Tuesday, October 28, 2014

David VanDyke - An Author Interview in the HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author David VanDyke is the bestselling author of the Plague Wars and Stellar Conquest series.

Author Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy

Website: Author David VanDyke
Author's Blog: David VanDyke's Author Blog
Twitter: @DVanDykeAuthor
E-Mail: david(at)davidvandykeauthor.com
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
Google+: Check Out Google+
Facebook: Check Out Facebook

Author Description:
David VanDyke is a Hugo Award and Dragon Award finalist and bestselling author of the Plague Wars, Stellar Conquest, and Galactic Liberation sci-fi adventure series, which have sold more than 300,000 copies to date. He is co-author of BV Larson's million-selling Star Force Series, Books 10, 11 and 12. He's a retired U.S. military officer, veteran of two branches of the armed forces, and has served in several combat zones. He lives with his wife and dogs near Tucson, Arizona.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

First things first. Let’s start with what’s next. Rumor has it that you have another book on the horizon called Conquest and Empire. Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

Actually I have several upcoming projects. Conquest and Empire won't be the next published, but it will come in 2015 , probably between April and June, and will cap the Stellar Conquest series. I expect it will be longer than the others and will tell the story of EarthFleet's preparation to use its newly captured Faster-Than-Light (FTL) drive to head out into a hostile universe along with its allies: the catlike Ryss, the pachyderm Sekoi, and their former enemies the amoeba-like Meme. All of these races have united with the common goal of ending the threat of the genocidal Scourge, and insectoid race spreading and eating everything in its path.

My next book to be release will be a complete departure, a private investigator mystery called Loose Ends, set in the San Francisco of 2005, probably published under a new pen name that I haven't nailed down yet. The protagonist is a tough female former cop making her way as a P.I. After that will be the next book in BV Larson's Star Force reboot and continuation that started with Outcast and continued with the recently published Exile. It may be titled "Trinity," though that isn't certain yet, and will complete the trilogy to bring Captain Cody Riggs and the battlecruiser Valiant home to Earth - at least for a while, until his next adventure. I have several other projects in the works. Stay tuned.

You have a good following on twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? How did you build your following in your niche? Do you see a carry over to your writing success?

Twitter and other social media was important in getting my start, but it has gradually become less about advertising and more about simply staying engaged. Anyone who thinks social media is primarily about advertising their books is making a mistake, I believe. I try to never spam my followers, only putting something related to my own books when something significant happens - there's a sale, a new release, a new cover or something like that. I myself have unfollowed a few authors that spam too much, so I don't want to be "that guy."

Do you maintain a reader list? What are the methods you use to find your readers and create the list and the relationship? Do you use social media, forums, newsletters and/or support groups to build your list?

We're working on getting MailChimp and Rafflecopter set up to do some giveaways and build an internal email list. Direct opt-in email is a much more powerful way to communicate with my real fans and try to give them valuable information - again, without spamming. A small newsletter of information and observations combined with something others don't get - a free ebook or a giveaway for example - is welcomed by most fans where a "buy my books" plea is not.

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 don't have any readers involved in cover development and I don't know many authors who do. I have seen a few authors put up several cover studies and ask for a reader poll of which one they like best, but this is a cumbersome and possibly misleading process. Readers might pick a cover they like but not necessarily the best one to get new readers interested in the book. For an indie author, building a fan base is key. I try to choose my covers (or have them custom made by artists) with an eye toward fitting the genre and catching the overall feeling of the books rather than some kind of strict accuracy. For example, the spaceships depicted on the Stellar Conquest covers do not necessarily represent any one ship type in a battle, but they do convey the theme of military space science fiction adventure - a question of thematic accuracy rather than accuracy in detail.

Several of you novels have been converted into audio books. What has been the impact on your regular sales? Has the audio books gained a new audience?

I went through ACX to get my books done for audio. The first book, The Eden Plague, was done by a great narrator who unfortunately was not very familiar with ACX processes. He also had a growing career as an actor and that obviously took priority to voicing audiobooks. Because of that we had a rough time with the first book - technical issues related to the production, timeliness, etc. I'm not saying to criticize the narrator - he did a great job as you will hear - but for an author trying to please the fans by getting audiobooks made, I needed a narrator who would complete competently, quickly and accurately, and who was familiar with ACX procedures. I found that man in Artie Sievers, and he's doing a great job for me now.

The advice I would give for anyone turning a book into an audiobook is, choose someone who has done it before, preferably who has a strong track record with ACX and can show you completed work. He or she should be able to point to books that are out and which are rated well on Audible. I haven't seen audiobooks make any discernible impact on ebook sales, but the audiobooks themselves sell around 10% number of the raw copies (e.g., 10 ebook sales means about 1 audiobook sale), not surprising because audiobooks several times as expensive. However, the per-unit royalty is a bit higher, so it is well worth it to make books into audiobooks in my opinion. For authors, any time they can create another version of an existing work and provide it to the customer is good. It's a lot easier to have a book converted into a new medium than it is to write a new books.

I'm not sure if the audiobooks have gained a new audience but I have to presume they have had some effect. Some people "read" almost exclusively on audiobooks, so to reach that segment you have to have the audiobooks available. That's common sense. There is also a segment that wants to use the Whispersynch function on Kindle (or the Kindle app) to listen as they read, so some copies are being sold to people who also buy the ebook. This is a win-win for both author and reader. Amazon gives a big discount to those who buy both, and the author make a little more money.

I like the idea of Author bundles. You are a part of a novel collection called A Killer Thriller Collection - Eight The Hard Way. What was the impact on your other sales? What was the main objective of bundling your works with other Thriller authors? How did you put something like that together?

Anthologies (several authors contributing stories) can be a great way to introduce yourself to a wider set of readers. The readers get an inexpensive collection of works and they often find at least a few stories among the many to like. Then they go on to get books from those authors. This is another great win-win for authors and readers. Putting it together is not difficult, especially for a free book like Eight The Hard Way - no royalties to split makes it simple. One of the authors simply needs to take on the project and get a cover and formatting that's up to snuff. On Amazon, once he or she publishes it, all the other authors simply claim the book as theirs and it will show up on their author pages.

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 am a believer in giving away the first in a series, but no more. I have to make a living, so it makes no sense for me to do more than that. A reader will know after that first book whether he or she likes an author or not. Giving away any more than that seems counterproductive to me. There may be some exceptions - for example, if a series does not have to be read in chronological order but rather is an interrelated series - think of classic mysteries from Agatha Christie where one can read any Poirot book and it will make sense as a self-contained story - it may work to give more than one of those away, but the main purpose in doing so is to take advantage of the big promotion sites like BookBub more often.

As for other giveaways, I will be running my first within the next month or two with some tutelage from my friend, author and blogger Nick Stephenson with the goal of building our direct email list.

You have a great blog. You do a great job keeping readers informed, marketing your books and providing useful information to other writers. What is your primary goal? And where in the world do you find the time to create great novels, take care of the social media and maintain your blog?

Frankly, I don't "maintain" my blog. I'm not a blogger by nature. I use the blog to inform readers about my books and occasionally spout off on a topic. I reblog good blogs sometimes, but my blog is not a big priority right now. Writing more books has to come first.

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?

Reviews come naturally. I put up the books and wait for them to show up. I do have a couple of strong fans I know will like my work so I often give them advance copies and ask them to post an honest review as early as I can to get the ball rolling, but it's an honest review. One way I avoid too many bad reviews is to make sure I take any feedback from those fans into account before publishing. They function as beta readers and if they tell me they don't like something, I try to fix it before publication.

You have written several books with BV Larson. With both of you writing, how do you manage your plots, characters and timelines to keep your stories going? Do you use any software to keep track of your books?

The only software we use is MS Word, the text and notes. Brian and I have a process of writing and critiquing each other that goes back and forth. Early on we will bounce ideas off each other and discuss the plot and outline the book, but after it's set and going, we do more writing back and forth, emailing mostly as we live in different places. In a way, too much unstructured discussion can muddy the waters and slow down the process. It's hard enough with one guy working on a book; with two, there can be endless second-guessing, so we avoid that by writing what we agreed to write and only bringing up issues with each others' writing that seem highly important, rather than "every little thing." And, at the end of the day, it's Brian's universe. He has the final say, though he has accepted and liked most of what I've written, which shows just what a great guy he is. We've known each other since our early teens, so that helps us trust each other as well.

Author's Book List
Exile - Star Force Series Book 11
Lost and cut off from Earth, the crew of the starship Valiant seeks a way home.

In the eleventh book of the Star Force series Cody Riggs collides with the overwhelming power of the Ancients. They fly incomprehensible ships and consider humans to be curiosities.

Caught between ghosts of the past and demons of the present, Cody is abandoned by everyone. His girl, his crew, and even his ships change sides, exiling him in the cold depths of space.

Demonstrating the strength of any Riggs, Cody manages to claw his way back into the game, upsetting the plans of his enemies and his allies alike. The only question is whether or not he’ll live long enough to regret it.

EXILE is a full length novel of science fiction by bestselling authors B. V. Larson and David VanDyke. The first book telling Cody Riggs' story is titled OUTCAST. If you've never read any of the Star Force novels, SWARM was the beginning of it all.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
Outcast - Star Force Series Book 10
Fresh out of the Academy, Ensign Cody Riggs follows his legendary father Kyle into space with fiancee Ensign Olivia Turnbull by his side. But instead of enjoying a quick trip around Earth's federated star systems they are thrown into a battle for their lives as their ship is hurled hundreds of light-years from home with no way back. Fighting hostile aliens and enemies within his own crew, Riggs finds himself facing challenges he never envisioned as he takes command of the battlecruiser Valiant in a desperate bid to survive and return home.

Joined by a new supporting cast as well as favorites from the first nine Star Force books such as Marvin, Kwon and Hoon, this first volume of a new Star Force series delivers all the action and adventure readers have come to expect from BV Larson and David VanDyke. Read it first, or go back to Star Force Book One, SWARM, and experience the saga from the beginning.

The new Saga in the Star Force universe begins with OUTCAST, the longest book in the series. OUTCAST is a full length novel of military science fiction by bestselling authors B. V. Larson and David VanDyke.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
Conquest of Earth - Stellar Conquest Series Book 4
Conquest of Earth is Book 4 of the Stellar Conquest series. Find Book 1, First Conquest, within the anthology Planetary Assault, or go back 100 years to where it all began, the military sci-fi thriller The Eden Plague.

Poised to reconquer humanity's home, Captain Absen and Conquest are confronted with a new enemy that upsets the balance of power and changes everything EarthFleet expected. Their struggle to free Earth becomes instead a desperate battle for sheer survival as they contemplate the unthinkable: total annihilation.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
Tactics of Conquest - Stellar Conquest Series Book 3
Book 3 of the Stellar Conquest military science fiction series. Find book 1, First Conquest, within the anthology Planetary Assault. Or, go back 100 years to where it all began with the military sci-fi thriller, The Eden Plague.

Armed with alien technology and a complete refit, Henrich Absen captains Conquest on a voyage to take back what humanity has lost. Along the way he must confront a new form of life as well as his own demons in this shocking episode of the Plague Wars/Stellar Conquest saga.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
Desolator: Conquest - Stellar Conquest Series Book 2
Book 2 of the Stellar Conquest military science fiction series. Book 1, First Conquest, is contained within the Planetary Assault anthology. Or, go back 100 years to where it all began with The Eden Plague, a military sci-fi thriller.

When an enormous and potent alien ship appears in the colony system of Gliese 370, EarthFleet's Marines must investigate. What they find within will change the course of humanity's future yet again, as they face Desolator. The risks are high and so is the price in blood - and the payoff: new technology far ahead of their own, which may provide the key to fight the alien Meme Empire.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
Planetary Assault - Star Force Series
Sometimes defending those you love means risking everything and attempting the most dangerous task in the universe—making a planetary assault against a heavily entrenched enemy. It's grim and always ugly. But as long as men refuse to bow their heads to conquerors, they will take the fight to the enemy or die trying.

Three masters of military science fiction have come together to tell harrowing tales of high-tech mayhem. In BV Larson's "Army of One" the Macros of the Star Force series invade from the skies, forcing a nanotized assassin into a deadly decision. David VanDyke's "First Conquest" tells of a bitter battle as EarthFleet smashes into an alien star system in a desperate first strike to save humanity. Vaughn Heppner's Space Marines of the Doom Star series race to the Oort Cloud in "Cyborgs!" For them, the hour of desperation has arrived.

Planetary Assault drips of glorious victories and grim defeats as humanity forces its way into the galaxy through sheer fighting ability. Despite their opponents, mankind will not be denied.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
Comes The Destroyer - Plague Wars Series Book 6
When the enormous world-killing alien Destroyer arrives in the Solar System, EarthFleet must use every resource and employ every tactic from sneak attacks to suicide ships to fend off its genocidal intentions.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
Cyborg Strike - Plague Wars Series Book 5
Under the threat of impending alien invasion, when the Professor and the rogue Septagon Shadow cyborg program surface in Russia, the world has a problem. When they seize the government in a coup, the world faces disaster, and Jill Repeth and Spooky Nguyen must do everything in their power to shut them down while fending off rivals bent on assassination and subversion. Earth's nations will need to cooperate to prepare for the arrival of the Destroyer, but Daniel Markis and his allies must overcome violent intrigue, bloody special operations, and underhanded politics to find a path to humanity's survival.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
The Orion Plague - Plague Wars Series Book 4
Guns blazing, Master Sergeant Jill Repeth and her team search the nuclear wasteland for her kidnapped fiancé, while Spooky Nguyen prepares Earth's first-ever Space Marines for duty aboard the experimental battleship Orion. But even commanded by the legendary Navy Captain Henrich Absen, Orion is hopelessly outclassed, and only by supreme sacrifice can Earth be saved.

For now, that is -- because the Destroyer is on its way.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
The Reaper Plague - Plague Wars Series Book 3
With a homicidal alien spacecraft inbound at high speed, Skull and Raphaela fly to meet it in a desperate bid to buy time for the Earth. In the meantime Brigadier Spooky Nguyen presses to build the world's first space battleship while Colonel Muzik and Master Sergeant Repeth fight a life-and-death battle to return civilization to the nuked and plague-ridden nation's capital.

The Reaper Plague puts you in the middle of more Plague Wars action, expanding your favorite characters and extending the most popular story lines from the earlier books.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
The Demon Plagues - Plague Wars Series Book 2
Ten years after Infection Day, Daniel Markis struggles to unite a shattered world in the face of nuclear attack and extraterrestrial plagues, while others grasp for power and dark technologies. Skull mounts a one-man campaign to thwart the fascist Unionists, while Jill Repeth, Spooky Nguyen and his team gamble their lives to change the course of the Second Cold War.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
The Eden Plague - Plague Wars
A Kindle Book Review 2013 Best Indie Award Winner semi-finalist. Thekindlebookreview.net/2013-book-awards/

Rule #1: Try not to shoot your future wife. When special operations veteran Daniel Markis finds armed invaders in his home and it all goes sideways, he soon finds himself on the run from the shadowy Company and in possession of a genetic engineering breakthrough that might throw nations into chaos. Out of options, Daniel turns to his brothers in arms to fight back and get the answers he needs. Soon he takes possession of a secret that threatens the stability of the world, as he leads a conspiracy to change everything.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
Skull's Shadows - Plague Wars Series
Sniper and antihero Skull Denham refuses the Eden Plague rather than giving up the demons that drive him. Instead, he selects his own mission to fight against the ever-growing evil of those who would murder innocent Plague carriers, using the only methods he's ever found effective: swift, precise and brutal violence.

Edgier than other Plague Wars novels, Skull's Shadows is a post-apocalyptic thriller meant for mature readers due to language, violence and adult situations. It provides another view of the period following Infection Day and fills in more of Skull's story before he becomes a key player in the future salvation of humanity.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
Reaper's Run - Plague Wars Series Book 1
When US Marine Sergeant Jill Repeth's blown-off legs begin to regenerate, she thinks it's a medical miracle. But the breakthrough that heals her war injuries is exactly what the government desperately wants to quash - by any means necessary. Hunted, she must cross an America wracked by strife to try to find a family who may already be dead, searching for the inhuman secret of what started it all.

Reaper's Run is an origins story and apocalyptic novel, the beginning of one warrior's journey from tactical cop to freedom fighter and beyond. It leads the reader into the acclaimed Plague Wars futuristic thriller series.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the following blogs:
HBS Author's Spotlight
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Check out the index of other Spotlight authors. Spotlight Index.

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