Robert Swartwood

USA Today Bestselling Author

Category: The Calling (page 1 of 3)

The Calling On Sale

The Calling — what Tim Lebbon has called “a novel that will become a classic” — is currently 99 cents on Kindle and Nook. If you purchase the Kindle edition, then you can also purchase the Audible edition for just $1.99. That’s crazy! Hurry, because this offer is only good for the next couple days.

Two New Bundles

I’ve just released two ebook bundles. The regular price for both ebooks is $6.99, but for a limited time you can grab each bundle for just 99 cents on Kindle and Nook.

  • Two Complete Novels: The Calling & The Dishonored Dead (Kindle and Nook)
  • Two Complete Novels: Legion & Man of Wax (Kindle and Nook)

Already have the books?

Gift them to a friend!

Seriously, I think I may have lost my mind. That’s four novels for just $2.00. But act fast — the price goes up to $6.99 after this weekend.

The bundles will be available on Kobo, iTunes, and Google Play very shortly. If you use those retailers and don’t want to miss out on this amazing deal, you can purchase the bundles directly via Ganxy (here and here).

In Which Tristan Morris And I Talk Audiobooks

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The Calling and Spooky Nook have been released in audio for over two months now, and they’ve been selling really well. One of the main reasons for that, I believe, is the amazing performance Tristan Morris does narrating both books. Tristan is relatively new to the audiobook scene, but I’m confident that someday he’ll become a household name. Yesterday Tristan took some time out of his busy schedule to talk with me about the whole process behind narrating an audiobook. Plus, as a bonus, I’m offering up two digital audiobook copies of The Calling. Listen and learn how you can win. Enjoy!

In Which Tristan Morris And I Talk Audiobooks

The Calling For A Buck

For a limited time — today, tomorrow, and Wednesday — you can pick up my first novel The Calling for only 99 cents on Kindle (UK readers click here), Nook, and iTunes.

Also, until the end of the month, you can enter to win a copy of the paperback from Goodreads.

And hey, did I mention The Calling is now an audiobook?

The Calling Audiobook Now Live

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The Calling is now available as an audiobook via Audible and iTunes, all 10 hours of it (Spooky Nook, also available at Audible and iTunes, is only an hour). Both are narrated by Tristan Morris, who does a fantastic job. Truly, I’m thrilled with how these two audiobook turned out. I’m a big audiobook fan, and practically listen to audiobooks every time I’m in the car. Since I’ve signed up to become an Audible Member, I listen to even more audiobooks — in the car, yes, but also at the gym, at the grocery store, and when I’m doing work around the house. Anybody who regularly listens to audiobooks knows that a narrator can make or break a book. I’ve heard some good books ruined by the wrong choice of narrator. So I listened to over one hundred audiobook narrators and narrowed them down before I picked Tristan. And, thankfully, he was available. (I plan to do a podcast with Tristan sometime in the future.) Check out the sample.

Now I know not everyone is a fan of audiobooks. That’s okay. As an author, though, I feel audiobooks are just another market, and the more markets a book is available the better. There’s a group of people who just listen to audiobooks, and then there are readers such as myself who enjoy both reading and listening to books.

Anyway, to celebrate, I want to host a giveaway. I have some really cool swag (Swartwood Swag, let’s call it) to giveaway to anyone who purchases one or both of the audiobooks or who helps spread the word. I have some large, slick magnets to give away. Yes, you heard me right — magnets. One has The Calling cover on it, the other Real Illusions. Send your audiobook receipts to robert (at) robertswartwood (dot) com, or share the link to this post on Facebook or Twitter or wherever and let me know in an email along with your address, and I’ll send out a magnet or two.

Exciting, huh?

Also, if you’re not an Audible Member but have always wanted to sign up, consider making The Calling and Spooky Nook your first two purchases. Audible gives me a nice bonus, and you’ll become my new best friend.

And as always, if you listen to the audiobooks and enjoy them, please consider leaving a review. Audible makes it very easy in that you can simply leave a star rating.

Election Day Giveaway

Did you vote today? Yes? No? Maybe? Well, head on over to Goodreads for a chance to win a paperback copy of The Calling. Just in time for next Halloween!

The Calling, A Year Later

One year ago today — plus an extra day thanks to Leap Year — I released The Calling into the world. It was the first complete novel I’d written, and was rewritten and revised many, many times. I kept coming back to it, tweaking this and that, because I really loved the story. I think I once heard somewhere that writers are oftentimes way too close to their first novels, and this was probably the case here. But through the years I received great feedback on the novel from very close friends and teachers, as well as writers who have become mentors, including Stewart O’Nan and David B. Silva. I even received some great blurbs from Tim Lebbon and Jay Bonansinga — which, at the time, I planned to use to help me stand out when querying agents, and when the querying agents thing failed and the novel was put away, I felt really bad because those great blurbs would go to waste … until a year ago, that is.

So last year in preparation of The Calling’s release (the cover was done by Wyatt Perko, who, after I found the image of the ghost and got permission from Sultan Alghamdi to use it, made a really kick ass design), I released what I billed as a “prequel of sorts” called Spooky Nook (I talked about that release earlier this month), and I set up a few stops for a blog tour. My reason for doing a blog tour? Well, they seemed all the rage a year ago. Who knows, maybe they still are, but unless you’re visiting some very well trafficked blogs, it seems like a waste of time (just my two cents). Still, I’m eternally grateful to everyone who hosted me on their blog last year to let me talk about my novel or just blab about one thing or another (even Z. Constance Frost who, as we all know, doesn’t really exist … so yes, I was talking to myself in that interview). Anyway, here was the tour schedule:

For the first month or so I released The Calling at an “special introductory” price of 99 cents, and then raised the price to $2.99, which it has been ever since (in the UK it’s been £1.99). As I talked about before, the trajectory for ebooks typically goes against the traditional grain. Normally books start out with high sales and then dip down to pretty much nothing, whereas here it seems digital self-published books start out slow and pick up (not all, of course). Eventually those sales will peak, sure, but who’s to say when that will happen … and who’s to say the sales won’t pick back up at some point either? Anyway, starting last year, here are my sales for both Kindle and NOOK:

  • March: 41
  • April: 168
  • May: 243
  • June: 285
  • July: 291
  • August: 374
  • September: 333
  • October: 456
  • November: 585
  • December 1,033
  • January: 1,402
  • February: 1,308
  • March (so far): 992

So since its release last year, The Calling has sold nearly 7,500 units. Is that good? Hard to say. Some authors sell 7,500 units of their book a month, while it might take other authors over ten years to sell that amount. I’m certainly happy with how it’s doing. Currently it’s holding steady in both the US and UK Kindle stores, and the sales in the NOOK store are picking up … which is why, when my exclusivity with Kindle Select runs out, I’m reinstating Man of Wax, No ShelterThe Dishonored Dead, and Phantom Energy. Kindle Select can be a great tool for promotion — it’s done wonders for Man of Wax and No Shelter — but after that initial burst, sales begin to slow and it can take months before they start to pick up again and continue to grow. While it’s certainly nice having that immediate success of sales, it’s even better to watch a book sell consistently high every month … though it should be noted that, on the flip side, the book’s sales could slow and slow until the book stops selling at all, so there’s that. Or the book could reach the Kindle Top 100 and sell thousands of copies, and then continue selling hundreds of copies a day for months. You just never know.

Fortunately for me, The Calling has been in the horror Kindle Top 100 in both the US and UK Kindle Stores for the past several months. To give you a more visual insight, here’s a graph of my sales in the US Kindle Store:

In the UK Kindle Store, the sales have been more erratic, but have really picked up in the past few months:

What have I been doing in regards to promotion since the book’s release? A whole lot of nothing. The reason it’s selling is, I believe, because Amazon recommends it to readers, who check it out and then purchase it. I also believe reader reviews play a major factor, as for the past year The Calling has had pretty good reviews (except recently, someone gave it a one-star review because they wanted a Dean Koontz book and for some reason got The Calling instead, and were none too happy, and while I thought that might hinder sales, it apparently hasn’t … for now). Also, it helps that I have grown a backlist of titles pretty quickly in the past year — four other novels and a handful of novellas.

Obviously, there’s no guarantee those sales will stay consistent. Next month they could begin to dip, or the month after that, or even the month after that. Or the sales could pick up for the next several months. Again, it’s really completely out of my hands, and that’s sort of scary when you’ve begun to count on a particular title bringing in a particular amount of money each month. But, well, that’s publishing for you. Of course, The Calling is my best seller right now, but then again, it’s been out the longest. The Dishonored Dead, which I released shortly after The Calling, isn’t faring nearly as well, but we’ll talk about that later.

In the meantime, if you haven’t already checked out The Calling, you can purchase it in the following places:

Reader Reviews Vs. Critical Reviews

I’m back from visiting Columbia, Missouri and the Hint Fiction Art Show (well, I actually came back earlier this week), but before I do a post about all of that I want to talk about the different kinds of reviews out there in this crazy world wide web of ours.

First, though, I want to preface this by saying that whenever a reader takes time out of their busy life to read something of yours and then spends the extra time telling others about it on their blogs or Twitter feed or Amazon or whatever, no matter if it’s positive or negative, you as a writer have to be appreciative. Obviously we would love for everyone to enjoy our stuff and sing our praises, but the simple truth is that you can’t please everybody all of the time.

Now, with that out of the way, it seems there are two kinds of reviews you find on the Internet: the reader review and the critical review.

The reader review is just what it sounds like. When your every day reader reads something and talks about it on Twitter or Facebook or posts a review on Goodreads or Amazon or something like that. They aren’t an actual “reviewer” … though then again maybe they are. In fact, I know they are. It’s like asking what’s the true definition of a writer — someone who writes. Sure, some can argue that you need to be published or have some kind of degree or whatever, but then that opens another can of worms and … well, you get the idea. Just as someone who writes can be considered a writer, someone who reviews can be considered a reviewer.

That, however, doesn’t always mean their reviews are helpful. Oftentimes you’ll see Amazon reviews that give a book such glowing praise as to say “This is the best book I’ve ever read!!!!!!!!” and you have to pause and think, Really? Was this really the best book you ever read? And then you have the one-star reviews from people who say something like “I didn’t care for the main character’s first name” and those kind of reviews can of course be easily dismissed.

But every so often you do come across Amazon reviews that are thoughtful enough to let you know the reader really spent time with the book in question and, despite whether or not they liked it, is giving the book a fair shake. These reviews strive toward what we’ll call the critical review, which doesn’t necessarily need to come from such a prestigious place as the New York Times … though that can always be helpful.

The Internet has made it possible for the “book blogger” to rise up out of the ashes of obscurity and become well-respected. Then again, this isn’t necessarily a good thing for all involved. Because anybody who has a blog can become one of these reviewers, and the reviews range from anywhere between the reader side to the critical side.

Even with this in mind, though, there still needs to be some professionalism maintained with these critical reviewers. Case in point:

Last year when the Hint Fiction anthology was released I came across an early review that … wasn’t so hot. Basically, the review didn’t care much for the book. Which is fine — everyone is of course entitled to their own opinions after all — but what wasn’t really fine is the fact the reviewer continuously misspelled my last name (I’m sure you can guess how it was spelled) and even went so far as to mess up some of the story titles from the book. The anthology’s split up into three pretty easy to remember sections, and even those titles were messed up in the review.

So here we have a book blogger who’s trying to move away from being a reader reviewer to becoming a critical reviewer but then makes clumsy missteps like this and expects to be taken seriously?

The reason I bring this up is earlier this week Hellnotes reviewed The Calling and gave it a somewhat positive review (important note: the review contains some major spoilers; like, the plot of the entire book is given away in the review). One line in particular — “This novel is small town horror at its best” — makes for a great blurb, so I’m happy. Still, there are some things about the review itself (besides giving away the entire plot of the novel) that sort of … worry me as the writer of the work.

The biggest issue I have is that the reviewer refers to the main antagonist as Sammael when, in the novel, it’s Samael. A major deal? Not really, I guess, though, on a lark, I went and did a quick search of the document and the name appears 68 times, which is more than enough times to be properly spelled in a review, I’d think.

The reviewer had certain issues with the plot of the book, which is completely understandable on my end. I don’t expect everyone to love my characters or the plot or the tension or whatever else. Someone is bound to have issues with something. (Again, as long as the book gets a fair shake, the reviewer can completely blast the work for all I care; at least then I know that they actually read it.) But here the reviewer goes on with this line (which is a big spoiler, btw):

“Sammael reveals Chris’ family history and that his parents (and grandfather, to be more exact) weren’t exactly the paragons of virtue.”

Now here’s the thing: while Samael does, at the end of the book, mention this, Chris actually learns about his family history on his own near the middle of the book. And his parents, while murdered, were completely innocents in everything that happened with no knowledge of the family history. Even Chris’s grandfather didn’t have much to do with anything (it was Chris’s great grandfather and his great grandfather’s friends who did something long ago and which caused a curse on the families, though what they had done at the time was in fact quite heroic).

So that’s one thing.

And then here’s another thing (again, major spoiler):

At the end of the novel, Chris begins having dreams or visions just like Joey. He wakes one morning and knows he has go to Boise, Idaho because thirteen people are going to die. The number is never the same, as neither is the place. Even in the epilogue, Chris is asked and responds with the place and number. But still the reviewer says this (the bold is mine):

“I understood why Chris’ new role involves saving thirteen people in every town …”

But, like I explained, it’s not in every town. Just that one.

As you can imagine, I’m a little confused on how to take this review. Again, it’s somewhat positive and gives that great line for a blurb, so on the one side it’s a plus, but then the reviewer gives basically the entire plot away and seems to misunderstand a few possibly crucial parts of the book. Because then it makes me wonder what else was possibly misunderstood.

Then again, maybe I didn’t do my part right as the author in question if there were such issues on the reader’s end … though, as far as I can tell, this is the first time I’ve heard of such issues.

So anyway, reader reviews and critical reviews.

Sometimes they’re different, sometimes they’re the same.

Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re bad.

Whatever the case may be, we always have to be thankful that someone took time out of their busy day not only to read a few words we wrote, but to then in fact write about those words.

Even if they do sometimes remember the book differently than how it was written.

And Finally

The Calling is now available as a trade paperback at Amazon or, if you’d like a signed copy, you can PayPal me the retail ($14.95) plus a dollar if shipping in the U.S. or, if out of the country, email me your location and we’ll work it out: robert (at) robertswartwood (dot) com.

Mini Blog Tour Day 8

Today I wrap up The Calling’s mini blog tour with a visit to Samuel Rippey. Samuel has a story in the Hint Fiction anthology — “Civilian” — and is planning to release a novel of his own in the not-so-distant future.

Finally, the big question: has this mini blog tour been worthwhile? It’s really impossible to say. Obviously The Calling hasn’t cracked the Kindle’s Top 100 list, but I didn’t expect it to. If anything, the book and I spent a day on someone else’s blog where we were introduced to readers who may not have been aware of us before then, and at least that’s something, right? I don’t know if anyone has really even been “following” me on tour, either. I don’t even know if anyone plans to tune in next week for my live reading here on the website. But, well, you just never know, and so that’s why we do things like this. And tomorrow? Be sure to check back in tomorrow for something special.

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