2014 Wrap Up

Believe it or not, 2014 is gone. Today is the last day of the year, so it seemed fitting to wrap up the year for me with what I’ve learned and what I have planned for 2015.

KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited

I didn’t have much luck with Kindle Unlimited. I opted all my titles in in October and saw total borrows across all seven titles reach around 30 each month. My sales went down and my revenue went way down (a 30-40% drop).

I think the mistake I made was going all in with my entire catalog. The borrows and the revenue simply weren’t there and with 40% of my sales coming from outside Amazon, I lost my ass.

I don’t necessarily think the program is inherently  flawed, outside of requiring exclusivity. I think it’s great for short works and for some of the titles in my catalog. I still think it’s valuable to use Select when first launching a new title, depending on the reader base.

I just released a new $.99 short story, exclusive to Amazon and KDP Select. I’ve opted all my other titles out of Select. For 2015 I’ll utilize Select selectively (no pun intended) if at all. With Amazon no longer performing for me as it once did, I just can’t go all in and ignore the other sales channels.

Productivity

I wrote 40k words on a novella this year and finished a 72k word novel. I also wrote a 7k word short story. I published the novel and the short story, but the novella probably won’t see the light of day until late 2015.

I ran into a little bit of writer’s block near the end of the year, after I’d made a big proclamation to produce a shit-ton of words. Reading Dean Wesley Smith’s blog really helped get me out of that rut and made me question a lot of my assumptions. I think I’ve been focusing so much on the finished product that I lost sight of the most important part of writing: having fun. Writing the actual words became a means to an end, not an enjoyable activity.

I dug myself out of my rut by writing a short story near the end of the year. I didn’t worry about anything but the writing. It was a blast. I did maybe two or three revisions on it; much, much fewer than I normally do. It’s the most fun I’ve had writing in the past couple of years and it’s a lesson I’ll be taking into 2015. I’m already at work on Badlands #3 with 5k words in the bank. It’s really been a pleasant and fun experience just taking it a scene at a time.

The Market

My sales continue to decline as the market floods with new work from indies and traditional publishers release more of their backlist in the $4.99 and under range. Traditional publishers are also running more sales on their digital titles, further competing with indie-level pricing. Kindle Unlimited is sucking paid sales away from indies at an increasing rate, making selling books even more difficult. With borrow payouts settling around $1.30, many indies (including myself) are seeing their revenue decline.

So what does this mean for me? Well, business as usual. I’m a full-time programmer, so writing is my second job. If I sell fewer books, I can still pay my mortgage. I’ll survive. And I’m certainly not going to quit, as have some others. I’ve wanted to publish to an audience for a long damn time, so I’m not going to squander that opportunity.

I’m not planning to focus much on advertising in the near future. I just finished up year one in a five-year plan that includes completing my best-selling series and fleshing out my horror and sci-fi thriller offerings. Over the next four years I can realistically expect to finish at least five novels, so that’ll provide me with a reasonable backlist. Then I can shift more of my focus to advertising and growing the business. Until then I’ll be focusing primarily on the writing and taking the sales as they come.

Reading

I read a handful of books this year, but not as many as I’d like. In 2015 I plan to read a lot more. I bought a ton of them recently (I admit, I horde books), so I have a huge to-be-read pile waiting for me.

This Blog

I don’t see much changing with the frequency of updates to this blog or with the content provided. I write what I feel is relevant here, when I think it needs to be written.

New Work

My main focus for 2015 is going to be finishing up my Badlands series. Out of the Badlands (Book #3) is first on the list. I might be able to release my novella in the same series next year, but I don’t want to make any promises. If I can get to more work next year then I will, but it’s not on the project plan.

So there you have it, my thoughts on 2014 and my plans for next year. All in all it’s been a sobering but educational year for me. Sure, the market is tougher than ever now, but the opportunity to reach readers without the need to genuflect at the feet of the Almighty Gatekeepers remains alive and well. This is still the best time ever to be a writer and I’m super excited about the opportunities the future holds.

Take it easy and I’ll see you next year!

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Five Questions: The Desolate

Old Farmhouse Stormy SkyIn an obvious attempt to generate some exposure for a book I’d like more people to read, I’m interviewing myself so that I can dig deeper into what the book is all about.

So, without further ado, I’ll start the questions.

1. What’s this book about?

Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Not really. 🙂 It’s about a guy who has some serious mental problems. After his divorce, he moves to a new town to escape his ex-wife and the problems he’s caused for himself. Everything seems to be going well until a series of murders occur and our protagonist finds himself in the middle of a situation from which he can’t run away. He finds his true nature in the process, but what he finds isn’t at all what he expected.

But on a higher level, on a more existential level, it’s about accepting who we are as people. You can’t change who you are by simply changing your surroundings. You have to start from within. You have to be honest with yourself. Scott (our protagonist) realizes this, but not soon enough. It’s also a story about perception of reality and how mental illness can alter that perception (thus, altering reality). It’s kind of a mind-bender, in that respect.

2. You say it’s a horror thriller. What does that mean?

Effectively that means it’s written in the style of a thriller (tightly-plotted and fast paced), but with clear horror overtones. Pretty much all my books are thriller-style in terms of prose, but tend to have very genre-specific overtones (post-apocalyptic, horror, even sci-fi).

3. Is this book for thriller readers or horror readers?

Definitely for horror readers. Straight thriller readers? Well, that depends. If some gore and darkness aren’t your thing, you’ll probably want to steer clear. The horror crowd should be fine with it. It’s also a bit of a murder mystery, so mystery fans with a stronger stomach might also enjoy it.

Oh, and there are four-letter words, so there’s your warning. Don’t even get me started on people who give 1-star reviews to horror novels for language. It’s a horror novel! What did you expect? If you’re squeamish about the word ‘fuck’ then don’t read my books. They’re not for you. I’d rather you buy someone else’s book and save me the bad review. I think most of the Christian and YA books are pretty clean, so those with fragile sensibilities might want to start there.

4. What was most rewarding for you about writing this book?

This book came from a premise I’d toyed with back in the late 1990s. That premise–then heavily steeped in the supernatural–died on the vine at around 20k words. The idea never really went away though, and always seemed wedged tightly in my subconscious. Dusting that idea off and making it a reality was incredibly rewarding, mostly because the finished book grew into something much more substantial and important than the original idea. I think it ended up having real substance in the end. I’m pretty proud of it.

5. Where can folks pick up a copy of the book?

On the Kindle, Nook and Kobo ereaders, as well as at most other major outlets. It’s also available from Amazon in paperback.

So there you have it, my first interview with myself. I know the format of this piece is a little silly, but my hope is that you know more about this book than you did before. Maybe you’ll even decide to add it to your summer reading list.

2013 End-of-Year Update

It’s 4:00 in the morning here and I’ve just gotten my son cleaned up after a stomach bug caused him to puke in his bed. He’s resting now, but I’m waiting to make sure he’s not going to go right back and barf all over himself again. Naturally I thought this would be a good time for an update on where things are right now.

As we roll into November, I’ve decided not to do NaNoWriMo this year. Mostly because I thought it better to instead spend that time revising the novel I started for last year’s NaNoWriMo. That book is called The Crossover Gene and is my first sci-fi thriller. Revisions are going well, albeit a little slow these days with all the time I spend helping my eight year old with his mountain of homework.

I’m pretty excited about this book. I think folks who like my other work would like this book too, so I’ve decided to publish it under my own name rather than a pseudonym. Despite its sci-fi bend, the book is a thriller at its core. Pretty much the same as my other work.

Speaking of other work, Beyond the Badlands is still with my editor. I’m hoping to get it back next week, after which I’ll incorporate the changes and get the book to my proofreader. After that, I’ll fix any errors, read the book one more time and then publish. I’m shooting for a late-November release, if possible. As always, sign up for my mailing list to be the first to know when the book is available.

Plans are now to finish the first draft of The Crossover Gene early next year and then put it away for a while. While it’s simmering on the back burner, I’ll begin work on Badlands book three, tentatively titled Revenge in the Badlands. So far I’ve sketched out a partial outline for the book. I’m not entirely sure when either book will be available, but know that I’m actively working on them. I’ll will say this; I don’t plan on letting two years pass before I release book three in the Badlands series.

In reading news, a writer friend of mine named Keith C. Blackmore recently turned me on to a new writer by the name of Tim Curran. I picked up a copy of Skull Moon earlier this week and I’m loving it so far. If you dig monsters, gunslingers and Indian folklore then this book might just be for you.

I also finished the last book in the Lockman Chronicles series by Rob Cornell. An action-packed mashup of werewolves, vampires, ogres, ghosts and monsters of all kinds. I really dug these books. You can pick up book one of the series here.

That’s about all for now. Time to go move the kiddo to his own bed and get some sleep myself.

Good night.

“The Desolate” Is Live!

The day has finally arrived…my new horror novel, The Desolate, is now live on Amazon , Kobo and Nook eReaders.

I’m pretty happy with the end product. The book read well with the beta readers and I feel the writing is pretty strong. I’ll even go out on a limb and say it’s my best writing to date. I’ve learned a lot over the past couple years and I tried to apply those lessons learned to this book. The end result is one man’s frightening journey toward self-discovery and acceptance, with a climax that takes place in some very dark recesses, both physically and metaphorically. Continue reading

Readers Win

After noticing most of the books I’ve read this year have been self-published I naturally asked myself the next logical question: why read them?

To support my fellow self-published writers?

Maybe.

Because they’re cheap?

Sort of, but I can afford more expensive books.

Because I want to brag that I have tons of books on my Kindle?

No, I don’t care about bragging or collecting.

I read them because they excite me. Continue reading

My 2012 Reading Has Been Almost All Self-Published

Now that I finished the manuscript for my latest novel, I’ve had some time to sit around and just think. As I did it occurred to me that since I bought my Kindle Touch this past Christmas I’ve read almost nothing but self-published books.

And you know what? They were all pretty damn awesome.

These books made me think. They were well-written, well-plotted, and well-edited. Let the dinosaurs bemoan the end of “quality” books all they want because they’re full of crap. Good self-published books are real.

Early in the year I read a collection of short horror stories called Fetal Bait Apocalypse by self-published horror writer Joel Arnold and had my mind pretty much blown. If you enjoyed Stephen King’s “Skeleton Crew” or “Night Shift” then you’ll love Arnold’s work. I followed this book up with his novel Northwoods Deep and I wasn’t disappointed.

Arnold is one of the best horror writers I’ve discovered since buying my Kindle. Seriously, he’s that good. Continue reading