I’m willing to admit that I’m a little scared right now. Ever since Kindle Unlimited came out, my sales have been slipping more and more into the land where good books go to be forgotten. I’m terrible at promotion, I admit it, but my mantra has always been “write more books.” I’m good at that, and I’m closing in on having 70 titles out there now because of it. But with sales falling lower than they were in early 2012, it’s seems like that’s not enough.
The bundle my wife’s story was included in hit the NY Times and USA Bestseller lists (A Cold Winter’s Bite, found in A Kiss of Christmas Magic), but that happened thank to the hard work of a lot of people, as well as a sizeable marketing fun. I don’t have the same resources, so I have to fall back on writing once again.
That’s where the good news comes in. I was planning on writing book 2 in my Serpent’s War series next, but I’ve been smitten with another idea. That and Servant of the Serpent sold approximately 10 copies in the couple of months its been out now, so not many people are clamoring for book 2 yet. If you happen to be one of them, don’t worry – I will write it. Just not yet.
First I want to share my new idea and share my excitement with it. It’s science fiction, to start with, and it takes place roughly a hundred and fifty years in the future. We’ve made contact, you see, and that brought down a whole bunch of visitors.
War? Famine? Slavery? Bloodshed? Not exactly. Maybe not at all – I haven’t even considered the first contact story yet. I’m focused ahead of that a bit, after humanity has joined the space race utilizing alien technology. Humans are the minority, but we’re doing our best to catch up fast.
This particular story will pit a mixed crew on a mission to explore an undiscovered system in search of a mysterious coordinate. They aren’t exactly sure what they’ll find there, and the creature they are escorting isn’t willing to share.
What happens next? Well, that would be giving it away! Arthur C. Clark once set forth the thought that technology so advanced as to defy our understanding would be viewed as magic. To that end, I will say that with the inclusion of alien races and cultures, there is also going to be a fantasy element to the story. Or perhaps it’s merely a new dimension science has yet to uncover? Reality as we know it is going to take a serious twist.
Here there be monsters. In Space.
Yesterday the bundle, A Kiss of Christmas Magic, was listed on the NY Times bestseller list at spot #11. It pegged #31 on the USA Today bestseller list. For those that follow this blog, my newsletter, or website / Facebook page, you might remember the second longest story in that bundle is by Dawn Michelle. Dawn Michelle happens to be the name my wife and I write under (and it’s also her name, if you want to get technical). So, in a roundabout way, that means after five years of being a professional writer, I’m finally a NY Times bestselling author. Queue up the confetti, sirens, parade, and line of celebratory cocktails.
Then I checked my daily sales this morning. On the same day I sold 19 books and Dawn Michelle sold 4. How’s that for taking the wind out of my sails? Or sales…whichever spelling you prefer (see what I did there?)
I have to say that, hands down, the group of writers I worked with where fun, amazing, and professional. Well, a few times we might not have been professional, but it was in a fun and energizing sort of way. The point is, every one of them deserves it, and every one of them is a damn fine writer on their own merits.
What the process also told me is that being a great writer isn’t nearly enough. I always believed that if you write a good book, and write enough of them, the volume and quality of work will speak for itself. The readers and sales will come. Life will be good. After nearly writing 70 books and receiving a lot of outstanding reviews and praise, I’m here to say that enough isn’t enough.
To hit the list we needed the combined might of a whole lot of fan bases, first and foremost. Some of the authors have dedicated fans in numbers that left me staggering. I learned a LOT in the process, including the sheer masses of paranormal romance readers that are out there. I mean…wow! There’s a lot.
But that wasn’t enough, we needed more. That more came in the form of literally thousands of dollars spent in advertising. I can’t begin to grasp where all of it went, but there was a lot of ads out there getting the word out. That was a huge contributer. It bumped us up to our peak of #15 on the Amazon bestselling chart (all paid books).
So this is me being happy and also warning fledgling writers out there. Sure, there will always be exceptions to the rule that skyrocket to the top for no reason other than right time, right place, right luck. The over 99.9999% of us have to bust our asses. It’s a business and there’s no such thing as fair play. Write your asses off and understand it doesn’t end there. There’s a lot more to it than that. And if you’re like me without a budget for such extras, that means figuring it out and finding the time to do it yourself.
Good luck my friends – now that I’ve hit the NY Times list my plans are… write another book.
I was stricken by some inspiration last night to do some data mining. It happens every now and then, I’m a numbers and stats junkie. Hey, admitting I have a problem is the first step to overcoming it, right?
So anyhow, I focused on my 3rd quarter Smashwords results. I’ve been experimenting with Kindle Unlimited on Amazon and trying to figure out the best way to reach the most people. Sales have taken an epic leap into a giant brown and smelly sinkhole, so every person reached is bigger than ever.
What I found was very interesting, to say the least. Over the July – September period, I made roughly $800 on iTunes. Whether that’s good or bad is irrelevant for this discussion. Why? Because Dawn Michelle, my wife, made $80 on iTunes in the same period. My theory behind that is iTunes customers prefer science fiction and fantasy over paranormal romance.
The next significant sales figures came from Barnes and Noble. For Jason Halstead (that’s me, in case you’re just joining), I had $0 sales at B&N via Smashwords. Not surprising, almost all of my B&N titles go directly through B&N. They work out to approximately $10 – $30 a month in royalties. Nothing to get excited about. Dawn Michelle, on the other hand, rocked well over $400 on B&N sales for that 3 month period!
There’s really only one conclusion I can draw from this data – Nook readers like smut! Okay, maybe that’s too rough. They like romance. Paranormal romance. With some spice. In other words…furry porn. (sorry, I couldn’t resist).
So what does this mean for me? Well, I’ve moved some of my titles over to strictly being on Amazon and taking part in KDP Select / KU to allow borrowing. It’s saved my bacon so far this month too. I haven’t seen sales this low in 3 years and I don’t know what the hell is going on, but KU borrows are making up for the lackluster sales by averaging 5 – 10 borrows a day. My wife’s books, on the other hand, have done better by being available on multiple venues (especially those naughty nook owners – god bless you folks!), so we’re going to make sure her new series stays as available as possible.
Her new series? It’s paranormal romance again – and the beta readers are saying it’s even better than the Claimed by the Beast series. It picks up after her story in A Kiss of Christmas Magic ($.99 bundle of over 1200 pages written by 20 different authors – it’s available as of today). And it continues the original Claimed by the Beast series by telling Beth’s story after the fur settles. Oh, and this time, instead of shifters, the focus is vampires.
I know, I know, a vampire romance…sigh. But she’s made good on her promise that there will be no sparkling.
Crap, the new series is called Blood Kissed, and the first book (First Kiss) is available for pre-order. Book 2 is called Forever Kiss and is in the editing stages now.
As for me? Book 2 in my Serpent’s War series, I’m shooting to have it out sometime in the Christmas – early January time frame. Even though sales have been abysmal for book 1, it’s a great story and I have to write it. And, hopefully, more people will get into it as time passes.
For those in the reviewing, blogging, or writing business the name Kathleen Hale has achieved a special kind of infamy lately. This is not where I weigh in on her, her actions, or her antagonist. Yes, I read about the antics and I can say that, as a writer, there’s nothing more infuriating than a bad review without substance or justification. Some people are dicks, plain and simple, and get off on making other people miserable. Yet if nobody ever posted their thoughts when something failed to blow their skirt up, how would I find opinions on products I’m interested in buying?
Set the buying aside, how about producing? I write books, and without feedback I have only my editor and my personal opinion on how my finished product turns out. Every book is a learning experience in how to get better at what I do, from grammar to content to writing style. My editors, beta readers, and fans are invaluable to me. I love hearing what worked and what didn’t. And if that means reading about it in a review, then that’s what I’ll do. Even a bad review. As Rocky Balboa said, “It ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can be hit and keep going.”
That’s life, my friends. And a minor jab I took yesterday was from a great blogger / reviewer by the name of Angus Day. He read Voidhawk, my first published novel. I cringe whenever somebody tells me they read it – that was written five or six years ago and I’ve improved so much since then! But people continue to love it. In fact, I had another email a few days ago from a man who read Voidhawk and stated that based on that book alone he would buy and read anything with my name on it. How cool is that?
But back to Angus. His review was positive. 3 out of 5 stars, and I believe he stated the middle of the road rating came from typos and grammatical problems in the book. Since he reached out to me directly in a message I was happy to talk to him about it and learn more about his concerns. That’s the kind of feedback that I strive for. Something to make me better. I address many of the issues raised and re-submitted Voidhawk to Amazon last night with the corrections. That’s the awesome thing about the age of the ebook – I can turn things around that fast.
So thank you, Angus, both for your kind words and for your critique. It was well deserved. As for my readers or potential readers, go try out Voidhawk, it’s free on Amazon and in spite of my cringing I will say that every time I revisit that first novel I’m caught up in just how entertaining it is. And it’s got six sequels, with a seventh burning away in the back of my head and waiting in line to be turned into a living thing.