Jeff Seymour - Author of Fantasy, Literary Fiction, & c.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

January is Bleak and Cold --- PUT EVERYTHING ON SALE!

Hey everybody! I'm proud to announce what I hope will become an annual tradition. Reaching deep down into my bag of poetical, lyrical language, I'm going to call it the BEAT WINTER Sale!

Basically, January sucks (although actually, it's beating the heck out of November and December this year). And what better way to fight the winter blues than by losing yourself in some free or $0.99 books? Over the next week and change, I'm putting my entire catalog on sale, so dig in and enjoy. There's no better time than now to share your favorite book with friends!


SOULWOVEN - FREE on and 1/16 - 1/18 and 1/24 - 1/25

The first book in a dark epic fantasy series, SOULWOVEN follows two brothers and their friends as they try to stop the release of a dragon that will destroy the world. Called "artistic perfectionism" (Kirkus Reviews) and "a call back to the classic Epic Fantasy of Tolkien" (The Speculative Post), the book has over a million reads on Wattpad, and one of its key lines has been quoted thousands of times on Pinterest.

SOULWOVEN: EXILE - $0.99 on and 1/23

The highly anticipated sequel to SOULWOVEN, SOULWOVEN: EXILE tracks the continuing travails of Litnig and Cole Jin. More and more is stripped from them as they strive to save their world from the dragon, and the darkness of existence asserts itself ever more deeply in their lives. Released on 12/12/14, the book was an immediate hit with reviewers, who said it "captures the horror and the brilliance of the human spirit" (So I Can Read!) and "builds excellently on the strong base it establishes in the first instalment" (The Speculative Post). It ranked #12 on The Speculative Post's Top 20 Books of 2014.

THREE DANCES - FREE on and 1/16 - 1/18 and 1/24 - 1/25

A boy runs into the supernatural on his way to ask a girl to dance. A young woman wakes up hung over in a goddess’s bed. A mountain climber falls into a crevasse and hears the story of a glacier’s life. Jeff's debut short story collection, THREE DANCES explores gender, sexuality, youth, and oddness in the midst of beauty. See what came before SOULWOVEN, and why people liked Jeff's writing enough to fund his Kickstarter.

WHAT LIES IN DARKNESS - FREE on and 1/16 - 1/18 and 1/24 - 1/25

Read Jeff's first foray into horror - a dark short story about a girl fighting off a supernatural being that takes over houses and eats the hearts of those who live inside. WHAT LIES IN DARKNESS was the result of the first All Hallow's Write event, and it's been a hit whenever Jeff reads it aloud ever since. Audio book coming soon!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Some Marketing Thoughts - Stars and Algorithms

Several months ago, I was e-mailed a link to a chapter from a technical book that explains how recommendation algorithms work. Because of the holidays and the Soulwoven: Exile launch, I only got around to reading it this afternoon, and I want to share some musings. As I was promised, it was interesting to think about how these algorithms are actually designed and how one, as an author, ought to try to take advantage of them.

The book in question can be found here, and the relevant chapter downloaded here.

In 9.1.1, it shows an example of what it calls a "utility" matrix. It posits some hypothetical user ratings for movies, then explains how an algorithm attempts to use them.

Notice that most user-movie pairs have blanks, meaning the user has not rated the movie. In practice, the matrix would be even sparser, with the typical user rating only a tiny fraction of all available movies. The goal of a recommendation system is to predict the blanks in the utility matrix.
I can't quote the matrix itself effectively here, but it's worth downloading the chapter to have a look at it. Basically, it shows that in a recommendation system (like Amazon's, BN's, etc.), you have a massive database of user-book rating pairs, almost all of which are blank. The recommendation system looks at what the user has rated favorably, then looks around for similar users and tries to see what they've also rated favorably (it probably also takes other factors, like genre, length, etc. into account as well).

Put pretty simply, that's where recommendations come from.

And that has driven home for me the importance of those star ratings in a new way. They're necessary for two things:

1.) They allow the algorithm to identify readers who haven't read your books but whose tastes are similar to those who have.

2.) They nudge the algorithm toward recommending other books by you to people who have given a high rating to one of your books in the past.

And that's on top of all the people-related reasons that star ratings matter.

Another salient quote:
In most applications, the recommendation system does not offer users a ranking of all items, but rather suggests a few that the user should value highly.
The way I read this, it helps explain in a new way why it's so important to connect with highly active readers. Let's say you have a reader who's read every bestselling fantasy novel that came out in the last year and rated it on Amazon. They also read yours. They like it enough to give it 5 stars. The algorithm can match a very high number of other readers to that reader ("Oh, this person liked Republic of Thieves and Soulwoven? Maybe all these other people who liked Republic of Thieves will like Soulwoven too). That doesn't work nearly as well if the readers who rate your book only read, say, three books a year.

 Final quote and thoughts:
An extreme example of how the long tail, together with a well designed recommendation system can influence events is the story told by Chris Anderson about a book called Touching the Void. This mountain-climbing book was not a big seller in its day, but many years after it was published, another book on the same topic, called Into Thin Air was published. Amazon’s recommendation system noticed a few people who bought both books, and started recommending Touching the Void to people who bought, or were considering, Into Thin Air. Had there been no on-line bookseller, Touching the Void might never have been seen by potential buyers, but in the on-line world, Touching the Void eventually became very popular in its own right, in fact, more so than Into Thin Air. 
I have spent a lot of time wondering what, exactly, happens when a book suddenly takes off on Amazon. It's a common enough story: "I spent three months or so seeing a few sales a week. Suddenly, in March, my sales took off. I have no idea why."

Maybe this is why.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Print Version of Exile Ready!

Happy holidays, dearest readers!

I've got good news! The print version of Soulwoven: Exile is ready, so those of you who've been waiting to read it on paper can now order it! You can get it here.

And remember, if you leave a review of it on Amazon by the end of the year, you can enter to win a kick-ass personalized copy. Full rules here.

Thanks, as always, for your time and support. Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it, and Happy New Year to you all. I hope I've given you something wonderful to read this year.

Yours in sweat and ink as always,

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Update on Print Books of Soulwoven: Exile

Hello, dearest readers!

I know many of you are waiting for the print version of Soulwoven: Exile, so I wanted to give you a quick update. There have been delays at the printer and delays on account of holiday shipping, so the books are going to be late. I'm as disappointed about it as you are, but there it is.

The book should be ready next week, but it won't be available in time for Christmas, and there's a chance it won't be available until the end of the year.

In the meantime, you can get the e-book now! I know it's small consolation for those of you who wanted to get or give a big, beautiful, paper book this year, but it's the best I've got to offer.

Yours in ink and chocolate,

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Why Wattpad?

I get a lot of questions from other authors about why I have work up on Wattpad. The most common is, "What do you get out of it?"

I've answered that in bits and pieces before. I get encouragement and feedback. I get to test stories before I decide what kind of a budget to set when I publish them. I get fans.

But Wattpad recently rolled out a new feature that will let me show you the primary thing I get in a way I haven't been able to before.

This is a map that shows where the Wattpad readers of Soulwoven are from. Darker countries have contributed a greater share of readers. White countries have contributed none.

And this is what I get.

Not the map. Bla bla business intelligence, yes, there's some information that's economically useful there, but it's not important.

The darkest country on this map is a place I can (and do) reach by self-publishing. But there are also a lot of countries on this map that I can't reach that way. Maybe most importantly, there aren't that many countries on this map with no shading.

Think about that for a second. Someone has read my writing in almost every country on Earth.

How many people in human history have ever been able to say that?

So the next time someone asks me, "Why Wattpad?" I will point them here with great happiness.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Soulwoven: Exile is OUT!

Ta-da! Today is LAUNCH day! Soulwoven: Exile is out in e-book form. The print version is nearly complete as well; I expect it to be ready next week.

In the meantime, a quick rundown of some of the launch-time fun things you can enjoy.

  • The Speculative Post gave it a fantastic review and hosted a guest post from yours truly on why it's a problem when the black guy dies.
  • Susan Spann let me take over her blog for a day to talk about why mystery and fantasy get along so well together.
  • The launch contest is in full effect, so get reading and reviewing for a chance at that hand-annotated copy!
  • The first book has had its price dropped to $0.99 so new readers can get up to speed quickly.

I'll add more to this post as they crop up. There are some other guest-posty type things coming down the pipe.

One more time: you can buy it here. Tell your friends! Leave reviews! Share it on social media! Buy everyone a copy for Christmas! It's a Soulwoven spectacular!

And more seriously, thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Soulwoven: Exile KICK-ASS COPY Contest!

Alright, dearest readers. It's time for a post of BIG NEWS!

Namely, I'm running a book launch contest for Soulwoven: Exile!

One of the most popular rewards among my Kickstarter backers was a kick-ass personalized copy of SOULWOVEN. These books were signed, and they had doodles and notes in them written and drawn by yours truly---one-of-a-kind additions to the text that were completely unique. Notes about the creation of scenes and where they came from, little scribbles of the way things look in my brain, that kind of thing.

They looked like this (click to embiggen):

I'm going to make one of these copies of Soulwoven: Exile and offer it as a reward to one of the first people to read and review the e-book.

Here's how you can get your hands on it:

1.) Pre-order the e-book of Soulwoven: Exile on (or buy it before Dec. 31).

2.) Read it.

3.) Leave a review of the book on Amazon that includes the words "I received a chance at a free print copy of the book in return for leaving an unbiased review."

That's it. I'll contact the winning reviewer via a response to their Amazon review in January, after the contest ends. Cool contest image below (share it far and wide!). Legalese at the bottom of the post.

I hope you guys enjoy! I love making these one-off books for people, and I can't wait to hear what you all think of Exile!



To be eligible to win, you must be at least 18 years old and live or have a mailing address in the US or Canada. No purchase necessary to win. To enter without purchasing, e-mail to receive a five-chapter electronic sample of Soulwoven: Exile for review. Other entry requirements apply. Odds of winning vary with entries received. One entry per household. One winner will be drawn at random from eligible reviews.