Yeah, the usual look at the sales and WiP and stuff.
But first! MILESTONES IN REVIEWS
The US Amazon site logged it’s 200th review! On 31st May, Hao-Ying Feng logged a 5 star review after a binge re-read of the series. Thank you! And thank you to each and every one of you who reviews on Amazon, Goodreads or by messaging me. All hugely welcome and important for me.
AND while I’m talking reviews, 95% of the SoH reviews are 4 or 5 star. That I wouldn’t have predicted when I started.
Almost at the same time, Angel Stakes hit 50 reviews in the 6 weeks since launch, and the percentage of 4 & 5 star has remained the same.
What are the next milestones? I guess 250 for SoH or 750 for the series on US Amazon (currently 604). On the series total, I will ‘cheat’ once Winter’s Kiss is written, because then it and The Biting Cold will be part of the series. 🙂
And then 1,000 for both US and UK Amazon added together (currently 711), or 350 on Goodreads (currently 303).
Winter’s Kiss is more than half way done. As I mentioned in posts on Facebook, this sequel isn’t the same length as The Biting Cold (20k words). TBC was written to a specification on length for an anthology, and WK is just to link the story in with Bite Back, so I have more leeway.
I’ve given a couple of teasers on Facebook, linked by mentions of jazz (Amanda loves jazz). In case you didn’t see them there, here they are again:
“Morning found us just a few miles east of Marquette. The sun inched above the horizon, flooding the car’s rear window with hazy gold, etching the edges of the long, low buildings, and throwing our shadow out in front, where the road unwound like an old jazz song in a smoky club.”
“I switched switches on the music center. Little LEDs started to glow, and I pulled out LPs at random until the words jazz and soul songs caught my eye. A collection of instrumentals based on old songs. The list had some of my favorites, spanning the years.
I put the LP on the turntable. It was lucky it was one of those that loaded the arm automatically, because my hands were shaking.
I closed my eyes and waited; part of the drama and romance that I loved about LPs was that moment at the beginning.
A quiet hiss and crackle, full of anticipation, then the music started. A few falling notes were tossed out from a sax, as a ticking drum marked the beat. The piano picked up a couple of the notes, tossed them back. The saxophone held one note, almost too long, and then just let it drop and tumble and flow into the bittersweet melody of Ain’t No Sunshine.”
What else have I been doing?
The print books are a mess. Cool Hand and Angel Stakes not yet available, the sizes have changed, the covers don’t match. What I thought would be a simple overhaul turned into a nightmare. And to help out, CreateSpace (Amazon’s Print-on-Demand company) have changed their specifications. Everything is a PDF now. Not such a problem for the body of the book, but I have no graphics programs that save as PDF. I ended up loading the image into Word and using that to save. Which of course leads to warnings that my resolution is low. Grrr.
Adding to the frustrations, I use Word for writing, and Word’s print book formatting functions are flakey.
Anyway. I have submitted Cool Hand and Angel Stakes to CreateSpace and they now enable reviewing online, allowing me to skip the physical book review process. The print books *should* be available in the next week or so.
I apologize for the covers. What I’ve done is simply take the eBook cover, added black for the spine and back page and written on the black. All fine as long as the I’ve allocated *exactly* enough width for the spine.
I will do a rework of the covers and get everything to match in size and style, but it’s not on the critical path.
The print book fiasco means that I haven’t progressed with my other non-writing writing project, which is to create cast lists and summaries of story-so-far for each Bite Back sequel.
I did a big review last month, so I’m not going to repeat that since the figures haven’t changed dramatically. Instead, I’ll look at the overview and implications.
Averaged out at the moment, I guess I’m selling 600 books a month and that needs to be 1,200.
I’m still selling 70-80 Sleight of Hand a month, and a percentage of those go on to read the entire series. Amazon only knows the exact figures, but the sales stats suggest to me that about 80% of people who pick up SoH now go on to read all of the books in the series. This is as opposed to the figures of readers who picked up SoH back in 2012, which is about 25%. That low percentage is based on the total sales ever of Cool Hand as a percentage of total sales ever of Sleight of Hand, and it does creep up as some people just take their time going through the series.
What does this mean? Very approximately, I believe that if I had ten Bite Back books now, my monthly sales would be 1,200. The problem is that writing that next 5 will take me 5 years, and in the meantime SoH would slide.
What am I going to do about it? Write realted or unrelated shorter stories that I believe may bring in readers who wouldn’t otherwise have picked up Sleight of Hand, but who like the shorter stories enough to try the series.
I’d like to try out writing novels in two parts – a short story of around 10k words which tells a story but ends on a cliffhanger, and leads straight into a novella of around 50k words. This is close to the way The Biting Cold turned out. TBC was actually 20k words and Winter’s Kiss will be about 40k, and TBC didn’t end on a cliffhanger, but you get my drift.
I have a couple of ideas kicking around in my head – one in the Bite Back world but set in Canada and sharing none of the cast, another a SciFi novella and completely different. Oh, and one set in the 17th century Caribbean that popped up in a conversation with Debra Dunbar (that one might be related to Bite Back).
This does NOT mean that I’m less committed to Bite Back, but I think I can do these things and still get one Bite Back novel out every year. We’ll see.
Other projects – German
German translations have stopped at the moment. I need to get another translator, but I have to say that I need to re-examine the income to see if the cost is justified. I think I’d prefer to hand over to a German publishing company who do this as a business. I need to talk to people.
Other projects – Audio
Julia Motyka is unavailable until September, but assures me she’ll be back in the studio with Angel Stakes then. Audio sales are reasonable (as far as I know) – SoH 1,578, HT 668, WC 504, CH 273. Are there any writers out there with audiobooks who would be okay to share their sales with me?
I asked people on the Facebook site what music Amber listens to. What a wonderful response, and a huge playlist to sort through! Great fun. Thank you all.
I’m planning a trip to America this year. My bio says I’m frequently in the Rockies and I haven’t been. At the end of August & beginning of September, I’ll be with my daughter in New York. After that, I hope to work my way down the Rockies from somewhere around Bozeman, Montana to Albuquerque, New Mexico, taking in Denver, Cheyenne and the loneliest road in the States. I hope to end up returning to UK via Boston and maybe catching some fall colors. This is a research and writing trip, not a book signing journey, but I’ll be happy to sign books, meet readers and attend conventions. If there’s interest, I’ll publish an itinerary closer to the time.
Well, things go right and things go not-so-well.
Angel Stakes has pulled in 45 reviews (just on the US Amazon website) in just 5 weeks after launch. That’s more than any other book of mine in that time. Those reviews are almost all positive. That means we’re both doing something right. I’m writing what you enjoy reading, and I’ve communicated well enough with my readers that a lot of you have bought Angel Stakes in that short period (and reviewed it). There are also 19 reviews on Goodreads and 10 on the UK Amazon website, as well as some great book reviewer websites.
Sorry this image is a bit blurry. Other point to note: Sleight of Hand is at 197 reviews on the US Amazon site. 200 reviews is one of my milestones. Soon. Soon. 🙂
What’s not going so well?
Angel Stakes started off in the first week outselling everything, but has now slid right down the chart.
It’s not massively behind the other sequels, apart from Hidden Trump. I’m still getting “I didn’t realize it was out” messages, so I’m going to have to work on publicity for the next one!
There’s not a great deal more to say at the moment. I’ll do a full sales & marketing at the end of the month, along with progress reports etc., but 5 weeks from launch happens to be the comparative data set that I still maintain.
Lots to talk about as I’ve been quiet recently.
I released the Angel Stakes ebook and the Cool Hand audio. Yay!
Angel Stakes had the biggest first week of all my books so far, both in sales and reviews. Angel Stakes (890) beat Cool Hand for sales by about 40, and generated a massive 40 reviews in that first week alone.
Thank you for the reviews. Just on Amazon.com today, there are already 35 reviews, with only 1 negative. On Amazon.co.uk there are 8, and on Goodreads there are 17.
Thank you also for the feedback on the Facebook page and by email. All good, all welcome.
In the second week, however, Angel Stakes (1,442) has fallen behind both Hidden Trump, which sold 2,078 in the same period, and Cool Hand, which sold 1,498.
Sales is the usual number, cumulative since I started in 2012. I’ve included a column for ‘Pages Read’ – this is the measurement you get when a book is included in the Kindle Unlimited program, but I’ve only tracked this for the last 6 months. Amazon pay on a basis of fractions of a cent for each page read, so the actual effect on my income has been small. For example, those 14,000 pages of The Biting Cold have been worth about $70 to me over the last 6 months.
… Sales Pages Read
Raw Deal 20,637 9k
Sleight of Hand
English 22,682 128k
German ebook 1,571 106k
English 16,412 91k
German ebook 873 118k
English 7,784 113k
German ebook 529
Angel Stakes 1,532
The Biting Cold 785 14k
(Sorry about the table. Having trouble getting tables into WordPress)
In summary? I have wonderful, wonderful readers – just look at the reviews. But I don’t have enough of them.
As I’ve said before, 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 hint of a problem of that magnitude.
What I expected, when I published Sleight of Hand and Hidden Trump back in 2013, was that I’d lose the highest percentage of readers between SoH and HT. The series isn’t for everyone, and SoH gives a reasonable idea of what’s to come. That’s not what has happened.
One positive for the series from the launch of Angel Stakes is the boost it caused in sales of previous books in the series. And, although it’s difficult to make generalizations on the data, it looks as if people who come in with SoH because they saw the reviews for Angel Stakes don’t drop out after SoH or HT – the boost goes through the whole series.
I guess the question the numbers pose is this: am I losing readers because they (1) don’t like the story, (2) don’t like it enough to check for the next release, (3) never see information about the next release and just forget over time, (4) don’t want to invest in a story till it’s complete.
I’m not sure I can do much about (1) or (2). The story is relatively dark for Urban Fantasy, and it’s more complex than most. It deals with real trauma. It’s in a definite minority with the viewpoint on sexual issues. The ‘magic’ is constrained at the moment. All in all, I understand it may not be what people are looking for when they pick an UF title (but would still expect them to leave after SoH, not 2 or 3 books in).
I’m not sure I can do much about (4) either, except grind my teeth. I’m a reader too, I know it’s hard waiting a year for the next episode, but I can’t write this kind of story quickly. I don’t think anyone can. I’m not going to stop writing till the end, but if this was a traditionally published series, the publisher would pull the plug.
Maybe I can do something about (3).
And that leads to Marketing…
What have I done?
I moved the prices down on SoH, and tried the same thing on HT. I’ve moved them back up again, and it really doesn’t seem to make much difference. I know other indies have stuck at the $2.99 as the ‘sweet point’, and that Amazon suggests $4.99 is the sweet point.
Susan Illene has stuck with me on $3.99. Debra Dunbar varies her prices up to $4.99. Skye Knizley sticks at $2.99. Connie Suttle varies up to $4.99.
And some of the indies who are acknowledged big hitters… J. R. Rain varies, but tends to $4.99. Lindsay Buroker’s prices all seem to be over $5.
Readers have posted on the website suggesting that a long, complex book is worth a higher price. I don’t know. In the end, a book is worth what enough people will pay for it.
I may put the series up to $4.99.
On other marketing attempts, I put the first three of the series in Kindle Unlimited, where readers enrolled in the Amazon program can read for free, and I get paid on the ‘number of pages read’. That’s in quotes because it has emerged that Amazon is just making it up. Anyway, SoH in English is earning about $100 a month on the KU program. Again, all good, but not setting the world on fire.
I also changed the covers again. It’s difficult to tell whether this had any effect, because I did it at the same time as Angel Stakes was launched. I’m still not happy, but maybe I never will be!
The latest marketing fine-tuning is ‘Tags’. This has a couple of effects.
(1) Tags are used as searchable text in Amazon. So, if I tagged SoH as being about ‘ex-military private investigator’ and someone typed that into the Amazon search field, they’d be offered SoH (among any others tagged the same way).
(2) Tags sometimes link books into best seller lists.
(Here’s a blog talking about the subject: https://ebooksuccess4free.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/7-tips-for-amazon-keywords-and-best-selling-books/)
It’s a subtle business, picking the right tags. I got an easy win by labelling SoH as being about a ‘superhero’. It’s not a widely used tag and that resulted in SoH appearing on the Superhero best selling lists. Visibility on these lists do generate sales. Higher ranking=greater visibility.
At some stage, I would like to do an organized promotion using BookBub, BookGorilla and other newsletters, Goodreads and Amazon. There’s a surprising amount of work involved in these promotions, and they do take away from writing time.
There is a writing task that does promote books – launching new books raises visibility and boosts the back list. But in order to use that I have to write something shorter…
Which leads me to my current project file…
Writing & editing:
I have promised for ages to edit my mother’s unpublished murder mystery set in colonial Africa and called So Many Doors. It’s good, really good, but needs editing and a cover. I have gone out and commissioned lovely cover art, and I’m slogging through taking out ellipses and exclamation marks. And a few other bits & pieces. My sister and I should be putting this on Amazon by the end of the month.
I’m drafting up a short story sequel to The Biting Cold, which I’ve tentatively named Winter’s Kiss, and which will weave the story into the Bite Back series. This shouldn’t be long (famous last words), and should be simple (ditto). The only real problem is TBC was really an experiment to write a romance and include a sex scene which was essential and fundamental to the story. (I still got someone commenting that it was gratuitous). The draft I have for Winter’s Kiss at the moment is more like an Amber story with chases and explosions. Amanda does, of course, need another love interest. Or two. It’s just how I introduce that person.
Bian’s Tale 1. Okay. Enough sitting on this. I nearly wrote it a couple of years ago, but it wasn’t quite working. I have some much better ideas now, worthy of the opening chapters. It’s strange I found it much easier to write nine-year-old Bian than fourteen-year-old Bian. For those who haven’t seen them, I’m happy to provide the chapters of nine-year-old Bian as a mobi, ePub or PDF. Email me at the usual contact address.
Bite Back 6. No name yet. Based back in Denver. Full of House Farrell and Adepts and the aftermath of the closing chapters of Angel Stakes. However I promise you to make it simple and short and quick, it will end up complex and long and slow.
I need to resubmit all the books to CreateSpace to provide new print books. This is because I’m late with Cool Hand and I need to do Angel Stakes, and all the covers have changed and the first two books are different sizes and the internal format is different for different books. It’s all a mess and needs putting in order.
My narrator, Julia Motyka will start recording the Angel Stakes audio in September. I need to mark up the text to make sure what I hear comes through.
German translation. I’m undecided. The translations aren’t really paying for themselves.
And I’m looking at some writing-as-marketing projects. These are basically short stories which are also the first chapter(s) of novels, so the short story serves as a teaser for the main novel. I haven’t been able to see how to do this for the main Bite Back story. I have some ideas which may be in the same world, but set elsewhere – one is about a young girl fleeing along the infamous Highway of Tears in Canada, pursued by a terrifying monster.
There’s more. There’s always more, but this post has gone on FAR too long.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And that was the first half of the year! Gone.
Progress on projects:
The beta panel (much expanded) has spotted a lot of bits, but everyone seems to be on board for the ride. That was based on the first 27k words. The second section takes the story to the half way point and will be with the panel in 2-3 weeks.
Is that where I want to be? Well, no. I keep having expectations based on approaching writing as an engineering project. That works sometimes and not others.
Taking the second section as an example, I have the core scenes written, and have had for some time. I wrote those at 1,500-2,000 words per day. What’s missing is the glue that binds the scenes together. As a result of what happens at the end of section 1, Amber is landed with a train wreck of urgent and important tasks. (So what’s new 🙂 ). The problem is her instructions are in conflict with her instincts as to how the tasks need to be handled. All of them are priority and different ones have different senior Athanate demanding them. And so on. What has stumped me for the whole of the last week is how to present this task list so the readers understand all the ramifications without a huge conversation/meeting. I do big meetings (end of Hidden Trump for example), but not at the 30% point in a book. It would unbalance the story. What I need, three chapters into section 2, is a physical fight, not a heated discussion. I need to present the list of tasks while Amber’s having a fight!
Anyway, in summary, it’s going reasonably well. Not so well that I’m ready to give publishing date predictions yet.
Audio version of Hidden Trump
A batch of minor edits has gone to Julia Motyka, and I hope to be able to publish in a couple of weeks. I will post up a snippet from Chapter 11 before then. You will enjoy this!
German version of Wild Card : Fortschritte bei der deutschen Version von Wild Card
My copyeditor is unable to complete the final checks and formatting until October, so I think publishing will be in November or December. My apologies, but I want to remain with the same team and process.
Mein Redakteur wird nicht in der Lage, um die letzten Überprüfungen und Formatierung bis Oktober abzuschließen, so dass ich denke Publishing wird im November oder Dezember sein. Es tut mir leid, aber ich möchte mit dem gleichen Team und Verfahren bleiben.
Ah! Just no time. Maria came in for a session. My son Joshua took some great photos (see earlier post on Bite Back Facebook), but actually taking that to complete covers with photoshopping the green screen from the background and overlaying onto cover background, then adding titles – too much at the moment.
Raw Deal 20,400
Sleight of Hand (ebook) 22,100
Sleight of Hand (audio) 728
Sleight of Hand (German) 1,400
Hidden Trump 16,000
Hidden Trump (German) 690
Wild Card 7,200
Cool Hand 3,400
The first four month’s sales for Cool Hand have closely matched Wild Card. My major concern is still the huge drop between Hidden Trump and Wild Card. After its first 19 months, Hidden Trump was at approximately double the level of Wild Card is now at, after the same time.
Raw Deal is in Kindle Unlimited. Just in case you’ve been meditating in the Siberian tundra for the last year or so, this Amazon scheme allows their Prime users to ‘borrow’ and read books for free. The indie authors (not trad published authors) are now paid for these ‘borrows’ on the basis of pages read, as reported back from your Kindle. Obviously, a borrow generates much lower income for the author, but Amazon argue, greater visibility.
You can still buy Raw Deal outright and there’s a 1:4 split in favor of buying.
Not really doing anything at the moment outside of maintaining the Facebook page and Athanate website. I do twitter, but I haven’t really got any understanding of how that works in a marketing sense.
I have RD in KU and I’ve kept the price of RD and SoH low.
So, a busy month in prospect, with another section for beta readers and an audio book to launch.
A no-writing weekend! I managed to make it to a lunch re-union of my Arvon writing course from 2011 on Saturday in London, got back home and went to bed, where I still am, snorting, sniveling and hacking.
Apologies that this is a bit late.
Nothing extraordinary to report. Sleight of Hand in all formats is just shy of 24,000 sales. I’m happy to see that Wild Card has been selling well again. The appearance of Cool Hand seems to have reminded some readers about the series.
Well, the new covers are not failing – books continue to sell, but I expected a little boost from simply changing covers, regardless of the actual covers themselves, and that didn’t happen. I also tried a weekend with SoH at $0.99, and the reaction was much smaller than when I did that for the old covers.
I’m having a photoshoot with Maria this week to get better stock for marketing, and at the same time I will re-do photos for SoH and HT. Once that’s done, I’ll sit down and have a look at everything.
Bite Back 5 is coming along slowly. I’ve been a bit distracted by the covers, getting a new audio narrator and work being done on the house. We’re having some repair & replacement of windows and the conservatory.
I always say before I start that the next book will be simpler and shorter. I’m always wrong. Bite Back 5 has the standard interleaving of threads and looks at this early stage to be around about the same length as Hidden Trump.
I’ve actually written more scenes from later in the book. The first quarter of the book has been difficult to write.
Why? Because Amber has to heal. I don’t give spoilers, but those of you that have read Cool Hand know that she’s due some down time! And part of that repair has to be to face all the horrors she’s managed to contain in her ‘strongbox’, the mental image she has of how she deals with these events on her past.
In dealing with them, I have to explore them, and these are not easy matters to write about. Fictional character or not, they are upsetting to write.
There’s also purely technical difficulties. A lot of this healing has to happen inside Amber’s head. This leads to descriptive difficulties in the narrative. In the everyday world I can say “she fell over on her butt – it hurt” and everyone can picture what’s going on and feel for her. But things happening inside Amber’s head need more explanation, especially as some of them have paranormal origins (or complications). All making it more difficult to communicate it clearly and concisely.
And if it isn’t concise, the plot will feel as if it’s not progressing. However, if it doesn’t set the scene for what happened, it will lose coherence and emotional impact.
I’ve ended this post with small part of chapter 2 to give you a flavor. Because this is Amber re-living events, I’ve put it in present tense, like the dream sequences in the rest of the series…
What else can I tell you about BB5 without spoilers
As mentioned before, it takes place largely in LA.
It will start to link in Manda and Scott from The Biting Cold short story, but it looks more like they will actually appear on the page in BB6.
Helicopters. Motorbikes. The underbelly of Tinseltown.
And sex. Well, Amber manages (only just) not to have sex in Cool Hand. But in BB5 she’s back with Jen and Alex and working to move that relationship on, even as tangled as it gets with her healing. There are three sex scenes currently in the outline for BB5. The one at the end might get moved to start BB6 with a bang, so to speak.
This was a difficult decision process, following Kimberly’s withdrawal from the Hidden Trump project. It was easy to take the list of possible narrators down to 6. Not so hard even to take it down to 2. But that last decision! In the end, I went with a lady who just sounds a little more like the voices in my head!
I have received a verbal agreement (well, email) from Julia Motyka to narrate the remainder of the series. Here she is narrating the Accidental Alchemist…
We’re just working through the formal legal agreements with ACX, the audio company.
Part of Chapter 2, Bite Back 5
“No, man, he’s got to go out big. This is it. This is the grand exit.”
The guy they’re talking about is John Elway. This January, he’d led the Broncos to their second successive Superbowl, rifling the ball through the Falcons’ defenses and running for a touchdown himself. He’s a football god, but he’s a thirty-eight year-old football god, and the fevered rumor mill at South High in the spring of 1999 says he’s going.
Back-to-back Superbowls, oldest MVP ever, more wins than any other starting quarterback.
Way to go.
But the boys aren’t asking my opinion.
Eerie, how a remembered sentence opens a door. The smells and sounds come rushing back, dragging faces and colors and tastes and more words behind them.
The locker room at South High. That institutional smell that no janitor can get rid of. And the sickly-sweet aroma of my emergency stash of sugar-rush candy. The corridor is shouty and echoey, full of just-before-class energy being burned off. And zombies on auto-pilot waiting for the caffeine to kick in.
I’m holding my locker open. That gives me half a place to hide. A moment to gather myself and shift mental gears for the school day. I need to think about class. Need to concentrate on schoolwork.
For all the talk, it’s not as if Elway and the Superbowl are the biggest things.
There’s a war in Kosovo. NATO have bombed the Serbians. Clinton said firm action but no troops on the ground. But they lied to us before. And, well, Clinton.
And bigger than that in my world, looming like a wall in front of me, there’s the Final Ruling just days away. My life might start over.
Will start over.
My locker door slams shut.
“Prom,” Cassie Quinn says, leaning against the closed door. Her mouth is set in a hard line. I’ve ducked this one too many times.
“It’s a month away.”
Cassie is the only reason I have any social life left, but that doesn’t mean she’s not irritating as a bug.
“It’s two weeks.”
“I’m sorry, Cassie. I can’t think about it right now. I promise, after—”
“By then it’ll be too late. Look, Amber, the insurance will come good. Dad says you’ve got a cast-iron case.”
The Final Ruling. The end of the legal battle over my dad’s huge medical bills that’s taken three years and pushed us further and further into debt.
“And his qualifications to make that assessment?” I ask.
Cassie’s parents have been a great support for Mom, but her dad’s got a tendency to say what makes Mom feel good at the time.
No way does that justify my pettiness.
But Cassie takes it all in her stride and keeps coming back. She just smiles crookedly, so I’ve got nothing to fight against, even if I want to lash out sometimes.
“I hate you,” I mutter, because she understands. She knows what I mean and doesn’t pay too much attention to what I say.
“Likewise.” Then her eyes look over my shoulder and go all wide and soft. “Oh, my God,” she says.
Cool Hand is continuing to generate wonderful reviews and feedback.
There are 33 reviews just on US Amazon, along with 15 on Goodreads (mysteriously split between two ‘versions’ of the book). 7 reviews on the UK Amazon site, 4 in the rest of the world, and a couple on Kobo. Thanks to all of you again.
Raw Deal 20,187
Sleight of Hand 22,046
Hidden Trump 15,483
Wild Card 6,601
Cool Hand 2,101
Hidden in the raw numbers is a boost for the sales of all the books – they’re selling ten times better than they were last month. And Wild Card retention has jumped a couple of percentage points.
Hidden Trump is still my leading launch. In the same period that Cool Hand has just sold 2,101, Hidden Trump sold 3,596. Launching HT for the Christmas/New Year book-buying season while there was still a big buzz from the launch of Sleight of Hand had a dramatic effect.
Bite Back 5 progress
I have a few scenes already written. This always happens at the start of a book – there are scenes that are yelling at me and I have to write them. ‘Progress’ appears very quick at the start.
The first chapter is finished, because it’s really just a prologue, linking Cool Hand with BB5. From chapter 2 to about 6 covers the resolution of the cliffhanger, and I can see myself rewriting that a few times as it’s such a key to Amber’s life story.
Overall, I’ve spent more time plotting than writing. As mentioned before, the structure of the story will be a non-paranormal PI case, but the paranormal world goes on, with very important events happening (Basilikos, Were halfies, Empire of Heaven to name three), and I need to tie the two together neatly.
My son, his partner, and my daughter (Gideon, Sophie and Jessica) are doing these. They should appear in May, I estimate. I’ll reveal them here first.
Bian’s Tale – The Reach of Lies
I will be working on this as well, re-plotting and re-writing from section 2 onwards, but I’ve not spent any substantial time on it yet.
The Biting Cold II
This will be needed as part of the process of binding Manda and Scott into Amber’s story during BB5.
So Many Doors
Actually, not my book. My late mother wrote this book in 1964. It was never published. It’s a murder mystery set in the British colony of Northern Rhodesia (where I was born). I’ve long promised to tidy it up and publish it, and I guess now is as good a time as any! That won’t use the same part of the brain as writing, so it won’t interfere with BB5.
Undoubtedly the highlights of the week are the reviews and feedback that I’ve been getting for Cool Hand.
There are 33 reviews on Amazon now: 29×5-star, 3×4-star and 1×3-star. There are 13 reviews on Goodreads: 7×5-star, 5×4-star and 1×3-star (and a bunch of good ratings as well). It’s not so much the ratings as the words that have given me such a buzz, whether delivered on reviews, here on the blog, the Facebook pages or email. Thank you all. I love ya.
Cool Hand was in and out of the top 100 Urban Fantasy books, and averaged about 2,500 in all books over the last week (where 1 is the highest rating).
Cool Hand sales now stand at over 1,600, of which 550 were added in the last week. In that time, Sleight of Hand added 150, Hidden Trump 100 and Wild Card 130.
Audio book sales of Sleight of Hand topped 500 in total, but the last week was slow with only 28 sales.
Hidden Trump is still my leading launch. Both HT and CH took 9 days to reach 1,000 sales, but HT was launched into the January book sales and continued to sell very strongly. In the comparable week that CH has just sold 550, HT sold 1,300.
Some thoughts about Cool Hand
No book is ever just right, or exactly what the author wanted to say. Any author who tells you that is lying. Cool Hand was especially difficult for me because of the number of times I wrote and re-wrote the penultimate section (essentially what ended up as being chapters 47-55 – Santa Fe to the start of the Carson National Forest scenes).
When you rewrite that much, you lose a feel for the quality of readability of the work. I mean, each word is better selected, each sentence is better put, each plot strand better presented (otherwise what are you doing), but you lose a sense of how it feels as a reader.
The enthusiasm of the reviews vindicates Lauren’s insistence I could do better, and I hope justifies the delay in release.
And some thoughts about the next book
If you’ve caught your breath after the ending of Cool Hand…well, it could have been more complex and longer. Or shorter and simpler. And of course, there is that cliffhanger. Longer? Well, I could have resolved the cliffhanger, but the end of the book would have then become unwieldy and either the existing ending(s) or the resolution of the cliffhanger would have felt anti-climactic. Shorter? Well, one of the things that happened at the end, you’ve been waiting very patiently for, but I could have let it slide into the start of the next.
The point I’m trying to make is that there is some leeway in the scheduling of the resolution of ongoing threads. And I’m interested what you, the readers, absolutely have to have resolved sooner rather than later.
The core structure of Bite Back 5 is going to be provided by an ostensibly non-paranormal PI case, with threads for paranormal and relationship arcs woven in. What do you have to see progressed and/or resolved? Or, just who/what you have to see more of. Or less of! 🙂
I’m not promising to implement these!
(Progress on writing at the end of the month)
A final point
I never expected everyone to like my books, and frankly, scathing reviews of Sleight of Hand did little more than make me grin.
However…I do feel a responsibility to those of you who have come along for the ride and are unhappy about some direction developing in the books, or the balance of the story, or didn’t like Cool Hand, or parts of Cool Hand, or whatever.
I’d just like to say I’m happy to receive constructive negative feedback. By that I mean ‘I didn’t like this because…’ rather than ‘I didn’t like it.’ As with positive feedback, any route is fine – reviews, postings or emails to me at the contact address.
As with the last section, I can’t promise to change anything!