End of 2015 round-up

And that was 2015 – gone!

Thank you all – thank you for buying and reading the books, of course, but thank you also for interacting on this blog and on the Facebook pages. It’s not been the easiest of years and you support and feedback has made a tremendous difference.

I took a break over Christmas. Of course, the whole family went and watched Star Wars. Then, as well as the food and presents and walks, I indulged in reading and watching movies at home with the kids. We watched the entire Harry Potter series. My daughter and I are also down to the last two episodes of the last season of Homeland. (As with our tbr piles, we have tbw lists)

Reading… I enjoyed Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea series book 1 and 2. I will go for book 3 when it comes down in price. It’s labelled Young Adult, but it’s not like a lot of the others that have that dreaded YA stamp.

Progress on projects

I have the structural edits of the second draft of Angel Stakes from Lauren and I know what I’m going to do. I’ll update as I go, but I haven’t touched it for the last week.

I have written some notes for book 6! 🙂

Audio version of Wild Card

It’s all finished and it’s somewhere in the ACX/Audible system. I’ll expect it when I see it and post my full thoughts then. Julia has done an excellent job.

German version of Wild Card : Fortschritte bei der deutschen Version von Wild Card

Entfesselter Wandel is published and starting to sell slowly (see below).

Sales

Sales is the usual number. I’ve included a column for ‘Pages read’ – this is the measurement you get when a book is included in the Kindle Unlimited program. This column is purely from November and December. Amazon pay on a basis of fractions of a cent for each page read, so the actual effect on my income has been small.

>                                                 Sales                           Pages read

Raw Deal                                  20,545

Sleight of Hand (ebook)         22,346                         24,779

Sleight of Hand (audio)            1,072

Sleight of Hand (German)        1,432                          29,476

Hidden Trump                         16,000

Hidden Trump (audio)                314

Hidden Trump (German)           772                            31,729

Wild Card                                   7,594

Wild Card (German)                  208

Cool Hand                                 3,961

The Biting Cold                          609

As I’ve been remarking for the last year or so, my real concern is the drop off between Hidden Trump and Wild Card, and the further drop between Wild Card and Cool Hand. Both are around 50%, which is extremely disappointing, especially given the reviews and ratings, which show no problems of that size. I guess that I have to proceed on the basis that this is some marketing issue and I hope to try some fixes out during 2016.

Marketing

I haven’t really worked out what my marketing strategy for 2016 is, but on a trial basis, I’m going to move Hidden Trump and Wild Card to Kindle Unlimited. At the same time, I will drop the price of Sleight of Hand to 99c, also for a limited time.

At some stage, I would like to do an organized promotion using BookBub, BookGorilla and other newsletters.

Projects

I haven’t really put much effort into the blog this year, but I do find things to put on the Facebook pages. In 2016, I’d like the blog to have as many posts as the Bite Back Facebook page, and link from the page back to the blog.

I hope you all had a great time over Christmas and I wish all of you a wonderful 2016.

 

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About Mark Henwick

I was born in Africa and left out in the sun too often. An early interest in philosophy and psychology was adequately exorcised by tending bars. And while trying to enroll in a class to read Science Fiction full time, I ended up taking an engineering degree which splendidly qualified me to move into marketing. That in turn spawned a late onset career in creative writing. When not working, I get high by the slightly less conventional means of a small light aircraft. My first book, 'Sleight of Hand' is available on Amazon at http://amzn.to/Sa0D3n

28 responses to “End of 2015 round-up”

  1. Deborah Jay says :

    Have a great new year 🙂
    For me, Christmas and New Year (Hogmanay, as I’m in the Highlands to celebrate – yay!) are time off work when I can get some concentrated writing done – so far I’ve written 3 chapters since Boxing Day, including the climax to my WIP, the sequel to my epic fantasy The Prince’s Man.
    Like you, I don’t write small books – this one is at 150K and growing. I estimate another 3 chapters and an epilogue, and I’m about done. I wanted to finish it this year, but I guess a few more days won’t be too much of a disappointment.
    Good luck with the marketing – it’s such a time suck, but needs done (as they say up here!)

  2. Rocky Wells says :

    Good luck on your marketing efforts, Mark. Perhaps it’s a (relatively) weak genre but as an author and storyteller I think you are one of the best out there right now. That said, don’t let that affect your pricing. I read way too much to pay big publisher prices. I’ve even stopped reading my favorite Baen Books authors due to their price changes. As a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you are one of a handful of authors that I routinely buy when published outside of that program. Just a little fan feedback on the subject.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thank you Rocky. I don’t want to spend too much time in the KU trial, but it will be interesting to see if there’s a similar drop off between HT and WC…
      The prices will also soon be back at what I consider sensible for ebooks – $2.99 for the first and $3.99 for the sequels.
      The Urban Fantasy genre has weakened a little. I have made a commitment and I will deliver the full Bite Back series, but I’m also wondering about bringing forward my Crime/Thriller and SciFi novel ideas.
      What genres do you read?

      • Rocky Wells says :

        Mark, I read mostly scifi and urban fantasy. I grew up on Edgar Rice Burroughs, Heinlein, Azimov, Clarke, doc smith, Andre Norton – too many to name. I enjoy martial arts thrillers, most of Anne McCaffrey’s works, pretty much anything by Mercedes Lackey (although she has priced herself out of my range with her latest releases). I’m retired military and mostly conservative in my views so I enjoy books that are either neutral or right of center in viewpoint and I hate authors that try to preach to me. Anyway, pretty much all of my book browsing is in the SciFi/Fantasy sections of the bookstore.

  3. Michelle says :

    Greetings and Best Wishes to you and your family for 2016, and thank you for your continued FB updates – I do read them all. I’m a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, as well as owning over 3,000 kindle e-books to date. I really appreciate KU, as it helps save many dollars on subpar reads while letting me explore authors that I may not have taken a chance on otherwise. Once I’ve discovered and fallen in love with an author (and I do so frequently), I’ll read all their KU books and also buy them – so as to give them as much monetary incentive as possible to continue writing. I agree with Rocky – just to let you know how much you are appreciated and how you are automatically on the “must buy” list.

  4. Mark Henwick says :

    LOL! No sooner do I slag them off (Bristishism for show disrespect) for being slow to publish, than Audible put Wild Card up on their site!

    http://www.audible.com/pd/Mysteries-Thrillers/Wild-Card-Audiobook/B019Y9VFA6/

    It is a monster 20 hour audiobook. 🙂

    I’m sure I will have some freebie promotion codes in a week or so – so drop back in and check.

  5. Jennifer Hayden says :

    Happy 2016 to you and your family.

  6. Matt says :

    First of all, let me say that this is one of my favorite series. So, thank you 🙂

    I wanted to take a second to give some possible insight into sales/marketing issues from my perspective. I don’t presume to tell you how your industry works, I only offer my own personal experiences, which may be common with other readers.
    I read a lot of books. For various reasons I have switched to almost exclusively reading ebooks over paper. However, trying to keep track of favorite authors and what book belongs to what series etc is a constant issue. Particularly with ebooks, as you get a lot of novella’s and short stories in the mix. Often books come out with different naming conventions part way through a series, or the author is writing multiple stories at the same time. There are no real way of managing what is currently out, what order they should be in, when is something new out that is part of the series I’m already readying.
    So, in the end, I have to actively go back over the list of books I have (by author) and try and work out what belongs to which series, then go actively searching for the next book. One of the issues then is that if the books take a long time to come out or there are books coming out that are not relevant to what I want (such as German versions of stories I’ve already read), then the time between looking grows longer, and it can be a while before you finally pick up the next book (or multiple books if a long time elapses).
    As your books are some of my favorites, I tend to look often, but I have several series that I have just never finished because every time I look, the next book is not out yet, or there are 3 other books, but they have started other series, and it just too hard to manage, and I never bother reading the rest. It’s not that I don’t like the books, but when you haven’t read the story for too long, you simply loose the passion for the story.

    Having said this then, (from my extremely selfish point of view) I very much hope you don’t switch to another series and make it take even longer between books.

    Role on February (and book 5!!!)

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thank you, Matt. I’m delighted to have your feedback on the series and your comments on the marketing.
      I’ve suspected that a contributing factor in the loss of readers is the sheer volume of competing books out there. As you say, if there’s too long between books, readers lose track and we can’t all hope to generate the sort of coverage that George Martin gets when he finishes the next volume in the Song of Ice and Fire.
      Having said that, what’s too long? I’ve done better than a book a year. I suspect anything over six months will start to lose readers in this niche, but I can’t guarantee that speed. It’s not for want of trying, but my sitting in front of the computer typing doesn’t necessarily make my book arrive faster. Sometimes they need to be put aside to ferment. My frustration is in not being able to utilise this fermenting time efficiently for other projects.
      I’ll have to make a post on this topic, as it’s quite large.

      • Matt says :

        First of all, I’d read your books over GR Martin any day. I have read some of his, but there is only so much I can take of reading about people who become friends being murdered 😉

        I fully understand the need to step away from something sometimes in order to subconsciously work through it. I do this at work sometimes also.
        Perhaps you are correct and working on something new would help. Some times an author does this though and that becomes the new thing that excites them and the stop writing to first one. I kinda get that too though. For me, the story is something I get for about 1 (maybe 2 if I’m busy) days a year (or so), but for you it’s a constant pressure. I can understand that dragging on you at times. I often wonder how authors keep up that tension over so many years. I certainly appreciate your dedication.

        I read 2-5 books per week, so there is a lot of noise for one author to get lost in. As I said though, I will always look for yours 🙂

  7. Krebs says :

    Dear Mark,
    first of all: Happy new year and a healthy and successfull 2016!

    I really hope your sales start to pick up more momentum, cause the series totally deserve it. I can imagine that it is really tricky to find a marketing strategy without blowing up you budget. On the other hand, the reviews you get on Amazon or Goodreads are mostly really good and you can draw some confidence from that. I wil keep adding a very little bit to your marketing in writing short reviews or recommending your books to friends.

    The UF genre had some strong years but that lead to a massive increase of books published and filled the market with a lot of trash (sometimes it feels like every person able to string a few sentences together thought they are able to deliver something like the new Harry Potter or so…. ). Anyhow, i doubt that the whole fantasy genre will dicline that much with all the presence in TV and other media. Just think about all the storys, converted in movies or series. In the end i guess the marketing strategy is kind of crucial and a bit of luck is neccessary.

    Writing another series in a different genre can boost your reader base and have an positive effect on sales in generell, but i can imagine that splitting your thoughts and time between different series can be really demanding and exhausing for an author (and his familiy).

    Maybe it would be a good idea to get into contact with other authors (the likes as Brandon Sanderson, Ilona Andrews, Kim Harrison….) if possible (and they are willing to chat) to interchange strategies and tipps.
    Also things like readings or beeing at some kind of conventions seems to work well. I don’t know if you have to be invited or how that works. Albeit, i can fully understand if a auther tries to avoid direct personal contact.

    Looking foreward to Angel Stakes!!!!!
    P.S.: Don’t forget Bian’s tale 😉

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thanks Krebs.

      I will have another look at marketing as soon as Angel Stakes is done.
      Jessica and Joshua are having another look at my covers, returning to the style of a figure in the shot, but keeping an air of mystery by cropping.
      I’ll look at BookBub and the similar newsletters. I’ll evaluate how putting the titles on KU has helped. I may publish on iBooks. Nothing startling, and nothing I haven’t thought of before, but slightly different here and there. As you say and as I have always acknowledged, there’s an element of luck involved!

      UF does seem to have attracted more than its fair share of books that haven’t really been well developed or edited!

      I’m not sure the three authors you mention would be interested in talking to me. I have reached out to other authors and correspond with several – the anthology last year being the result of some of that correspondence.

      I would like to meet my readers face to face. My bio says “often found in the Rockies” – that’s been a lie since I started writing. I am determined to get back and travel around America, but just haven’t managed it recently. I’m not sure about attending conventions in Europe – I don’t have quite the draw of a Neil Gaiman!

      I haven’t forgotten Bian’s Tale! I will have to make a post of where I am with projects & ideas soon.

      • Jenny says :

        Hi Mark,
        I love urban fantasy and I love your books. Unfortunately I think that the urban fantsy genre is saturated with vampire and werewolves (not to say that I don’t like them) with not much of a story behind them. Of course there are some fantastic books out there that don’t get the advertising because they’re not “twilight” enough.
        Now this might be just in the UK but twilight is what some people think of when you mention urban fantasy and so gets a certain stigma attached to it.

        I think it’s a shame because they are a lot of really good urban fantasy books out there that people would love if only it was seen in a better light.

        I really hope this makes sense.

        Jenny

        • Mark Henwick says :

          Thanks Jenny.

          Yes, that does accord with what I hear quite a lot. That’s not just from readers, but back in 2012 when I tried talking to agents. I got engagement and encouragement from only one out of the very long list I tried. The others (those who bothered to respond at all) sent near identical generic refusals which I began to suspect came from automated response programs. Hearing that, a friend who had links into the industry pointed me at some industry blogs & bulletin boards where I found that one of the principle agents in America (Donald Maass) had declared “vampires are over” a couple of years before and people took him as some kind of oracle.

          I should set up a page on the website for readers to recommend good Urban Fantasy to each other. Of course it’s been done before, but any web resource that becomes well known enough gets ‘utilised’ by sock-puppets and marketing teams, until the recommendations become next to useless.

          My advice on recommended reading has always been to find reviewers you trust and follow them.

          • Mark Henwick says :

            (I have to add to the above comment that I’m not to be trusted as a reviewer. Not because I lie, but because I rate on things that fascinate/inspire me about the way the author writes almost as much as I rate on the story itself. That doesn’t always translate to good books for other people. So my full recommendation is to take recommendations from other people but always read the sample on Amazon before you buy.)

          • Krebs says :

            Hi Mark,
            i think it is a nice idea to add a kind of “from readers recommended UF books” section on you page. It is incredible exhausting to search through a load of books in Amazon and people tend to have some similarities regarding the books they like (maybe i can also get some new tips to bridge the waiting time there). Additionally, it may provide a way to lead people to your page and give Bite Back a try, even if only a few it still means more readers.
            Also, i’m always kind of nosy to compare my list of favorites UF books with others or read comments about their choices.

  8. gallandro83 says :

    So I meant to comment on this post back when it first showed up but for some reason I forgot. First off I want to thank you for producing such a rich great story. I wish you all the success in the world because you are one of the best new indie authors that I follow and I can’t wait to see where else you take us.

    Personally I think that your stories have that little bit extra in world-building that make them stand out and be a series. IN particular while Amber is central to the story you write events in such a way that show cases while this is her story she is only part of what is happening around her and the world as a whole is moving regardless of her. Your ability to make Amber and her unique Athenate status resonate through the entire series without making her automatically the “chosen one” stereotype is an aspect of your own writing that I am constantly amazed at. In fact Tulla and Kathos could fit this role much better but you have somehow relegated them to the minor role in the story quite masterfully.

    I have to admit to being surprised that so many people pick up the first book and don’t continue on seeing as I find your writing and characters much more fully complete than other writers. I will say that I think in this day and age it behooves indie authors to produce works in a series until they make their break as it were. I know that personally amazon and other book sites group series sometimes higher than other single works. They also personally have a greater draw for me as a reader because I read so often that a series can give me a block of something to read while individual or even trilogies are something I can go through in a weekend and may forget quickly.

    While it can be frustrating as a reader to have open threads at the end of book it tends to make a story “stick” in my mind more and will cause me to more often then not search about the next book more than if I hear that an author is releasing a new series.

    I look forward to purchasing the new book in the coming year and hope that your marketing goes well, wish I could offer anything helpful but as someone who doesn’t use much social media much I can’t give any advice on that front and I personally couldn’t figure out what makes something “viral” if my life depended on it. I will continue to support you and recommend your book as I can.

    gallandro

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thank you Gallandro!

      I try and balance the story between what is happening around Amber and what is happening directly to her, and to keep a similar balance between the powers of all the cast, so there is never one unchallengable, godlike character. I’m glad that it works for you, and I hope I continue to pick that path.

      I’m deliberately light on back story, by which I mean I do not spend a lot of time reminding readers what has gone on in previous books. It keeps the pace up, but it reached a point where it was a problem with Wild Card. One of my tasks over the next year is to ensure that there are maps and lists of characters and a brief synopsis of the story so far. It may help where people have given up because they find the story has got overwhelming.

      Angel Stakes is still in the editing phase and a bit stuck at the moment. I’ll update at the month end.

  9. Daniel Dobbelstein says :

    Hello Mark,

    On the marketing side, for me a good indicator for the quality of a book, is its rerradability. So here comes a short list of books i read, including how often:
    Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien 15++ times
    Bite Back Series, Mark Henwick 7 times
    Honor Harrington Series, David Weber 3 Times (up to Nr. 28 when i lost interest)
    Safehold Series, David Weber 3 times
    Sword of Truth, Terry Goodkind 3 or 4 times
    Imp series, Deborah Dunnar 3 times
    Darkness Haunts books, Susan Illene , 2 times
    Blooded series, Amanda Carlson 2 times
    Books by Richard Schwartz (German Author) 3 or 4
    Codex Alera, Jim Butcher 3 times
    Belgariad and Malloreon Saga, David Eddings 10+
    Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan on second readthrough, though on the first i quit around Book 6 or 7

  10. Mark Henwick says :

    Thank you to both Daniel and Krebs, who make a valid point that I should have some web page where readers of the Bite Back series can list their other favourites, on the basis that other readers are likely to share some of their tastes.

    Daniel’s list above is a good example. Here’s the overlap with me:

    Lord of the Rings / Hobbit – Read *lots* of times
    Bite Back – ha ha ha
    Honor Harrington – many times up to Mission of Honor (early ones more than later ones)
    Safehold – up to 5 where it loses momentum
    Sword of Truth – no
    Imp Series – up to nr. 3 and a couple of her others
    Darkness Haunts – up to nr. 4
    Blooded – no
    Schwartz – no
    Codex Alera – no, but Butcher’s Dresden Files up to nr. 13 (early ones a couple of times)
    Eddings – no
    Wheel of Time – up to nr. 9 a couple of times

  11. Big Ben says :

    Hello Mark,
    First of all, you’re on my “Look For Sequels” list. Like some of the other commentators, I read so many books that I have to keep a list reminding myself to check for new releases from favorite authors.
    Your sales breakdown list is interesting, as well as baffling. The series is only getting better as it goes along.
    Please don’t take this as criticism, because I actually like your cover art … but, well, the cover art. Say what you will, but well-executed hot chicks/vampires in skin-tight leather or futuristic suits wielding swords, guns, etc. are attention getters when scrolling quickly through Kindle or Nook recommendation screens. Shallow, I know, but it gives the prospective purchaser an idea about the nature of the book, and maybe they click on it and investigate further.
    I’m much more a sci-fi guy than a paranormal fan, so I’m all for you branching out into that genre … after you finish the current series, of course!
    Or even better, combine the two. There are a few authors out there that I’m really into that blend genres in one story or series:
    Michael Anderle – I just discovered him last month. He combines parnormal, military action and sci-fi. The editing is rough, but he’s really pumping them out and the series is a blast.
    Niall Teasdale – His Thaumatology series is pretty unique, combining almost every facet of the paranormal and fantasy fields. He also writes great sci-fi, superhero fantasy and a dash of alternate history.
    D.J. Bershaw – the Sisters In Arms series is a great paranormal / military action / lesbian vampire romance adventure.
    Wen Spencer – the Elfhome series is a top shelf mix of fantasy and sci-fi.
    Laurence Dahners, Mackey Chandler, P.G Allison, Mark G. Brewer, Thomas DePrima, Skye Knizley, Bruce Bretthaur, Gina Marie Wylie. The list of excellent indie authors goes on and on.
    There really should be a website for such fan-based recommendations of the “great little guys,” who don’t have the backing of a big publisher and are getting lost in the seas of literary mediocrity on Amazon, etc.
    I’d sign up.
    Keep up the excellent work.
    Ben

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thanks Ben.

      The cover art…is about to change again. I adopted the first style – full face in plain view, 3/4 view of body, weapon, background. My marketing manager (aka daughter) and I argued about it. She claims full face reveals too much. I claim I was ahead (ha ha) of the trend, and certainly there are a *lot* of indies UF series now going that way.
      Anyway, she persuaded me to go the art route and the current covers as art are great. They do capture some of the darkness and wierdness. But they aren’t working well as covers.
      So…. we’re going back to having Amber represented, but this time it will be clipped – part body, part face – more like the old version of Cool Hand (the one with the cowboy hat). There’ll be more leather. More soon.

      Sci-Fi and UF blend has been done, but needs great care. As for other blurring of the UF boundary, I’m definitely doing that on the companion series Bian’s Tale, even though it will join into Bite Back, it starts off in 1890. Being historical, it is not formally UF, and it may feel almost steampunk in places.

      Of your list, I’ve read and enjoyed a Niall Teasdale and a couple of Skye Knizley. Wen Spencer is on my kindle in the tbr. The rest I’ll take as recommendations.

      Yes, a smaller indie version of Goodreads would be something!

      • gallandro83 says :

        if your looking for a smaller indie goodreads I have been using librarything.com myself for about as long as goodreads it can give older and out of print recommendations but it is a little clunky and may not have all the info for current indie books.

        gallandro

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