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.
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!
Praise is writer’s crack. (But all feedback is welcome)
Praise. This is crazy. I almost feel I could live on this. It’s like a layered cake and the top layer gives the sugar high. These comments:
- This is definitely a “miss your bus stop” book. I couldn’t put it down!
- This book was a blast! I am very pleased that there will not be a long wait for the next one.
- I enjoyed Sleight of Hand and it left me wanting more.
- I’m looking forward now to Amber Farrell number 2.
- Loved it, loved it, loved it.
They pump me up! They give me energy!
But you cannot live on sugar alone. And the rest of what is being said is worth looking at too:
- The main character is kick-ass without coming across as invincible.
- Amber is an unusual character for UF – she used to be in the military.
- World-building: Good. Lots to sink your teeth into (*pun completely intended*)
This is long burn carbohydrates stuff. This keeps me going on detail. I put a lot of effort into trying to make Amber’s Denver as realistic and believable as possible. Yeah, I know, Urban Fantasy, vampires, etc., but let’s think about it – what does that ‘urban’ mean? It means, IMHO, that we can relate to it. It’s about people who have jobs and live in houses or apartments and drive cars and pay bills and shop at the local stores. It’s not about people who live in castles and ride in horse-drawn carriages. So, if we’re getting real, how real can we make it? Amber can kick ass partly because she spent ten years learning how to kick ass in the military. The paranormals have reason and rationale and … Okay, too much for one post. RTB.
Then there’s the protein. This reinforces my style.
- It’s a plus that the author didn’t clutter the book with graphic sex but instead relied on great writing and a good story.
- Amber’s got problems and she deals with them with integrity in a thoughtful and sometimes unexpected manner.
So sex and violence is fine, but not at the expense of story. Even better, work to get the reader to fully identify with the choices Amber makes. Make them positive. Give her integrity. I will keep working at this – good enough is not good enough.
Grains. Yeah, stretching the food groups metaphor here. This is about things that are developing—what are readers interested in:
- I want to know more about the incident that wiped out pretty much all of her squad.
- Can’t you make Hacha del Diablo a sort of prologue?
- Favourite Character: Tie between Amber and Bian.
- You’ve given Diana real depth.
- I liked that Amber didn’t jump straight into a romantic relationship, though I think I spy a love triangle coming up.
- She’s going to do what?
The constraints of time! Yes, Hacha del Diablo (the incident where her squad died) will be a prequel short story for free. Bian’s tale will be a separate book or series of episodes on the web site or Amazon. Amber will have romantic entanglements, and I use the word deliberately. I listen very carefully to what people say. I’m not promising things, and obviously, I’m not writing by committee, but I hear you.
I love that Bian is so popular. She was ‘born’ while I was taking a trip on Denver’s light rail system, and sprang out almost fully formed as an outrageous foil for Amber. And, boy, does she have a tale to tell.
- I surprised myself that I got into a book about vampires and werewolves.
A convert! This is almost as good as the sugar high I started with.
Many thanks to everyone who has fed back to me on Amazon, Facebook, Goodreads, or direct contact (on the www.athanate.com web site). I really appreciate all of it.
Thanks also to Edgar A. Guest, for the “good enough” phrase: http://activerain.com/blogsview/1619445/good-enough-isn-t-good-enough