New Preorder – Yesterday In Black

Yesterday In Black Cover 100x160You heard right. All that productivity I’ve been yammering about is finally starting to bear fruit. My editor is due to have my first crime novella back to me tomorrow, so I’ll be publishing it on December 15, 2015, just in time to stuff your virtual stocking. You can get it on preorder right now from Amazon, Kobo, Apple and Smashwords (sorry Nook readers, B&N’s system won’t allow preorders).

Here’s the gist:

Three years ago Tom Miller lost his entire family to a brutal serial killer. Now drowning in alcohol and haunted by the ghosts of his past, he decides one night to finally end it all.

But when he sees the face of a murdered little girl on the evening news, Tom thinks he might know who the killer is. Desperate to stop the next murder before it happens, Tom mounts his own investigation—and quickly finds himself in over his head.

When the next little girl goes missing, Tom will have to come to terms with his past and face his demons in order to track down a monster. But with time running out and his leads falling short, his chances at finding the killer are quickly diminishing.

Along with a child’s chances for survival.

Sounds awesome, right? You know it does. I had a great time writing this one and I think it turned out nicely. I plan on doing a whole series of these books, taking Tom all over the place as he hunts down the hunters, bringing those motherfuckers to justice.

In other news, I’m currently about 1/3 of the way through revisions on Badlands #3 and I’m just about finished with the first draft of a new monster novel called It Came From the Mountain. My homage to Mothman, if you will. Look for both of those books early next year. And if you missed it, check out my Halloween-themed short story Cycle. You can pick that up for less than a buck. My kids loved it, so if you’re looking for third-party validation, there you go.

Stay up to date on all things me by signing up for the newsletter. And if you really want to make my day, buy some more of my crap here.

Until next time, take it easy.

Brian

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Badlands #3 Update

Revenge In the Badlands Cover 300x400 So you might be wondering, Where’s the next Badlands book? You’re working on this sci-fi thriller while we’re stuck waiting and wondering what’s going to happen with Dave and Johnny. Come on, already!

Never fear, the update is here. Badlands #3 — titled Revenge In the Badlands — sits at roughly 30k words right now. That’s about 1/3 of the way there.

Why the wait? Well, the short answer is that I just needed some time away from the Badlands universe. I get burned out working on the same project without some kind of a break in between. My enthusiasm wanes. When that happens the story suffers. It’ll also end up taking forever to write, because I just don’t want to sit down and work on it.

I got stuck around the 30k mark because the story just wasn’t revealing itself to me. I don’t believe in writer’s block, but I do agree that you have to be in the right frame of mind when you work on a book. Rather than spin my wheels on a book I wasn’t ready to write, I decided to finish The Crossover Gene instead. That allowed me to at least continue working and creating new words, while I waited for Badlands #3 to finish taking shape.

The good news is that I’m in the final stages of The Crossover Gene and after taking a few months off from Badlands #3, the gates have finally opened. The story I really wanted to tell in Revenge In the Badlands has finally revealed itself to me. I can’t say exactly how that “eureka” moment happens, but I know it just feels right. Like I can just tell that all the planets have aligned and things are where they’re supposed to be. That this book is actually worth writing and that I truly have something to say. That gets me excited about writing.

Sorry for the delay, but the process is what it is. Sometimes it takes a while to play out. I’m still shooting for a Badlands release before Christmas, if possible. I won’t rush it and sacrifice quality just to make a date, but I will try to hit that date.

In the meantime, if you find yourself in the market for a different type of read, you might like The Crossover Gene. I’m really psyched about it. It’s like nothing I’ve ever written before. That said, it’s still a fast-paced thriller, but with a fantastical sci-fi backdrop. Hopefully that’ll see publication by the end of summer.

Stay tuned for more updates. Until then, take care.

Brian

It’s Already April?

Somehow, we’re already halfway through April. Not quite sure how that crept up on me. That said, I figured it was a good time to provide an update. Besides, some of my friends probably think I’m dead since I haven’t shown my face in public in months (or maybe years).

I hit 2014 hard, writing nearly 30k words in January. I know that’s not a lot for some folks, but it is for me. Then February came and work got busy with a trip to San Francisco and some deadlines.

By the time April rolled around, I was burnt.

I suppose it’s inevitable, since I’ve been running hot since the end of 2010. I’ve written three novels, a novella and a bunch of short stories. I also have two partially-finished novels in the wings. I’ve done a lot of re-writing as I’ve learned how to be a better writer. Thousands of hours. All that with a full-time programming job, a wife and two kids. I think the hours just got to me.

“So, stop whining,” you say. To which I respond, “Yeah, yeah…I know.”

But seriously, I think I just needed a break. So after pushing through March with revisions to my sci-fi novel, I took the first week of April off. I think it did me some good, because I’m feeling anxious to get back to work. Plus, I buckled down and finished the outline for Badlands #3 and #4, along with my sci-fi thriller.

I’m going to take a month and finish that sci-fi book’s first draft. Then I’ll tuck it away and finish the first draft of Badlands #3. If all goes well, Badlands #3 will be out by the fall. I might even have that sci-fi book out this year too. After that, I’ll hop on Badlands #4 and finish up the series.

Going forward, I’m looking at my writing schedule to see where I can build in some time off. I might take off one weekend a month. Sure, it’ll slow me down a bit, but if I burn myself out I’m stopping production altogether. I think that’s worse.

So hang in there; I’ll have some books finished this year. And with some tweaking of my schedule, I think I might actually get out of the house and live a little in the process. 🙂

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)

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.