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.
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.
Mein Deutsch Lesern! Buch 3 veröffentlicht.
Wild Card is published in German as Entfesselter Wandel
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!
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.
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.
Hidden Trump audio version is going through the final checks and should be up in a couple of weeks. I’ll have a 5 minute sample up here for you soon. And that begs a question: what 5 minute segment from Hidden Trump would you most like to hear? … Nothing with huge spoilers, so I guess it’s got to be early in the book. Any ideas?
The first quarter of Bite Back 5 – Angel Stakes – is about to go to the beta readers, but I’ll post separately about that.
The audio version of sleight of Hand just exceeded 700 sales! Obviously, the number in itself is not so much in comparison to ebook sales, but it is good progress.
AND… I have the first draft translation of Wild Card in German. Draft name is “Entfesselter Wandel”. I need to agree a schedule with the lady who does proof-reading.
Das zweite Buch der Baureihe Bite Back, Trumpf im Ärmel, wird morgen veröffentlicht werden.
Auch hier kann ich Ihnen versichern, ich es nicht übersetzen.
Ich hoffe, es gefällt euch.
‘Diese Woche würde man mich betrügen, das war klar.’
Amber Farrell, Privatdetektivin in Denver, findet sich langsam damit ab, zu den Paranormalen zu gehören, muss jedoch feststellen, dass es einige gefährliche Verantwortlichkeiten mit sich bringt. Nichts ist so wie es scheint, am wenigsten Amber selbst. Und um zu überleben, muss Sie Allianzen mit mächtigen Gruppen schließen, deren Interessen sich nicht decken. Sie weiß, dass sie entbehrlich ist und Betrug scheint unvermeidlich…
Die beiden gegensätzlichen Glaubensrichtungen der Athanate treffen sich in Denver. Nach hundert Jahren Frieden ist die Stimmung gereizt. Ein Krieg wäre eine Katastrophe für alle, Menschen und Paranormale, aber es ist Amber, der die Schuld für die Probleme im Vorfeld der Versammlung in die Schuhe geschoben wird.
Und es wird sehr persönlich…