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.

Advertisements

Heading Into 2014

After finishing the second book in my Badlands series, I was finally able to take some time in December and revamp my sales reporting. My existing sales spreadsheet was clunky and difficult to maintain, and it didn’t allow for the depth of analysis I really needed. I design and build data warehouses in my day job, so it seemed only natural that Elegy Publishing should also have a data warehouse for its sales reporting.

That work is now complete and I’ve been running the new reports for a couple of weeks now. Analyzing this data, I’ve discovered some interesting things. I thought I’d take some time to share those with you. If you’re a reader, you probably don’t care about this. But if you’re another indie writer/publisher, you might find these numbers interesting. You might even be able to apply some of these insights to your own business.

Sales Have Fallen

It seems that the ebook market has cooled. Kindles are no longer new, nor are ebooks. Publishers have dropped their prices now that agency pricing is dead and output of new ebooks has finally started to catch up to demand. Readers now have plenty of books for their e-readers and big-name authors have lower-priced backlists available. Indies aren’t dominating the low-cost market any more; we’re sharing the space and sharing the sales.

Personally I had a killer Christmas season in 2012. December, January and February were $2,000 months. Things started to drop a little in March and April. Even May was decent, earning around $1,000 in royalties.

Then June hit and sales dropped off a cliff. Units dropped 35% compared to June of 2012. Revenue dropped 26%. July was worse, with revenue and units dropping 65%. It steadily plummeted, down 77%, 79%, even down 85% compared to the prior year. $800 monthly norms dropped to a couple hundred dollars.

With the release of Badlands #2, I’ve seen sales climb again (albeit slowly). Not to the levels seen in the heyday (2011 & 2012), but an uptick, nonetheless.

So what does this mean? Well, the gold rush is over. The fair-weather writers who aren’t selling now have likely moved on to other things, leaving behind the die-hards who know that success comes after lots and lots of hard work. The market has reached an equilibrium and writers who continuously improve and release consistently will be the ones who succeed.

KDP Select Probably Isn’t Worth It

At one point KDP Select delivered. Now, not so much. I spent most of 2012 in Select, opting out in 2013. I earned around $700 from Select borrows last year vs. $600 from non-Amazon channels this year.

The verdict? Stay out of Select. The post-free bump in paid sales is gone. And what I’m earning outside of Amazon is pretty damn close to what I *might* earn from Select borrows. But staying out of Select means I can branch out to other markets, namely Barnes & Noble, Apple and Kobo. While this doesn’t earn me quite as much as Amazon borrows, being on all devices (and in all markets) is worth it.

Amazon Continues to Dominate

Amazon drives more than 97% of my revenue. It’s pretty easy to see why they’re still so important:

amazon_non_amazon

Note: My "REU" term means a Revenue Earning Unit (a sell or a borrow)

Of the 3% of my non-Amazon sales, here’s how it all breaks out (by sales channel):

non-amazon_breakout

Of the little guys, Barnes & Noble continues to dominate. Apple outsells Kobo by units, but is a close third in revenue (I earn more by going to Kobo direct). Smashwords earns me a little here and there and Sony is laughably small.

Armed with this data going into 2014, I can be confident in my decision to stay out of Amazon exclusivity and in all other markets. I also know that going direct with Kobo is worth the effort. It really doesn’t require much of my time to distribute outside of Amazon, so the return on my time investment is worthwhile.

Performance by Title

Into the Badlands (my debut novel) is clearly my biggest earner over all time. It was published during the heyday and has been out the longest. The Desolate, my second novel, has been available since summer, 2012. Beyond the Badlands, my third novel (and #2 in my Badlands series) has only been available for a month. Here’s the breakdown between titles:

performance_by_title

It’s interesting to note that in one month Beyond the Badlands has earned 25% of what The Desolate has earned in a year and a half.

This information, combined with fans’ requests for the remaining books in the Badlands series, has prompted me to change direction. Instead of focusing on my sci-fi thriller in 2014, I’ll be directing efforts toward the final two books in the Badlands series. Fans want them and I want to write them. Not only will I make readers happy, I’ll earn more money. I’ll get to the sci-fi thriller, just not as quickly as I’d originally planned.

The other thing you’ll notice here is that my novella (Muster Drill), my short story (Wishes and Desires) and my short story collection (Walking At Night) sell much more slowly than even my worst-selling novel. Those experiments have proven that the money is in novels. While I enjoy writing shorter works, it doesn’t reward monetarily. That said, I’m sure I’ll return to these shorter forms of storytelling, but they’ll likely be side projects, taking a back seat to novels. Besides, I’m convinced people find me through my novels and then pick up my shorter works (not the other way around) and I prefer writing novels anyway.

Paperbacks

Paperbacks have never been a big seller for me. But my new sales reporting has revealed something I hadn’t noticed before: I’m losing money on non-novel paperbacks. My novella and short story collection still haven’t earned back my proof copy costs.

So going forward, only novels will likely see paperback. And even then, demand for paper is almost non-existent. I make them because it’s fairly easy to do now that I’ve figured out the process and I like seeing them on my bookshelf. And some readers do still want them. I can make a paperback for less than $10 now (and maybe four hours of my time), so it’s still worth the effort.

Other Book Stats

Some other stats I found interesting about my books…Beyond the Badlands cost nearly $500 to produce and earned its production costs back after 24 days. Knowing that, if I release the next two Badlands novels ASAP I can feel confident they’ll earn out quickly, providing me with enough money to subsidize my sci-fi thriller (it’ll likely take longer to earn out).

Since September, 2011 I’ve sold 14,256 books. I had 344 Amazon Prime borrows. I’ve spent roughly 1,000 hours writing these books, earning an estimated gross of nearly $27 per hour. Not huge money, but decent. Since September ’11 I’ve averaged around 17 books sold per day.

Assuming each novel I wrote *might* have earned a $5,000 advance from a traditional publisher, only Into the Badlands has surpassed that amount. The Desolate has earned a little over two grand. (Beyond the Badlands hasn’t been out long enough to consider).

If I’d taken an advance for Into the Badlands, I would’ve left money on the table. Publishing that book myself earned me more money than if I’d taken a publisher’s deal.

But if I’d taken an advance for The Desolate, I would’ve earned more money (so far, at least). Of course there’s no guarantee The Desolate would  have been picked up by a traditional publisher and I would have lost creative control if it had. And I still have the rest of my life for that book to earn money at a higher royalty rate.

Truth is, some books are going to earn more than others. But even my slowest-selling novels have earned back their production costs (and more). I’m not getting rich, but revenue is in the black. In the end, if I had it to do over again, I’d still choose to publish them myself.

All in all, business is still looking good. Things have normalized, but the recipe for success hasn’t really changed: hard work, continuous improvement and steady production. I’m looking forward to a very busy, but hopefully successful 2014 (and beyond)

Roadmap for 2013

ID-10091619-200
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So now comes the time to reflect on the current year and plan for the following year. 2012 was a good year for me, overall. I released a novel and a novella, with a short story due to be published before end of year. I also completed the NaNoWriMo challenge, ending with 50,326 words. I’m 11,000 words or so into my second Badlands book too. I also fully revised Into the Badlands, cleaning up a lot of my clunky “newbie” narrative.

Adding up all the words written (and excluding the Badlands revision), it comes to 157,000 words in 2012. Combined with last year, that’s nearly 300,000 words, almost one-third of the way to my first million words. Hard to believe.

What’s to come? Well, I first have to finish book two of my Badlands trilogy. A trilogy, you ask? Not simply a sequel? ‘Fraid so. After outlining the sequel I found that one character’s story just didn’t have a proper ending. It soon became clear to me that this person’s story needed another novel, so the idea of a trilogy came to mind. Besides, a trilogy will be fun. I think the third book will be called Reclaiming the Badlands, but we’ll see.

Once Beyond the Badlands is finished, I’ll be back on The Crossover Gene. I wrote half of the first draft for NaNoWriMo, so I already have a leg up on completing the novel by the end of 2013.  That’ll probably be all I can squeeze in during 2013, since I’ll already be pushing myself to meet these goals. But, if I get ahead of the curve, I might just do the NaNoWriMo challenge again. I already have an idea of the novel I might write.

This also marks the two year anniversary of my return to writing. Amazing things have happened over the past couple of years and I hope next year is even more amazing.

With the right amount of hard work and luck, I think it will be.

“The Desolate” Gets a New Cover

I’m taking a little time out of my NaNoWriMo word crunch (I’m only slightly behind the eight ball now) to toss up a quick post about The Desolate‘s recent cover change. I noticed over the following few months after The Desolate‘s release that the stock photo I’d chosen for the cover was a pretty popular image. Too popular, in fact. I saw at least two other books with the same image on their covers. When I received a piece of promotional email using the same image I knew that I needed to change my cover. I needed something that would differentiate my book, not confuse my book with others’.

I went on the hunt at Dreamstime.com and found five images I thought might work. I mocked up covers and sent them to former beta readers and some friends whose opinions I trust. They unanimously chose the image I also thought was best, so I worked up the cover and pushed new files up to Amazon. Continue reading

“The Desolate” and KDP Select

When I published my horror novel, The Desolate, near the end of July I purposely opted it out of KDP Select. Kobo’s Writing Life platform had just gone live and I wanted to give it a try. I also wanted to give Smashwords, Sony, Apple, and Barnes & Noble another chance. After opting both of my other books into KDP Select back in February of 2012 I’d been exclusive to Amazon for the better part of the year. I thought maybe things had changed with the competition while I was away.

Well, it seems things are pretty much the same outside of Amazon.

After nearly three months on the market, 90% of The Desolate‘s sales were through Amazon. That left 10% to be shared across all other reader platforms combined. It sold 2 copies on Smashwords before that channel went dead. 1 copy sold on Kobo, but they won’t pay out until I accumulate $100 in sales. At that rate my grandchildren might see that money. Barnes and Noble’s Nook platform performed the best out of all the non-Amazon channels, selling a whopping 11 copies. And after nearly three months Sony still didn’t have the book available in their store for sale.

So I decided to give KDP Select a chance with The Desolate and see how it fared. Continue reading

“The Desolate” After One Month

My latest novel, The Desolate, has now been available for about a month, so it seemed a good time to talk about how it’s doing. The book sold a few copies right out of the gate and then went dead very quickly. By the end of July, after being on sale for ten days, The Desolate had sold 10 copies, averaging 0.9 copies per day, broken down as follows:

  • 8 copies via Amazon US (Kindle reader)
  • 2 copies via Barnes and Noble (Nook reader)

It wasn’t exactly tearing up the charts, but it was moving a few copies. It stayed this way for a solid couple weeks, selling barely anything. I have noticed a gradual increase over the past couple weeks, particularly over the past seven days or so. If I didn’t know better, it seems to be building momentum with a bit of a snowball effect.

We’re now 20 days into August and here are the sales thus far: Continue reading