Welcome to my worlds!

I'm James Maxey, author of fantasy and science fiction. My novels include the science fantasy Bitterwood Saga (4 books) the Dragon Apocalypse Saga (4 books), numerous superhero novels including Nobody Gets the Girl and the Lawless series, the steampunk Oz sequel Bad Wizard, and my short story collections, There is No Wheel and Jagged Gate. This website is focused exclusively on writing. At my second blog, Jawbone of an Ass, I ramble through any random topic that springs to mind, occasionally touching on religion and politics and other subjects polite people are sensible enough not to discuss in public. If you'd like to get monthly updates on new releases, as well as preview chapters and free short stories, join my newsletter!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Greatshadow on Audible Giveaway! Follow me on Twitter!

Behold! The last of the new Bridgit Connell covers, this time the variant of the cover for the audio edition read by Jake Urry.

How can you look at this cover and not want to listen to this book? Jake Urry's reading is amazing, and you can listen to a sample here. If you want to listen to the whole book, you're in luck! This week also marks my first week on Twitter! You can find me @JamesAllenMaxey. I, uh, don't have a lot of followers after one week. Twelve, to be exact. So, as an incentive for following me, I'll be giving away free codes to download Greatshadow from Audible. Starting Monday, 12-4 and continuing until Sunday, 12-10, I'll be randomly selecting one follower a day to receive a code for a free download! Sign up before Monday and you'll have seven chances to win! (Though, you can only win once.)

See you on Twitter!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Jake Urry returns! Hush is coming to Audible early next year!

Today I can reveal the real reason I decided to have Bridgit Connell update my covers for GREATSHADOW and HUSH instead of working with her on one of my upcoming books. The same week I met Bridgit, I heard from Jake Urry that he was going to be able to add HUSH to his recording schedule. If you haven't yet heard Jake's performance on GREATSHADOW, you're missing out on a truly satisfying audiobook experience. GREATSHADOW is a demanding book for any audio performer, blending high adventure and high comedy, and shifting between passages of philosophical ruminations on the meaning of truth into crude jokes about bodily functions. Jake tackles it all with style. I've heard his early chapters of HUSH and can report this is going to be another audio masterpiece.

Learning that Jake Urry would return for HUSH made me realize that his great readings deserved a great new cover. Behold! Bridgit's cover formatted for audio!

HUSH should be ready for download early next year. I'll keep posting news here, but an even better way to get the news is to sign up for my newsletter! Just use the contact form on this page to drop me a line.

Tomorrow, I'll reveal the new GREATSHADOW audio cover and a great offer on how to get the chance to listen to it for free. But, if you're an Audible subscriber and already have credits, why wait? Grab the book today!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

New Hush Cover! Get the ebook free!

Behold, Bridgit Connell's awesome new cover for HUSH: Book Two of the Dragon Apocalypse!

Bridgit sent me a couple of advance sketches for poses and the second I saw this I knew it was perfect. The gemlike head of the Gloryhammer delights me. It's much better than how I was seeing the weapon in my imagination. And, like the GREATSHADOW cover, I adore the use of colors here.

If you want to grab a copy of HUSH, you're in luck! I'm going to have it available as a free ebook from now through the end of the year. I'm still waiting for the new cover to show up on Apple or Kobo, but it's now live on Amazon. Download it today!

Tomorrow, I'll have some more news about the Dragon Apocalypse. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 27, 2017

New Greatshadow Cover by Bridgit Connell

A few weeks ago I blogged about the pros and cons of selling books at conventions. One benefit I didn't mention is that you get to meet a lot of other creative types selling their wares in the tables near you. I learn a lot talking to other authors about their marketing and production processes, and I get to see a lot of amazing artwork in a fantastic range of styles that always gets me thinking about making changes to my covers. Meeting Mike "MEZ" Phillips at Oak City Comicon this year lead to a whole new range of covers for my superhero novels.  

A few months ago at the Greensboro Comicon, I sat a few tables away from an artist named Bridgit Connell. Her artwork caught my eye, but not because of dragons. She actually didn't have a single dragon on display that I saw during the con. What she did have was amazing skills with colors and a line style that was simple and expressive. It reminded me of P. Craig Russell blended with a touch of Kevin O'Neill. The best element of her style that stood out for me was that she knew how to capture a story in a single image. I got her contact information and started thinking about potential covers I might collaborate on with her in the future.

I'm now ready to unveil the first cover she's produced for me. I'm going to be announcing news about the Dragon Apocalypse universe this week, and revamping the existing covers was an important first step to laying the groundwork of future success. So, behold Book One of the Dragon Apocalypse: GREATSHADOW!

I won't have a new print edition of this book until early next year, probably in time for Oak City Comicon. But, if you want to grab the ebook, it's a steal at $3.99 on Amazon!

This is just the first bit of art from Bridgit I'll be unveiling this week, and also just the first bit of news. Tomorrow I'll reveal the Audible variant of this cover, and tease out a little more news about what's in store for this series.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Big Ape, V2, Complete! Beta readers needed!

Woohoo! I just finished the second draft of Big Ape!

If I may offer a completely unbiased opinion, this book absolutely rocks. It's got robotic dinosaurs, a hidden city in the jungle, mystery, romance, humor, over the top fight scenes, and, of course, in the middle of it all, a really big ape named Harry Moreau.

The overall plot kicks off from a fairly standard place: Harry gets framed for a murder he didn't commit and spends the rest of the book one step ahead of the superheroes hunting him down. I would say he spends most of the book trying to prove his innocence, but he actually spend most of the book trying to prevent the death of all humanity at the hands of a pair of genius supervillains. It's also a coming of age tale, as Harry starts the book as a confused young man-ape and ends the book as a confused young man-ape, but now he's confused about different things. Character arc achieved!

I'll be plunging into a third draft soon. If anyone is interested in reading chapters as I crank them out and offering feedback, just email me at nobodynovelwriter (at) yahoo.com. A free signed copy of the print edition will go out to anyone interested in reading this draft!


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Selling Books at Conventions

I used to attend a lot of science fiction conventions as a guest. Occasionally I’d do signings and readings, and a few cons I go to have author tables you can use to sell books for the whole weekend. My sales at this type of convention are seldom spectacular. If I sell more than ten books I consider them a success.

A few years ago I started selling books in the Artist Alley at comic book conventions. I’d written superhero novels, so I figured there’d be an audience for my work. To my surprise, I sold many more books at these conventions than I did at science fiction conventions, but it wasn’t my superhero novels that were selling, it was my epic fantasy. Maybe it’s counter-programming. There’s so much superhero stuff at the con, it’s hard for me to stand out. There’s a lot of overlap between comic book readers and fantasy readers, and sometimes I’m the only fantasy author at a convention, so my books don’t have as much competition.

When I first started going to cons, I tried to split the cost of a table with other authors. A cheap table is going to cost $150 and really big cons will charge $300 or more. By the time you factor in the cost of the table and the cost of inventory, it’s easy to worry you won’t recover your investment. Fortunately, with one exception, I’ve at least broken even at every con and usually turn a nice profit without sharing a table.

Even if I weren’t making money, the conventions would still be valuable. At most cons these days I get a lot of signups to my mailing list. This is a good base for future marketing. Even more valuable is watching the real time reaction of people to various covers. My Dragon Apocalypse collection has a cover that draws fantasy readers like a magnet. Since publishing the collection, it’s usually my best seller at cons. In the course of selling it again and again, I’ve polished my pitch, learning what people respond to. I used to try to sell my books by talking about plot or characters, which are, of course, the things that I find most interesting about the book. For a while, I’d also make references to other, better known fantasy authors, saying if you like this author you’ll like my work, but I too frequently found out that people hadn’t read the authors I was referencing. Instead, the pitch that again and again lights up customers’ eyes is when I describe Greatshadow, the first book of the Dragon Apocalypse, as a tribute to my D&D roots, a sword and sorcery dungeon crawl where a bunch of powerful adventurers team up to kill a dragon and take its stuff. It’s concise, accurate, and sells the book again and again.

Of course, not all potential buyers want to listen to your pitch. A lot of readers want to pick up the book and read the copy on the back. Fortunately, I’ve been getting better at writing back cover copy. My back cover copy for There is No Wheel has sold the book more than once, and I’ve learned to trust the cover of that collection as well. The cover has a certain creepy feel to it and a reader attracted to the cover is probably going to be attracted to the stories within.

Readers of my blog probably notice I revise my book covers fairly often. If people ignore a book con after con, it’s time for tweaking. If people read a back cover and have no reaction at all, I also know it needs to be reworked. 

Let’s say you do decide to take the plunge. Aside from a table and some books, what else do you need?

The top priority is an obvious one, business cards. Bookmarks are also a good investment. I’ve never seen the point of postcards, but a lot of people have them. I have a table banner with a catch phrase “A guy who writes stuff” that a lot of people smile at, so it’s worth every dollar I spent on it. I also have a couple of retractable banners. The last con I did I used a Dragon Writer banner and tried out a Burn Baby Burn banner. I definitely sold more superhero novels this time than I had in previous years. Retractable banners can be purchased for under $100, sometimes under $75. Almost everyone in a convention hall with have them, so they are now part of the package of looking like a professional.
My table at Bull City Comicon.

Also part of being a professional: Taking credit cards and having good accounting. I use Square for all my transactions now, both credit and cash. I’ve added every book and set of books I sell as preset items. As the con goes on, I get instant reports on what I’ve sold and also keep track of which books are selling best. So, at NC Comicon I can see I did 40 sales. A lot of these were sets, so I actually sold 63 books. Last year at the same con I sold over 100 books, but I was at the end of a row where I was the first table people saw when they came through one of the doors into the hall. This year, I was stuck in the middle of a row. Location is really important, but, unfortunately, you don’t really get to pick which table you’ll be assigned to. Still, I made money, and gathered data. My Dragon Apocalypse collection sold 10 copies, making it my bestselling title. But, Nobody Gets the Girl, my superhero novel which normally doesn’t sell well, sold 7 copies, almost certainly due to the attention the Burn Baby Burn banner drew to my superhero novels. In all, I sold 15 superhero novels.

Square also lets me look at data for the year. I did six comic conventions this year, Oak City, Supercon, Greensboro Comicon, Fayetteville Comicon, and NC Comicon. I’ve made 223 sales, many of them sets, so I’ve easily sold over 300 books. I can confirm that Dragon Apocalypse didn’t just do well at the last con. I’ve sold 55 copies this year, so by itself it accounts for 1/6th of my sales.
But, I’m getting bogged down in specifics, and should be talking about the generalities. The point is, if you use Square or a competing service to track your sales, you’ll be able to see sales trends that might help you focus your energies on what you should be writing. It’s definitely a big reason that I’ll be shifting back to dragons after finishing my current superhero series.

Before I got sidetracked on Square, I was talking about what you need for supplies. One thing I overlooked early on was bags. Believe it or not, I lost some early sales because people didn’t want to buy a bunch of books if they didn’t have an easy way of carrying them. I also have table flare. Since I sell dragon books, I have stuffed dragons and dragon miniatures. I also buy cheap plastic toy dragons off Amazon and give them out to kids too young to read my books. Discovering that my table often draws children has been an important lesson. I’m now planning to write a series set in my Dragon Apocalypse universe aimed at younger readers. I want that allowance money!

I think I have an advantage over some authors in that I do have a pretty good variety of titles. If people like science fiction, I steer them to Bitterwood. High fantasy, Greatshadow. For steampunk, I have Bad Wizard. For less genre specific readers, my short story collections are a good fit. I also have a nice variety of price points on the table. I sell some sets of books for $35, but have a lot of books that I price at $10, and this year I’ve been adding a clearance box where I’m selling books with old covers or some damage for $3. We spilled coffee on the table and stained some books on the edge of the page. I couldn’t have sold them at full price, but I had no trouble selling them for $3, and the alternative would have been to trash them. I also wound up giving away two coffee-stained parts of a trilogy to make a full price sale of the third book in the set. While the lesson of having a lot of price points is a good one, an even better one is don’t set coffee on the same table as the books, ever!

Set up and break down is a lot of work. You will definitely need to invest in folding hand trucks. For my last con I carted in 8 cases of books. This turned out to be overkill, but I’ve been to cons where I’ve sold out of books where I was sure I had all the copies I needed. I now have three hand trucks. Two are useful if I have to haul books through rough parking lots, plus I have a big flatbed cart that’s only good on smooth, flat surfaces. But, at some convention centers, you can drive your vehicle right onto the convention floor to unload, so the flatbed lets me get everything in two trips, versus five or six trips with smaller carts.

Don’t pursue selling books at cons if you can’t stand the accounting. You need to keep track of every dime you spend and document every receipt for taxes. Also, I pay sales tax on everything I sell in North Carolina, and it’s a real pain when you’ve sold books in different counties during the same quarter, since you have to divide up your sales in different tax jurisdictions with different local rates. I meet a lot of people who don’t worry about paying sales tax since they don’t feel like they are doing that much in sales. But, my revenue has grown every year I’ve been doing this and I’m glad I started keeping up with the taxes early on when my con revenue was a few hundred each year instead of a few thousand.

Also, don’t get into this if you have a fragile ego. For every customer who stops at my table, I have a hundred walk by with absolutely no interest in my wares. And, of those who stop, I sell books to maybe one in four. People have very specific tastes and sometimes your books just don’t fit those tastes. I give my pitch to some people and can see them lose interest. Or, they really are interested, but are also on a budget, and deciding whether to spend money on you or on an original drawing from an artist two booths down, and they decide to go for the art. You also get a lot of people who are interested in writing their own books, want advice, but have no intention of reading your work.

The flip side of this is you’ll run into people who’ve actually read your work before and are more than happy to tell you how great the book was. At Supercon, I had someone tell me James Maxey was one of his favorite authors when he saw my books, only to then realize that I was, in fact, James Maxey. A lot of these encounters don’t sell a single book, since they already own my books, but it’s still nice learning you’re connecting with readers.

So, if you have books to sell and want to give cons a shot good luck! Hopefully you’ll find it as rewarding as I have.