The Data Disruption launch

The new Genrenauts story is here!

Cyberpunk is one of my very favorite genres. Movies like Ghost in the Shell and Blade Runner were formative for me growing up, as well as The Matrix. I played the hell out of Netrunner card game growing up, as well as Shadowrun and Cyberpunk 2020. In school, I got to take a SF/F class from a professor whose specialty is cyberpunk.

I was a bit young to read Cyberpunk when it was first emerging in film and fiction. But as a Millennial/Gen Y/Oregon Trail generation kid, I grew up in an ever-more Cyberpunk world, with global communications technology, global mega-corps, consolidation, ever-more-impressive medical and technological breakthroughs, automation, rising corporate influence on government, and so on. It’d be pretty easy for me to argue that Cyberpunk is the genre most reflective of the world I’ve known growing up. It’s given me many of the tools I use to see and analyze the world, in terms of the social impact of technology, how labor, corporations, and politics intersect, and humanist questions about androids, robots, and so on.

Also, it’s got cool fight scenes.

So it’s little surprise that the majority of my non-novella short fiction is cyberpunk. “Kachikachi Yama” and “Can You Tell Me How To Get to Paprika Place” are both cyberpunk stories, though their focuses are very distinct. Cyberpunk aesthetics show up in the Ree Reyes series as well, especially in Hexomancy.

Acknowledgments 

I want to thank John Appel, Devan Barlow, Beth Cato, and A.F. Grappin for their great beta reader feedback on this story. Richard Shealy’s copy edit helped me say what I want to say with clarity. Thanks also to Sean Glenn for keeping the visual style of Genrenauts going with his cover design, and to Meg White Underwood for being my first reader and final proofer, as well as a marvelous brainstorming buddy. And once again, thanks to everyone who backed, promoted, and otherwise supported the Genrenauts Season One Kickstarter.

So without further ado, here’s The Data Disruption! It’s free on all ebook platforms. Check below for more information about the story.

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * iTunes
GumroadKobo

The Data Disruption cover. Design by Sean Glenn

Design by Sean Glenn

 

When Stories Break, You Send in the Genrenauts!

The Genrenauts are a group of story experts who travel to parallel worlds. Each is the home of a narrative genre—Science Fiction or Romance, Fantasy or Western—populated by archetypal characters and constantly playing out familiar stories.

The Genrenauts’ mission: find and fix broken stories. If they fail, the ripples from the story worlds will cause havoc and devastation on their home world.

In the world of Cyberpunk, D-Source, a noted hacker, has disappeared, leaving his team’s storyline to grind to a halt. Angstrom King leads the Genrenauts on a mission to find out what happened to D-Source and how to get the cyberpunks back in the action.

World-spanning megacorporations…suspicious mercenaries living on the edge…lethal computer programs designed to tear your mind to shreds…the Genrenauts will face all these and more to get the story back on track—before it’s too late.

A short story in the world of Genrenauts (a finalist for the r/Fantasy “Stabby” Award for Best Serialized Fiction.)

Those links again:
Amazon * Barnes & Noble * iTunes
GumroadKobo

Get a Free Book!

As part of spreading the word about Genrenauts, I’m offering free copies of The Cupid Reconciliation to anyone who signs up for my newsletter through InstaFreebie. This will let folks try out the series and decide if they want to go back and pick up the other episodes or to take the plunge and pick up the entire season collection.

Red - Book Page

If you haven’t given Genrenauts a try, here’s your chance to do so at the low low price of free.

Off to NerdCon!

NerdCon: Stories

As this post goes, live, I am on my way to Minneapolis, MN for NerdCon: Stories, a two-day celebration of the power of storytelling (October 14-15th). I’m honored to be a Featured Guest for the con. I’ll be on a gaming panel, reprising my How To Hand-Sell Your Book presentation, and reading during a showcase event. You can check out my full programming schedule for the con here.

I’ll also be running a booth at the con all weekend with my friend Jay Swanson. If you’re coming to the con, please swing by (#817) and say hello! I will have a limited # of the paperback omnibus editions of Genrenauts: The Complete Season One Collection, as well as other books.

Here’s a quick guide to where you can find Jay and my booth during the con:

 

NerdCon booth directions

 

As a special bonus, the Ree Reyes novels (speaking of Nerds + stories) are still on discount through this weekend!

Amazon * B&N Nook * Kobo * iTunes

ree-reyes-series-small

Genrenauts Season One Collection

I’m very excited (like hovering over my chair excited) because today is a big landmark in my writing career. Today marks the result of countless hours of writing, planning, and promotion, as Genrenauts: The Complete Season One Collection releases to the world.

If you’re coming here through random happenstance and haven’t about Genrenauts, it’s like Leverage meets Redshirts, where a group travels to dimensions based on narrative genres (like Fantasy, Western, Romantic Comedy, etc.) to find and fix broken stories. It’s set up like a TV series with a new adventure every episode, arranged in seasons with an overarching plot. This new book collects the first season in one volume.

Writing this series has let me really dig in and explore what makes stories tick, why we tell certain types of stories, and what I love about different genres.

I’m eager to bring Genrenauts to new readers by collecting all six episodes from Season One in this single volume, sold at a big discount compared to buying each episode individually.

You can get the Season One Collection in ebook:

Direct from Me (via Gumroad)
Amazon Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iBooks

And in paperback from:
Amazon * Barnes & Noble * IndieBound

A final bit of fun. Here’s me unboxing the first physical copy of the omnibus:

The Failed Fellowship launch!

The Failed Fellowship cover

Today marks the release of the final episode of Genreneauts season one with The Failed Fellowship. If you’re itching to pick up a copy, here are some convenient links:

Direct from the Author (via Gumroad)
Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * iTunes

And now, some reflection, in the form of the acknowledgments for this season finale.

 

Here we are, at the end of the first season of Genrenauts. It’s been an exciting, winding road, and I’ve learned a lot in the 10 months since the series launched last November. I’ve learned about the joys of writing serial episodic fiction, the challenges of promoting that kind of fiction, and I’ve learned that I can succeed as not only the author but the publisher of my own fiction.
These two episodes draw on my life-long love of the fantasy genre. I’m a writer because I love fantasy, so it only made sense to send a love letter to the genre which set me on the path to being a storyteller. The Failed Fellowship draws from The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Dungeons and Dragons, and many more heroic fantasy adventures, especially those of the role-playing persuasion. Many other fine writers have written loving parodies of the genre, and it has been an utter delight to add my voice to that chorus celebrating and gently tweaking the genre.
I’ve written before about how fantasy’s escapism is far more often one of liberation than one that’s about abandoning the world. Professor Tolkien started that line of conversation, and like so many of us in the genre, I find myself continuing the conversations he got rolling. The Tolkien tradition and D&D have given us a lot in the genre, and while we’re moving the genre forward into new and interesting directions, it’s also fun to remember how we got here and to keep those balls rolling.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned this season is that I have a wealth of people rooting me on and supporting me every step of the way. From the 321 fabulous Kickstarter backers to my marvelous production team, beta readers, and more. Thank you, one and all, for what you’ve done in supporting me as I tell this story.
Some specific shout-outs:

  • Big thanks to Effie Seiberg, Beth Cato, and Jay Swanson for their great notes on Episodes 5 & 6, helping me dig deeper with characterization and clarify places where the story had been lazy or lacking depth.
  • A hearty cheers to Bryon Quertermous, my editor, for riding with me again and posing great questions about how I could make these episodes stronger, and in doing so, elevate the entire season.
  • Richard Shealy is a freaking copyediting wizard. He’s learned my style and his copyedit passes help me do a better job of telling the story the way I wanted, without any prejudice or desire to exert influence. His addition to the work is seamless, invisible, and essential. Thanks, man.
  • I lift a great tankard of ale to Sean Glenn for once again providing the cover for this episode.
  • And to my fabulous wife, Meg White Underwood, my eternal thanks. Meg was my first confidant with the finale and my diligent final proofer before the book went off to press.
  • And again, thank you to the fabulous Kickstarter backers of Genrenauts: The Complete Season One Collection, which releases to the public on October 11th.

Now onward, to season two!

Michael R. Underwood
Baltimore, MD
September 14th, 2016

NerdCon: Stories Schedule

NerdCon: Stories

 

Hello, all!

I’m very excited to be a Featured Guest at NerdCon: Stories in Minneapolis, MN this October 14-15th. NerdCon: Stories is a new convention (in its 2nd year) celebrating stories and the power of storytelling. I couldn’t imagine a convention more up my alley if I started it myself. I heard great things about the con from several friends, and was eager to be a part of NerdCon: Stories this year.

The schedule for the con is up for all to peruse.

And here’s where you can find me during the show:

 

Saturday, October 15th:

11:00 AM – Room 101A – How To Hand-Sell Your Book

Author and publishing professional Mike Underwood shares lessons from seven years of hand-selling books to readers, booksellers, and sales reps.  Learn how to put your work into a market context, showcase what makes it special, and connect with readers when selling at conventions, festivals, and more.

12:30 PM – Room 101 BCHI – Storytelling in Tabletop Games

Role-playing and other tabletop games are a fantastic catalyst for collaborative storytelling. Creating narrative frameworks and game rules that allow players to have enough control over both story and interaction can be a tricky business. How do game designers do this, and what makes a game truly great?

3:30 PM – Saturday Afternoon Variety Show

Hosted by Paul & Storm

Featuring:

  • A rapid-fire Q&A with Chris Rathjen, Eileen Cook, Joe DeGeorge, Jonathan Ying, Karen Hallion, Kevin MacLeod, Nalo Hopkinson, and Paolo Bacigalupi
  • A talk by Sara Benincasa
  • Daniel José Older and Nalo Hopkinson in conversation
  • Ms. Pacman vs the Patriarchy – a talk by Paul DeGeorge
  • A reading by Michael R. Underwood
  • A lip sync battle with Blue Delliquanti, John Scalzi, Paul Sabourin, Matt Young, Mikki Kendall, and Darin Ross
  • A talk by John Green

 

I’m very excited to reprise and further refine my How To Hand-Sell Your Book presentation, which I’ve given at the Nebula Conference and GenCon.  The other programming looks fabulous, as well. Other than this official programming, you can find me in the Expo Hall all weekend! I’m sharing a booth with fellow author Jay Swanson (check out his cool real-time fantasy blog Into The Nanten). And if all goes as planned, I will have paperback copies of the Genrenauts Season One Omnibus!

You can register for NerdCon: Stories here.

Hope to see you there!

Genrenauts Omnibus cover!

I have for you today the fabulousness that is the Genrenauts Season One omnibus cover, created by Thomas Walker.

Genrenauts Season One cover - art by Thomas Walker

When Thomas sent over his first rough, I was instantly blown away, and totally confident that I had picked exactly the right artist to capture the cross-genre adventure feel of the series. Thomas’s style is both flexible and unforgettable – he brings in elements of movie-poster-style design, and he made my art brief come alive in all of the best possible ways. It draws upon and references the individual episode covers while making a bold move into an incredibly catchy style that sums up the entire season in one amazing image. Every time I look at it, I want to jump ahead and start writing Season Two just so I can commission Thomas to do another piece of art.

But that’s getting ahead of myself. First, I’ve got to finish up the omnibus for Kickstarter backers and other lovely readers.

If you missed out on the Genrenauts Kickstarter, you can now pre-order the omnibus direct from me via Gumroad right now. Other pre-order links coming soon!

UPDATE: Soon is now!

Gumroad

Amazon

Kobo

iTunes

The Substitute Sleuth launch!

She’s a Wacky Comedian. He’s a Gruff Detective. They Fight Crime!

The Substitute Sleuth - Genrenauts Episode 4 cover

Today, Genrenauts continues with Episode 4 – The Substitute Sleuth.

This episode draws on contemporary police procedurals like Castle, Psych, Lie to Me, White Collar, and others. It puts Leah Tang on the spot in a big way, and dives into Angstrom King’s backstory. It also kicks the season into high gear as we barrel forward into the season finale.

You can buy your copy direct via Gumroad.

Or on: Kindle  Nook  Kobo  iTunes

The first season of Genrenauts will conclude with The Failed Fellowship, the two-part finale, coming in October!

To whet your appetite, here’s the first chapter of The Substitute Sleuth:

 

Continue reading

10 Things I Learned From Running My First Kickstarter

It’s been a bit over a month since the conclusion of the Genrenauts Kickstarter, and looking back, here are some things I learned/verified during the campaign.

It’s Best to Bring Your Own Crowd…

When people talk about crowd-funding, we can’t forget the crowd part. One of the best ways to ensure success is to have an existing base of readers/supporters/fans ready and excited to back your campaign as soon as it launches. Thanks to newsletter mailings and some social media activity, people knew about my Kickstarter and backed very quickly. Here’s a chart of the first few days:

Kickstarter funding first few days - high # of backers and pledges

In the first day, the campaign got 56 backers for $1,497, which was 29% of the original funding goal.

The second day got us to 82 backers, $2,398, 47% funded.

And day three brought the total to 100 backers, $2,758, and 55% funded.

In those first days, friends, readers, and family mobilized to get the ball rolling in a huge way. Existing fans of the Genrenauts series jumped at the chance to be a part of the next step, and friends from all over pitched in to help me reach my goal.

Based on my experience following Kickstarter, if I had been a brand-new creator — launching a brand-new series with no track record — there’s basically no way I would have seen 100 backers in the first 72 hours.

…but Kickstarter will help, too.

A full 28% of the pledges (for $2,287) for the campaign came from Kickstarter links. This means that it’s very likely that those backers did not know me or Genrenauts before funding. Instead they found the campaign through Kickstarter’s own systems, from editorial spotlights to their search engine. That was notably higher than the 15-20% I was expecting, since Fiction projects aren’t at all the hottest geek-related category on Kickstarter (games are far hotter).

The Middle-of-campaign Doldrums are Real

Looking at the full funding chart, we can see that things really slowed down in the middle of the campaign:

Full chart of Kickstarter backers and funding by dayAround the 16th of May, things slowed down some. An then after the 26th of May, the campaign really slows down, getting less than 5 new backers a day for over a week. I was still putting out updates, hitting blogs and podcasts, but not at the same rate, and even so, we were still very far from our first stretch goal (more on that later).

This was the chunk of the campaign where I was getting kind of frustrated. I was having problems getting promotional hits confirmed, and I ended up having more sparse programming at BaltiCon, my local SFF con, than I had expected. And the items I did have didn’t seem to end up moving a lot of pledges. I did have a great time there, and recorded two interviews, which will me grow my reach over time.

Get Excited in Your Video (but don’t go on too long).

I spent a fair amount of time on my video. I wrote a script, rehearsed it until I could perform it mostly without visual reference, and did some work on setting the scene for better composition, as well as the time editing.

But the video was still too long. My video got 1,238 plays (so if no one re-watched the video, that means about 1/4 of the people who played the video backed the project. I think it’s far more likely that the video got re-played several times, so it’s harder to know the conversion %). But only 17.21% of the plays completed. Some might have cut off half-way through and just backed, and some might have watched 99% of the video and cut it off as the credits were rolling. But if I were to go back, I’d probably make the video about 1/3 shorter.

Lock Down Your Promo Schedule Early

Thanks to having a lot of connections in SF/F, I was able to get a lot of help spreading the word about the campaign – guest posts, interviews, podcasts, etc. But despite starting that process around 6 weeks before the campaign launched, I did not do a great job of locking down all of the go-live dates for those promotional hits. This means that I was sending follow-up emails, chasing schedules, and writing promo content during the campaign.

Stretch Goals Should be in Small Increments and be Broad-Reaching 

I was pretty confident that the campaign would be able to hit $5,000, the original goal. And due to the cost of producing audiobooks, my three main stretch goals were to create audio editions of episodes 3, 4, and 5&6. The trick there is that despite being a growing segment of the book industry, and despite Mary Robinette Kowal being an amazing audio performer with her own audience, it seemed like the promise of audio alone was not quite enough to carry momentum forward for another $4,000 very quickly. The campaign finished at $8,247, and thanks to Mary Robinette’s generosity, we will be able to have audio for Episode 3.

But I think I made an error in spacing out the stretch goals the way that I did. In addition to the stretch goals, I also had backer # goals, including a goal at 150 backers, one at 300, and the whimsy goals. If I’d set the first backer goal at 200 or 250 backers, that would have positioned the carrot of the bonus content more effectively to keep excitement up after hitting the initial funding goal but before reaching the audiobook goal.

The difficulty with the audio stgoals is that due to the cost, it wasn’t feasible for me to have intermediary stretch goals which required a capital cost. I needed all of the $ to pay for the audio production. Which means all I could do was offer goals with a labor cost – my labor. And because I was busy during the campaign on both keeping up the energy and in making promotional hits happen, I wasn’t in a good place to create additional labor-only stretch goals that would be feasible.

If I could go back, I’d definitely have smaller goals at $6,500 or $7,000, then at $10,500, etc. This would mean that there was always a stretch goal within $1,500 to $2,000 at any point once the original goal was hit. Having watched a lot of campaigns, the framing of “Only $5,16 dollars left until we hit <Small Goal #2!>” is really strong at converting. And for me, after hitting the original goal, it was $4,000 more until the first stretch goal. No one’s fault but my own, but I think with better-spaced goals, the campaign could have hit $12,000 or even $14,000.

Graphics are Key

This is something I got feedback on from Kickstarter-veteran friends, including Jay Swanson, Bradley P. Bealieu, and Gregory A. Wilson.

Originally, I had the covers of episodes 1 & 2 as my title card graphic for the campaign. My friends urged me to use a section of the amazing “There Will Always Be a Max” art, and they were of course right. I mean, look at it:

KS Crop

it’s got storytelling, it has bold colors, it’s just stunning. Goni Montes is amazing, and I have been plotting to get more art done by him for my work since I saw this image the first time.

Additionally, I used apps like Canva and WordSwag to make social media cards for the campaign to help mobilize whatever engagement I could get:

Genrenauts Kickstarter cardGenrenauts Twitter Card #3

and Jay Swanson very helpfully turned some of the blurbs for early episodes into image cards:

Marie Brennan blurbMatt Wallace blurb

all of these, plus adding the cover images from the episodes and short to the campaign description, gave the campaign a very strong visual appeal. Even the small preview card for the campaign was compelling, with solid copy and catchy art:
Campaign preview card

Don’t Expect To Get Anything Else Done

It was about all I could do to run the Kickstarter and stay on top of my day job. Thankfully, my wife Meg was 100% supportive of the campaign, and took on more of the household day-to-day during the Kickstarter in order to leave me with the time and energy to be the 24/7 cheerleader that a campaign requires.

Every day, I was writing thank you messages to backers, coordinating promotion, keeping in touch with my publishing team (since I was also getting Episode 3 ready to publish during the campaign), boosting on social media, revising projections, working on updates, and generally running around with lots of nervousness trying to keep my energy channeling into useful places instead of just fretting. Friends who had run Kickstarters told me about the exhaustion, and I believed them, but being in the middle of it running a campaign is a whole different thing.

Celebrate Success and Be Generous With Gratitude

The campaign had a lot of help, from friends giving me advice and support ahead of launch, Kickstarter staff (especially the amazing Margot Atwell) advising me on how to strengthen my campaign page/video/etc., and the colleagues who gave of their blogs, podcasts, and social media platforms to support me.

And most of all, no campaign can happen without backers. They are your Super-Fans, your colleagues, your family, and the wonderful people who have come to you through the joyful happenstance of algorithmic searching and are taking a chance on you. A Kickstarter is a way to re-connect with old friends, to strengthen your relationship with long-time readers, and more. A Kickstarter is the 21st century version of a Barn-Raising. At the end of the day, one person gets the barn, but everyone who helped make it happen has a sense of ownership, a sense of pride and accomplishment. That amount of support is a huge gift, and like any gift, it is not to be squandered.

Here’s what I’ve already with some of the Kickstarter funds: Paid for cover design, editorial development, and more. Most of the costs are still ahead, and will involve producing and shipping the physical editions for the campaign. But a Kickstarter doesn’t end when the campaign closes, nor does it end when the result is delivered. A Kickstarter forges a bond between creator and backers that continues for years to come, as I’ve learned by being a backer. One month after the campaign, I’m still deep in the production process, and even after fulfillment, I know that I’ll want to communicate with and draw upon the incredible support of my 321 backers as I continue the Genrenauts series and keep them appraised of my other projects. A successful Kickstarter is a gift that does, in fact, keep on giving.

And now the bonus lesson:

Folks out there that have run Kickstarters – what did you learn during your campaign that surprised you? Or if you’ve backed Kickstarters but not run one, what surprised you as a backer?

A Reminder in Song

(With apologies to the Ramones)

(Full Lyrics)

Twenty twenty twenty four hours to go
I wanna get Kickstarted
So much to do, new worlds to write,
I wanna get Kickstarted

Just get me to nine-thousand, un-lock that audio
Hurry hurry hurry, while there’s time to go.
I can’t control the numbers, I cannot stop the show
Oh no oh oh oh oh

Twenty twenty twenty four hours to go
I wanna get Kickstarted
So much to do, new stories to write,
I wanna get Kickstarted

Just go and back the project now, get me to the goal
Hurry hurry hurry, help us keep up the flow
I can’t control the numbers, I cannot stop the show
Oh no oh oh oh oh

Twenty twenty twenty four hours to go
I wanna get Kickstarted
So much to do, new stories to write,
I wanna get Kickstarted

Just go and back the project now, get me to the goal
Hurry hurry hurry, help us keep up the flow
I can’t control the numbers, I cannot stop the show
Oh no oh oh oh oh

genre genre Genrenauts, I wanna get Kickstarted
genre genre Genrenauts, I wanna get Kickstarted
genre genre Genrenauts, I wanna get Kickstarted
genre genre Genrenauts, I wanna get Kickstarted