Pepper makes an appearance in each of the stories in this collection, but the rest of characters – some readers will recognize from Buckell’s Xenowealth novels – are developed, fascinating people of color that readers soon care for and want to do well. But in this tough world, it is often hard to get by.|
Xenowealth: A Collection is a great diving board for new readers to delve into this world and quickly get hooked.
Locus Magazine has two reviews of Xenowealth: A Collection in the March issue.
The first review is by Karen Burnham:
Buckell has a very important goal: to tip the tables and ask us to empathize with the colonized instead of the colonizer. To be the ones with our lives disrupted, whether by alien invasion or mercenary violence. And yet the political and cultural subtext of these stories never overwhelms their primary goal: to be stories with plenty of action, intrigue, and characters to care about, stories that are enjoyable at the same time that they are thoughtful. Buckell is particularly strong at short length; his previous Kickstarter-funded collection, Mitigated Futures, is packed-full of near future SF that pair excellent world-building with action-packed plots. Fun SF is great, smart fun SF is even better, and Buckell continues to provide it.
Rich Horton also weighs in on Xenowealth: A Collection, focusing on the original story in the collection:
I thought ‘‘Ratcatcher’’ particularly good, as it follows Pepper, the series’ most important character, on a desperate mission through vacuum to a wormhole-traversing train, where he hopes to confront a brutal alien killer, but instead must deal with a bitter veteran cop who knows something of his violent history. Cool future tech and powerful action mix very well.
Publishers Weekly reviewed Xenowealth: A Collection and said nice things:
Fans curious about the background of Buckell’s Xenowealth tetralogy (lastly The Apocalypse Ocean) have crowdfunded this collection of nine glimpses into an exciting future. First, technologically superior aliens “pacified” Earth and brought it into the Benevolent Satrapy, a tightly controlled empire of 48 worlds. Then, rebels whom the aliens had scattered through the stars established the totalitarian League and plotted to exclude or else exterminate their masters. Finally, the Xenowealth evolved into a system that would let humans and aliens live together. Most of these stories feature Pepper, a cybernetically enhanced mercenary who usually intervenes with a maximum of deadly force whenever he imagines human values are threatened. Sometimes he fights cruel alien monsters, and sometimes men whose obsessions have made them even more dangerous. Buckell draws on his experiences growing up in the Caribbean to effectively describe what life feels like for powerless people at the fringes of massive events, and these taut but thoughtful scenes of the human race’s uncertain progress reward careful reading. (BookLife)
Pretty nifty. There are more reviews to come, as I’ve seeded a number of ARCs out there into the wilderness. I know a few people passed on reviewing a Kickstarter short story collection, but I know we have a few more of these coming.
I also hope to have some details on what independent book stores will specifically be carrying the collection.
Clay Kallam has nice things to say about the collection, and recommends reading the Xenowealth collection in the first regular review of Xenowealth: A Collection.
He does lead off with this:
The brave new world of publishing can affect even the successful, including Tobias Buckell, author of “Xenowealth” and “Arctic Rising” books, who now must resort to crowdfunding to get all of his works into print.
I’m grateful to Clay for recommending the books.
To dig into why I did the Kickstarter, as opposed to selling it to a publisher: I make more off the Kickstarter. I’d talked to one publisher about it, and they turned it down. And I’ve run the numbers. A mid list author like me, for a short story collection, can expect something like $1,000-$5,000. $5,000 is high for a short story collection. The received wisdom is that short story collections don’t sell. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.
And to be fair, readers do seem to prefer longer pieces.
The reason I didn’t shop the project around any further was that I knew I could make more rolling my own. Xenowealth: A Collection got $7,105 on Kickstarter. Yes there were fees, shipping, printing costs, but there were also more preorders via backerkit. There were a lot of eBook preorders once I put that up as well.
When all is said and done, this will be a project that is looking likely to break $10,000, which leaves me quite delighted. Who would have offered me 10K on a short story collection?
The follow up question is: why don’t I do more novels this way?
Well, so far, there have been more advantages doing it the other way. Monetarily. But also growing my reach and audience. The Apocalypse Ocean is not the most I’ve made off a novel in all the publishing methods I’ve tried (crowd funding/direct digital/medium press/NY Publishing), but it’s middle of the pack. But, having roughly tripled what I could expect to have made on the short story collection, crowd funding is a tool in my kit that I can deploy if things ever flag elsewhere. If I have to flip that switch, I am happy to. I’m grateful to my readership for sticking with me in all the ways I publish things.
I made a lot of mistakes while doing this Kickstarter last. I’ve made due note of every single one. I was originally going to write a post called ‘All the ways I crashed and burned on my 3rd Kickstarter’ but that’s no positive learning and moving forward, it’s me feeling bad for myself. And the truth is, I don’t need more negativity. Mark what failed, avoid in future, learn. Always learn. The biggest error was a messed up print run using the wrong paper for the collection. After I sorted that out, I used the extra copies as advanced reader copies, sending them out to reviewers.
The fact that Xenowealth: A Collection is being reviewed by the San Jose Mercury News shows that there is a lot of potential, and the experience is ending up positive.
Imagine me twirling around in a rain of confetti made by left over packing material…
I made a promise to myself to get the much delayed limited edition hardcovers out before today, and I just barely got them all slipped into the mail yesterday and a last few stragglers in early this morning.
But that’s not why you’re here.
The general eBook has been in the hands of early Kickstarter backers for a while now, and the trade paperbacks went out a while back too.
All of you who missed the Kickstarter are wanting to get your hands on it. The limited edition hardcover will only exist for the Kickstarter backers (plus some extras I have on hand in case anyone gets a mangled one and I need to do customer service), but the eBook and trade paperback are now available to all.
The full Xenowealth book page is here, but you can click the summary and buy link below to access all the versions:
Amazon hasn’t fully merged the eBook and paperback’s pages yet, but if the popup confuses you, here is a direct link to:
So there we are.
As I mentioned in my newsletter, books live and die by word of mouth, so all signal boosting is super appreciated…
I’ve finally managed to get the copy edited and ready to go final of the Xenowealth collection uploaded and sent out to backers. If you backed this, check your inbox. There should be a Backerkit email shortly with links.
This version includes the story “Ratcatcher.”
I think it might be the bloodiest Pepper story yet. And not being able to share it for the last 5 or 6 months has been torture as I had a blast writing it.
For the physical copies, I’m still proofing. This has been my big hold up. I am nothing mea culpas on this. Not so much a blast on this front.
At the end of the Kickstarter I’ll be writing up a little ‘how this kickstarter kicked my ass’ post. Sometimes life hands you fun lessons.
Crystal Rain launches this week in a brand new trade paperback format.
If you’re interested in diverse SF, if you’re interested in seeing what a taste of the Caribbean is like when it’s married with adventure SF, if you’re interested in reading the book that launched the Xenowealth series, then here you go.
A lot of people have taken a closer look at the book with the new cover. A lot of people have told me ‘oh, I didn’t realize it was SF.’
But don’t take my word for it. Read the first entire third of the book and see for yourself.
That’s my advertisement right there. Please link the sampler. Please link the post. If you’re interested in a broader SF, if you’re interested in something outside the usual, then take a bite. A third of a whole book is enough for you to decide if it is your thing.
All without having to drop a single dime.
No, seriously, try it.
Legends say that the forefathers of Nanagada fled a far-off star to their new home. They say that the sky once hummed with metal flying machines and palatial floating cities. But then the Azteca came. Created and driven by cruel, inhuman gods they swarmed out of the sky in search of sacrificial blood, and worse. To defeat them and their gods the forefathers burned the sky. The cities and machines fell to the ground, useless.
In the centuries since, Azteca have kept to their side of the mountains in an uneasy truce. But now it has been broken. Driven forward by their gods once again, only one man can stop their bloodthirsty march: John deBrun. His family scattered, John holds the key to an ancient secret deep in memories lost just before he was dragged unconscious from the sea years ago…
…if he can stay alive long enough to uncover them, he might be able to stop the destruction of Nanagada.
And here a few reviews, if you’re still not convinced:
“Buckell’s promising debut. …a twist that adds a sci-fi edge to this tale’s mythological underpinnings.” Philadelphia Inquirer
“Buckell does a nice job of setting the stage and the pages turn quickly. I’m still on board for Volume Two. The possibilities for the series are tantalizing.” Contra Costa Times
“…[A] promising debut. It’s a twist that adds a sci-fi edge to this tale’s mythological underpinnings.” Kansas City Star
“Buckell does a fairly smooth job unwrapping the plot.” Tampa Bay Tribune
“Readers who like sieges, strategies and swashbuckling heroes will thoroughly enjoy this fast-moving tale.” Cleveland Plain Dealer
“A fast-moving and thoroughly enjoyable tale that kept me reading almost non-stop.” Midwest Book Review
“In this stellar debut, Buckell has created an amazing world. The plot is well-constructed and the writing is simply superb, particularly the dialogue, which is amazingly beautiful.” Romantic Times
“Enjoyable…for a first-timer Buckell handles his interlocking narratives well and his characters retain their humanity.” Publishers Weekly
“Buckell’s debut captures the flavor of Afro-Caribbean culture in the lilting dialog of his characters and in their customs. An original tale with distinctive characters and a fresh approach to worldbuilding, this sf quest belongs in most libraries.” Library Journal (Starred Review)
“Buckell’s first novel conjures a vividly imagined world, spiced with intrigue and adventure that unfolds at a breakneck pace.” Booklist
“An auspicious debut. Buckell’s done what a first novelist needs to do: to make us want to know about his world, and more about his imagination. His announced next novel, Ragamuffin, is certainly worth looking forward to.” Locus
“A good old SF adventure story. His Creole background lends a colorful touch to his characters and dialogue, and his clever reworking of familiar tropes makes this a standout first novel.” Locus (Short review)
“Crystal Rain is a totally engrossing, can’t-put-it-down reading experience. The setting is superb, the characters are fascinating and DeBrun, the enigmatic Pepper and the conflicted Oaxyctl are one of the great fictional triumvirates. This is lush SF adventure in the C.L. Moore vein. Hopefully more installments are on the way.” Starlog
“Even non-sci-fi readers will be bowled over by…Tobias Buckell’s Crystal Rain… Violent, poetic and compulsively readable.” Maclean’s (Canada)
“A pepperpot of a delectable, enjoyable story…Buckell is a deft, assured storyteller who will, hopefully, continue to publish novel-length fiction with the same eye for intricate setting and rounded characterization he’s exhibited here in his debut novel.” SFF World
“Infused with new life and excitement. Buckell’s plotting is sturdy and swift with nary a longuer. For a thrilling adventure set on a unique world, this book couldn’t be bettered.” SciFi.com (Paul Di Filippo)
“A fast-paced pulp-style adventure … a very satisfying first novel with a different and refreshing setting.” Emerald City
“There’s a great old-school pulp-adventure essence to Crystal Rain … what Buckell does right, I’m happy to say he does breathtakingly right. Most effective is the evocation of place. His setting feels alive. There is real texture to Nanagada, its people, villages, back alleys and crowded markets. You can almost feel the humidity. Buckell’s use of the sea as a critical setting is brilliantly handled, too…I can definitely say that there’s nothing else on the racks right at this moment quite like it, and that Tobias Buckell is a name to add to you ‘watch this writer’ list.” SFReviews.net
“[Buckell’s] first novel, CRYSTAL RAIN, is the sort of thing that will have readers watching for more. [He] has displayed a gift for imagination much greater than one book can hold. Sequels would surely please many readers, but if he imagines as thoroughly in new and unconnected novels, they too will please.” Analog
“The hard part [of writing a novel] is a combination of fast pace with some glossy writing and intriguing characters. And I’ve noticed that this is a skill that science fiction writers are picking up. Case in point: the debut novel from Tobias S. Buckell, Crystal Rain.”
“I was actually quite surprised at how fast-paced the book was. I was glad to see, however, that as I was burning through the story, Buckell got each moment and each twist and turn exactly right.”
“Buckell writes that stuff with panache, and there’s some remarkably strong science fiction in there too… [He] has way more atmosphere and colour in his story than an equivalent sf book… It takes a great deal of care to create something so balanced.”
“This gave me quite a joyful feeling as some new twist came into play and the world wrenched into a strange direction.” The Cultural Gutter
“Once the world sank in and permeated my mind, I couldn’t put the book down. Like all good books, it only got better as it progressed, all the way to the end.” GreenMan Review
“Buckell has done an excellent job with his first Sci-Fi novel. This story is complex, fresh, and interesting–and wide open to a sequel.” Children’s Literature
“An impressive debut…with unique creatures, characters, and advanced technology; Crystal Rain blends plenty of action, suspense, culture, and science fiction. Buckell has created an interesting world that I’m looking forward to reading more about in his sequel Ragamuffin.” SciFi Chick
“A galloping read that throws the reader into an alien world that they won’t want to leave. I may have just found my new favorite sci-fi author.” Graeme’s Fantasy Review
“This is an exciting and imaginative debut from author Tobias S. Buckell. The story features characters that are carefully nuanced and thus, wholly believable. The ending, though logical, is truly heartbreaking.” Bookstove
“What Tobias Buckell has done here is pretty impressive. He’s taken a culture that wouldn’t usually be put in the same sentence as science fiction and created something that is both unique and familiar.” – Walker of Worlds
While I sort out the administrative stuff for the recently successful Kickstarter for Xenowealth: A Collection, I have another piece of exciting holiday news. I’ve been working really hard to get the eBooks of Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin up for the holiday season in non-US territories.
They are available on Amazon in non-US, non-Canada, and non-Philippine areas (Tor owns the exclusive rights to the US, Canada and the Philippines on them). So for example, UK readers, here is Crystal Rain (it is actually popping up the steampunk top 100 list, so yay).
The bookstores that allow sales in that particular geographic region are Amazon, Kobo, and iTunes. So if you are outside the US, Canada, and the Philippines and look for the eBooks in either of those stores you should find them.
I am still learning Google Play.
So the books are now available in English, world wide.
Particularly of note to my Caribbean readers: you can now snag the Xenowealth eBooks easily as well.
Pricing is $2.99 for Crystal Rain, $3.99 for Ragamuffin, and $4.99 for Sly Mongoose and $4.99 for The Apocalypse Ocean.
Lastly, Sly Mongoose is going live on January 2nd. That’s my birthday. I wanted to celebrate it with a book launch.
But all three eBook outlets are set to take pre-orders.
As of today we’re just over the halfway mark on my Kickstarter for Xenowealth: A Collection. I promised I’d burn some social capitol promoting this, but Thanksgiving break and holidays hit at the halfway point as well, so I’ve just been letting things go quiet.
When I built this Kickstarter out, I wanted to tweak some of the things I’d done in the past. For one, in the past I’d put the eBooks at too high a value. Lowering them to $10 seems to have boosted our numbers, and included some drive-by backers who aren’t already part of my core readership. So that worked.
I noticed from some other Kickstarters that a decent tranche of trade paperback backers existed. I’d shied away as that being ‘more logistics’ in the past. But I think I was wrong. It fills in a ~$30 backing level. There’s a logical $10 eBook, $30 trade and $50 hardcover set of steps.
I’m noticing my higher ones aren’t as popular though, so while I nailed the lower ones, I’m having trouble with those. But I can’t call it a failed test until the very end. We shall see.
The $30 trade level also offers a great transition into the post-Kickstarter selling. Get a trade paperback ready to sell via CreateSpace, because if you have the rights, you should do that anyway. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for The Apocalypse Ocean, Mitigated Futures, and I haven’t. Putting in there will make me do it. While the limited hardcover will be limited, the trade allows me sell physical books.
People still really like those. I need to test those waters out more than I currently do.
I need to put out a call for artists soon. That’ll be fun to have some of the stories illustrated.
As far as progress so far, I’m happy. People asked why I set the goal so low at $1,000. As Mitigated Futures hit $3,280 (and a last minute backer came in the next day to push it to $4,280 and commission a custom story), I had a feeling we could get to $4,000 or so. I set up stretch goals all the way through $10,000, trying to make sure to keep the project interesting. And because, hey, a guy can dream, right?
That said, I wasn’t expecting the first day to go so well. To be at $5,220 here halfway through is amazing. Lots of Xenowealth fans out there.
I am questioning whether I should have set a $6,000 stretch goal with the third novella there, instead of putting it in with the $7,500 omnibus. Maybe that would have kept some excitement during the slower bits here in week 3.
But week 4 always picks back up.
I have no idea where this is going to end, but it’s been quite a ride so far.
Thanks all for the signal boosts and enthusiasm. Short story collections get the short shrift often enough in an author’s career. They’re a hard sell. It’s interesting to see that crowdfunding opens up a space here for me to do these in a way where everyone wins.
When I talked at O’Reilly Tools of Change about crowdfunding I mentioned that Kevin Kelly’s ‘1,000 true fans’ concept could be used to do interesting things even at smaller levels. 169 readers made Mitigated Futures a great project, 191 gave me the space to write The Apocalypse Ocean. 192 are on board for the Xenowealth collection. The next 13 days should be interesting!