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.
As ever, toward the end of writing a book, other things get pushed aside. Not everything can be treated like that!
The main beta panelists have received about 70% of the book. My sister, who is always first stop, has received about 75%. Lauren Sweet, my editor has received 70% + a reasonably full synopsis to the end. I have written more than 90% of the book.
Providing the book in chunks to the beta panel has been a very positive experience for me, and the feedback has been good. Each chunk has been reasonably self-contained and tended to end on cliff-hangers. Each chunk was only the new chapters, so there’s been no requirement for the beta readers to re-read from the start each time. And that methodology, I was starting to suspect last month, had obscured a problem with the book regarding the overall structure.
Lauren agreed after reading through the 70% and the synopsis to the end, although we came to the same sort of conclusion from different angles. Mainly, that the book doesn’t get going on the main plot early enough or strongly enough.
That probably sounds worse than it is. Certainly, I had a panic when I realized it. However, after a long Skype with Lauren, what it seems to come down to is about half a dozen extra scenes, an expansion of three existing scenes, a dash more relationship, a reworking of a sub-plot and … gosh, that sounds bad as well. What it really comes down to is I intend to have the book to Lauren needing only copy-editing work by the end of November.
So…prediction…Angel Stakes will be published in December.
Wild Card audiobook
Julia Motyka is hard at work at her studio in New York. I’ve heard the opening chapter, and we’ve had a long and hilarious Skype conversation where she nailed all the voices and accents required in the longest book of the series so far. Julia is amazingly versatile – have a look back through on the Bite Back Facebook page and listen to the Hidden Trump sample I posted. She gets the fussy Judicator Remy (think Hercule Poirot) alongside the slightly other-worldly, slightly Greek sound of Diana and the snarky, Mid-Western sound of Amber.
Anyway, Wild Card in audio will also be published in December.
Wild Card in German / auf Deutsch
Also due soon, very possibly at the same time as Angel Stakes and the audiobook. The name in German is Entfesselter Wandel, which sort-of translates as an ‘unbridled change’. Kinky! I just couldn’t find a title that had the flavor of Wild Card without using the word ‘Joker’.
Und so, dieses Buch wird im Dezember veröffentlicht werden. (Ich hoffe).
I know, I know, I’m due to rework the covers, going back to the old format with new photos. Unfortunately, for technical reasons, the last photo session with Maria didn’t produce what I needed. I obviously need to arrange another for Angel Stakes anyway.
I’ll keep you posted.
Most of you on this page and on Facebook have already provided me reviews, and I’d like to take the opportunity to thank you. I read every single one (even the negatives), and almost always take something valuable from them.
If there are friends you know who’ve read the books but haven’t reviewed, I would appreciate you giving them a nudge. I mean that whether they liked them or not. Amazon’s rankings of authors is based on not only sales and reviews but how recent those reviews are, and my new reviews have slowed down quite a bit.
To be completely clear; I’m not asking for 4 or 5 stars or positive reviews, I’m genuinely wanting to know what people thought of the books, including what might have made them better.
Also, this isn’t just about Amazon. Goodreads is a great book-reading community (even if it has some strange nooks and crannies!) and many people look to their reviews and recommendations.
Plagiarism and Copyright Theft
You probably know my opinion, and you’ll certainly know my opinion if you have a look at my personal Facebook page or the Bite Back page.
Rant Mode ON
I can’t understand those authors who shrug off copyright theft and simply say “oh, it’s like promotion for me”. It’s a disease. Type the name of any of your favorite authors or books into Google with a tag ‘free’ or something like that, and I’m guaranteeing that within a screen or two, you will find links to download a copy of their books without payment. Some of these downloads are viruses, and frankly, I’m sometimes tempted to start doing that. Some of them you get free downloads in exchange for a monthly fee. In a huge number of cases, these are plain theft, and the author gets nothing.
Strangely, those authors who shrug off this kind of theft get more upset when their books are plagiarized. I have seen books for sale on Amazon, where the only effort the ‘author’ has put in has been to do a search&replace on the names of the principles, and slap a new cover on.
The cost of fighting plagiarism, even if it’s a slam-dunk case? Over $50,000 and the thief simply says “can’t pay” and walks away. Ask for links if you want a specific case.
Rant Mode OFF
I restrict myself to half a day a month to get upset over this, because even working tirelessly 24/7 as an internet masked avenger, I could not stem the tide. I have recently managed to alert an Aussie author to plagiarism and get the thief thrown off Amazon, and I have to take comfort from such small victories.
Once Angel Stakes is published, I have a long-standing commitment to make my late mother’s unpublished book available. It’s a colonial-era murder mystery set in the remotest bush station of Northern Rhodesia, and it’s a cracker. It only requires editing and formatting, so this won’t be a huge effort.
After that, Bian’s Tale book 1 and another short story/novella to weave Biting Cold’s Amanda and Scott into the Bite Back series.
Then Bite Back 6!
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