriel must travel to the far reaches of the abandoned lands in order to repair a server they believe will be the key to defeating Elliot and his ronin. All the while, Petal has a ticking time bomb inside her head: Gerry Cardle’s uploaded consciousness. The code of which is mutating, but to what end?

Together with their few allies, Petal and Gabriel must face either victory or total annihilation.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Amazon UK
Assembly Code - Book 2 of The Techxorcist
Book 2 of the #1 Cyberpunk technothriller series: The Techxorcist.

Being human is no longer enough to save humanity.

The fanatical Red Widows sweep destruction across the abandoned lands. Their aggression threatens to destroy the city Gerry had risked his life to save. Petal, the woman Gerry has come to love is dying. The despotic cabal, The Family, demand he brings her to them, but she's missing, running from the Widows, searching for the truth of her origins before it's too late.

When their paths cross, Petal and Gerry will hold the fate of humankind in their hands--if they can survive the malevolent digital entity that stalks them from the shadows.

Assembly Code is a post-apocalyptic, near-future thriller that will delight fans of The Matrix, Neuromancer, and Blade Runner.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - iTunes - Amazon UK
The Daedalus Code
When agents Phaedra and Aegeus of New Crete's Intelligent Data Enforcement Agency are tasked to find five missing Artificial Intelligence students, their single lead takes them to a notorious hacker known as 'The Cretian.'

With his help, they uncover a terrible truth: Ariadne, one of the students, is involved with a rogue AI program called The Daedalus Project. The AI is out of control, people are going missing, and a great swathe of the world’s data is being secured within its digital labyrinth.

Putting all their trust in the hacker, not only are the agent's careers and the student’s lives in jeopardy, but also the very freedom of the public hangs in the balance. Their only hope lies in The Cretian, a rogue hacker who's only out for himself.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - iTunes - Amazon UK
Heart for the Ravens
A love of science meets a burning desire for life.

In the traditions of Poe and Shelley, Heart for the Ravens is a gothic horror story set in the 19th century following a heroine in search of a man with a good heart.

Katerina Roeslling is the daughter of a wealthy businessman and resents being treated as just another asset by her father. When she meets Willhelm, a rough-hewn, but charismatic, soldier, she thinks he is the right man for her, but he is just the start of a tragic nightmare.

Katerina has to fight her demons of guilt and grief and face her true fate at her family’s Whitby summer home ‘Ravendale.’

It is there she’ll discover what she is capable of and what continues to haunt her from the shadows.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Amazon UK
Artificial Evil - Book 1 of The Techxorcist
Humans are no longer the biggest threat to survival.

In a post-apocalyptic future, humanity survives within a single domed city run by a shadowy benefactor known only as The Family. Each week the death lottery claims more lives and Gerry Cardle, head of the lottery, inexplicably finds himself the next on the list.

Something's wrong with the system. A deadly artificial intelligence has breached security. Gerry has just 7 days to live. Forced off the grid, he must do the unthinkable...willingly leave the city and everything he knows. What will he find in the abandoned lands? How will he survive? What if everything he's ever been told is a lie?

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - iTunes - Amazon UK
Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the following blogs:
eBook Author’s Corner and HBS Mystery Reader’s Circle

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