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Tools for the Neurotic Writer

Not so long ago Amazon came out with a new tool for writers. A reporting dashboard that shows close to real time sales of their books on KDP. It’s cool, I have to admit, and really helps see how things are unfolding in a meaningful way. Things like promotions, new releases, price changes, etc.. And it helps the neurotic writer that can’t help but check their sales constantly have the data at hand almost immediately.

Me, I got over the addiction to staring at numbers a long time ago. Now I still check regularly, but not for a narcotic buzz. I do it to track progress and have reliable data on what works and what doesn’t. It’s a constant ever-learning process too, so it’s important to know what’s going on. And, I’ll admit, there are times when a big surge will still make me giddy as a school girl. Although I can’t ever remember seeing a giddy school girl, you get the idea.

Last night we (myself and Dawn Michelle, my ravishing wife) released the fifth part of her Claimed by the Beast paranormal serial romance. This morning when I checked a few minutes ago to see if it had gained much traction I saw an amazing thing. Not only is it doing quite well so far, but for the first time in, like, ever we’ve sold more books today than we’ve given away as freebies. The difference is pretty minimal (9 books more sold), but I’ve never seen anything like that before. I don’t expect to see it again, honestly, but it’s pretty cool.

Why not? Well, I have multiple books that are free and the first one in Dawn’s Claimed by the Beast series is free also. Want to know more about them? Here’s the links:

Voidhawk

Wanted

Child of Fate

Isle of the Ape

Vitalis

Dark Earth

The Lost Girls

 

And here’s the cover and blurb from Dawn’s latest serial:

Claimed by the Beast - Part Five, by Dawn Michelle

The life of a teenage girl is never a simple thing. From drama to decisions made without considering the repercussions, Crystal has to live with the consequences. Her mistakes have cost her more than just a normal life, they’re threatening her friends and family as a savage monster stalks the people she loves.

Even her whirlwind romance is starting to fall apart around her, making her second guess herself. Is living the life she dreamed about worth the people that get hurt along the way? It’s a price that her enemies are only too happy to help her pay.

As for me, I’m nearly finished with Voidhawk – Broken Shards. After that I’ll help my wife with her next project, something that is related to the Claimed by the Beast series but is a historical paranormal serial romance (we’re trying to see how many genres we can hit at one time). Then I’ll be back writing more about Vitalis. Or at least that’s my plan so far…

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Be a Writer, They Said

February 22, 2014 1 comment

I’ve been an obnoxiously creative person since the earliest age I can remember. I played with Transformers and GI Joes way longer than my friends did and during my fragile and formative middle school years I found some like-minded fellows and took up playing Dungeons and Dragons. Good, old school D&D too, not the complicated stuff going on these days. 1st edition all the way.

I picked up writing somewhere along the way and found a passion for writing ridiculous stories. Teachers becoming evil and taking over the schools so that the students had to fight back to survive. Aliens, monsters, whatever. Who knew the concept would turn into Hollywood movies years later that I would never benefit from. :-(

I kept writing, having no clue what I was doing, only that I had to write and get my ideas out of my head and onto paper (or a computer screen). And so I sucked. But I didn’t know I sucked. My friends and family either didn’t know it or they wouldn’t tell me. So I kept on sucking. The places I submitted my stories to denied me time after time. Not hundreds or even dozens, but enough that I figured I must suck.

Then somebody saw past the suck and gave me a chance. I was hooked up with an editor and she let me know I sucked. But, and this is important, she also said there was hope beneath the crap. She helped me take that monumental first step to not sucking. And once the first step was taken, I was anxious to keep on climbing.

The great part is nobody told me how many steps I had to climb. Not just to write decent stories, but to have a snowballs chance in hell of having any commercial success in writing. To realizing my dream – being a writer full time. Well, I’m still not there, but I’m getting closer each day.

If I’d have known how long the odds are and how much work it takes, would I still do it? Probably. I’m thick headed like that though. The numbers I’ve been getting from my Amazon investigation via my web crawler tell me there are well over 2 million books out there. Sampling only 10,000 books, I see an average of 2 books per author. I believe that average is only amongst the more successful end of the spectrum. I’m willing to wager there are a LOT more 1 book writers than there are 2, 3, 5, 10, 40, or 100 book writers out there (even aggregated).

Okay, so, a conservative number at this point is 2.3 million books and 1 million writers. Yes, 1 million. According to my Amazon author rank, I’m around 4500 right now, which is down from previous days (down as in worse). Even with that number, if I were single and hadn’t racked up a ton of student loans and other bills, I could live off of my royalties. I’m neither single nor remotely close to debt free though, but let’s make a wild ass guess and say rank 6000 is the cut off for what’s possible for a frugal person to live off of. 6000 out of 1,000,000. Those are long odds, my friends (.6%). To be where I want to be I’m looking at around .25%.

I’ve published 46 books (47 comes out very soon). I have #48 and #49 on deck and I’m halfway through writing #50. And will those put me where I want to be? It’s possible, but unlikely. Maybe when I get to 60 or 80 books I’ll be there. Or maybe 100. Maybe more. It doesn’t matter, I’ll keep on writing because that’s what I do.

And that’s the moral of this blog article. If you’re not in it for the love of writing and the need to create, then you’re in for a long and very painful road. Success is very much measured by putting food on the table, but there are also intangibles that have to be measured. Are you successful if you’re miserable doing what you do? And are you willing to be miserable learning to get better every day for the time it takes you to rise into that .5% and better you need to be in?

This is not my way of discouraging would-be writers. This is my attempt to inform and to inspire. If you like writing, rejoice! You’ve got a lifetime of it ahead of you.

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Extra Author Earnings

February 16, 2014 Leave a comment

I talked about http://authorearnings.com in my last blog post and now I’m back to continue the story. I’ve talked to enough people to gain a little more understanding into the results. I edited my post to reflect that. Is the data flawed or skewed? That depends on what you’re looking for. It’s a snapshot of Amazon, nothing more. That’s a powerful thing and it’s a limited thing.

After all, Amazon is the biggest book retailer out there. They do more revenue in books than anyone else, including Barnes and Noble and all it’s brick and mortar stores. B&N may sell more print books, I honestly don’t know and haven’t looked to compare any numbers (if there are any available). Do all the other retailers, brick and mortar and web site, compare when put together against Amazon? I don’t know. Maybe, but I’m really not sure.

So why am I going on and on about this? Simple, I’ve joined the cause. I always thought about using a crawler to browse the web and see what I could get out of it. But I figured it would be pointless or too hard to manage otherwise somebody would have done it by now. Then Hugh and his Data Guy did it. My motto has always been if somebody else can do it, than so can I. So I did.

Last week I put together a web crawler and then over the weekend built up a parsing program to handle all the crawled pages. I’ve been through hundreds of gigs of data so far and I’m closing in on 7,000 books. That 7,000 is all over the place, I’m not aiming for the bestsellers. Having said that, the higher ranked books are easier to find. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a master at navigating Amazon’s website(s), so if anybody has any suggestions to help me crawl through more than bestseller lists I’d appreciate it.

My plan is to put it together when it makes sense (hopefully real soon) and make it available. With any luck I’ll be able to back up the author earnings data with this, or at least offer some different points of view to look at. Stay tuned, hopefully within the week. Trying to figure out by publisher is overwhelming, but a week ago so was the idea of doing any of this. The elephant gets eaten one bite at a time…

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Knights, Dragons, and Trolls – Oh My!

January 16, 2014 Leave a comment

Recently I went on a mini-campaign to brag up my new audiobook, Child of Fate. I encouraged people to check it out because it’s just so darn cool. But let’s be honest – I’m biased. I wrote the book and worked with somebody else who gave the characters an audible voice. I have a vested interest, both in pride and in financial terms.

So what if I took the money out of the equation? What if I said here you go, check it out for free and enjoy it as much as I have? Well, here’s your chance. I’ve got a bunch of free coupon codes available to download Child of Fate (the audiobook version) for free. The ebook already is free, so there’s no excuse not to snatch that up. Go here: http://www.audible.com/at/redeem and enter in a coupon code below.

Try it out and see if you like it. I can’t guarantee you will but I’d be amazed if you didn’t!

 

Child of Fate, by Jason Halstead

 1. H3RR64LDB6AS8
2. CSH9W7LAXUMQD
3. LKR8SD4U27BFE
4. D8B3GFJ56ZQEL
5. TCQX4BF3HFBCU
6. TD2KN22ZBBQYH
7. 56XAT75FGF64J
8. NZQLC5SSTFD4U
9. 5RAACBLBXAMD6
10. H2FJFBCWAP4XZ
11. XFAMQ5J22R47B
12. 8LEKUFZKNK6A7
13. 2H3MEPM3XYG3B
14. RC7QGR7ZG44H8
15. 9GFCPNBWST59J
16. HZZYYAD88WCAA
17. 7JBE8Z8NDTEFT
18. J62G34NPQRYPL
19. 3583KAZFSFYFW
20. Y4N72LPS9FQBS

 

If you try a code and it doesn’t work, move on to the next one and try again. These are usable one time only each, so the first twenty people to check it out are the “winners.” Oh, and the “Oh My” in the title of this post is not related or affiliated with George Takei nor his book in any way, shape, or form (not that I wouldn’t be proud to call him a friend if I were cool enough to be a blip on his radar, I just don’t want any confusion).

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Categories: Writing Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Definition of Insanity

November 25, 2013 Leave a comment

One of the more colorful definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I remember watching a guy in a meeting many years ago click on a link on a presentation and it kept breaking. So he kept trying it. I finally snapped and shouted that out to him. I think it amused the other people in the meeting. I hope.

I decided to take that to heart and instead of trying to coerce or woo readers of this blog into contacting me or leaving a comment, I’m just going to throw down some codes and first come first serve. The codes won’t give you unlimited lives or the ability to use any weapon imaginable against aliens that have landed and taken over South America, but they will allow you to hear about a new kind of alien life discovered in the future.

I’m referring to my latest audiobook that is available. Vitalis, as read by James Killavey, will knock your socks off. Jim is a great narrator and Vitalis, well, that’s just one heck of an awesome story. No, I’m not biased, why do you ask? ;-)

Jim and I are working on more audiobooks too, so keep checking back. I’ve got Traitor, read by Kate Udall, coming out soon and after that I have Child of Fate, narrated by Sean Wybrant, and Bounty, another book read by Jim Killavey to work through. I hope to get all of my books available in an audiobook format one day, but I write faster than we can get them produced, so it’s going to be a challenge. I’d call it job security except the security is only there if people buy them.

So, with that in mind, grab a code and check out Vitalis for free to see if you like the audiobook style. Then go gobble up as many more as you can! Please note that each code will only work once, so if the one you tried doesn’t work, try another. If none of them work that means you showed up too late. Feel free to contact me though, I have a couple more that were given to me – but once they’re all gone then I’m out and there’s nothing more I can do.

7XWWY252L7YGF
4NGMGTTAZ9C9D
2JMEB555QQ22G
GG63FZ5N3YJGA
WL9CH6GRFPEXC
T38EH8H576NLS
P5P3NA3X8G342
34J8ACL4ELL2D
HT3W7F76JJH23
STNTDK4F5MB2H
MWPWTH2E4TXA3
CRKX6MBXC7TKH
7XWDNDZD69NY7
CNW8NPCRYT6XE
PHNFCG6BQ8XK6

Bonus points if you know what code / game I was referring to above, but keep in mind that the points don’t count and everybody’s a winner.

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

I Probably Shouldn’t Mention This…

…but my most successful book this month in terms of units sold is Vitalis. This omnibus contains the first 7 novellas of the futuristic science fiction series. I’m afraid to mention it out loud because it did phenomenal through the spring and early summer of 2012 and then met with ruin in the form of other writers trying to knock me off the bestselling lists.

Not to worry though, Vitalis isn’t doing nearly that well. In fact my summer sales have taken a major slump. Vitalis, however, has been slowly picking up steam. It’s my sincere hope that this continues because, well, those books are really cool! It’s science fiction that doesn’t feel like science fiction. The books are about a bunch of characters put in situations and environments that change them. They grow. They evolve. They learn. Oh, and they get hurt, heartbroken, and sometimes chewed up and eaten.

There are three novel length books in the Vitalis series right now, Vitalis Omnibus, Vitalis: Resurrection, and Vitalis: Provenance. There are probably twenty or thirty more Vitalis books yet to be written, if not more. The setting is massive and the stories span planets and solar systems. And yet in spite of this, I’ve been told by a few people now that they were awesome books for introducing them to science fiction because they don’t like sci-fi, yet they loved the books.

I’m also working with a professional audiobook producer / narrator right now to turn Vitalis into an audiobook. He’s been very excited about the project for a number of reasons. One of them is due to how much he’s enjoying the story. Another is the fact that Audible.com felt the story was so good they put it in one of their special programs that encourages the producer to get it completed as quickly as possible. This encouragement comes in the form of a significant financial endorsement. I’m pretty certain that they’ll do their best to recoup this financial boon by boosting the audiobook’s placement so people can see it and buy it. After all, this is a business to them.

So with all that going on I’m wrapping up my current project, Sands of Betrayal (book three in my Order of the Dragon fantasy series) and presumably starting my 4th Vitalis book in the very near future. Why not seize the momentum? There are so many stories to tell I’m having a hard time narrowing it down and picking one! I’m sure by next week I’ll have something in mind though, since that will be the time I need to get started on it.

And since it’s also such a massive environment / universe / setting, there’s tons of room for characters and ideas. That’s my way of reaching out to my readers and fans and encouraging you to reach out to me. Talk to me and let me know what sorts of things interest you. What would you like to see? Or better yet, what fictional character that bears absolutely no resemblance to your ex or your boss would you like to see horribly disfigured or maimed in an interstellar accident? Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me…

Vitalis, parts 1 - 7, by Jason Halstead

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

 

 

Amazon Done Good, part 2

February 4, 2013 2 comments

Last week I wrote an article (linked here) where I talked about Amazon’s hunter/ killer strategies when it came to seeking out reviews they felt were unfair. Reviews by authors on other author’s books, for example. Their hope is to kill bogus reviews written influence customers, either positively or negatively. I wondered if there campaign would have some bearing on a series of novellas I wrote that had a few people slam them into the gutter with one star reviews blasting me for asking people to pay $.99 for books that ranged from 15,000 to 32,000 words.

You see I took those seven novellas down last year after I was hit below the belt by the handful of people (handful as in I had a few fingers left over when I counted up the negative reviews I received, even though they went out of their way to post 1 star reviews on multiple books). I’d sold thousands of copies of each, bringing them into the top 10 and top 20 lists in their genres (science fiction), but not that many positive reviews that a few stinkers couldn’t drag the books into the rubbish heap. I compiled the novellas into an omnibus (Vitalis Omnibus) and then later wrote a full novel length sequel to it (Vitalis: Resurrection). I have plans for future Vitalis books as well, but I haven’t had a chance to revisit those yet. I even left the first novella (New Beginnings) on Amazon but set it so that it was free to download. My way of apologizing to people who might think I was trying to screw them over.

Five or Six months later (as in, last week) I got to thinking that maybe a few pricks were sucker punching my books because they wanted to help their books reach the upper ranks on Amazon. One reviewer even commented in his review that there should be enough 1 star reviews to knock my books out of the rankings. Yes, he really said that. I don’t know if that review is still up or not, Amazon has removed several of them already. I received my 4th quarter results from Smashwords and since I’d removed them fro Amazon I never put much thoughts into the novellas. Well they were still on Smashwords, and that meant they were still out there on iTunes, Sony, Diesel, and others. My results weren’t earth shattering but I sold enough of the various books to let me know that no, I wasn’t crazy. People did like them and they weren’t pissed off about the rock bottom price I assigned to them. Especially considering so many other writers ask more for works that are even shorter!.

So now they’re back and I’m excited to see how they’re doing. The results aren’t great yet, after a week, but they’re promising. I’ve seen some action on them. A few sold here and there. A far from the 5000 a month I was selling in April and May of 2012, but I’m patient and I’m happy to get whatever I can out of them. They don’t need to be bestsellers, I just want to know that people don’t really think I’m trying to screw because, damn it, I’m not!

And to my fellow writers out there. Knock that shit off. People read what they want to read. You don’t do anybody any good by trying to beat somebody else down. Try helping instead. I have writers ask me things all the time – a hookup to a cover artist or an editor or tips on how to do something. I help them and I’m happy to help them. They, in turn, come right back and help me when and if the need is there. Good will goes a lot further than bad.

As another example, Gayla Drummond, a writer and blogger in her own right, had some discussion with me on the prior post and that prompted her to hop up on a soapbox and vent her thoughts on the matter (linked here). G.L. Drummond’s site can be found here, by the way, and I’m happy to recommend checking her out. Not just because she’s got a heart of gold and agrees with me, but because she’s an intelligent woman with talent. That will lead to good books every time. Agreeing with me and having a heart of gold also helps, by the way.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

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