Just ambling along. Nothing exciting to report apart from The Biting Cold, which I’ve handled in Marketing.
The Biting Cold was a surprise. The story had already been published in the anthology last Christmas and many (?most) of you have that already. But what the hell. So I cobbled together a cover with Jessica and Joshua, got you guys to vote on it, put a chapter of Sleight of Hand at the end and…
Well, hold on now, do I just sell it like the others, or do I give the Kindle Unlimited (KU) option another go?
Raw Deal has been on KU for a while and it’s been…unexciting.
I put TBC straight into KU and I was impressed by the number of KU readers it got. I can’t tell you how many, but the number of pages read (which is what Amazon pays me on) peaked at 3,500 a day. I think that means about 25 people read it on that day, at the same time as another 40 people bought the book. That happened two weekends running, and there’s a total of 29,000 pages of TBC read in KU in the three weeks since release, just in the USA.
Okay, so that’s not going to deluge the bank account. I’d be surprised if I make much more than $300 in the month. 🙂
But, given it was just a short story, it impressed me enough that I removed SoH from Kobo (Amazon require exclusivity if you go on the KU program). The two existing German translations, Die Verborgene Hand and Trumpf im Armel, are exclusive to Amazon anyway, so I put them on KU as well. This is a 90 day test.
SoH hasn’t responded. There have only been a couple of readers through KU.
The German readers, however, have rocked. It’s too early to tell how much, but I’ll update you next month.
Other marketing? I’m also on twitter. I’ve no idea what I’m doing there. No one seems to engage much.
I am *still* waiting for ACX/Audible to finish ‘preparing’ the Hidden Trump audiobook.
Julia finished narrating around the 10th July. She needed the payment to go through ACX/Audible for guild and tax reasons. We asked ACX how to achieve that, given their website only envisages sending a bank check from an American account. Parochial or what?
We finally got a response on the 27th July, giving us the details of an account to which I could send an electronic transfer. The account details provided to me were wrong!
On the 29th I had to re-send the money. (I’ve requested that the paymaster cover my costs of $80 levied by the banks for sending it to the wrong account. He’s ducking).
Around 5th August, the ACX paymaster ‘posted a check’ to Julia.
On the 17th August, Julia got the check and updated the appropriate status in ACX.
The book status changed: “Now ACX will put the audiobook through a quick final quality control process.”
On the 26th August, the book status changed to “Preparing audiobook for Amazon, Audible and iTunes”.
Where it remains. Sigh.
Wild Card (Entfesselter Wandel) has gone through preliminary translation into German by Peter, and is sitting on Heike’s desk waiting for her to do proofreading and layout. She’s reserved a slot, but not till the end of October.
The beta readers are about to receive the 3rd section of Angel Stakes, which I originally said took it to the midpoint. Okay, it’s not the midpoint. It’s somewhere between 2/3 and ¾ of the way through the book.
There are reasons for this estimating error on my part.
- I’m not good at estimating.
- With a book that has multiple themes, which ‘mid-point’ do I chose?
- I’m very bad at estimating.
It’s proceeding okay. As I go through editing, I’ll be looking for a few other short non-spoiler sections to release as teasers.
Very slight spoilers…
I generally feel with these quiet parts of the Bite Back books that I’m going overboard. Readers generally come back and tell me I’m not. Anyway, I’m going to try out a short section on this blog that hasn’t even been seen by the beta readers yet…
How in such a complex, structured society as the Athanate, could you win an argument? The issue under discussion is this: when the paranormal races reveal themselves to humans, should they agree to abide by human law, or should there be a separate law for them? A very intricate sort of problem and one on which a great deal hangs in the balance.
The Empire of Heaven (China and most of south-east Asia) stood aside from the first Athanate Assembly when it was invoked in the 1920s. The Empire of Heaven is the largest group after the two main creeds of the Assembly, Panethus and Basilikos. As the parameters of the new Assembly are being hammered out in book 5, the Empire arrives at the meeting, in the person of their Emperor’s own Diakon, Xun Huang. What side of the debate will he come down on?
This is a small part, a quiet interlude in the usual rush.
This is Huang’s speech to the Athanate. He may have been influenced by Maya Angelou (paraphrased here): “They may forget what you said but they will never forget what you made them feel.”
Huang walked to the center of the floor and stood still, waiting until the silence spread.
When he did speak, his voice was so quiet everyone had to lean forward to hear.
I didn’t know what to expect, but it certainly wasn’t what came.
“I am old, even as we Athanate count it,” he said.
His words were slow and formal, with a rhythm that seemed to carry me along.
“Many, many years ago, I buried my father in an unmarked grave, beneath a solitary Linden tree on a south facing hillside, near a quiet river. In the heat of summer, the Linden’s leaves are thick and dark and green. They take the shape of hearts, and beneath their shade, the ground is always cool; the air always holds the scent of limes. As winter nears, those leaves turn and fall like a harvest of the richest gold, and make a crown to rest upon my father’s head.
Between the wars that tore our land, I would return there, and lie on that hillside. It eased my soul, and restored my strength in a time of great turmoil.
Then, beside my father, I buried my sons and my daughters, their youthful faces as yet half-formed, unblemished by age.”
Huang paused and looked up and down the ranks of Athanate, and we were silent. The whole auditorium had unconsciously synced their heartbeats with their neighbors’, until we were a creature with a single pulse, waiting, listening.
“No man should bear that sorrow,” Huang continued. “No woman either, and my wife joined them before the leaves had fallen again. I planted the trees that were their only marker.
From that moment, I slept only when exhaustion took me, because on waking, for a moment it was as if I could turn and see my wife again, only for that dream to fade, and the nightmare of life to begin again.
When the Emperor found me, I sought death every day in the face of the enemy. What prize could he offer me, in my despair, that would make me want to become immortal? What reward to become Athanate, and know that sorrow for eternity?
He spoke to me; simple words, words he told me he first heard from the lips of the Kumemnon herself, her own words: This is the gift and the sorrow of the Athanate; to see your loves pass before you like the days of summer, while your heart still beats. To keep your vigil in the shadows, and rise again with every sun.
That part you all know. Many carve it above doors to their hidden sanctuaries, to remind them that as there is light, there must be darkness, and the world turns regardless.
But the Lamentation of Arunne goes on: To be bound upon the wheel of heaven; to toil and toil and never be done. To love without reserve forever, and rise again with every sun.”
He paused, and in the depths of the auditorium the Athanate shivered as the words touched us.
Huang went on.
“That is what he said to me, and I bared my neck to him.
On that hillside now, beside the quiet river, there grows a forest, such that I may not find my family’s trees among those that mark my kin. I return there sometimes for a night. To sleep, to dream, and rise again with the sun.
The war took away my family, and my Emperor replaced it with duty. He offered me no soft consolation, no comforting lies. As one who passes from childhood must put away the easy refuges of youth, to become Athanate is to shoulder a greater destiny. And to achieve that, one may not live as a man or woman may live, under the strictures of their society.
The Athanate people must retain their own laws and customs.”
Last December, I released my short story, The Biting Cold, as part of an anthology with Susan, Connie, Debra, JC and Jen. It went very well under both schemes we used. But it’s time to release it on its own. And to do that, I need an ISBN, a cover, the cover copy, and a price/package.
The ISBN I buy in bulk, so I just pull the next one off the list.
The price? Well, Amazon won’t let me put in anything less than 0.99 cents or pennies. I will put this story initially in the Kindle Select listings, so that Amazon Prime members can read it under their Kindle Unlimited contracts and I get paid for the number of pages read. This story was only ever intended to capture marketing information or be a tease to get readers into the Athanate world.
The cover copy I have from the anthology, but I want it shorter and sharper to stand on its own:
What price would you pay?
Dr. Amanda Lloyd, a dying psychiatrist with just days to live, is desperate to give the only testimony that will keep the criminal mastermind of a human trafficking network in jail. She can’t spare time for the handsome, mysterious patient who claims to be a vampire.
Unless what he offers her is exactly what she needs…
And the cover…
I’ve no intention of going out and paying a studio for a cover. So, what does the cover need to depict? “Vampires and romance”.
I don’t want fangs or a bitten neck on the cover, which leaves me with one obvious way of implying vampires (apart from the title itself), and that’s the font. I went looking for letter shapes that looked like knives or fangs, and I found Abaddon. Not perfect, but *free*. To ram the point home, so to speak, we need some blood dripping off a fang – ten minutes with PaintShop Pro.
The romance, well everything is a cliché. Naked male torso, serious abs and pecs. Bodice. Flesh. Kissing or embracing couple. Hands entwined. Red rose. Lipstick imprint. For no other reason than it was abstract, cheap and easy, I took the lips. Mwah.
What would be ‘nice’ for the cover to depict? Detroit, cold, winter, legal setting, a tale with a twist. I wanted to keep the cover simple and abstract, so the cityscape was out, as was the twist. They are respectively too detailed and too complex. The legal setting was interesting – there are lots of visual clues you can use, but I didn’t want to clutter. So I went for cold and winter, at which point, Jessica, Joshua and I came up with our interpretations and the attached are the result.
The covers have been getting votes on Facebook already. In case you haven’t seen it there, please vote here in the comments. Left to right, cover number 1-3. (I’ll be releasing the book on the 8th August).
As promised, the story of Amanda and Scott will continue for at least one more short(ish) book, and then will bind into the main Bite Back series.
I have been looking at names for the next book… maybe Heart of Winter
The second section of Angel Stakes will be with the beta readers in the next couple of days.
How much of the book is this? Well, the first section I sent out took the book to one of the standard ‘structural’ points, called the ‘first turning point’. Theoretically, this is 25% of the book. That section happened to be 27k words long. The second section should be up to the second major structural point, called imaginatively the ‘mid-point’. What I’m sending out isn’t quite that far. It’s about 34k words, and there are two major twists to come before the mid-point. So if we say 10k words to get to the mid-point, then half the book will come to approximately 70k, and that means the final book may be as long as Wild Card.
Having said all that, my structural points occur at different places to the ‘average’ book, partly because I’m writing a series and partly because I have multiple threads and each thread has its own structure, which might displace the main book structure slightly.
We’ll see. I know what happens of course, but how many words it takes me to say it, and how long it takes me to write it, are estimations that I’m not good at making.
Hidden Trump audio
What a labyrinth!
It has taken Julia Motyka and I over three weeks to get the Audible / ACX payment details provided to us. When I hired Kimberly to read Sleight of Hand, I paid her directly, which was easy. Because Julia is also an actor and director and needs to channel all payments through her guild, I have to pay her through the ACX approved ‘paymaster’. Easy – “send us a cheque/check” they said. Can’t do that, I’m a UK citizen and don’t have a bank account in the US (and it’s near impossible to acquire one). Surely, we said, surely, there is someone who understands that US narrators might get paid by UK authors? Eventually, there was, and he provided me with bank details for an international bank transfer. To a dead account.
The funds were returned to my bank. My bank called me (and warned me that both their charges for the transfer and the charges from the US bank were taken against my account). I emailed the ACX paymaster, requesting the correct account number and their opinion as to what I should do about the bank charges. They provided the correct number and ignored the comment about charges. I’d probably have accepted a simple apology, but what I actually got back after re-querying it was “I never heard of banks doing this”!
Anyway, the payment has been made, Audible / ACX are doing their checking, whatever that is, and the audiobook should be up soon. I hope.
Creeping along. Summer sales are pretty skewed anyway, and I’m not sure the Bite Back books are the type you take to the beach.
Anyway, overall, the books are within touching distance of 70,000 total sales, which is great, but as this is the third anniversary of the release of Sleight of Hand, I did have a look at the annual total sales numbers.
Aug 2012-2013 40,000
Aug 2013-2014 60,000
Aug 2014-2015 70,000
Which represents a disheartening slow-down. I know some of the problem is that, especially in this genre, output as measured by books is what keeps you in the rankings, and staying in the rankings is what drives sales. I write longer books, I release them slowly, and inevitably, I slip a little in the rankings.
I had that in mind when I started plotting Bian’s companion series – they seemed, at the plotting stage, to be shorter, so I could write and release them more quickly and the two series would feed each other. Ha! I can’t write short books it seems, and trying to keep the first book of Bian’s Tale short may have been what caused the writing to stutter. I will return to Bian’s Tale, but inevitably that will slow the release of Bite Back books.
There appears to be an opportunity to improve sales when I can devote more time to marketing. To take one example, slightly less than 50% of the people who bought Wild Card have bought Cool Hand. The reviews and ratings for both are good, so I think I can assume that it’s not that the readers don’t like the series or wouldn’t buy Cool Hand. I can only theorize that, due to the delay getting Cool Hand out, other books/series with higher rankings on Amazon have caught their attention.
Back to writing.