Sword of the Taka Samurai book series trailer (and sneak-peak cover reveal)

Cold Blood, Cold Fate, Cold Fire, Cold Heart, Cold Rain, Cold Steel, Cold Trail, Katherine M. Lawrence, New Releases, Sword of the Taka Samurai

We thought it was long overdue to create some book trailers for Katherine M. Lawrence’s Yamabuki books, so here is the first!

We have not done official cover reveals yet for Cold Fire, Cold Steel, and Cold Fate, so this video offers a sneak peak. But our main goal here is to offer a taste of the atmosphere, setting, and scope of the entire Sword of the Taka Samurai series, Katherine‘s first saga about Taka Yamabuki, a woman warrior who lived in Heian-era Japan and fought in the Genpei War.

Also, the trailer shows there are seven books in this series. Cold Blood, Cold Rain, and Cold Heart are out now, available through your favorite book retailer. Cold Trail is coming soon, currently available for pre-order. (Retailer info is in the links above.) The last three books, Cold Fire, Cold Steel, and Cold Fate, aren’t in the Ingram database yet, so they don’t show up in bookstore ordering systems or websites like Amazon. Soon. Soon.

The series crescendoes

For us as a small start-up publisher, this series has proven to be a long haul. We released Cold Blood in 2014 and Cold Rain the year after. Cold Heart came out this January. Cold Trail will be out later this year, with Cold Fire, Cold Steel, and Cold Fate not long after that.

From the start, our release plan for this series has been simple: every book no longer than it needs to be; every release no sooner than when it’s ready—but when it is ready, get it out there right away. The upside to this approach is we don’t have to cut bait to an arbitrary deadline. But many will point out that this represents a missed opportunity, and they would be right, for the downside of our approach on these books is that we’ve been losing out on the traditional six-month ARC window that would afford the chance to get the attention of professional book reviewers. As series editor, I’m very proud of Katherine M. Lawrence’s writing—powerful, lyrical, moving—and look forward to the day she garners the literary attention she deserves. With future books, including a standalone novel we are editing now, we will explore other options.

Meanwhile, we will keep putting out the Sword of the Taka Samurai books as soon as they are ready. Readers will note that, as the various storylines layer and weave through one another, the books are getting longer. Cold Blood is a 22k-word novella about young Taka Yamabuki’s first days ever alone on the road, carrying important dispatches to the capital as she discovers a world filled with interesting people and new experiences—when a rapid series of challenges threaten not only her mission but her life. In Cold Rain, at 45k words, she finds herself trapped in a small town, realizing that her life as daughter and only child of a warlord is not anywhere as simple and safe as she had assumed. In Cold Heart, a full-fledged novel at 83k words, Yamabuki must fight for her life as an assassin and a clan bent on vengeance converge upon her. Cold Trail is coming in longer still—yet every bit as rich and exciting, if not more so.

These thumbnails don’t even touch upon the other characters—Saburo, the assassin hired to kill her; Shima, his teacher (and more); Moroto, Yamabuki’s father determined to make her his heir; Lady Taka, Yamabuki’s mother, whose concern for Yamabuki comes from her own experiences as a warrior; Nakagawa, Yamabuki’s wordly teacher and mentor; Yoshinaka, the disinherited prince who plans rebellion against the Emperor; Tomoe Gozen, the wild young woman warrior every bit as accomplished as Yamabuki; and others yet to come—whose lives touch Yamabuki’s and one another’s in joyous, heartwrenching, and often unexpected ways as their stories converge over matters of life, death, power, honor, fortune, duty, love, and redemption.

We hope you enjoy this epic tale.

PS—More book trailers are coming. Stay tuned.

C is for (Book) Covers

Cold Saké, Katherine M. Lawrence

CWhoever coined the phrase, “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” was only partly right. We shouldn’t, but we all know that we do. How can we not?

No, it’s not fair, but who said fair’s got anything to do with it?

As publishers, the burden is on us to come up with the cover that invites readers who actually might like the book to pick it up and check it out.

Cold Saké novelette, Kindle edition

Cold Saké, by Katherine M. Lawrence

Our first cover for our first book, Cold Sake, is, we feel, quite beautiful. But does it help potential readers judge our book accurately? The sluggish sales combined with high ratings suggest not—or at least, so we suspect.

As such, we are planning a completely different design for Kate’s mega-epic saga also set in medieval Japan, also featuring Yamabuki, the woman samurai.

Because if people are going to go ahead and judge a book by its cover anyway, then we are going to try to make covers that help them judge accurately.

Meanwhile, Bo Diddley!

Sing along now.

Yeah, you can’t judge a fish by lookin’ in the pond
You can’t judge right from looking at the wrong
You can’t judge one by looking at the other
You can’t judge a book by looking at the cover

Kindle freebie post-mortem

Cold Saké
tortoise

We’re moving down the road. Photo: greyhound dad (Creative Commons).

Last Friday and Saturday we ran a free promotion of the Kindle version (and currently only version) of Cold Sake, and we have to say we were disappointed.

  • Friday was a slow day. We had about 250 downloads. The book kicked up the subgenre ranks, to #2 in Fiction & Literature > Historical > Fantasy and #3 in Science Fiction & Fantasy > Historical.
  • Saturday was slower. What we had read around the web from other publishers who shared their experiences is that you want to run a 2-day promotion because the second day is better. All we can say is that advice was not helpful for us. We had only about half the downloads of the day before. We got up into the top 1000 of overall Kindle books, and up in a couple of genre lists, but we did not see the kind of numbers we had hoped for. We were going back down the lists before afternoon.

So what do we conclude here?

  1. Free Kindle book promotions have only so much value? This is no secret. Our goal was simply to help spread Katherine M. Lawrence’s book around as much as possible—and the freebie offering had some effect, although so far nobody who’s actually read the book has posted a review. Anecdotal evidence presented by other people sharing their experiences about their free Kindle promotions is only anecdotal. We’re all limited by self-reporting of numbers. Nobody has The Recipe, especially those who have succeeded from free Kindle books promotions—they are subject to the risks of selection bias.
  2. The book’s marketing is not what it could be? Obviously. We’re just getting rolling on this venture and taking things one step at a time. Last week we hit a couple dozen sites to list our book promotion, and those efforts paid off on Friday, but probably faded quite a bit on Saturday. Our social media reach is very small at this point—which is not a surprise: We know all about the social media/social graph dynamic from our other business. And our newsletter list—and Kate’s—have few subscribers. In other words, we’re fighting invisibility.
  3. The book description isn’t compelling enough? This is quite possible. We actually changed it on Friday morning when we realized how flat our initial draft was. This partly relates to…
  4. The book isn’t positioned properly for the readers most likely to enjoy it? This is something we suspect, and welcome perspectives from others. (Please comment below!) We’ve been positioning Cold Sake—and all the more so Kate’s other books we’re preparing for publication—as historical fiction. Kate has meticulously researched Heian Japan and the books reflect that. However, there’s a fantastic element of her books, what with the gods, trickster foxes, ghosts and even demons, that may better appeal to readers of fantasy novels. And then there’s the question of having a woman samurai—who actually existed, but were not the norm, and were not really seen in the more recent several hundred years of Japanese history. Does having a woman warrior turn off samurai fiction fans? We’re not sure.
  5. The book cover isn’t compelling? This is where our discussion centered over the weekend. At best, it might be a very well executed miss. What does the cover say about the story? Does it capture that Yamabuki is 17 years old and a warrior newly out on her own? Does it convey any sense of ghosts that are the antagonists of this particular story? Does it feel like it will be a lyrical-yet-realistic drama with visceral action? We have had to conclude that the answer is no.

Today we worked up a concept for a new direction we plan on taking the covers for Kate’s future books. We may also re-cover the current Kindle book, but that’s not our primary focus at this point. We have a new novel we hope to have out of editing in the coming several weeks, and will focus our endeavors there first.

This has been a learning experience. Clearly the limitations of KDP Select are working against us. Given our goals for this book, we probably should be offering it for free or 99 cents just to help build the audience. And we should be placing the book on the various other ebook platforms. We certainly will do these things once the 90-day exclusive for KDP Select runs out—if not before.