Monday, November 30, 2015

Love Hurts Anthology Released!

I'm excited to announce that Meerkat Press's LOVE HURTS has now been officially published.  Here's the skinny:
Twenty-six brilliant speculative fiction stories about love, and the pain that so often accompanies it. Enjoy a cornucopia of imaginative tales, wondrous settings, and unforgettable characters—such as the disillusioned time traveler who visits ancient Japan to experience a “Moment of Zen,” the young woman from planet Kiruna who can only communicate in song when the moonlet Saarakka is up, and the sorcerer who loses their happiness in a bet with a demon.

Rich and wonderfully diverse, this collection spans many speculative fiction genres: from SciFi to Dystopian, from Fantasy to Magical Realism, from Steampunk to Superhero, from Horror to Weird. Sometimes funny, occasionally happy, frequently gut-wrenching—these stories will take your heart on a wild emotional ride.

Stories by Jeff VanderMeer, Hugh Howey, Karin Tidbeck, Charlie Jane Anders, Holly Phillips, Aliette de Bodard, A. Merc Rustad, Steve Simpson, Mel Paisley, J. D. Brink, Matt Leivers, Michael Milne, Michal Wojcik, Carla Dash, Terry Durbin, Michelle Ann King, Kyle Richardson, Leah Brown, G. Scott Huggins, Dan Micklethwaite, Victoria Zelvin, Shannon Phillips, Keith Frady, Jody Sollazzo, David Stevens, and Morgen Knight.
You can find ebook and paperbacks on Amazon by clicking here.  Can't wait to get my copy!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Free and Discounted Fantasy Fiction: Final Phase of the Fall Fallout

Wow, that's a lot of F's.

This is the final week of my "Fall Fallout Campaign" during which I've been running discounts on almost all of my ebooks.  I don't expect to be running any deals for quite some time, so get them while you can!

My 400-page fantasy novel Tarnish is just 0.99 (dollars or pounds, US or UK) right now through the 22nd.  You can find it on Amazon by clicking here now.

Being a hero isn’t as easy as the tavern tales would have you believe. 

Billy Cole has always been a quick study, be it at telling tales, brewing ale, or swordplay. 

And yet it surprises Wil Thunderstrike, his alter ego, at just how hard and fast the lessons come on his first venture into the real world of back-alley thieves, traveling talespinners, and warriors of renown.  

Wil’s quest is to find epic heroes to save his home town, but it'll take more than a sword and the inspiring tales of his legendary idols to survive the harsh world beyond Redfield.  And the further he travels into the night, the darker he gets.

Tarnish is a grittier coming-of-age story than you’re used to, where destiny is forged, not written.  

What kind of hero would you be?

You can also pick up The Prince of Luster and Decay, a Tarnish prequel story, for FREE through the 22nd.  Find it on Amazon right now by clicking here.

In war, men don't only fight the enemy. Sometimes they must also fight themselves.

Sergeant Knox leads the Head Knockers, a unit of scout-saboteurs in the war against the Dread Duke and his armies. They are the favorite squad among Captain Brighton’s Stormwalkers, until an ambush kills the Captain, half the company, and Knox’s best men.

Now the new Captain has new orders.  He’s sending the Head Knockers to investigate the possible source of the attack.  The town they find appears empty, but there’s something waiting for them there.  And they’ll need both heart and steel to defeat it.

This stand alone, sword and soldiery novella gives a glimpse into history of the fantasy novel Tarnish.

Only a few days left!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Writer vs. Publisher: Superhero vs. Alter Ego

I find myself spending all my "writing" time working on "publisher" tasks and not getting enough new writing done.

Lately I'm doing all of the following (other than writing):

  * Searching for, discussing/negotiating with, and preparing materials for a cover artist.
  * Filing paperwork and scheduling time for having a book sale and signing in the next couple weeks (at which time I'll spend a whole day doing that instead of writing).
  * Reformating (and trying to resist the urge to revise again) a novella I'm republishing as it's own stand-alone book.
  * Reviewing/listening to the audiobook files for Hungry Gods that's in production now.
  * Fretting over what project I should be working on next (while actually writing the prequel to Hungry Gods) and figuring out a schedule of intended works for 2016.
  * Scheduling and marketing my "Fall Fallout" sales campaign, of which the third and final phase is on right now.
  * Continuing to send out short stories when they come back rejected, researching the next best market, and getting it back into the "mail," as well as recording all of that.

Very frustrating, and I wonder how much of it is necessary.  I need to start sacrificing some of this for actual writing.  The sacrifice I see making (which I'm sure flies in the face of many fellow indies in my position) is the marketing/promotion!  I really don't think it pays back the time and money we tend to dump into it, so I'm not going to allow it to suck up much time.  Even though I have a sale on RIGHT NOW!  

And all of this is on top of working 50+ hours a week and having a family.  This is why time is more valuable to me than money!

So what I'm saying is, I need to be Clark Kent less often and Superman much more!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Love Hurts Anthology Cover Reveal

I'm super excited for this book to release, probably because I have a story in it!  Publication date is set for December 1st.  You can check out the list of author's whose work will be featured by clicking here.  (And make special note of name number three on the list...)

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Indie Writing, Marketing Controversy, and Naked Numbers

In this new era of indie publishing (a chimera that isn’t done evolving yet, maybe never will be), there’s a lot of talk and controversy about marketing.  Actually, there’s a lot of talk and controversy just about every aspect, but I’m talking about my experience with marketing today.  I have recently completed an October promotion campaign and wanted to share my results.  You can take them for whatever they are worth to you. 

I came into this with two thoughts about the whole indie book marketing monstrosity:

1) The book marketing business is a hundred times bigger than the actual indie author business.  Every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a website will gladly take your money to spend five seconds posting your book, and all those guys are making a thousand times more than your average indie writer. 

2) Despite what they would have you believe, marketing your indie books can have only a limited effect unless you are already well known and/or already have quite a backlist of books to gain a residual benefit from. 

These past two weeks have only reinforced these two notions for me.

I have heard it said many times, and with good reason, that the best way to promote your books is to write the next book.  I had decided well before today that until I have half-a-million words in print, I’m not going to go overboard trying to promote anything.  My “Fall Fallout Campaign,” as I have dubbed it, is my biggest promo effort to date.  I figured you have to spend money to make money, which is no doubt true, but I also expected to be disappointed.  Given all this, my results aren’t all that surprising.  And despite the potential embarrassment of exposing these less-than-best seller numbers, I hope doing so will be helpful to some of my fellow indies.  Maybe they’ll keep a few more dollars in their pockets and a few more hours in their chairs, writing.  This whole campaign, small though it is, has distracted the vast majority of my writer’s time away from banging out forward progress on a keyboard.  The money is more than I’d yet invested in marketing, but it wasn’t horrible.  I expect I’ll make it up by the end of the year anyway. 

That said, I should also note that when you do some marketing and a big sale, part of the purpose is to sell more books in the future, and at full price, so the short term monetary gains and losses aren’t the main goal.  Still, there is such a thing as spending too much on false promises.  Again, there seem to be a lot of folks out there happy to take your money for “advertising” your books, even if the expected results aren’t quite what they advertised to you. 

Okay, after all that introduction, on to the actual campaign.

I have thus far completed two of three legs of my “Fall Fallout Campaign.”  The first was for my SF novelette The Thorne Legacy.  I also put a handful of books exclusively on Kindle Unlimited for a 90 day stretch to see if that would help me any.  It hasn’t.  Well, my novel did get a few KU downloads, but so far I have gotten no reviews from them and have only been paid a half-cent per page, which is far less than if someone bought the book.  So overall, in this 90 day period, I don’t see any overwhelming benefit convincing me to cut out all retailers except Amazon.  So I’ll be coming back out of the KU exclusivity and posting to all my channels again next month.

The Thorne Legacy ran free for five days, during which time I gave away 444 copies.  Pretty good.  Not the thousands of new readers I was hoping for, but I’ll take it.  In addition to minor efforts on my blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads (costing only my time), I also used the following sites at the cited prices:

Kindle Book Review Daily

This totaled about $55 with no immediate monetary return.  Basically, I paid about 12 cents a copy to give them away.  I can live with that.  Hopefully this planted seeds that will grow in the future.  Only time will tell.

In October, I decided to spend more cash with the hopes of getting a more immediate return.  For the Halloween season I gave away one book for free and sold two at $0.99, which were normally priced at $5.99 and $4.99.  (Some of you are saying those prices are too high; that’s a conversationfor another day, but you can read my opinion on the matter here.)  The books themselves, I feel, are well written, have a professional look and feel, have few but good, honest ratings, and would be darn good reads for such bargain prices.  (And all of these things are also factors in whether they sell or not.  You can judgefor yourselves, if you like, by checking out my blog post on the salehere.) 

Again, embracing the idea that you have to spend money to make money, I did some research on where it might be best spent and aligned all three book deals so they reinforced each other and all fit the seasonal theme (hoping that more people would be in the mood for some scary-type reading).  I also edited the descriptions of all my works to advertise the Halloween sales on these three.  What I have below is the list of promotion sites I used and how much each cost.  Below that is a day-by-day account of how many books sold.  You’ll notice some spikes on the days that certain ads went off.  From there you can decide for yourself which sites may or may not be worth your hard earned coin.

Kindle Nation Daily (& BookGorilla)
Bargain Booksy
Fussy Librarian
Ereader News Today
27oct, 28oct
HotZippy’s 13 horror street
Awesomegang feature

This totaled just over $215.  For my indie operation, that’s a nice chunk of change.  My hope is that I can make more than that back before the end of the year.  (A realistic goal, I think, with the holiday season and a return to normal pricing.)  But as the numbers below show, I took a big loss in the short term.  None of the sites sold their fee’s worth of books on the days in question, and the most expensive (at 100 bucks) wasn’t even the best sales spike.

(And yes, I did query Bookbub multiple times, and—no surprise—didn’t get in.  I think I’ll need at least a hundred more reviews before that’s a possibility.)

It’s worth noting that before the “Fall Fallout Campaign,” I’d been averaging one or two sales a day all year, the vast majority of them being for my novel Hungry Gods.  I noticed a surge in May and June and a drop in August and September, which makes me think the school year is also a factor.  All told, 2015 has been my best year to date as an indie author, with steady growth each year since I started—healthy, realistic growth, in my opinion.  I’m not expecting the lottery ticket, instant millionaire lightning strike that everyone hopes for when they start out.  I’ve moved past those dreams to setting more realistic business goals. 

And, of course, this marketing microcosm is just one guy’s experience in the short term, and there are certainly more factors to consider.  But since I don’t have the funds or the time to do this often, I’ll personally be basing future decisions on these results.  (By the way, these numbers are all from Amazon; I did have a total of 12 sales for the month on other venues, but they aren’t factored in here.)

total paid sales
Walk (free)

RESULTS:  So what am *I* taking from this?  Well, “Fall Fallout” has one more leg to it in November: a novel down to $0.99 and a related KDP freebie.  I’ve already invested in Amazon KDP advertising for the first time, so that’ll run through the end of the month (and I’ll see how well that goes).  On top of that, I’ll probably place another $25 ad with Ereader News Today, and that’s going to be it.  (The $100 Kindle Nation Daily ad certainly wasn’t worth the exorbitant price.)  For the freebie, I’ll likely go with Book Marketing Tools, which reaches 30+ sites for $15, and that’ll be it for that one.  (I do also have an ongoing campaign with multiple books using Goodreads ads, which renews when the funds get spent, and I’ve so far been pretty happy with.  It’s impossible for me to really know how many clicks there become actual sales, but I consider the service worthwhile.)

And while I wait for Phase Three to kick in next week, I’ll be back to my desk, writing more books and stories.  I don’t plan to bother with any more promotion nonsense until my next big book comes out.  Because no matter what these marketing sites may say, I believe most of the subscription and Twitter numbers they boast about are fellow writers—not readers—and that these most readers find their books by some other means.  I have come to think of myself as having three roles in the indie publishing business: writer (duh), publisher (formatting in different media and getting out to as many venues as possible, and all the research and learning that comes with it), and marketer.  And I bet you can guess which is most important in my model of things, and which is least.  

I hope my experience and this exhaustive, rambling essay has been helpful to some of my fellow indies.

Keep writing!