Category Archives: Doug Dandridge

My Year In Review: Guest Post by Doug Dandridge

My Year In Review

I had planned for 2016 to be my best year yet, moving forward with all my writing projects, and doing the ground work to build a larger readership. As some of you may know, I do this writing gig fulltime, it is my job. As this year closes out, I have sold about 200,000 books, eBooks, paperbacks and audiobooks. I was hoping to pass the half million dollar gross income level as an independent for the four years I had been doing it. I was planning on releasing seven books, as well as finishing off an effort I was hoping to interest Baen books in. Unfortunately, things don’t always work as planned.

As the year dawned, I had just returned from a workshop cruise in December (Sail To Success), and had taken a belt test for Kempo Karate. I had been feeling my best in years, and I was planning on putting out five thousand words a day, which would put me at almost two million words. I really didn’t think I would do that, but a million seemed like a possibility. Then, in January, I started losing energy. Every morning I woke up feeling like I had fought a battle the night before. I kept on writing, but not at the level I wanted, and the workouts went out the window. In March my primary care physician told me she thought I had sleep apnea. Now, since I go to the VA, this didn’t mean I would get immediate treatment. It took two months to get the sleep study, followed by another sleep study, and four months after my primary told me her thoughts I finally got my CPAP. It has made a world of difference, and I started working out again. Still not at one hundred percent, but I can see it coming.

Now that that’s out of the way, what did I do with my year? To start off I put out a book I had on my hard drive for five years, just so I could get something out. The first of the second trilogy of The Deep Dark Well series, it did well enough. I also put out a collection of short stories set in the Exodus Universe, a little under 70,000 words, and sold about five thousand copies in the first three months, about what the first, shorter volume had done. The production company that does my audiobooks put out Exodus: Empires at War: Book 5: Ranger, which did okay, though I’m not sure if sales were enough to convince them to do book 6. Time will tell. In May I put out Exodus: Empires at War: Book 10: Search and Destroy. While the book sold well, it was probably my weakest reviewed novel since the first of the series, many people thinking it was just a placeholder novel, which it kind of was. That taught me something about series, something I will avoid in future efforts. In August I put out Book 11: Day of Infamy, which met with much better reviews. I had planned to have that book out by the end of June, but the sleep apnea interfered. I started to work on Exodus: Machine War: Book 3 and finally got it out the door on November 20th. I have also put out some short stories for anthologies, and did some of the planning on future series. Not my most productive year, but still enough to make more than twice what I made in a year at my old day job.

I attended three conventions this year, starting with Pensacon, where I was merely a visitor and spent some time with my Superstar Friends. In July I went to Libertycon in Chattanooga, where I sat on two panels and moderated a third. Good practice. Dragoncon in September, and this year I was able to get two panels, one on the writer’s track, and a really fun one in the scifi lit track called starship showdown. I have been told I will get even more next year, and I am planning on putting in an application as a Dragoncon guest. We can always dream. And I was invited back to Sail To Success this year as a Student/Instructor, at a hefty discount, so I can give my take on Indie Publishing on two panels. Add to that, I have been invited to next year’s Florida Writer’s Association con as a faculty member.

The year didn’t go as planned, but I still was able to work my dream job and make a good living at it. Hopefully I will do better this next year, and if I don’t? No problem, I will still be happy.

 

Doug’s Bio:

Bio – Doug Dandridge

Doug had been writing since 1997, and had garnered almost three hundred rejections from publishers and magazines before trying his hand at self-publishing on December 31, 2011. A little over a year later he quit his day job with the State of Florida, and has been a full-time author ever since. Doug has published thirty-one books on Amazon, and has sold over two hundred thousand copies of his work. His Exodus books, with eleven volumes in the main series, plus five in the two spinoff series, have sold over a hundred and seventy thousand books. They have consistently hit the top five in Space Opera in the UK, as well as top ten status in the US. Doug likes to say that he does not write great literature, but entertainment, and his fans agree enough to keep buying his work. He has well over three thousand reviews on both Amazon (4.6 star average) and Goodreads (4.12 star average).

Doug attended Florida State University (BS, Psychology) and the University of Alabama (MA, Clinical Psychology). He served four years in the Army as an Infantryman and Senior Custodial Agent, followed up with two years in the National Guard. A lifelong reader of the fantastic, he had an early love for the classics of science fiction and fantasy, including HG Wells, Jules Verne and the comics of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. He writes fast moving, technically complex novels which appeal to a hardcore fan base. He has plans for several future series, including several space operas, a couple of classic fantasies, some alternate history, and even a post-apocalyptic tale. He puts out about five books a year, and still has time to attend several conventions, including Dragon Con and Liberty Con. This year he added board member of Tallahassee Writers Association to his resume’.

Marketing 101

A guest post by Doug Dandridge.

Empires at WarI’m not sure if you can call me the world’s greatest expert on self-marketing. However, since I am closing in on 130,000 book sales in thirty-four months, I must be doing something right. I have made over $300,000.00 in that time period, and am a full time working author. In this blog, I will give a quick rundown on some of the things I have done. I will go ahead and plug a book I wrote which is available on Amazon called How I Sold 100,000 Books On Amazon. I’ve heard from some people who read the book and reported increased success. I don’t have time to go into everything in this brief essay, but will cover what I think are the most important points. Of course, most important is to write a book that a lot of people will want to read when you put it out there. But that is of no use if you can’t attract people to give it a try.

Establish a web presence. You want your name, not just the name of your book, to take up the top slots in a Google search. There are several things I did here. First, I established a web site, with a lot of outgoing links, which hopefully will help generate more incoming links. This will raise it up in the search algorithms. Next I established a blog. I was able to get domain names for both blog and website that were my name, dougdandridge, one with a .com, one with a .net. I went on Amazon and Goodreads and rated a hell of a lot of books I had read, and left actual reviews for most of them. Blog when you can. It doesn’t have to be daily, and don’t just blog on how people can buy your book. Blog on things of interest around the topics of your books. I do blogs on armor, modern and future weapons, tropes, movies, all kinds of stuff, and then also do a couple of blogs, with excerpts, whenever I put out a book. And don’t let the number of subscribers put you off. I only have about a 150 subscribers, but my blog, published about every other week, gets hundreds of views a day. That’s because I also tweet the blog, with hashtags, and post it on a number of Facebook pages frequented by people interested in fantasy, scifi or ebooks in general. Also do blogs for other people when asked, and ask them if they don’t get around to it. I have done blogs for people like David Farland, and for people who have less than fifty subscribers. I feel like it is a reciprical effort, helping both parties. The result is that I have the top twenty slots on Google for Doug Dandridge now. When I started out I was on page two with one entry, and there aren’t that many Doug Dandridges out there to compete with.

Advertise your other books in each of your books, with hyperlinks to make it easy for readers to get to them. I also have a newsletter, which, while it has slightly less than 300 subscribers, has a much better than average opening rate. The newsletter is probably responsible for a couple of hundred early sales of each book, driving them up the genre charts, which gets even more attention. Reviews are important, probably as much as anything. Not actually what they said, but how they rate you, and the average of those ratings. Do not buy reviews. Repeat, do not buy reviews. But if anyone compliments you, on Facebook, your blog or by email, ask them if they will give you a review. One review I got was a three star for another series, but he complimented me on my Exodus series, and I asked him is we would be kind enough to write a review for one of those books. I got another five star review out of that transaction.

I got started with Amazon giveaways. I have given away almost 16K ebooks, and several of those giveaways have driven my sales. The trick is to not just do the giveaway, but to advertise those dates. I use Author’s Marketing Club, which has a free page where you can visit sites that let you advertise your free book. Most of the sites are free, some charge a nominal fee, but it’s worth it. You also blog and tweet the giveaway. How well have they worked? In September of 2012 I gave away 4,100 copies of The Deep Dark Well, a book which has sold almost 6,000 copies since. When I released the first of my Exodus: Empires at War books, it started flying off the Amazon servers. In May 2014 I did a giveaway of that very Exodus book, just after releasing book 6. I gave away 4,900 copies of book 1. The five Exodus books were selling between fifty and a hundred books a month at that time. After the giveaway, each volume sold over five hundred copies in May, including the one I had just given away. Over two thousand books, for over six thousand dollars in royalties. Cha ching. So they are still useful, if done properly.

Twitter is a big part of my platform. And twitter doesn’t work well at all when you’re just starting out. What I did was join an indie author’s site, Independent Authors Network, and started retweeting the tweets from some of their most followed authors. Eventually I was tweeting about fifty authors, and when I started to tweet my own books, I was being retweeted to several hundred thousand followers. And I learned about hashtags, which get your tweets in front of people who are not following you or anyone you know. Hootsuite was also useful in scheduling tweets around the clock, so I could get my message in front of fans in Australia.

And those are my basic steps for getting some notice. Some may work well for you, some may not. Among the strategies that don’t work are paid advertisements. Among others that work well are volunteering to do essays on other blogs, like this one. Or, as Kevin J. Anderson says when offered an opportunity that might help, “I can do that.”

11348812_911349812241779_1132617393_nDoug Dandridge Bio:
Doug Dandridge is a Florida native, Army veteran and ex-professional college student who spent way too much time in the halls of academia. He has worked as a psychotherapist, drug counselor, and, most recently, for the Florida Department of Children and Families. An early reader of Heinlein, Howard, Moorcock and Asimov, he has always had a love for the fantastic in books, TV and movies. Doug started submitting science fiction and fantasy in 1997 and collected over four hundred rejection letters. In Decmeber of 2011 he put his first self-publishing efforts online. He currently has 26 books on Amazon, with two more due out over the summer. After a slow 8 month start, he has sold over 125,000 copies of his work in a 33 month period, and his Exodus: Empires at War science fiction series has placed five consecutive books at the number one rank on the Amazon.UK Space Opera and Military Science Fiction lists, and top five on Amazon.US. He has been published in Kevin J. Anderson’s Five By Five military science fiction anthology, and has been invited to submit to several others. He quit his day job in March 2013, and has since made a successful career as a self-published author

Orbit Xplorer

A guest post by Doug Dandridge.

I was going to write a post about Ginger, a software program that helps writers find errors in their manuscripts. However, Ginger changed their interface to the point where it does not do all the stuff this writer was going to rave about. So on to something else.

I write very detailed military science fiction, and I like to get things right as much as I can. I’m sure I miss, but not from a lack of trying. In the bad old days, I had to do everything by calculator and graph paper, but now the internet supplies the tools to really get down into the dirt of astrophysics. There are a lot of programs out there that do a good job of simulating different types of orbital systems. Programs like Universe Sandbox and others. I love Universe Sandbox for simulating where asteroids are going to be at any given time in the future. For detailed orbits of simpler systems, enter Orbit Xplorer by Ottisoft. At $25 for a single site license the program, for all it can do, is a bargain.

OrbitXplorer

Orbit Xplorer comes with a number of preprogramed simulations, a star visits the sun (bad), double star (cool), Kepler’s laws (educational), two colliding stars (also really bad, but cool as well). While useful, I found the simulations I could program to be much more useful, and I will give three examples below.

I wanted to work out Hohmann Transfer Orbits for a book idea about Mars. Hohmann’s use a least fuel curving orbit to put a ship into Mars orbit from Earth, and can only be accomplished over certain timespans. But for the book I wanted to see how much of a boost I could use to take days off of the transfer. Using the program and trial and error I found the optimal boost to achieve a least time transfer, and discovered that any boost after that just sent the ship flying out into the outer solar system.

The second example was working out the orbits for a book that was to be the lead volume for the second Deep Dark Well trilogy (which has been written but not published). The idea was that ancient humans had moved stars and planets into place, then put terraformed moons into orbit around some of the closer gas giants. The program allows the user to put whatever objects he wants in orbit around each other, setting the mass of each body as well the distances of the orbits. Again, it’s a trial and error process, and at some close distances the moons fall into the gas giant. I set up a situation where all of the terraformed moons were as close as I could put them, so that their days (which are the same as one orbit around the gas giant) would be of reasonable lengths, none more than fifty some hours or so. When I ran the program, everything orbited well for about fifty evolutions, as which point one moon curved in, hit another moon, and both collided with the gas giant (very bad), while one of the remaining moons was pulled out of orbit to go careening through the outer solar system, there to freeze (bad as well). Oops. Eventually I got it to run a thousand cycles without a disaster, and went with those orbits, which gave me the day night cycle of the moon of interest to the story, as well as the cycle at which phases of the other moons would be seen.

The final example is from my Exodus series, which has been called by some readers as a new level of worldbuilding. I won’t even go into the central black hole with eight stars in orbit around it, all with their own system. One of the systems I wanted as accurate as possible was the two Earth mass planets in orbits around each other, the capital world and it’s twin. Both were habitable, and I also wanted the capital planet to have a terraformed moon in orbit. So I modeled the two planets in orbit around each other first off, with the one parameter being that the day night cycle on both worlds would not be longer than about forty hours. Anything longer might cause problems with the earth like vegetation on the worlds. That was easy enough. I had two beautiful planets that each had a bright world in the sky in one hemisphere at night, and experienced daily short lived eclipses on their day sides each light cycle. The worlds were about ninety thousand kilometers or so apart, which would make each world many times larger than our moon in the sky of the other. I then added the moon, and found that it would orbit the one world at about ten thousand kilometers in a slightly elliptical orbit. I ran the simulation about a thousand cycles, and everything seemed to hold together.

One of the coolest things about a science fiction setting is how different we can make them. Planets in orbit with each other around a center of gravity, moons in orbit around larger planets. Multiple star systems. One of the coolest things I found about Orbit Xplorer was how it sparked the imagination, suggesting setting I wouldn’t have otherwise thought of. Setting can be another major character in your work, the more imaginative, the better.

Guest Writer Bio:
Doug DandridgeDoug Dandridge lives in Tallahassee, Florida, where he has worked as a full time writer since March of 2013. A graduate of Florida State University and the University of Alabama, and a veteran of the United States Army, Doug has been in love with the fantastic since an early age. He has over twenty-five self published books on Amazon, and has a half dozen novels that have reached the top five in Space Opera in the US and UK.

Keeping the Tension Ramped Up in Combat Scenes

A guest post by Doug Dandridge.

I mostly write military science fiction, and am writing military fantasy when not working on the next scifi novel. Exodus: Empires at War is a series with very detailed and lengthy battle scenes told from multiple viewpoints. I originally learned the main technique I used from reading the Dritzz DoUrden novels by R. A. Salvatore. If you’re not familiar with these wonderful stories, they involve a Dark Elf who has turned his back on his evil people and now fights the darkness with his mighty companions. There are very detailed battles in which maneuvers great and small are described, and often the companions find themselves fighting out of sight of each other. Not only are their battles told from their viewpoints, but the point of view of their major enemies. In my own battles, which can last for as many as eight chapters, you get the points of view of characters at different areas of the fight, on the different departments of the ships, even from both sides of the battle. I even switch back and forth from battles going on simultaneously hundreds of light years apart. Some people might find this a bit confusing, but my fans, military science fiction aficionados all, write rave reviews about the amount of detail.

I have seen writers who do their battle scenes from a single viewpoint, and they read like an endless description of the good guys fighting an unknown, a faceless enemy that could be anything. They go on and on with description after description, interspersed with dialogue, until the writer has to get to the climax or totally lose his readers, in most cases much too soon. I like to use a movie approach that switches back and forth and gives play to both sides. For example, think of The Wrath of Khan. First scene is Kirk watching the Reliant approach without establishing communications. The scenes switch back and forth to Khan ordering shields raised, Spock telling Kirk; Khan ordering locking on phasers, Spock telling Kirk; Khan yelling fire. Switch to the scene of phasers hitting the Enterprise, then a shot of the panic in engineering as everything goes to hell. Then back up to the bridge. The action comes in bursts from different points of view, including the omniscient one of the Reliant blasting the Enterprise.

Of course, Hollywood likes to show these kind of scenes in a manner that puts both combatants front and center, even if there are a whole bunch of them. Witness the final two episodes of Deep Space Nine, where there were over a thousand ships, and the screen was crowded with them. Something to do with wanting to awe the audience. In my novels battles are fought at long range, beam weapons almost useless until units get within a light minute of each other. Even at that range it takes time for a weapon to hit, and even ships two kilometers in length would appear tiny if on the same screen. In a book, the screen is the mind, and as long as you can convince the reader of that immensity, they will see it. But even here Hollywood gives an example when they want to. The movie Midway showed the battle between American and Japanese carrier forces, a fight where the ships didn’t see each other, but launched aircraft to do the actual attack. But with judicious switching of viewpoints they conveyed this type of fight perfectly. And it’s much easier to do in a book.

Doing each chapter as a series of mini-scenes in this way makes almost every scene a cliff hanger. Each installment ends with an unknown. Missiles coming in, lasers burning through the hull and klaxons sounding, the characters on the edge of disaster. The next scene does the same to someone else, on some other ship, then to the enemy, who is having problems of their own. Interspersed are scenes of small victories, and, as the fight progresses, much larger ones. After a sequence covering one part of the fight I like to change to a different area of the battle, maybe even a different star system, for the next. In this way I move the reader through an epic battleground where they are carried from tension to tension, with some small resolutions along the way.

To me the worst way to resolve a battle is with a non-event. I have read a lot of books where they build up to the fight, the training, the organization, the hopes and dreams of those involved. And in the next scene, it’s all aftermath. I feel ripped off by those stories. People read books that promise action because they want to read about that action. I provide that action. The first book of my Exodus series, more of a Universe establishment tale, had limited action, maybe twenty to thirty percent, and that is the worst reviewed of the series. After that, the action increases, until the later books have almost eighty percent action sequences. Some people may think that too much, preferring more time for character development or background. The thing is, I am working as a full time author by writing such, and success proves to me, at least, that the method works.

About Doug Dandridge: 11022903_860155284027899_98329783_n
Doug Dandridge is a Florida native, Army veteran and ex-professional college student who spent way too much time in the halls of academia. He has worked as a psychotherapist, drug counselor, and, most recently, for the Florida Department of Children and Families. An early reader of Heinlein, Howard, Moorcock and Asimov, he has always had a love for the fantastic in books ad movies. Doug started submitting science fiction and fantasy in 1997 and collected over four hundred rejection letters. In December of 2011 he put up his first self-publishing efforts online. Since then he had sold over 100,000 copies of his work, and has ranked in the top five on Amazon Space Opera and Military Science Fiction multiple times. He quit his day job in March 2013, and has since made a successful career as a self-published author.