Posts tagged publishing
Up at 6am. Out the door by 6:30. Out of work at about 5pm, after an entire shift where I literally wasn’t able to so much as sit down until the last fifteen minutes. I don’t do well with no food for ten hours… Really need to find a way to grab a granola bar or something on the fly. It’s sad when you put in two hours of overtime, and still leave an hour of work undone behind you. Frustrating, too.
OK, back to Waltham by about 5:20 – made good time. And made it to the dentist late, but they took me anyway. Had to get a temporary cap on a tooth replaced (old one cracked). It didn’t take them very long. Feels a little odd, but hey, it only has to last a couple of weeks. Then they do the permanent crown. (SO not really looking forward to that!)
Got home in time for Susan to leave. She was out to visit with a friend this evening, and left shortly after I arrived. A very “ships in the night” sort of day. I continued reading the book on writing; also browsed some Amazon genre pages, doing a little research on what is selling, and how. I still track percentage data sometimes, although not as carefully as I once did. Anyway, thinking about the genres, I had a new idea for a story. Actually, I had several new ideas for stories, but this one, I decided to work on a little bit.
So after dinner, I skimmed the first couple chapters of “Skylark of Space”.
For anyone who’s never read the book, this is a bit of classic SF from E.E. Smith, one of the most famous science fiction writers of the pulp era. Awesome story, if you can handle the dated storytelling style. I love it, but I admit if can be an acquired taste. Anyway, I was thinking about Skylark, and looking at my bookshelf, where there is a book titled “How to Build Your Own Spaceship”. So I stole the title, and the seed of the technology from Skylark, and started writing something for my kids.
My girls are seven, and one of them is voraciously reading anything in her path. She’s not – QUITE – to where she can handle full length adult fiction. But she’s close. And I was thinking I could maybe write something she would like, that older people would enjoy as well. So I wrote about 750 words of a story, then sat her on my lap and read the story to her (actually, she was supposed to be in bed by then, but was complaining of a nightmare, so I let her read it to me as a bedtime story to take her mind off bad dreams).
She liked it, and wants to read more.
This will be a fun side project to spend some time on while working on the other stories.
For your entertainment, the very first pages of How to Build Your Own Spaceship (first draft work)
Dana’s face froze.
Playing chemist in the basement was one thing. Accidentally dissolving your mom’s platinum ring was another, she figured. And if Mom would ground her for the chemistry (well, she might or might not – Mom was pretty cool), she’d feed Dana to piranhas if she found out about the ring.
Lucky her, it wasn’t a piece of jewelry Mom wore all that often. It was an old family ring, and Dana had figured it was a prime candidate for her experimentation in electroplating. She had the acid bath. She had the copper bar in her hand. And she had the electric current from a car battery, which up until a few moments ago had been hooked up to the platinum ring.
She wasn’t expecting the platinum to dissolve! She clenched her teeth, trying not to howl in frustration. Mom used the aqua regia to etch platinum for her artwork. It wasn’t supposed to make platinum just go poof like that.
Absently, she reached forward to stir the solution with the copper rod. Maybe the electroplating would still work?
Her ears hurt. Her fingers, the ones that had been loosely holding the copper rod, stung. The steel wire she’d looped around the bar to run back to the battery was dangling loose. What had made that loud noise? And where was the copper rod? She looked into the little pot filled with solution. Had the copper dissolved too?
No… She thought it would have left some sort of telltale residue. The platinum had.
She looked around the room, wondering what had happened, and her eyes were drawn to a small hole in the wall, right near the ceiling of the basement. It was small; she only noticed it because she could see sunlight through it. She’d never seen the hole before, though – and she spent a lot of time down here, working on one science project or another. If it wasn’t chemistry, it was robotics or engineering or rocketry. So she knew that wall as well as she knew her bedroom.
And funny, that hole was about the same width as the missing copper bar.
A short while later, she had four holes in the wall instead of one, but she’d figured out what the heck was going on. She winced, looking at the holes, and pulled out the chunk of gray modeling clay she’d swiped from the art supplies in her homeschool room. Carefully, she took four chunks of the clay and pressed them into the four holes. The color matched the wall pretty well. She didn’t think anyone would notice.
But she’d figured it out. Somehow, the platinum solution, plus a current, in contact with the copper, made the copper move. And not just move, but move fast. Almost faster than her eyes could see, even at the lowest level of power. Plus, the holes got bigger if she added more electricity into the mix. And when she hooked a bunch of paperclips onto the copper bar, they went along for the ride.
“Holy shit,” she said softly. She figured even Mom would agree this was one of those times it was OK to use bad words.
She’s been lucky she wasn’t holding that first chunk of copper too tight, or it might have taken her along. Through the wall. Who knew how far. She shivered a little.
Take away the current, though, and nothing happened. And when she tried a smaller battery, the copper sped away noticeably slower. So however the reaction was being created, she could control it by controlling the amount of electricity present.
Dana wondered how far those copper bars had gone before the reaction stopped. Maybe they’d even gone into space! She’d launched model rockets before, but it would really be something if she could launch her own little copper rockets into orbit.
Mom would be home soon, though. And she felt like she wanted to keep this from her mother for a little while yet…like maybe forever, if she could. It was a really cool reaction, like nothing she’d ever read about. But she didn’t think it would be cool enough to save her if Mom found out about the ring. And she didn’t like the idea of being grounded. Like, forever. Or at least for however long it took to get from thirteen to being away at college. Which might as well be forever.
Totals for Day 23
Daily Fiction Wordcount: 750 words Month to date fiction: 33650 words
Daily Blog Post Wordcount: 529 words Month to date blog posts: 14239 words
First day back at work, so up at 5:30, showered, dressed,and out the door by about 6:30. WITH some food in my stomach, which is always a plus. Work is long, hard, and tiring. Physically, mentally…emotionally. But I did manage a lunch break today, and I DID manage to put in 300 words on a story during lunch. In a lot of ways, that made a big difference for my afternoon. Just being able to get out of my head and into a character’s (Andy’s, in this case) for a short while helped make things better afterwards.
Work ran late – nothing new there. Was out the door by 4:30, and home by 5pm. Changed, relaxed a little bit, skimmed through some emails… Dinner was mac and cheese for the kids (Susan started it, then I served) and random bits for her and I. Just a tired night, everyone still recovering from being ill last week and tired. After dinner, I did something I hadn’t done in a little bit: I sat down with a book. Not just any book, but a book on writing (actually, have two I am reading right now.) More on that in a moment.
Watched an episode of our show with Susan at 9:30, after putting the kids to bed and finally settling the youngest. After it was over, I popped on and got in a couple hundred more words. Not a huge wordcount day, but that’s all right. Not every day will be. Writing this post and then off to bed.
The Writer as Student
I think that, too often, writers focus on working very hard at learning – the wrong things. I got to conferences, and writers pile into sessions on marketing, but the sessions on craft? Not so much. I see tons of thread on LinkedIn about “how can I promote my book?”, and precious few about “how can I make my next book better?”
One thing I’ve tried to do over time is work at pushing myself. I do NaNoWriMo every year (and have succeeded every year I tried except 2012, when I was in the middle of moving us all from Vermont to Boston all month!) not because I can’t put out 50k words in a month without it, but because I use it as a chance to experiment. Every year, I use NaNo as a chance to try something different. To push myself in a new way. To learn the craft of writing a little better.
My hope is that everything I produce is just a little better than the stuff I wrote before it. And I hope that is ALWAYS true. That I can keep on learning, and improving over time.
Yeah, I read some books on marketing stuff on occasion. But I honestly feel like the marketing is less important than the craft. Because if I write good stories, even if thousands of readers aren’t finding them right away, those stories are out there. And readers can find them. And do find them. There’s a lot of time for readers to find a good story. And if they find a good story, they might pass it along to someone else, too.
I guess you could say I am reader focused. Because if I’m always striving to tell the best story I can for my readers, then I feel like I’m doing my job as a writer well. And if I’m always improving my ability to tell those tales, then I am getting better at giving my readers what they are looking for – and what I have promised them. Great fiction.
That’s what it’s all about, folks.
So things which bring me closer to that particular mountain are good. And one thing I do, from time to time, is read books on the craft of writing by great writers who’ve gone before. I have several awesome ones, and some not so great that still gave me a little something worth the read. Writing is still the best way to learn, but there’s a lot to be gained from reading books on the writing craft as well.
Do you have any favorite writing books? A few of mine are “The Writer’s Journey”, King’s “On Writing”, Brooks’s “Story Engineering”, and of course “Of Worlds Beyond”, where Heinlein’s Rules were first printed. There’s a few other great ones on my shelves, too. I’d love to hear yours.
Totals for Day 23
Daily Fiction Wordcount: 500 words Month to date fiction: 32900 words
Daily Blog Post Wordcount: 751 words Month to date blog posts: 13710 words
Didn’t wake up til around 9am. Still felt groggy and tired. Stayed in bed checking email and generally surfing the internet while feeling cruddy until around 11am. Then up, got a little housework done, fed myself and the munchkins lunch. Susan had left in the early AM hours for an Arisia meeting – she’s the Timelord for the convention this year (as in, keeper of the project schedules and such, but that really IS the title, which is just cool).
Then upstairs, where I spent the afternoon alternating between keeping the kids occupied, finishing email answering, keeping the kids from killing each other, and writing. Also had a nap in there somewhere in the late afternoon. I got about five hundred words in on “Ashes Ascendant”, and hit some sort of snag. Kept avoiding the writing to do something else. So I picked up another writing project for a bit, and got 2k words in there. Finished off the afternoon with some editing on Starship.
Then dinner for the kids and I – Susan wasn’t due home for hours yet. The kids went back to playing, and I went back to editing, followed by a bit more work on Ashes. Around 8pm, took a brief nap (still feeling massively congested and coughing a bunch now, too), and woke up a bit after 9pm when Susan returned home. Packed the kids into bed, and then watched a pair of episodes of Lost Girl with Susan.
She went off to tuck in a youngster who was having trouble getting to sleep, and has yet to return. I’m tired, and hit about the end of my rope for the writing. All told, not a bad day. Not a banner day for the writing, but one of my best ones this month, anyway, so no complaints! Tomorrow might well see the end of the first draft for “Ashes”. Two more chapters left to go. I’m basically at climax and denouement.
I’ve got the rough cover design done for “Ashes Ascendant”, too. I’ll post the final here once it’s complete.
Totals for Day 21
Daily Fiction Wordcount: 4000 words Month to date fiction: 28900 words
Daily Blog Post Wordcount: 366 words Month to date blog posts: 12284 words
I realized last night I was coming down with a cold bug – fever and all, last night – so I called in sick to work. This morning, I woke up late and stayed in bed later. The fever was gone, but I still felt like crud. Still, I was up and about a little by late morning. I helped Susan get the girls launched for a girl scout meeting (homeschool troop) by 1pm, and hit my email after that. Worked my way through assorted email and other stuff, played with E (he stayed home with me) and mostly rested.
After dinner, Susan went out with a friend, and I got to work on some writing. The interruption level from the kids was off the charts, though. They wanted to play. Or needed help with a homeschool workbook. Or fighting with a sibling… The reason varied, but they were running in pretty regularly. Every time I tried to write, someone would come in, and the next one would arrive before I was really able to get back into a writing mindset. A little frustrating, so I let myself write a few LinkedIn posts. I don’t need as much focus for those.
Finally got the kids to bed at 9:30, and hit the writing more intensely. Carried on until 10:30 when Susan got home. Caught up with her, and came in to write this post. Still feeling yucky, so I’m going to bed soon. I’m borderline feverish again, but really can’t afford another day off work (much as I might like to!). So it’s better to get an earlier night and try to kick this bug.
I’m officially over the edge of halfway now. I’ve finished 16 days of this little experiment. What’s gone on?
I’ve managed to write every day this month except one; and that one, I still blogged, so I was still actively engaged in thinking about writing, even if I didn’t get new words in.
I’ve managed to stay more or less on track for word-count. I’d really RATHER be producing 2k+ words a day of new fiction, but I said going in I was counting the blog words too. So I’m OK with about 32k words at day 16. That’s pretty precisely on target, in fact. The blog words count because the blog is the tool to keep me on track, to keep me accountable, and to keep me motivated so that I continue producing new fiction words daily.
Tomorrow, I’m back to work, and back to writing in the evening. See you then!
Totals for Day 16
Daily Fiction Wordcount: 1000 words Month to date fiction: 21900 words
Daily Blog Post Wordcount: 474 words Month to date blog posts: 10005 words
All three of our kids have their own laptops. Not great or fancy laptops, mind; but they have something they can work and play on. I think it’s important for them to become computer literate at a young age, so we’ve prioritized their having regular access. One of the girls uses my old laptop as a hand-me-down. It’s a good machine – was a GREAT machine when I bought it – but it’s starting to fail now, so passing it on seemed like a good plan. Except now it’s starting to have enough issues that it’s interfering with her Minecraft sessions (crashed every time she tried to play) which is UNACCEPTABLE behavior from her computer.
So I went to the store this morning, and brought home a new laptop for her. A decent HP, low end model but OK specs.
Unfortunately, she hates the trackpad. It’s one of the ones with the textured surface, and she is very touch sensitive. Little bumps under her finger drove her nuts today when she tried to use the thing. She’s seven, so this sort of thing is a Big Deal. (grin) I suspect I am going back to the store today for a replacement computer.
Spent much of the afternoon talking with my wife about assorted topics, and helping her work on her room a little (closet curtain rod and curtain installed – check!), then helping her prep to head out to a play with friends. Also did some email surfing, and more looking at Facebook than I have in a while. Was fun – found some really awesome links friends and family had posted.
Kids and I stayed home (her turn for a night out while I covered home base) and ordered Domino’s.
Didn’t get to do any writing until after dinner. Then I got several sprints in. In between the chunks of writing, I also went looking for some cover art. Specifically thinking about something for the Starship first season compendium and the dark fantasy serial novellas that I’ll be going back to once Ashes is done. But I also ran into some cool images that will work for a prequel novel for the Blackwell series. Actually, it’s a prequel novel for a new character who doesn’t even get introduced until book three – but she’s an *interesting* character, and I can easily see a prequel being worth doing.
Tomorrow, the plan is to do some more work on Ashes Ascendant, but also plow through as much of the Starship 5 edit as possible. Want to get that work out ASAP!
Totals for Day 14
Daily Fiction Wordcount: 2000 words Month to date fiction: 18900 words
Daily Blog Post Wordcount: 447 words Month to date blog posts: 8020 words
Well, today was another work day… And was too tired upon getting home to do much of anything. Answered some emails, hung out with wife and kids, even tried taking a nap and then waking up again. Not a lot of luck. The 6am wake-up time is brutal for me, as I’m more of a night person.
But we do what we need to do.
Long story short, I got zero new words done on Ashes today. Did some work on cleaning up the second editing pass on Starship 5, which I just got back this evening.
And I also wrote this… It’s from a response to an interesting thread on LinkedIn. The debate there is over productivity for writers, and how much impact does it have – wrapped up with quality vs quantity discussions as well. Fascinating thread, and it’s a closed group or I’d link to it. But here’s my post (slightly edited so it makes sense without the context of the posts I was replying to).
Productivity for Writers
I don’t think that being a productive writer is a “particular strategy”. Nor, honestly, am I some sort of poster child for that strategy, if it is one. I’m not a particularly fast writer. I’m MUCH less productive than most successful indie writers today. I wish I was more productive than I am; and much of the point of the “Writing in Public” challenge is to help improve my productivity.
Productivity isn’t about models or strategies, though. It’s about constants. If you spend more hours working on writing (whatever your personal process), you will produce more work AND your skill will improve faster. That’s pretty much set in stone: the more time you spend writing, the more stories you will write. The more stories you write, the better you will get at telling stories. Makes sense, right? Also, if you produce more work, you can publish more work, which WILL increase your visibility, and in my experience always increases sales of both current and older works.
So when I say I wish I was more productive, and need to work on being more productive, it’s because I see increased productivity as the number one factor involved in moving from part-time hobby writer to full-time career writer; which is my target. For people who have different targets, that may not be relevant advice.
For people with similar goals to mine, I do firmly believe that the more you are able to write – the more hours you work – the better your chances of achieving your goals, and the faster you will reach them. And I think that holds true for all fiction, and most likely for a lot of nonfiction as well.
We’ve left behind the era of the book a year writer, I think. Instead, we’ve re-entered a phase of literature where writers who work more will tend to have better careers than writers who work less. We really haven’t seen that sort of thing in a long time – not since before I was born, certainly. Most writers have spent decades being limited by publishers to a book a year, maybe two. If they wanted to write more than that, they were forced to use pen names.
And now that’s gone. Wiped away. Writers are free to write and publish as much as they can produce, and the lid is off the box. As a result, I think we will see a shift in which writers succeed, and the drift will favor those writers who are willing to spend the time to produce lots of stories.
Totals for Day 10
Daily Fiction Wordcount: 0 words Month to date fiction: 15350 words
Daily Blog Post Wordcount: 617 words Month to date blog posts: 6716 words
The podcast I mentioned in the last blog post rocked, so if you’re any kind of writer, check it out. Seriously worthwhile.
Was looking at computer stuff today. OK, here’s the scoop on my computer scenario. I have a pretty nice PC desktop – not screaming fast, but a solid and fairly new machine. I have an iPad that I like writing on sometimes. It’s a nice general purpose portable computer: some writing, some reading, some internet…great for checking email fast. And I have a Chromebook, which is my travel writing machine. I bring it places when I don’t want to worry too much about breaking something as expensive as the iPad.
We’re talking about buying a new PC for homeschooling the kids. I’m pondering the possibility of instead giving them my desktop, and swapping out for something else. One option I considered was a Surface Pro – which I could use with my desktop monitor and bluetooth keyboard, AND unplug to take along with me places like I do the iPad now. The kids could inherit my desktop AND my iPad. Another option I looked at was a Mac Mini, which is a nice little machine, and would synch naturally with the iPad so I could port writing over quick and easy.
Both have the advantage of being less tempting for loading computer games and similar distractions. I unfortunately bought such a nice desktop that it can run games pretty darned well, and while I am currently avoiding playing them very often, I’d like to keep it that way. (grin)
I am REALLY tired…so not staying up much longer. My day:
OK – up at 6am, off to work. Got out by 4pm, after a busy day. Going to be a lot of days like that. I got home by 4:30pm, tired, and chatted with Susan and the kids for a while. After resting a bit and checking some emails, we all piled into the car and headed out to the store to get some supplies. The kids are starting soccer soon – all three of them. There’s a local team for 5-7 year olds, so all of them get to play this year, and all on the same team. They’re really looking forward to it. But we needed new sneakers for one, shin guards for all three, and a third soccer ball. Picked up all of that and some other odds and ends, and didn’t get home until around 7:30 – which meant dinner was frozen pizza and reheated leftovers. Not the dinner of champions, but the kids needed something quick, and we were all getting a little tired.
After dinner, headed back up to my computer, and hammered out some words. A break to finish clearing my emails, and then some more writing. Then an episode of TV with my wife after the kids were in bed. I’d been thinking about doing a little more writing after, but frankly, I think I’m just too tired. So I’ll settle for the words completed today. It wasn’t a bad wordcount.
Totals for Day 9
Daily Fiction Wordcount: 1500 words Month to date fiction: 15350 words
Daily Blog Post Wordcount: 543 words Month to date blog posts: 6099 words
Got up this morning at 6am, off to work shortly after again. Another typical work day – doing a bit more there each day, as I get up to speed with how they do things there. Stayed from 7am until about 4pm. Worked through lunch. Wasn’t a bad day, wasn’t a particularly good day. Which makes it a step up from yesterday, so I’ll take it.
Headed home, and got stuck in slow traffic, so it took a while. I was pretty tired, so I made some coffee and headed upstairs to my computer. Checked emails, caught up on Twitter a little. Read up on some new stuff coming up in the publishing end of things that look interesting:
1) FlipKart started taking indie books last month, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to get onto their site. It’s not quite as clear as KDP or Nook Press. But now, Smashwords is going to distribute to FlipKart. Suddenly, Smashwords is looking much more interesting. For those who don’t know, Flipkart is a big internet retail website for India. And India has more English language readers than any other country in the world. It’s actually possible that India has more English language readers than the entire rest of the world…not sure. So it’s a huge market, and a growing ebook market. Finding ways to break into that market would be a Good Thing.
2) Oyster – a service opening up in a few weeks, which will charge $10 a month for readers to be able to read books from their stocks. Pay the monthly fee, read books (I gather as many as you want). Again, Mark Coker’s Smashwords has stepped into the breach here. Smashwords will distribute ebooks to Oyster when it launches. I don’t yet have details about how authors will get paid when their books are borrowed on the Oyster system, but I’ve known Mark (peripherally) for a while now. He’s a canny man. He wouldn’t have made the deal if it wasn’t worthwhile, so I suspect this is something to jump into with both feet.
As a result, I’m suddenly VERY interested in Smashwords again, where I was leaning away from using them anymore, just a month ago. I’d had great luck with Draft2Digital uploading to Apple and B&N, and can upload direct to B&N and Kobo anyway. Smashwords was looking a little superfluous – go figure that Mark would jump in and find more ways to add value to his distribution system. I will happily pay Smashwords the small percentage of sales they keep, if they’ll keep finding me new markets for my books!
Took a brief nap until after six, when my wife called me down to dinner. Which was pancakes and sausage: what we call “silly supper”. The kids always enjoy it when we do that.
After dinner, it was back upstairs, and a little more reading on the Oyster thing. Trying to find out as much as I can in advance, which unfortunately isn’t much. But I’m intrigued.
Then I got to work. Put in an hour on Ashes Ascendant, and just about exactly 1200 new words. Then it was time to get the kids to bed, and watch a TV episode with my wife. We’re working through the first season of Lost Girl on Netflix, which is fun, and interesting, and urban fantasy – so it’s nice to keep me on track for writing the Blackwell urban fantasies.
After the show was done, it was closing on time for the LADEE launch, so getting back to writing just wasn’t happening. I debated climbing the hill in the park near my house – highest point for many miles all around. We’re just west of Boston, you see – and inside the range to be able to see the launch, according to the web pages I was looking at the other day. The rocket was launched from the Virginia coastline, which made it the first rocket launch far enough north that I’d have a shot of seeing it. So a high vantage point seemed smart. However, the park is closed after sunset, and I had visions of trying to explain to a police officer why I was up there… (grin)
Staying put finally won out, so I pulled NASA TV up on my computer instead, and watched the launch that way. Then, because I had to, I peeked out my bedroom window at about the time when I ought to have been able to see the rocket.
And there was a little bright light out there, flickering through a tree branch. Was it a star?
No, it was moving. A plane, perhaps? I didn’t want to get my hopes up.
Then NASA announced the stage two engine shutoff on my desktop, and the light went out.
NASA called the stage three ignition, and it came back on.
I called my wife over, shut off lights, and got ready. She wasn’t at all sure it was the rocket.
NASA called the next stage shutoff, and it vanished from sight. Which was about as much proof as either of us needed.
We just saw a craft, built by people, carrying a cargo to the moon, as it was leaving Earth to begin its voyage.
For a science fiction writer, that moment when you see a glowing point of light that you know is the real thing…it’s a hard moment to describe. It makes me want to write better – makes me want to inspire more people. I want people to read things I write and dream big dreams about reaching into space. I want them to grow up and make those dreams into reality.
I’m SO in the mood for writing more science fiction right now. But I’m going to stay the course, and finish the Blackwell novel. Then I’ll probably shift gears back to something near-future SF. Because getting into space is something that I feel in my heart we ought to do. We are a curious race. We have always, whenever we reached a new vista, taken whatever risks were necessary to explore that new place. I’ll probably never get to go there myself, but if my writing helps encourage others to take those steps, I will be satisfied.
Totals for Day 6
Daily Fiction Wordcount: 1200 words Month to date fiction: 11950 words
Daily Blog Post Wordcount: 1076 words Month to date blog posts: 4791 words
Back in February, I posted the results of some data mining, specifically about the bestseller lists for fantasy and science fiction. You can see the old article here.
It seemed like now might be a good time for an update. There’s been much to-do about the change to the Amazon algorithms. The very-important “Popularity” ranking has seen significant changes in March and again in May. The new algorithms have made major changes to how books show up in the “Popular” ranking – which is the default manner customers see ebooks on Amazon, making it vital to sales.
Roughly how it works: you get sales, your rank goes up. The more sales you get over the period tracked, compared to other books, the more your rank goes up. The old system made loans via the Select program about the same as sales, and gave a lot of weight to free books given away through Select promotion periods. The new system rates free books at perhaps 10% of the value of sold books, does not seem to give any boost for loaned books, and most crucial – it seems to factor price into the equation, weighting higher priced books more heavily.
So how does this affect indies, whose books have been selling like hotcakes because they’re priced lower? If Amazon weights higher priced books higher, then this makes breaking out at $0.99 or $2.99 that much more difficult.
It’s the end of June, four months since my last survey and over a month since the May algorithm changes. Seemed like it was time for new data!
Fantasy Genre, Top Hundred Bestsellers
Well, top 95 bestsellers, anyway. There seem to be some issues with doubled up versions of some of George R.R. Martin’s books, which resulted in only 95 books actually listed in the top 100.
The breakdown was 53 (56%) traditionally published books vs 42 (44%) self published books. This is a significant change. In fact, it’s the first time this year that I’ve seen the genre drop much below 50% indie/self pub books; in February, indie books were 53% of the top list for fantasy, and it’s stayed at that level +/- about 4% through early May.
Some other interesting data points:
Indie price average: $3.24
Trad price average: $9.56
Overall average price: $6.77
Breakdown follows. Note, there were several books I raised to the X.99 levels to make the data easier to chart. These were Indie at $2.51 and $4.95, and Trad at $4.90, $7.29, $7.39, $8.32, and $9.34 (actual numbers were used for the averages above, no rounding).
$0.99 – Indie 6 (down 7), Trad 0 (same), Total 6 (6%)
$1.99 – Indie 2 (same), Trad 0 (same), Total 2 (2%)
$2.99 – Indie 16 (down 7), Trad 0, Total 16 (17%)
$3.99 – Indie 13 (up 1), Trad 0, Total 13 (14%)
$4.99 – Indie 4 (up 2), Trad 2 (up 1), Total 6 (6%)
$5.99 – Indie 0, Trad 0, Total 0 (0%)
$6.99 – Indie 1 (up 1), Trad 0 (down 1), Total 1 (1%)
$7.99 – Indie 0 (same), Trad 20 (same), Total 20 (21%)
$8.99 – Indie 0 (same), Trad 15 (up 4), Total 15 (16%)
$9.99 – Indie 0 (same), Trad 7 (up 4), Total 7 (7%)
$10.99 Total 0 (same)
$11.99 Indie 0 (same), Trad 1 (same), Total 1 (1%)
$12.99 Indie 0 (same), Trad 6 (same), Total 6 (6%)
$13.99 Total 0 (same) (0%)
$14.99 Indie 0 (same), Trad 1 (down 2), Total 1 (1%)
$29.99 Indie 0 (same), Trad 1 (same), Total 1 (1%) (Martin boxed set)
As ever, a picture is worth a thousand words:
This is not enough data to draw conclusions from. However, coupled with the excellent analysis done by Ed Robertson, it’s possible to hypothesize that the changes he noted to the Amazon book algorithms are damaging indie sales penetration. Some of this might be the loss of impact from Kindle Select promotions and loans. Some could also be due to algorithms favoring higher prices (note the upward trend across the board for prices of indie books which made the top ranks).
I think we need to do substantial more work on data crunching to see where things are headed, and I’m open to collaboration with others. In the short term, however, I think it’s extremely likely many indies are selling themselves short by pricing too low – to their detriment.
Hopefully this helps some folks out.
Thanks for stopping by! I hope you found this information interesting and useful. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the data, what it might mean, and how writers can best adapt to these changes.
To celebrate a year of indie publishing, I have my novel, “By Darkness Revealed” reduced to FREE on Amazon for today and tomorrow – 6/21 + 6/22 only. If you enjoy urban fantasy, you might enjoy checking it out, and you’ll aid my in my quest to break the top 100 free books! http://www.amazon.com/Darkness-Revealed-Blackwell-Magic-ebook/dp/B005G8L3X4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1340283711&sr=8-1&keywords=by+darkness+revealed
By this time next year, that will have gone up to over 2 million.
By this time in five years, I expect it to be over five million.
By this time in twenty years, I expect it to be…well, really, really, REALLY doggone high.
Breakout vs. Slow Boil
Guys, it’s important to understand something about writing: the one book breakout is RARE. It almost never happens. Of course, we see lots of them, so we think it’s the goal to shoot for. It’s not. Most writers who only produce one book will sell a few hundred copies, maybe a few thousand over the years. More marketing will only very rarely cause a breakout.
If you have one book to write, one story to tell, then write it, get it up there, and do a little free time marketing. Don’t expect big sales; expect a trickle. I basically don’t market my work, yet get steady sales. I have two or three more books and a serial coming out this year, though. And will have more coming out next year. And more the year after that. Once I have a few more books out, I’ll start focusing a little more on the marketing. But I need enough product to make it worthwhile first – you don’t spend time and money advertising your new hardware store when you have one tool on the shelf, right? Same is true for books.
The goal for a professional writer trying to make a living shouldn’t be to get a breakout on any one book. That’s impossible to predict and cannot be engineered. You can’t make Twilight happen. Sometimes it just does. If it happens to you, I am thrilled for you. I’m not going to plan my career around it, though, and I don’t think you should, either.
Instead, the goal for writers who want careers (which I am differentiating from those who just want to write a book and publish it – a fine goal, but not going to make a living) should be to slowly, over time, build a fanbase. You build readers who love your work. You build connections to those readers. You inform those readers when your next story is available, and they support you financially. This sort of organic growth takes time. Years. Many, many books. But that’s the key to making a living at writing: write a LOT, write WELL, CONNECT with readers, and build a group of people who like your work enough to buy it as soon as you release it.
I’m on BV Larson’s mailing list. A few times a year, he sends out emails to everyone on his list announcing a new book. Like many other people on his list, I buy the new book within minutes of receiving the email. (They are fun, not deep, SF&F books). I usually read the book that day, maybe running into the next. But I buy pretty consistently. I am one of his “10,000 fans”, the folks who will consistently buy what he produces as soon as he lets us know.
Mailing Lists Connect Us With Readers
A mailing list is a great way to connect with readers. You can sign up for mine here!
But treat the mailing list with care. You have to ensure what you’re offering in any email you send is something interesting, relevant, and of value to your readers. I named the list “Readers First!” to remind myself of that – that the list is about the readers, not about me. It’s not about my cool new blog post. It’s not about research I did on the industry. It’s about readers, folks who enjoyed my work and want to hear about more of it when it comes out.
Present the reader with well-designed, high quality emails. Look like a professional. Those emails should be your “business best” work. Keep them short and to the point: show respect for your readers by not wasting their time. Those emails are a way to maintain contact with readers, so make yourself available as well. Create means to do two-way contact through those mails, even if it’s something as simple as inviting your readers to email you. If they do, respond, even if it’s brief.
We want to build connections, to create doors that open both ways for our readers. For all MY readers who are reading this post: thank you. You’re the reason I keep writing, and I appreciate each one of you.