Sunday, December 13, 2015

Damn the Numbers

I have two scenarios for you. Both involve self-published books within the fantasy adventure genre. In the first scenario, it's the author's first book. It has not been read by anyone else. No writing group. No editor. No copy editor. Nothing. Boom! He self publishes it; eBook only. And yes, it is just as bad as you imagine.

In the second scenario, it's this author's third completed novel length manuscript. It has been read by a number of people prior to publishing. It has seen the benefits of a writing group, an editor, and a copy editor. He self-publishes it and makes it available in both paperback and eBook.

Guess which one sells better in the first six months? Since we love irony, or its close relatives, you're probably thinking that the first book sold more. You would be correct. What's interesting, is that it is not even close. As I am a visual person, I have some charts to illustrate the disparity. The first one isn't so horrific, it shows how many free copies were "purchased" for the two books. This would include promotional give-aways and some Amazon free programs such as Select and the lending library. Book One is the god-awful first book and it gets 8x the number of downloads.

One thousand versus 150. But, these are only the free copies, so they don't matter as much, right? Sort of. It's still publicity, and people spending time with your work. But, let's look at the real number. The actual paid for, sold units. Drum roll please . . .

Ouch. See how Excel couldn't even render a visible color for Book Two due to the scale difference? Nearly 3,800 units sold versus, almost 30. Or in other words, the second book hasn't even sold 1% of what the first book did.

I took the first book down after the six month mark, as I couldn't abide by the idea that a work of mine was available to the public in such a raw and half-assed form. It also didn't help that I had some readers gouging their eyes out after trying to slog through the error-infested work, and weren't shy about expressing their experience to me. It was a fair complaint though, and it helped me develop a thicker skin

I admit to entering into Book Two, a.k.a Rise of Raulet (ROR), with a fair amount of naive expectations. My first book sold relatively well and I had improved since then, and I put more time, money, and effort into this next project. I made sure to do all of the "right" things, involving a team of folks to help me fine tune the book. So, if book one sold that many in such a sorry state, imagine how many this next book would sell?!?! Yeah, it sounds asinine stated like that, but in my heart, I believed it.

Granted, it's not an apples to apples comparison of course. Two books never are. The first book was in 2012 and a lot has happened within the self-publishing realm over the last three years. And the first book came out at $0.99 and I priced the second one at $2.99 (eBook). I did recently lower the price to $0.99 just to see if it does any differently.

I'm hoping that I can soon arrive at a place of acceptance with ROR sales being virtually non-existent, and my first walking nightmare doing so much better. There is some feeling of redemption in putting ROR out there, to "prove" that I can produce a book of good quality, but I already knew I could.

In the self publishing arena, you have the opportunity to oversee elements you wouldn't normally get to in the traditional publishing world. But, even with that additional influence, there are still numerous factors outside of your control. You just have to accept that fact, and keep at your art in whatever form that takes and damn the numbers.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Little Bit of Alchemy

First, a quick NaNo update before I blab about my next manuscript. Well, this was my second attempt at conquering the leviathan (50,000 words in one month!) and I hit the 20k mark. Not where I wanted to end up, but I did reestablish a couple of writing habits that proved to improve my daily word count by a couple of hundred words, so I will take it.

I must admit that my weekend free time was dominated by this:

In my defense that game is fraking awesome!

Anyway, I wanted to briefly talk about my next manuscript. ALCHEMIST is my next fantasy adventure story. I should be getting it back from my editor soon. In some ways this was a reaction against my last book RISE OF RAULET which had three rotating point of views and some brave characters. Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of how the last book turned out, but I wanted to do two things differently:

1. I wanted to focus primarily from one perspective.
2. The protagonist had to be a total nerd.

Alright, so the protag, Nicholl, is going to be a nerd, but what can he nerd out on? For some reason my mind turned to alchemy. Not the classic turn crap into gold bit, but a pseudo scientific chemistry, full of balanced equations, competing forces, and nesting formulas! I liked it. That was my backdrop. But what about the plot? I hear that some people consider that important.

Here is what I threw poor Nicholl into. He's just graduating from the equivalent of college. He's got one close friend, Trude, the woman that has pulled him out of more jams than he cares to admit and serves as his common sense and guide to those awkward things called social interactions. A baroness grants the freshly graduated Nicholl with an odd/enticing opportunity to use alchemy to free a Gazer.

What's a Gazer? There are three hundred statues that appear only at night with their eyes fixed on the heavens. Well, all of them but one. They are all uniquely carved and appear incredibly life-like. Plenty of theories have been formed over the years, but most agree they are magical based on their flickering in and out of existence, plus they cannot be moved.

The baroness has a theory of her own and thinks Nicholl is the only one that has the raw brilliance to crack the code and defeat the magic, freeing the Gazer and breaking the stone shell. Nicholl sees this as the ultimate academic challenge and is blind to the baroness's true intentions and the potential fallout of his actions. Thankfully, Nicholl brings Trude with him so he might have a chance to survive this.

I'm excited for it and do plan to query this bad boy out depending on how the editing goes. The one challenge I have is that in its current state, the book is a little short (70k ish) and borderline YA. Hmmm. Worse case scenario, I don't get any bites and I end up self-publishing the bad-boy. I will keep you posted.

How about you? What's your newest project?