The last sixteen months

For those of you wondering, I’m currently 23k into Conquest’s Hammer, the third and final Revelations book. With any luck, I’ll have it out this month. If you haven’t picked up Death’s Mantle, you can do so today for free on Amazon.

The reason for this post is a little different though. I wanted to talk about my progress a little bit. For those of you who didn’t know, I started in September 2014 self-publishing my books. January 2016 marks my sixteenth month.

It seems like so much longer ago than it is. I still remember being completely overwhelmed by formatting Kill It with Magic for Kindle, and now I can format an entire book in 15 minutes. It’s sort of funny.

So, how is it going thus far? Well, to date I’ve sold 5,097 books and have made approximately $8,500. Not too bad, if I say so myself. It’s hard to believe so many people gave me money for my writing. You guys are awesome, and I truly hope you enjoyed what you bought from me.

Still, it’s been an incredible amount of work. I’m definitely taking the hard slog uphill with no shoes method.

Why do I say that? Well, to date, I’ve published approximately 886,000 words across 15 novels, 1 novella, and 3 short stories with over 700,000 of those words written in 2015.

It isn’t just about writing, either. Each one of those volumes has been through at least three drafts by me before an editor even looks at it. Then there’s more revision based upon what the editor says. Sometimes this might mean 4 additional drafts. Yikes!

That said, I have already made more money in January then I made in all of 2014. Still, I would like to do a little better. This led me to having a hard conversation with myself. I need to do something different. Really different.

I had a few outlines for stories I want to write this year, but I’m not sure how well they will sell. To say every series besides Lillim has been a staggering disappointment is a major understatement because I would say Lillim accounts for 80% of my sales. It’s really hard for me as a person to write book 3 of a series that just isn’t selling, especially when you consider the fact that it takes so much time and energy after writing.

I started writing a Dirge book. And, I’ll be honest, I think it’s great. I think the people who read Lillim will like it. Still, I’m deathly afraid of it crashing and burning.

Right now, Lillim is paying for Abby, Thes, and Revelations in a big way. Unfortunately, I think Lillim may have hit its limit as far as earning potential goes. It’s hung pretty solid at around 500 copies a month for the last 7 months or so despite all my attempts to cajole it upward, and the other books haven’t moved to push up that number significantly.

So, here’s my plan going forward. I’m going to finish up Revelations. That’s gotta happen, and it will. After that, I’m going to try something I haven’t done before.

I’m going to write a book centered around an adult male in his late twenties that takes a page out of my Jet novella and evaluate. If it hits, I’m going to write more. If not, I’m going to pivot again.

In 2015, I learned a great deal about writing and publishing. Now, in 2016, it’s time to show that. Hopefully, it works.

That said, if everything stays as it is right now and I continue selling ~500 copies a month, I’ll still be happy. But hey, I want to sell more. Guess I’m greedy, who knew?

Hatter Goes to the Editor

Today is the day I am supposed to send Hatter is Mad to the editor. Through my edits I knocked the book down by almost 3k words, despite adding two chapters. (I cut like three chapters though.)

I managed to get it back up to where it was before I started cutting thanks to the work of my two crit partners, who apparently are gluttons for punishment.

After that, I went through my manuscript looking for overused words like had, just, back, then, etc. Doing so shrank my book back down by another 3k words.

Since then, my wife has worked tirelessly to edit the first third of my book. Thanks to all her hard work, I’ve actually gotten the book back up to 1k past its original size. It is really a much better book.

I just need to give it one last once over, and it’s off to the editor for the final polish/proof read. After that, well, you’ll be able to buy the book. You should totally buy it too. It’s like a bazillion times better than Kill It With Magic. You should buy that book too, if you haven’t, because it’s a non-stop thrill ride of awesome. Special emphasis on non-stop and thrill ride.

There’s definitely a little more breathing room in Hatter is Mad, so if Kill it With Magic was a little too bumpy for you, I’d encourage you to check out Hatter when it comes out in December, anyway.

Shattered

I finished the first draft of the Dirge book, and I think I’m going to call it Shattered. I have to say, I’m pretty happy with the first draft. It came in a little short, but that’s mostly my fault. There’s a few chapters where I just wrote down the crux of what was going on (in like 500-800 words) and didn’t flesh it out a whole lot. I’ll catch these on the second draft and double them in size. You know, when I read through it and make edits knowing how it ends =D

Originally, I’d wanted to end it a little later in Dirge’s timeline, but when I wrote the last chapter, I was like “stick a fork in it, it’s done!”

I think I can hammer out a good second draft in a week or so, and then I need to find someone to read the thing. I still haven’t even had Fairy Tale beta read… so there’s that.

I’m starting to come up against the issue where writing the books may be the quickest part of the “whole process.” I’m worried my cover guy won’t be able to keep up, and I know my Crit partners can’t. (It’s unfair to ask them to.) I guess I’m getting ahead of myself because I probably won’t even release this until March. Hmm…

For those of you keeping track, my upcoming releases are Hatter is Mad (Lillim Callina 2) –December 2014, Fairy Tale (Lillim Callina 3) – February 2015, Dirge Meilan: Shattered – March 2015.

Also, Kill It With Magic is now listed as a Pitch Perfect Pitch on Underground Book Reviews.

Now, I guess it’s back to Abby Banks.

My editor

For those of you not in the know, the editor I hired for Kill It With Magic was Todd Barselow. My lovely wife found him for me and suggested I contact him because he was really active on Anne Rice’s page. If you need a good editor, I suggest you contact him at his webpage, www.toddedits.com.

Anyway, the point of this post isn’t really to plug my editor, but it is sort of. After he finished with my book, he made a post about it on Anne Rice’s page. A little while later he sent me this:

Anne Rice Likes ItSo that’s pretty cool right? Anne Rice likes my book kinda sorta. I think she actually liked that I said nice things about Todd, but I’m going to take it, anyway. You know self-delusional small victories and all that.

On that note, Kill It With Magic was accepted by Indie Underground as a “Pitch Perfect Pitch.” Evidently, less than 25% of the books submitted get selected, though I’m not sure how exclusive that actually is. I’m hoping super duper exclusive. (I can dream, right?) This means that I’ve qualified for a review from them since only “Pitch Perfect Pitch” category books are eligible for reviews. This is one of the top indie review sites, so I hope they actually pick me, and I get a good review. If that happens it makes me eligible for even more exclusive review sites.

Also, I am lowering the price from $3.99 to $2.99. Why? Because there are several promotion websites that only accept $2.99 and down. If that’s still too much for you, wait until December when I drop the book to $.99 in anticipation of the sequel Hatter is Mad. You should buy it anyway, though. Everyone who has read it has liked it, except for those who haven’t…

 

Interesting

There I was, standing there minding my own business on a dark and stormy night, talking to one of my friends, being all like “you haven’t liked my book on Facebook, yet,” nudge, nudge. Because I am now that author guy who bugs everyone about his book. It’s more cute than needy and depressing, I swear.

Anyway, this fellow remarks to me that the guy down the hall from us at work also writes novels for kindle. At first I was surprised, and then I was interested. I know that guy, and I never suspected he was a closet author. (I know, I totes used the word then, and you didn’t even notice.)

So I hit him up today, being all sly with my “I heard you write books on Kindle,” line.

It was like watching the sun rise as his face lit up like a Christmas tree. (Holy over use of metaphors, Batman!)

We wound up having a fifteen minute conversation about his books which ended with me getting free copies of all three of his murder/mystery novels. I’m excited to read them because he was so excited to tell me about them.

Now, I just hope they’re good.

First Review

I just got my first review (actually I got three, but this was the first one I read). It comes from Mark Lein over at Borderlein publishing.  He rated it 4 out of 5 stars and you can read the full review here.

**

Lillim Callina is a Dioscuri who has lived through several lifetimes due to reincarnation. She has recently run from her past and all her kind are responsible for: the protection of humanity from the demons, vampires, werewolves, and other baddies that roam the earth. Her peace is soon shattered and is thrown (quite literally at times) from conflict to battle to conflict in her journey to find and destroy an enemy of immense power. Along the way, she bumps into old friends and new acquaintances as she forges towards her ever-evolving goals.

Some of the old friends are more than what they seem and the twists and turns are entertaining and keep the reader invested in turning pages. The writing was very well done and the tone was just about perfect with the balance of humor.

Continue to full review

Kill It With Magic – Live

KIll It With Magic Final

Today is the day I go from unpublished scum to self-published scum, which is different because you can now buy Kill It With Magic, and you should because it is awesome. I decided to go with the $3.99 price point because, honestly, $2.99 felt too low, and I don’t buy books for more than $3.99. Besides, nearly everything I read said that $3.99 was the way to go.

I also ordered my proofs from createspace today, which is totally my fault for being so late. The print version should be available in the next week or so. In retrospect, I should have taken the print version more seriously. I totally blew off my cover guy when he asked for the dimensions for the print cover and didn’t send them until almost a month later. This meant that I had to wait a whopping two days for them.

I should have done this a month ago. If I had the cover in hand, I could have submitted the book for review at the beginning of last week. I guess I could have skipped the proof version and just put it out there, but in the grand scheme of things I think I should proof my first book, right?

Anyway, my preorders netted me a total of four sales, and, somehow, inexplicably, I sold a book today. That brings me to five sales. That’s pretty good considering I’ve done zero promotion, I think.

In other news, I totally shelved Abby Banks for temporaries. Every single time I sat down to write it, I just couldn’t get into it. I kept glancing over at the Dirge book, and I finally gave in and allowed myself some free time to write Dirge. I wrote four chapters. I went back to Abby Banks and pounded out two chapters. Then I wrote six more Dirge chapters.

Long story short, I’m going to finish Dirge and go back to Abby Banks. I think I can completely finish the book by the end of October, and if that’s the case, I’ll still be able to finish Abby Banks by December’s end.

I also really want this Dirge book out before Lillim 4, Pursuit, comes out, which I’m supposed to start in December. I hadn’t planned to write this pre-Lillim Dirge book, but it helps me establish some themes that will be intrinsic to Pursuit. I guess it all works out.

Pretending

Sometimes, I feel like I’m pretending. I know why, but at the same time, I don’t know why.

My old crit partner, who is having her book published by Penguin, just released her cover. I’ll be honest, I’m not really a fan of it, but that’s neither here nor there. Still, it sort of feels like she is a “real” author because she’s picked up by Penguin and has a real blurb, book cover, etc, etc.

I know my book is good, and that everyone who reads Kill It With Magic will love it like a new child. I know that I slaved over the book, had a professional cover made, had professional editing done. My book is professional. Even if it was the worst written piece of trash ever written, it is still a professional publication.

I’ve already got two other books written. They will also have professional editing and professional covers. Even if writing isn’t my full time job, I am providing a professional product.

Still, it’s hard to look at her book and think that it’s not somehow better just because Penguin did it. It’s hard to read blog posts about writing where the authors are like 0.000000001% of you will ever be real authors picked up by a real publisher, and if that doesn’t happen you failed so you shouldn’t try.

It pisses me off because, yeah, the chance of making it even if you win the Big Publisher lottery is slim to none. I get that. I also get that most indie books fail. I get it, but my book would still be in a drawer in a box under my desk if I was going the Big 6 publisher route. Now, at least people can read it and love it or hate it.

Readers can laugh and cry because it’s just that good or just that bad. That’s got to be worth more than sitting in a box under my desk. Right?

No Comics

If you haven’t guessed, I’m just going to go ahead and tell you. I like collecting comic books. I admit it is a stupid hobby. It is stupid because it is, essentially, a hobby that involves throwing as much money as you can into a hole. That’s fine and all, but some of the books I want are really expensive. Maybe I’ll talk about my top ten list later, but the purpose of this post is to talk about why I won’t be buying any comics for the foreseeable future.

I had been eyeing three (read four) comics specifically: Daredevil #1, Hulk #181, and Amazing Spider-man #121 & #122. I was pretty sure I was going to buy one of them. But because I’m semi-responsible I decided to do a bit of calculating on what my books are costing me to produce. I don’t think I’ll be buying one anytime soon.

So, being that I like spreadsheets, and that you can’t run a business without knowing your costs, I just updated my spreadsheet. It came out at about what I was expecting. I had wanted to spend approximately $500 or less to produce each book. Right now, without advertising, Kill It With Magic has cost me $400.82. That is not including overhead costs (hosting, blog domain names) of $47.80.

Hatter is Mad so far has cost me $104.77 and Fairy Tale has cost me $92.82 for the editing deposits. Hatter has another expected cash outlay in December 2014 of $92.82 for editing, while the balance on Fairy Tale is expected in February 2015.

So, what are these costs, and how do they break down? I’m glad you asked because this is going to be a highly technical post.

For Kill It With Magic:

    • Cover from Fiverr.com – $15
      • It was the punk girl cover I wound up not using.
      • This was a wasted expense
    • Domain name – $11.95
    • Editing – $243.88
      • This is based on a word count of 67K words at $3.50 per 1,000 words
      • This included proof reading
    • Final Book Cover – $50
      • My friend did the cover for me for $50.
      • He still refuses to take payment
    • Formatting Epub, Mobi, Createspace – $80
      • This is something I went back and forth on. I decided I don’t want to deal with createspace formatting at all.
      • Createspace formatting was $50
      • To add Epub and Mobi was $30

So, do I think I’ll be able to make back the cost of $400.82? I hope so, but realistically that’s something like ~200 books at $2.99, less at $3.99. If by this time next year, when I have several books out, I haven’t sold 200 books. I’m going to be in trouble.

Tabs

I have tabs open on my phone and every single one of them is tied to writing or publishing in some way. My favorites are similar. It’s all books all the time.

Why? Because I’ve been trying to figure out the whole marketing thing before my book is out. I know I’ll do one of those “50 things I wish I knew just 5 minutes prior to hitting the self-publishing button of doom” posts, but if I can make it 49… Well that’s a win.

I’ve been submitting my book to review sites so that means I’ve started a spreadsheet. I am slowly, but surely, compiling a list that shows the reviewer name, email, website, when I asked them to review, and what their response has been. It’s pretty similar to my agent query spreadsheet.

On that note, I was always irked by the agents who in one breath will tell you not to make a spreadsheet because they are people with real wants and needs, etc, etc. Then, in the next breath tell you they can’t even be bothered to respond to your query because they are just buried, buried under all the queries they receive as though authors are not people too.

Anyway, my spreadsheet is something I do to keep track of what I am doing. That way every day I can send out one or two feelers to reviewers so that by the time I have actual review copies I can send it to at least one or two people. (Actually, I have a couple already.)

But, as I have been compiling my list of potential people to bother with my “Hey you guys free book you can review over here” mantra, I have run into a snag.

See, I’ve long since given up on that whole traditional publishing thing. I just don’t think it is in the cards for me, and I’m tired of being rejected by people who won’t even read the book. It hurts my self-esteem, and I like my self-esteem. Why would I do things to make it sad?

Unfortunately, there are a lot of reviewers out there who won’t read indie books at all. Their website’s have bolded and exclamation marks around a statement that basically reads “Go away you indie slime, I don’t want to read your horrible book.” Then there will be some other note somewhere saying that if they do want to read your book their people will contact your people, etc etc.

It was incredibly frustrating to spend two hours going through review blogs only to find out they don’t review self-published books. I mean, hey, have you read Divergent? I could throw a needle into a haystack of indie books and probably find something better written.

And yes, I have found some great resources for finding indie books reviews. The Indieview springs to mind. But, I was trying to reach outside the box. Now I feel like I was told to get back in my box and keep my filthy hands to myself.

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