Archive | June 2013

Writing Schedule Updates – June

Bite Back 3 – Wild Card

In the March update, I estimated Wild Card to be 47% complete, and the scheduled release date to be August. I was trying for the anniversary of the publication of Sleight of Hand.

At that point, I felt I had pretty much worked out the plot and thought it would be 130,000 words. I did end by saying it’s the most complex of the series so far, and that my confidence in my estimate was moderate.

Well I was sort of right in that last bit.

I think now that the book is probably going to be 140,000 words. I also had to re-work the plot to achieve a better flow. The outcome from these changes is that my best estimate now is that Wild Card will be published in October. In order for this to be achieved the editing has to be done in September, so there will be milestones on that route which I will keep posting. (In fact, I will be working with Lauren Sweet to edit the first section of the book this month, so things will overlap a little).

At the moment, I’m finding I *can* write more than 2,000 words a day, but if I do, then I spend more time editing them. However, if I visualize the scene strongly before I start writing, then I seem to be able to write more in a session. I’m experimenting with the visualize-write-edit process as I go. Maybe I will hit the magic combination and shorten the schedule!

I’m not sure how useful it is to give percent completion estimates, but my current estimate is that Wild Card is 58% complete.

Bian’s Tale 1 – Saigon

I was trying to write this at the same time as Wild Card, but I’ve stopped. This is a standalone project to be done after Wild Card.

If I had Wild Card completed by August, I originally thought maybe I could complete Bian’s Tale 1 – Saigon and Bite Back Book 4 before Christmas, to allow the books to take advantage of the post-Christmas sales boom. I’m now hoping that Saigon will be there in that timeframe.

The Bian’s Tale books are much simpler than Amber’s, and shorter as well. Even so, this is another deadline I feel may be difficult to hit, so I’m going to change my communication with you to giving feedback more often on progress, but actually making predictions less challenging.

Summary

My apologies, I’m slower than I hoped I would be. But I will get there, and in the spirit of that sentiment, here’s a vignette, an Amber flashback to her Ops 4-10 training ….

 

    Instructor Ben-Haim crouches on the sandy ground in front of me. We’re in the desert. The sun shines like stars reflecting in the beads of sweat caught in the tangle of his black hair. He smells of soap. God knows what I smell like. He pulls his dusty keffiyeh down from his face. I haven’t eaten for three days. The smell of fresh bread erupts from the roll he breaks. He tears a chunk off and eats it, offering me the rest. I can taste it on my tongue.

    I shake my head so abruptly, sweat spills from me. I resent the loss of moisture, even though I know the sweat helps cool me. My throat’s as dry and scratchy as the sand. I can’t speak. I finished my water yesterday. There are only a few hours walking left to complete the exercise, but I can’t do it now. I have to wait till the sun falls. I try to shuffle deeper into my burrow. It’s pleasant here, where pleasant means less immediately lethal than out in the sun.

    Ben-Haim opens his water bottle, washes the bread down with a gulp, offers me the bottle. Shakes it, so it sloshes. A drop spills, lands on the back of his hand. I watch in fascination as it spreads across his skin and evaporates.

    Shit. I can smell the water too.

    I clench my jaw, but a sound escapes me, a whimper.

    ‘The exercise is to be completed with only the food and water you carry or the desert provides.’ The taste being offered would be the taste of failure.

    It’s alright to die. It’s not alright to fail.

    I close my eyes, crouching lower, pressing my face against my knees. I will not cry. I can’t afford it.

    When I open them, Ben-Haim is walking slowly away, taking his bread and his water.

    On the brow of the ridge, Top is standing at parade rest. He’s looking out over the salt flat. They might have used his face to model those statues on Easter Island. Without looking at BenHaim, Top’s hand comes out from behind his back, palm up. Ben-Haim slaps it, leaving behind something that flutters.

    And suddenly, I know I’m going to make it.

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The Effect of a Free Prequel

Numbers update

I’d like to start by re-iterating that I pinch myself every morning when I look at my numbers. My apparent fixation with bettering those numbers in no way suggests I feel I’m not doing well. I am enormously happy with how well Bite Back has done and even happier with the feedback that you’ve been feeding me with. I feel very lucky.

The benefit to readers from this kind of fixation is that it isn’t focused solely on the numbers.  I also look at my writing and wonder how I can make it better. This may get me into trouble…They like complex stories, huh? Well let’s make it more complex…and so on.

All that said, the purpose of this post is to update you on my sales with specific reference to the effect of releasing a free prequel.

I will also post a couple more times over the course of this weekend. The first post will be to review my writing schedules, the second will be concerned entirely with a review I didn’t ask for and didn’t expect. Watch this space!

Objective

I wanted to write a prequel because feedback showed that some of the events in Amber’s history were interesting enough to readers that I have been asked for the stories. The three main items were the attack in the jungle, the failure of Amber’s first attempt at a job as a civilian, and the death of the three rogues while Amber was in the police. None of these is enough to make a full novel (of the length I define as a novel). What I decided to do, with advice from my editor, Lauren Sweet, was to write Raw Deal this year and then at some stage in the future write another novella which combined the jungle scene with Amber’s accounting job.

BTW, other frequent requests include what happened in Obs and more about what happened immediately prior to Amber joining the army. Those actually will come out in flashback as we go forward with the main series.

So, having decided to write Raw Deal, how should it be positioned in a marketing sense? I decided I wanted to make this a freebie. The commercial reason for this is that a freebie catches a lot of eyes and ushers new readers into the series. Amazon have separate freebie lists which serve to promote them, even if they’re ambivalent about freebies themselves. The noncommercial reason was that I wanted to give readers a bit of a thank you for being involved enough to ask questions!

I was fairly confident that Raw Deal would do well on the free book listings, because of the number of readers the series already has.

So, to put this into perspective, I hoped to get Raw Deal on the first page of free book recommendations in Contemporary Fantasy or Paranormal Fantasy, have about 9,000 copies downloaded in the first month and to get a boost in sales of Sleight of Hand of 3,000 by the end of SoH’s first year, i.e. by August.

Wow, aim high.

Results

That didn’t happen.

First hurdle, setting the price. Amazon will not let me enter a zero value for the book. The method of making a book free is to put it in at $0.99 and then put it on a competing book provider for free (I used Kobo). Amazon then (eventually) changes the price to zero.

The problem with this is that it dissipates the ratings effect that would have been achieved if the book had been free from the start.

But no matter. The book is now free in all Amazon country stores. Thanks for those readers who bent Amazon’s ear about Kobo.

In the UK, Raw Deal has been sitting around number 10 in free Contemporary Fantasy. That is definitely the first page of Amazon recommendations. In the US, it’s been around 32 in Paranormal & Urban Fantasy. Not quite the first page, although it was there briefly.

Sales and downloads to date:

  • USA : 760 sales and 4,800 free downloads.
  • UK : 150 sales and 650 free downloads.
  • Germany : 96 sales and 321 free downloads.
  • Rest of the world about 60 downloads.

All together coming up to 7,000 copies of Raw Deal are out there. One slight uncertainty – Kobo does not report the number of downloads of free books, so there could be more.

It has had an effect on SoH sales, however the daily average has only gone from 26 (and descending slowly) to 34. So it looks as if the boost in sales to the end of the year will be under 1,000. And that’s with saying the boost will pick up from current levels.

Obviously, this marketing ploy has yet to bear fruit!

Has this cost me? What’s the situation right now? If I’d left it as a 99c book, I’d have sold about 3,000 copies Raw Deal (estimate based on sales when it wasn’t free). Amazon pay 29c per copy at that price. Total $870. My gut feel is that most of those purchasers would already have read SoH, so I’m saying there would be little extra income other than that.

Against that, with the prequel free, I have 240 extra SoH sales at $3.99. Amazon pay me $2.80 per copy at that price. Total $670.

But the real results will become visible over time. I can see from reviews that people are buying the prequel and moving to the series. I know that free books tend to stay unread on the Kindle longer than ones you pay for. Many of the newcomers in the 7,000 sales may have yet to read

Raw Deal. But only Amazon knows how many of that 7,000 are new to the series.

Other results

Sleight of Hand has now over 16,000 sales and on the current trend will end its first year (August) at about 17,500 sales. That’s lower than the 20,000 I predicted when sales took off after Christmas, but still represents an excellent track record.

Hidden Trump has over 10,000 sales and on the current trend, it too will end its first year (December) with about 17,500 sales. What’s been fantastic about HT sales is the retention from SoH – currently running at 68% and creeping up month by month.

Pinch myself again.

Summary 

On the prequel: It’s a long game, or at least, it’s longer than the month I’ve given it to see the effects.

On the rest of the series: I’m happy with the numbers. I’m not going to spend time ‘marketing’ to try and squeeze more sales in. I’m going to spend time writing. There are people who won’t buy a series until there are 3 books. There are people who wait for 4, or 5. If I have an overriding plan, it’s to keep writing books that get the response that my readers have given me. Do that and the marketing can take care of itself.

Keep tuned. Later this weekend – how is Wild Card coming along (and Bian’s Tale 1 – Saigon after it). And that review…

‘Raw Deal’ now available – for free!

*UPDATE: Amazon have made it free, then changed it to one dollar, then back to free again. Sorry for any confusion! If you’d like, you can email me and I will send you a free copy.**

Dear all,

Raw Deal’ (not the Schwarzenegger movie of the same name) is now available on Amazon.com for free! Just click HERE.

For those of you who don’t regularly tune into my blog or Facebook account (what are you waiting for?!), ‘Raw Deal’ is the free prequel to Bite Back Book One ‘Sleight of Hand’. Here’s a taste:

Raw Deal - small

“I’d lost my entire team, and nearly lost my life. In a way, I had lost my life, and was left with this–a tightrope walk between hunting down creatures people didn’t believe existed, and being locked up as one.”

After a career-ending incident on a covert military operation, Amber Farrell is surprised to find herself back in her home town of Denver working as a rookie policewoman. But what happened in the army casts a shadow across her life from which she will never be free.

The prequel to the Bite Back series introduces Amber Farrell, a kick ass lady with a secret problem–she’s been bitten by a vampire. She’s working hard to start a new life, hold down a job and meet all the expectations put on her. When people start to die suspiciously in Denver, Amber has to decide between duty and instinct, between what she should do and what she must do.

Bite Back Prequel, RAW DEAL: Amazon link. You can also get a free copy by subscribing to our mailing list for Bite Back only updates. Just email mark@athanate.com.

Bite Back Book One, SLEIGHT OF HAND: Amazon link.

Bite Back Book Two, HIDDEN TRUMP: Amazon link.