Category Archives: Admin

Word Counts…

I put out a call last week, asking for suggestions on what to do with this blog. I got one reply — in e-mail (WHY DOES NO-ONE EVER USE THE COMMENT FEATURE?!) — that suggested I treat the blog as a diary, and talk about what happens in my life. I pretty much do that, already… it’s just that there isn’t enough new material each week to make up a new blog every week, and I’d really like to TRY and keep this blog a weekly thing. So I’m still taking suggestions, if anyone has any.

It’s a good thing I don’t give people weekly (or worse, daily) word count updates. People would get really confused. For the first few weeks, I’d post about having written roughly 1k-2k words per day, which by the end of the third week would accelerate to 6-8k per day. My record is about 12k words in one day, though that was long before I went pro.

I’d top a hundred thousand words about the end of the sixth week… and still be going, since most of my books run about 150k words. Usually at 100k, I’d start slowing down, sometimes to a few mere hundreds of words per day.

For In Division Imperiled, however, it got even worse than that. I got to about 130k-140k, which I’d estimate is about 90% of the way done, about three months after I started. Which is what I told anyone who asked — the book was “90% done,” so hopefully it would be finished shortly. And I STILL HADN’T SLOWED DOWN. I was thinking I’d finish the book in a personal record time.

And then I started trying to knit all the parts of the story together for the conclusion, resolving all the sub-plots (at least, all of those which weren’t setting up something for the next book) for the end.

The story wasn’t stalled in the least. I seemed to be adding newer, better subplots in as I was deleting others, and I was making great progress on them. I was still going about 3-4k words per day… but I was pulling about 5-6k per day at the same time.

In other words, I was going backwards.

By the end of the sixth month, I was down to 110k words. That was the shortest it was cut to after hitting that 140k word plateau, but it wasn’t the last time it shrank. I was back to 140k a month later (this was back around August or so, when I was hoping to be finished in a week or two) when I finally gave up on one fairly massive sub-plot that was threaded throughout the book. One whole chapter, and several large partials, wound up being gutted from the book. I was back down to 115k words. That’s a fine length, if the story is complete, but the tear-out left a lot of gaping “holes” in the story that needed to be filled back in. My editor was expecting the book the same week I’d ripped out that subplot, and my writing speed had dropped back down to about 1k-2k. I was fortunate he allowed me to send him a partial manuscript he could work on while I finished. I’ve had a few other cuts since then, but nothing so drastic.

Earlier this week, I topped over the 140k plateau for the fourth time with this book… and I don’t think there are any subplots left that are likely to be ripped out, this time. I still figure about 150k will be the ultimate length. If I’m able to keep going at 1k-2k per day, I should FINALLY be done in a week or two… only three months late. *sigh*

LINKSHARES!

This week, we have a Halloween-themed linkshare!  Memories of the Abyss, by Cedar Sanderson, is a mystery thriller of novella length the author says is perfect for the season.

Also this week, Stephanie Osborn has released the eighth book of her space opera series, Division One, with Phantoms.

That’s it for this week. Happy reading!

Afterthoughts from Eat Local, Read Local

Well, my first dedicated book sale event was yesterday. It left me exhausted (or, well, perhaps a little dehydrated), but it was a good time. Weird internet issues today (wifi’s been spotty, Facebook has been acting up, and when I tried to go to Wikipedia earlier, I was somehow redirected to the Polish version of Wikipedia. I’ve never been to Polish Wikipedia, before, and have no idea how that happened) has made typing an extensive write-up… difficult, but here is a BRIEF summary of my thoughts in the aftermath:

  1.  It was an outdoor event, and advertised as “rain or shine.”  Rain and books don’t mix well, so I was happy to see that it wasn’t raining.  In fact, I dare to say it was the nicest day of the year, so far.
  2. Despite the good weather, the tent I was in had clearly been rained on over the past several days… and it was leaking.  I was a little hesitant about putting my books out for display on a table where dripping water had pooled.  I got the table moved so that it wouldn’t get dripped on as much, and dried it off, but the water was still dripping on my head any time the wind blew.  In order to minimize the risk of getting my books wet, I wasn’t quite able to set up my table the way I wanted.  I’m not sure what could be done to prepare for this sort of thing in future events, but I need to figure out something if I’m ever part of another outdoor book sale.  If anyone has any suggestions, I’d be glad to hear them.
  3. I went to this event last year, though as a customer and not as an author.  It was raining off and on that day, and foot traffic was moderate to light (I did not notice any wet author tables last year, but the whole thing was set up differently; tables were arranged differently, it was in a different part of the library grounds (their front parking lot instead of their rear parking lot), it was larger, etc.).  I was hoping that the better weather would result in better attendance, but foot traffic was about what I remember from last year.
  4. The Loudoun County Library’s Eat Local Read Local event took place simultaneously with the Fredricksburg Independent Book Festival, an almost identical event focused more on indie authors that was taking place about an hour’s drive away from my house (which means it was about an hour and a half’s drive, in the other direction, from the Eat Local Read Local).  I asked an author who was there what foot traffic was like, and was told it was “surprisingly light” there, as well.  At least in terms of total bodies coming to either event, the Eat Local Read Local was about on par.
  5. I did, in fact, sell a few books (not as many as my most optimistic hopes, but not as few as my more pessimistic imaginings), despite the light foot traffic.  I went through a lot of effort to ensure I could take credit cards (using Square), and got stickers and signs broadcasting that fact, but to my surprise everyone paid cash.  I’ll have to remember that if I do it again; I thought I was well prepared, but I almost ran out of spare change.
  6. We (authors) were all assigned to one of three tents, and provided with half of a table each (in other words, we were asked to share a table with someone else).  Our table-partners, with a few exceptions, were assigned alphabetically within each tent.  Just what criteria was used for tent assignment, however, was not clear to me — though I do know we weren’t grouped by alphabet, genre, publishing house, bestselling rank, or in order of when we applied to be part of the event.  Maybe it was random draw out of a hat?
  7. My table partner was an affable character who wrote literary works on school life.  He said he had been to events like this before and had never sold anything at them, but he thought he would give it ‘one more try.’  He then proceeded to spend about five minutes at the table before standing up and wandering off, checking out the other authors’ offerings, then came back for a bit before again wandering off to have a conversation with someone, then came back briefly, fussed with how his books were arranged on the table, and then left for a bit again.  He came back for one last time… to pack everything up and go home with the event half-way over.  I have to wonder if this was typical of his past attempts to sell books at these events, and if that is why he’s never sold anything at them before.
  8. Most authors only brought one or two different titles to sell to readers; I brought multiple copies of all six books that I have in print.  This might have been a mistake, considering I only had half of a table, and my books were a bit crowded together.  Combined with the need to arrange things so that my books were kept dry, I wasn’t able to display them all to their best effect.  My table partner leaving allowed me to spread out a bit, but if I do this event again I’ll have to be a bit more selective in what I bring.
  9. I made arrangements for my sister-in-law to show up half-way through the event (well, actually I’d arranged for my brother to do so, but he accidentally double-booked himself for that day, so she came instead) to take over my table so I would be able to get lunch.  My table-partner had already left by that point, so after buying lunch from one of the food trucks at the event, I took his seat and the two of us worked the table while I ate.  Having someone else there was a great help (though it would have been impossible to have someone with me from the start of the event, as there was normally only room for one person), even if we didn’t have any sales during the brief time she was there.
  10. I got lots of compliments on my book covers.  As an odd phenomenon, I had people taking pictures of my book covers, as well.  I thought maybe they were showrooming, but so far I haven’t seen any sales bumps among the books that were most commonly photographed.  I did see a slight bump in sales of The Merrimack Event in the immediate aftermath of the event, but I don’t remember anyone taking pictures of that book’s cover, so I don’t know if that’s connected at all.
  11. Everyone loved my little Fennec Fox Press stuffed fox-keychains, but no-one wanted to buy one.  I do give some of them away, but I can’t afford to give ALL of them away; I’m only charging the break-even price for them.  Ah, well… I’ve got them for next time, at least.

And… well, that’s all I can think to say at the moment.  No link-shares this week.  So, until next week, that’s it…

Plans for the Immediate Future…

As I’m getting ready for the Eat Local, Read Local event, I’m also finishing off the third Law of Swords book, In Division Imperiled (as I mentioned in the epilog of my last post). (Oh, and my birthday is this Thursday, but that’s unrelated to this post).  Trying to make everything happen at once hasn’t given me all that much time to think about my business plans beyond those few things, but in search of a topic for this week’s blog I spent some time thinking about it, anyway, and made a few decisions. I know this looks like another of my boring old status reports, but you will probably want to pay attention to this blog — I’ve made some important decisions,

To begin with, recapping what I mentioned last week, I’m going to need to find another cover artist soon as the cover for In Division Imperiled flunked with my test audience. I haven’t sent out any queries to any artists, yet, but I have identified a short list of people from varying levels of professional experience to try. Hopefully at least one of them will respond to my query and be willing to work within my budget (which, uh, I need to decide on, as I’ve already used my book cover budget on the flunked-out cover).  Will this delay In Division Imperiled’s release?  Probably not (though it depends how the cover art search goes).  But it may delay my marketing plan.  And to think — for once, I thought I was getting ahead of things by arranging for the cover art even before the book was over, and would be able to do a lot more pre-release marketing than I have in the past.  It’s a shame, but an unsatisfactory cover is… well, unsatisfactory.

Second, once the Eat Local, Read Local event is taken care of, I intend to see if I can’t get an actual store going on the Fennec Fox Press website to sell signed copies of my print editions. Given past print sales, I’m not expecting to do much business through said store, but since I’ve had the website for a while, I’ve got enough books to justify it, and now I’ve got the Square account to take credit cards, and soon (if I can just get the paperwork completed!) I’ll be able to take sales tax, there’s no reason NOT to open such a store.

I’m not sure whether I’ll have anything to offer other than my few books (and possibly some of the little plushie Fennec Fox keychains I was giving away at Ravencon, but I’m still undecided on that), but I might decide to do things like sell some used books, or help my mother sell some of her quilts (haven’t yet discussed this with her; I know she tries to sell some of her quilts off her own page, and I’m not sure how it would work), or maybe I would look into a deal with some of my author-friends to sell their books through my store (the big problem with trying to sell someone else’s work is the legal liabilities; I’d have to turn my little sole proprietorship into an LLC first, so I probably won’t be doing this to start with).  I’ll still have to work out the technical details, but I’m fairly certain I can manage a small web-based storefront, and at the very least all of my signed books will be made available on it.

Third, once BOTH the Eat Local, Read Local event AND the In Division Imperiled manuscripts are completed, I’ll use the library’s new sound recording studio that I surveyed a few weeks ago to begin turning A Gun For Shalla, my story in the Worlds Enough: Fantastic Defenders anthology, into an audiobook with myself as the narrator.  I don’t want this to prevent me from starting work on the next Shieldclads book, however, so I’ll be restricting myself to trying this experimental project just one day a week.

If it works out, then maybe I’ll also try the same thing with The Kitsune Stratagem (the book that I think Tantor, who produced the Merrimack Event audiobook, is the least likely to buy the rights to).  If THAT works out, and I can’t convince Tantor to do the audiobook for the Law of Swords books, maybe I’ll do those, too.  But, at one day a week (at most), that would put those books pretty far in the future, and this post is more for my immediate plans.

Finally… most of the previous things you might have caught in my previous blog posts, but this one I decided just as I was working on this blog:  If you are interesting in buying either of the Law of Swords books in ebook form somewhere OTHER than Amazon (such as through Kobo, Smashwords, or the Nook), you might want to buy them now.  When the rest of In Division Imperiled is off to the editor and I’m ready to start really marketing it, I am going to (experimentally) withdraw my previous books in the series from wide distribution, and see if I can’t put the whole series into the KDP select program for at least one enrollment period (90 days).

I’ve not done this in the past because I’ve found most of the technical issues reported with KDP Select (at least, most of the ones that don’t ultimately turn out to be the result of bad practices on the author’s part, or an author’s advertiser’s part) happen because the author took a book that is already in wide distribution out of wide distribution in order to meet the exclusivity requirement of KDP Select.  I haven’t heard about one of those particular issues in a while, though, so maybe they’ve been fixed?  And, in conjunction with the release of the third book, I think it might make a huge difference sales-wise.

I plan to return to wide distribution before too long, but I thought the same about The Merrimack Event, and the number of page reads I get in a month is STILL too high for me to pull it out of the program and try wider distribution.  Crossing my fingers that nothing goes wrong when I do it, though.

Link Shares!

Well, I’m still going to push for the Starflight 3 crowdfunding campaign.  It’s falling behind the pace it needs to set, but I’m hopeful some investors will come in at the end to save the campaign (which has been hinted, if they can get close), and in the meantime it could use your support.

But I do have actual books, this week.  First there is Billy the Kid, by Link Share regular Cyn Bagley, and is related to some of the EJ Hunter werewolf stories I’ve shared links to in earlier link-share entries.

Second, there is Fire and Forge by Holly Chism, another link-share regular; the third book in her Modern Gods series.

That’s all for now!  I may or may not be taking off next week (depending on how my birthday celebration plays out), but I’ll see you all soon!

Administrative Notes:

I know this blog has been quiet for the last few weeks, as far as its readers are concerned. It hasn’t been quiet here, behind the scenes, however.  I have a whole series of blog posts to write related to Ravencon (and its panels).  I’ve been looking forward to working on it, and went on to my blog a few weeks ago to start writing.

I instead had to scramble to fix the damage of someone hacking into my website. So, if you got a “this website may have been hacked” warning from Google or elsewhere… I’ve done what I can, and the problem should be fixed (at least nothing popped up in the scans), assuming nothing gets through between when I write this post and when I post it. I’ve been trying to fix it, myself, but since my tech team (me) is part time and under-educated for this sort of thing, it took me a while to take care of things.  I’d replace me, but it’s not in my budget to hire someone else.

Since the repairs have been completed, however, I’ve been trying to figure out how to prevent this from happening again without reducing functionality or spending way more money than I can afford.

Curiously, I only found out about the hack not because of a warning from my security software, but because Google had detected I was using an “outdated” version of vbulletin’s forum software. Since I’d deleted any forum software from this website years ago (and before it was deleted, that forum software wasn’t vbulletin), I knew something was wrong.

The hack appears unrelated to the problem from earlier this year that took this site down for a month, but it’s still troubling on that issue’s heels. Both problems seem related to plug-ins; one was a bit of old code that confused my security software, the other was a security hole in a different plug-in that a bot was able to use to hack into my website.

That hole that may have since been patched, but now I’m going through my old widgets, plug ins, etc, and deleting some old stuff that hasn’t had any updates for a while and may be vulnerable.  Much of it is stuff no-one out here will notice, but there are a few things you might see if you go digging deep in my blog’s archives.  The old polling plug-in that never worked right is now gone (which may mean the three year old posts that had been using that plug-in won’t display correctly, any more; I don’t think that’s a reason to keep the plug-in, however). I’ve also removed some broken links from previous blog entries that were detected during the clean-up process.

The next step will be to clean up and re-purpose the “Convention Calendar.”  At one point in time, I was hoping to use that plug-in to create a resource that could help SF\F writers and fans find writer-friendly conventions… but no-one ever seemed interested, the conventions themselves rarely cared when I e-mailed them to ask for a missing piece of information, and it took a lot of work, so I haven’t bothered updating it in ages.

Clearing out the calendar’s archives (which apparently attract harmful bots) will kill that plan for good.  I still think I can use the plug-in, however.  We’ll see.  After that, I may think about changing the “theme” for this blog; the current theme is one of the WordPress default themes, and is regularly patched by them (which, in theory, suggests they’re on top of plugging any security vulnerabilities), but it’s an older one, and apparently that might increase the potential for there to be exploits.  If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know.

Oh, and in unrelated (but still largely administrative) news, I finally made some minor updates to the Fennec Fox Press website.  Nothing major (most importantly, I added This Book Cannot Make Any Money to the “My Books” page, as well as an audiobook link for The Merrimack Event), but in the process I went through the “Fennec Fox Press Recommends” page and updated links to reflect newer editions, and to replace items that were no longer on sale.  I didn’t add anything all that new to it, but in the process I found that a book I would recommend to any writer (indeed, most creatives), which had long been out of print, came out with a new edition.  Since I think this particular book is so important for the writer, I will highlight the newest edition of The Law (In Plain English) For Writer’s.

And that’s it.  I had a blog post ready to go last week, but I didn’t want to put it out until I was confident that all the damage had been fixed.  So, starting next week, my long-delayed series of “Ravencon Panels (I Didn’t Do), 2018 Edition” posts will begin… unless something ELSE goes wrong.  (Sheesh, this year has been hard on this blog).

Ravencon Schedule…

Note:  This was supposed to come out yesterday.  Oops.  I blame watching a disappointing playoff hockey loss for forgetting this… and everything else I had planned for last night.  Good thing, though — when checking through to add some links plugging my fellow authors, I found a change in the schedule which I really needed to know to prepare for.

The Ravencon schedule has come out. I originally signed up for eight panels (two on Friday, four on Saturday, two on Sunday; a nice, balanced schedule), but I only got three (Edit:  When I went to check times for the schedule, I found myself returned to one of the other panels, so I’m now on four?  Maybe?  Still not on the two I MOST wanted to do, but better). And l’ve still got the reading.

But, if you’re able to come to Williamsburg (Virginia) next weekend (that soon? Yikes!), I’ll still be there, attending some of the more interesting (to me) panels, even if I’m not on them as a panelist. The panels I DID get assigned are the following:

Saturday, Noon
Package Your Book to Sell
From covers, title design and what to include in the blurb, we discuss how to get your work off the shelf and into reader’s hands. (When I first checked this listing, there were four panelists on this panel, and now there are three.  Hm…)
Other panelists (as currently scheduled):  Gail Z. Martin (Moderator), Kim Iverson Headlee

Saturday, 6pm
READING!
As I’ve been saying for the last several weeks, I’ll be reading from the next installment of my Law of Swords series, and maybe giving out some swag (IF it gets finished in time).  If there is any extra time, however, I’ll also read selections from any of my public work that you request.
I’m apparently sharing the reading room with another author, Ken Shrader.  Not sure how that’s supposed to work, but I’ll take it.

Saturday, 9pm
Writer WITHOUT A Day Job
You’re a full-time author. How do you manage? (Note:  I proposed this panel.  I know that this is NOT the write-up I included with the proposal.  This one seems a lot more… abrupt, like a placeholder description that someone forgot to include the full write-up for.  I’ll have to look up my original proposal and bring it to the convention).  As the person who proposed this panel, I volunteered to moderate it.
Other panelists (as currently scheduled):  Chuck Wendig (Guest of Honor), John G. Hartness, Chris A. Jackson, and Gail Z. Martin

Sunday, 10am
Promoting Yourself as a Writer
How to pimp your writing and promote yourself.  (Again, this panel description feels like a placeholder.  Odd)
Other panelists (as currently scheduled):  John G. Hartness (Moderator), Samantha Bryant, Shawnee Small

Sunday, 1pm
Self-Publishing on a Budget
How to get yourself published on the cheap. (Yet again, a placeholder description.  Huh.  Are ALL of them placeholder descriptions?)  After the adventure that was recounted on this blog producing “This Book Cannot Make Any Money,” signing up for this panel made a lot of sense.  When I first checked the schedule, however, I wasn’t listed on it… but now, I seem to not only be on it, but I’m its moderator.  Uh… can do? (Now I’m kind of glad I’m a day late posting; I didn’t know I’d gotten into this one, after all, until Monday).
Other panelists (as currently scheduled):  John G. Hartness, Christie Mowery, and Michael G. Williams

I’ll be there all weekend, however, on a panel or not. And, as there were five (four, now?  Maybe I’ll get put back on some of the other panels I asked for between now and then) panels I was hoping to be on but wasn’t selected for, I think I’ll have a set of “Ravencon Panels (I Didn’t Do)” blog posts that will be coming out afterwards.

These panel\posts would include: Indie Publishing (well, maybe that’s covered by my old Self-Publishing Roundtable, but I’ll try to attend the panel and see if they bring up any points I should add.  It’s a pretty broad topic, so there’s a lot that could be covered), Worldbuilding: Crafting New Worlds (as a topic, this is pretty broad; again, I’ll try to attend this panel and structure my post around what’s discussed there), Ignore This Advice:  Writing Tips that Turn Out Not to be So Great (since hearing about this panel, I’ve been scribbling down all SORTS of notes to speak about for it; I’ll see what they cover at the panel, but I’ve got a TON of things to say), and Medicine in Fantasy (WHY was I not put on this panel?  I’ve got doctor characters either already in or planned for both of my fantasy series, and I’ve been researching material and sources for this topic for YEARS!  I’ll have to really restrict myself when I write this post).

It might still be remotely possible that I could find myself on one of these other panels, if a guest cancels and they dive into the alternates, but I will still write up a post on the topic in that case.  (It’ll just be added to the “Ravencon Panels (I DID do)” series, instead).

I may or may not post next weekend.  It depends on how the convention goes, and if I do write a post it will most likely be a recap of the convention.

Hope to see some of you there!

Blog Fixed!

A Quick administrative note:

As some people probably noticed (in fact, even one Amazon review mentioned it), this blog experienced a few weeks of downtime.  I tried fixing it myself, but was unsuccessful.  It just so happened that it went down at the same time I was also dealing with oral surgery, trying to help babysit my nephew, and several other tasks that prevented me from being able to spend several hours contacting technical support until now.

However, the problem is fixed, and I now know how to fix it if the same problem occurs again.  Plus, I was able to convince my web host’s tech support to allow me to upgrade my PHP version from the same one that was in use when I first set up Maelgyn.com (more than a decade ago) to one that is still supported by somebody, somewhere, so this may help future-proof this blog from other incidents.

As many things have happened during the period this blog was non-functional, expect lots of announcements this Sunday.

2017 Year In Review AND An Out-of-Order This Book Cannot Make Any Money post…

As promised last weekend, today I’m going to do my “Year in Review” for 2017.  After that, I’ll be giving my Marscon schedule (since it arrived this week), but first, an announcement:

“This Book Cannot Make Any Money” was submitted to KDP Print and  is now live on the Amazon store, though in print form only. Keep in mind that I was never able to get a print proof (the reason I decided to do this series NOW rather than a few months from now was that KDP Print had announced they were now offering print proof options, which made me want to try them out. I’m a bit frustrated to learn, in the end, that I wasn’t in the beta group offered the ability to buy print proofs).

Not having a print proof is both good and bad for the “This Book Cannot Make Any Money” series. It’s good, in that I’m forcibly unable to “cheat” and spend money on the proof copy, and must only use the “free” online reviewer tools to see how things come out. It’s bad because, well, I know from working with Createspace that print copies can look dramatically different in real life than they do in the virtual proof on-line.

You can go ahead and buy a (print) copy now (I will not be able to get around to working on an ebook copy until after Marscon), but be warned that these may be (ahem) misprints, at least until after I’ve had a chance to go through the print copy.

Now for the Year in Review:

I had two publications in 2017.  One was the short story (really novella), “A Gun for Shalla,” published in the “Worlds Enough: Fantastic Defenders” Anthology.  I have no idea how, exactly, the sales have been for it, but the reviews have generally been very good to excellent.  The point of an anthology like this is not to turn a profit, necessarily, but rather to cross-pollinate the fanbases of multiple authors, and good reviews help with that.

As far as the books I actually have stats on, however:

In Treachery Forged sold 195 ebook copies and one print copy.  Yeah, my print sales never do well.  One hundred ninety five copies may sound small, but it’s been out for four years and there were no new books in the series released this 2017, so that’s not too bad.  I expect sales of this book to go UP in 2018, as I intend to get the third book out.  It remains my best-SELLING ebook (though it is no longer my biggest money-maker, as we’ll get into later).

In Forgery Divided sold 182 ebook copies and TWO print copies.  While it’s only in its second year, I’m still satisfied with those sales, as — again — there were no new books in this series in 2017.

The Kitsune Stratagem sold 32 ebook copies and three print copies.  The Kitsune Stratagem has ALWAYS underperformed, and I have yet to understand why; I honestly believe it’s my best book, but it always seems to get the fewest sales no matter what I do as far as marketing for it goes.  I’m hoping to “re-launch” it when I get the next book in the series out, but its low sales have reduced the priority of that next book significantly.  I really, really want to get back into this series, however.  There’s an outside chance I’ll get to its sequel in 2018, but I doubt it.

One oddity:  While The Kitsune Stratagem is my worst-selling full-length novel in eBook form, it ALSO is my best-selling print book… with fifteen print sales, lifetime.  I really, really wonder if print books are worth it, sometimes, considering how much time they take out of my writing.

To the Rink of War is a special case.  I don’t really count it as a “book,” because it isn’t one:  It’s a short story, or rather (by the standards established by the SFWA)  a novelette.  Priced at $0.99 (which is the LOWEST I can set the price; no, I can’t make it free) I literally get nothing more than pocket change from each sale.  And, until this year, I could just about count the number of sales on my fingers (that’s hyperbole… but only just).  But, well, there was a bit of a surprise resurgence of interest in this story.  With 58 ebook sales (there is NO print version), I’ve literally tripled its lifetime sales in one year.  Not great, but enough of a spark of interest that I thought I might re-visit the story, taking both it and its intended sequels and knitting them together to form a full-length novel.  A novel is important enough I could afford to spend some money on things like a new book cover, better editing, etc.  Originally I was going to try and get that out in 2018, but a radical shift in priorities makes that… unlikely.

Finally, there was The Merrimack Event.  The Merrimack Event managed a grand total of 2,911 sales (which already makes it my second-best selling book, in terms of lifetime sales).  In addition to that, however, this book was my first foray into the Kindle Select story, which put it into the “Kindle Unlimited Lending Library.”  That is Amazon’s version of a “Netflix for Books,” a sales model I am dubious of, which nevertheless made this book the top-EARNING book of my career.  I had 4,869,121 page reads through KULL.  In addition to all that, I also signed an audiobook contract which earned me a $500 Advance, and should also start earning royalties at some point.

I’ve seen some authors go into financials (and I actually wrote it all out, but decided I was oversharing a bit).  I will give you a bit on my expenses, though:  I spent a grand total of $10 on marketing (not counting convention expenses, which I view more as research and networking, but some authors think of as marketing), gave away two (print) books (one to a cover artist, one to the cousin\IP attorney who helped me with my audiobook contract), and never ran a price discount on anything.  I did spend about $150-200 on swag, but most of that was for the keychain-sized plushie Fennec Foxes that I’m not going to be doing much with until Ravencon, at the earliest.  Given that I sometimes see authors report having spent thousands of dollars a year on marketing, often accompanied by deep discounts or even freebie giveaways, I think that’s notable.

So, a reasonably good year.  I hope to do better in 2018, but there you go.

Now, for my Marscon Schedule:

·         5pm   Fri      Room L        Costume in Fiction: Creating the Total Package

·         6pm   Fri      Large Auditorium   Opening Ceremonies

·         7pm   Fri      Room 5        Fantasy Draft League

·         10pm Fri      Room 7        Research, Point of View, and Filtering

·         10am-12pm Sat     Room 5        Writer’s Workshop

·         3pm   Sat     Room L        Questions to Ask When Creating a Fictional Culture

·         7pm   Sat     Room 8        Worldbuilding 201: Filling in the Details

·         8pm   Sat     Room 7        Mapping Your Novel

·         9pm   Sat     Room L        It Takes a Village Moving at 80% of the Speed of Light

·         1pm   Sun    Room 7        The Name Came First

 

Obviously, I’ll be too busy at the convention next weekend for a normal blog entry, though I may be able to write a (BRIEF) recap from the hotel, if I’m feeling up to it.  I should resume the “This Book Cannot Make Any Money” posts soon, however, starting with the second part of that darned book cover post.

A Brief Intermission, As We Have Some News….

You were probably expecting the next “This Book Cannot Make Any Money” post, today, but I haven’t been able to work on it much this week. That’ll have to be pushed to next week.

The REASON I haven’t been able to work on it, however, is pretty big news, and if you’re here for ‘self-publishing tutorials,’ some of the background information might still be informative.

I was hoping to be able to be able to talk about this news in specifics when it came out, but a change of plans means I need to wait before I can mention a few details. In the meantime, however, here’s what’s been going on the past couple weeks:

Thanks, I’m guessing, to the success of The Merrimack Event, I was approached by a literary agent (this is USUALLY the wrong way around; if you are going this route, you usually should be approaching the agent, instead; however, a quick investigation proved this agency was legitimate and well respected). This agent mostly works with already published authors (often independent authors, though not always) to sell subsidiary right — namely, audiobook and foreign translation rights.

Now, I have long WANTED to produce an audiobook format for my books, but the process for self-publishers is more daunting and\or expensive and\or time consuming than I’ve been able to manage:

First, I understand you need to turn your manuscript into a ‘script’ for the narrator (I’ve never done this before, and I’m not entirely sure what’s involved), and then you need to have your narrator read, record, and edit their recording at a high enough quality to work as an audiobook.  Actually, there’s more to it than that, but the details aren’t all that relevant.  Suffice it to say, each of those things take time.

Now, you can hire someone to do all this for you. I got an estimate for that a few years ago (even before In Treachery Forged was released). From a NON-Union voice performer (union would have cost double), it would have cost me about $1650. Yikes!  There’s also a profit-sharing model, however — you give up half of your profits, and the narrator will handle the script and editing for you.  Probably will do some marketing, too, since they earn money from it as well.  But nowadays most of the good, competent narrators will only do that if you have a good enough reputation that they can be sure they’ll earn money from it (which often means, they won’t do it at all).

Now, I still Had A Plan for getting an audiobook off the ground.  I wasn’t about to spend thousands of dollars for an experiment in audio, and I wasn’t thrilled with the profit sharing model, but I could still work things out.  My local library has a (free to use!) recording studio as part of their “MILL” (Makers In Loudoun Libraries) Program.  My mother, though retired, had many years of training as a vocalist, and was studying to do this.  I’ve been trying to teach myself sound editing using open-source Audacity freeware.

So an audiobook format was coming… but it would take time, and one thing I never seem to have enough of, nowadays, is time.  MAYBE, as an experiment, I could have gotten the tiny little “To the Rink of War” out some time over the course of the next year, but it would take me years to get even one book out, this way.

And along comes this agent, offering to try and get me an audiobook deal.  So, after a little hesitation (I am against the very concept of literary agents, and one of the big reasons I decided to self-publish was that it meant I wouldn’t have to work with one, so I had this “am I really thinking about working with an AGENT?” moment), I opened negotiations with an agent, intending to have them work out an audiobook deal for me.

Things we going slowly, but steadily.  I was going over their contract and had found a few things that needed changing — no deal-breakers, just a few elements that I (or rather, my cousin the Intellectual Property lawyer) felt needed more clarity.  The agent was agreeable to making the amendments, once their own lawyers had a chance to look over them, and I was waiting to hear back from them.  And then a Big-Name Audiobook Publisher contacted me directly, wanting to buy the rights to “The Merrimack Event.”

I considered seeing if the agent was still interested in my other books, or in negotiating the foreign-translation rights, but… well, again, I really didn’t want to deal with agents to begin with.  So I told the agency I didn’t need their services, and (*gulp*) started direct negotiations with the audiobook publisher.

I’ve… I think the correct way of putting it is “agreed to terms, in principle” with the publisher; I still have to go over or sign the actual contract (so things could still fall apart, but let’s hope not), so I’m not going to say who that publisher is, yet, but just getting this sort of interest feels like an accomplishment.

And if you think the work that I had already done setting up for future audiobook production has been wasted… well, this will only be a one book deal (their initial offer was for two books, but I kept it to one for now).  They haven’t (yet) asked for the rights to the Law of Swords books, nor for The Kitsune Stratagem.  If this works out, I might see if I can sell the audiobook rights for those other books to this publisher, too, but there are no guarantees; I Had a Plan, but now it’s a back-up plan.

And there’s still “To the Rink of War.”  That one I might still do by myself, some time over the next year or so, regardless of what happens with this publisher.  We’ll see.

Oh — an a couple smaller pieces of news.  Despite its success, there have been a number of complaints about the “then-than” issue in The Merrimack Event.  I scoured the text and found five instances where then-than were mixed up (I do know the rule, but 13 years ago I had real trouble with it).

I made these corrections in the print edition before sending it out, but I hadn’t updated the e-book because I anticipated more corrections being needed.  I kept asking people to help me find specific examples of this error, because it sounds like a more serious problem than just the five instances I found, but so far I haven’t heard of any from anyone on the specifics.  So I finally uploaded the corrected file today.  It may take a couple days for Amazon to approve the files (the old file is still available for sale), but if the then-than issue REALLY bothers you, you may want to wait a few days before then collecting the update.  (This is such a minor correction you’ll probably have to do this manually, even if you have it set for automatic updates; see here for instructions)

Oh, one last thing:  I’ll be experimenting with a couple new plug-ins for this blog this week.  I’ve had spambots hitting the comment sections of all of my posts by the hundred, lately (which is why I have to approve your comments, if you’ve ever tried to comment on this blog, before. That’s been the only defense I’ve found which actually works); I’ve already downloaded and installed one plug-in that claims it will handle that problem non-intrusively, and it works so far, but I’m still testing it.  We’ll see if I need to try another one.

While I’m fussing around with the plug-ins, I might as well look to correct some of the other problems I’ve had with this blog.  For example, the button I used to have that allowed me to “justify” the text vanished, and that’s something I might actually need for my next post.  If possible, I’ll also look for some way to disable the horrid auto-hyphenation my theme insists I use.  Hopefully things will work the first time, but starting Tuesday there may be occasional (brief) outages as I try things out.

Next week, hopefully, I’ll have the next part of the “This Book Cannot Make Any Money” series, which will be a short story (or at least a fragment of a short story) that will be the “before” example to demonstrate editing techniques on.  And maybe I’ll be following up on some of today’s news… if things reach the point that I can safely mention the NAME of that audiobook publisher.

Books and Sundry

First, some updates. The second print proof of The Merrimack Event finally arrived and… well, they did a better job with the cover, but the more I look at it the more problems I have with it — I plan to call the printer on Monday and see if I can somehow get things straightened out.  I think the cover should fit as planned according to their documentation, and they keep saying the dimensions are wrong and changing them on me in ways that sends everything wonky.  I also still need to go through the inside text, again, and make sure that none of the changes I made last time have messed anything up.

Incidentally, I uploaded some corrections to the eBook based on my first run-through of the print proof (I did this a couple weeks ago, but never said anything); if you’re still seeing missing words and typos, try updating your copy. I need to figure out how to prevent these errors from going out the first time, but I think I caught them all. If you find anything else after updating, PLEASE let me know — don’t just leave a comment on Amazon about typos or dropped words; I can’t fix these errors unless I know where they are.

Despite all the complaints about the typos that I can’t find, the book is doing well.  Final numbers for the month of September were 51 reviews, 1,400 books sold, even (er… with five returns, making the real number 1,395) and 1,730,229 KENP-sized Page Reads.  (The book was 737 KENP pages — very different from what the print book will be — which means I had at least 2,348 people read the book at least part-way through using the Kindle Unlimited program).  I think that qualifies as a successful first month of publication.

Oh, and it’s raised the sale totals of In Treachery Forged and In Forgery Divided significantly… and if you go back to those three days in August that it was released, it seems to have inspired To the Rink of War‘s sales to DOUBLE its lifetime totals!  (This is not really that great of a feat.  To the Rink of War was an unmitigated disaster on first release, and has yet to receive its first review more than three years after publication)

But that’s not what this blog is, uh, SUPPOSED to be about.  I learned, recently. that Amazon is discontinuing the aStore program.  I do have an aStore (I won’t bother linking to it, because I think Amazon will be closing them before most of my blog readers trickle in), but it’s been neglected for a long time (precisely for the reasons Amazon is saying they’re discontinuing it — it’s nearly impossible for affiliates to push people through to the aStore sales with the way it’s set up).  So, I set about replacing my aStore with a very similar (but hopefully better trafficked and more frequently updated) page on the Fennec Fox Press site, which you can find here.  I’ve still got a few things to add to it, but there you go.  Edit:  And there appears to be a bug in the website clipping several of the link graphics.  I’ll be calling tech support tomorrow to try and get it fixed.  *sigh*  (Stupid website software that DOESN’T show the website correctly in the preview; I don’t even know how to fix it at this point)

…yeah, I don’t think this blog post is about what I intended it to be about at all.

Oh, and if you’ve been following my cell phone misadventures on Facebook and other social media hangouts, I do seem to have the problem fixed, so (assuming you have the number) you can start phoning my cell phone again.

Until next time, where maybe I’ll actually talk about what I intended to talk about instead of overshadowing it all with a status update.

Edit:  Comments shut down due to MASSIVE spam attempts.  (Seriously, spammers, you’re setting a blog record on this one!)

Future Plans

I had hoped I would be able to say “the print edition for The Merrimack Event has been released!” by now… but I’m still waiting on a second proof copy (hopefully one without a mangled spine, this time). I do have several milestones to note: I reached over one thousand sales and one MILLION page reads (actually, it’s about one and a quarter million page reads, at last check). In less than a month.

Uh… okay, that was a little unexpected.

So, my original plan, as far as future book releases go, hadn’t factored in The Merrimack Event. As fed up with it as I was by the time it was released, I was convinced it wouldn’t sell, well, anything. I was publishing it to get it out of the way, so I could move on to my other books.  I spent more to get it out the door than my other books, so my expectations could be summed up as “I hope it will break even or something.  And it won’t be holding up my other books, any more!”

Well, it did that… and a lot more.  And now I have to figure out where to slip a (still untitled) sequel into the “to do” list.  I have a plan for a sequel… uh, somewhere (it’s been thirteen years since I last looked at it, but I do remember that I’ve preserved it across several computer moves).  Even if I can’t find that outline, however, I can come up with a new one; I’ve just got to figure out when to get it started.

The original plan was to finish In Division Imperiled (or whatever I call the 3rd book of the Law of Swords series), and then move on to By Claw and Arrow (the sequel to The Kitsune Stratagem.  I need to re-launch this book; it doesn’t seem right that my best-written book (both my opinion and by several objective standards) should also be my worst-selling book.  Getting the sequel out there would be an opportunity to do that).  After that, I was going to polish off To the Rink of War, turn it (and the unpublished serialized short sequels) and re-publish it as a novel.

I also had the idea of putting together a couple shared-world anthologies for a couple of my books, but that would have required some changes to Fennec Fox Press‘s business model (I’d be going from a sole proprietorship to a LLC, I’d have to change my accounting system so I can preserve money to pay other authors, etc.), so they were in a more nebulous “later.”  And, some day in the middle of all that, I was thinking of putting together that “This Book Can’t Make Any Money” blog project as part of a self-publishing tutorial on the side.  There were also a couple supplementary works planned that would slot in as they were ready — for example, the Fennec Fox Press House Style Guide, which is currently (in software parlance) in an Alpha version, but would need to be completed before I could even consider an anthology, and would be nice to complete before I send ANYTHING out for editing, again.

But now… all of that is out the window.  Oh, I’m still doing all of that, but now I need to slot in a sequel for The Merrimack Event.  And if I slot in a sequel for The Merrimack Event, I’ll have enough books in the list to need to account for book four of Law of Swords.  And as urgent as keeping those two series going is, maybe I’ll have to set aside those anthology plans until I’ve cleared up some other parts of my schedule.  And…

Well, anyway, I revamped my “order of production” schedule; see what you think.

  1.  In Division Imperiled (working title):
    The manuscript for this is already half-way done (or, well, I’m somewhere in the middle of it.  It’s gone pretty far off the trail set by the original outline, so I’m not sure exactly where I am in the story).
  2. The Fennec Fox Press House Style Guide
    The editor for In Division Imperiled has become overwhelmed with work, and may not be available for that book, so I might need to find another one.  If so, I’m going to need to have this ready for them.  This is a small thing, and can be worked on concurrently with In Division Imperiled.  It may wind up being completed first.  If released to the public (instead of just sent to the new editor with the manuscript), it would be a free download off the Fennec Fox Press website.
  3. By Claw and Arrow (Inari’s Children, Book 2)
    I still want to re-launch The Kitsune Stratagem, and getting this book out there is a big part of the plan for doing so.  So, while I’m anxious to get The Merrimack Event’s sequel out there, I’m still planning to get this out as quickly as possible, too.  If I start working on this and it gets bogged down, however, I’ll swap this with the next book in the queue.
  4. Shieldclads # 2
    Um, since I don’t even know where I put the outline for this, yet, I haven’t worked out a title for it.  But here is where I hope to slot it in.  Here is also where my original scheduled plan starts to diverge from the new one.
  5. This Book Cannot Make Any Money
    Another side project that can be done alongside other books (since most of the work will actually be done in the time allotted for working on this blog).  This could actually be ready any time before or after this point, but I’m guessing that I’ll have it done by this point.
  6. Law of Swords, Book # 4
    This was GOING to be The Rink of War, the novel-length version of the short story\novelette, To The Rink of War.  Instead, I have to juggle in the sequels to my more popular series, so here’s where Law of Swords 4 goes in.
  7. ONE OF:  Rink of War OR Nine Tales of the Kitsune
    Nine Tales of the Kitsune is the first of my planned Anthology projects.  IF I think I can generate the interest from other authors without too much trouble (one of the things I hope to do at my upcoming convention appearances is network with other writers), I may get this set up for this slot.  Otherwise, Rink of War (mentioned above) will be bumped here.
  8. Shieldclads #3
    Juggling two successful series is going to be difficult, especially with my other projects included.  This project and the next might wind up flipped, depending on how things work out.
  9. Law of Swords, Book # 5
    This should CONCLUDE the Law of Swords series.  I may revisit this world again, but with the series ended the schedule will be freed up for more “new” projects.
  10. Inari’s Children, Book # 3
    Current plans have this as the concluding book, but I’m not happy with the outline for this one.  If the relaunch of The Kitsune Stratagem is successful, I’ll rewrite the outline spreading the story into at least four books; otherwise, I’ll revamp it to conclude the series here.

And that’s all I can queue up at this point.  I still have more books planned outside of what you see here (including more Shieldclads, an anthology and possible sequels to Rink of War, some supplementary material for all of my series, and another sci-fi series dealing with a chubby pilot, his mind-reading girlfriend, and a space racing jalopy), and it’s possible one of those won’t let me go until I slip it in somewhere, but for the moment that’s as far as I have planned.

Edit:  Spammers are really going to town; I already have to shut down the comments on this one.