Category Archives: Fantasy

The One Year Published Author Introspective

If you’ll recall, when I was starting out I published my One Month and Three Month published author introspectives, to give other budding authors an idea of the highs and lows of being an author and perhaps what to expect. I thought about writing one at six months, but instead I waited and decided to do one on the eve (more or less) of my one year anniversary.

Things have changed a lot in a year. At the end of my first month, I was cautiously optimistic. At the end of my third month, I was ecstatic. At a year, I’m more grounded in reality, and while still optimistic, I’m better aware of the challenges of the industry.

With that said, here’s what I’ve learned:

1) eBooks are forever. Sales are not.

At the three month mark, sales were going great, and I was understandably going nuts. Why wouldn’t I? So I tried to project sales going forward. I made what I considered to be a reasonable projection, an optimistic one, and a conservative one. There was just one problem: I was working on three months of data, during a time period in which I released four novels (I’d had a backlog of stuff to publish when I got started). I was riding a massive growth swell. So my projections were understandably off.

Here’s what actually happens when you release a book, though. There’s an initial growth period, where people are hearing about your book through different channels and giving it a try. This growth can be linear or exponential, depending on how lucky you are. Eventually, however, growth turns negative as you reach a greater and greater portion of your target audience through your sales channels. Sales drop, and drop, and drop, unless you do something to change it.

Don’t believe me? Here is the unit sales chart for Red Hot Steele, the first in my Daggers & Steele series and my best-selling novel overall:RHS Year 1 Sales

What you see is that sales grew organically for three months, then started to taper off at a regular pace. The massive spike in sales in May is due to a Bookbub promo. I’ll get to that later. You should note, however, that the sales decline trend from January to the present was unaffected by the May promotion.

In indie publishing, there are some who espouse an idea that books are like cash steams. Individually, they don’t make you much money, but put together, a bunch of streams add up into a sizable river of cash.

I don’t think this is a very good metaphor—or at least, it’s not the whole metaphor. The fact of the matter is, when it rains, streams swell into huge torrents, and when it doesn’t, those streams dry up into nothing at all.

Book sales are the same way. Sales can swell quickly. They dry less quickly, but they do dry. And they can dry to almost nothing. If you have dozens of dry streams, they still won’t add up to a river.

With that said, my next bullet point will probably catch you off guard.

2) It’s to your benefit to publish as many books as possible.

Wait, you say. Didn’t you just mention that your book revenue will dry up over time? Why publish lots of books only to create lots of small streams that generate almost no cash flow?

Because you’re not after the tail. I mean, you’ll take it. Any cash from your backlist is nice. But you’re after the cash from the initial growth stage.

The growth period is where you’ll make most of your money from a novel, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Movies, video games, traditionally published books, and other media all make most of their money shortly after the initial release, and if they don’t recoup their initial investment quickly, they’re seen as a loss.

I’m not sure if you should be quite so harsh on your own projects (there are ways to revive dead novels and series), but you’ll probably only get a few solid months of earnings from any given release, unless you do something drastic. Speaking of which…

3) The right promotion can make all the difference.

Remember that huge surge in sales in May? That was from a Bookbub promo. If you’re an indie author and you don’t know what Bookbub is, I’ll pause while you go figure it out. Suffice it to say, they’re the most important company out there to help you sell books and make money.

Thanks to the Bookbub promo, I sold over 3500 copies of Red Hot Steele in May, but that doesn’t begin to tell the whole story. Red Hot Steele was priced at a paltry 99¢ for that promotion, but the sales of Cold Hard Steele and the recently released Time to Steele also shot up, and those were listed at full price. That helped me make a lot of money in May.

So while the Bookbub promo couldn’t stop Red Hot Steele’s sales slide, it did earn me a nice chunk of change and earn me a lot of new readers. And Bookbub isn’t the only way to promote your novels. There are many other ways. Bookbub is just one of the best

I don’t want this to turn into a huge ‘How to Promote your Novel’ post, but my point is simply that promoting your novel, if done effectively, will gain you more readers and earn you more money. If making money from your work is your goal (or at least, one of your goals), then you really do need to spend time thinking about promotion.

And last but not least…

4) You’d better be in it for the long haul.

This one doesn’t really fit in with the rest of my tale, but I think it needs to be mentioned. Being an author isn’t easy. It’s full of highs and lows, periods of bounty and periods of drought. You’re constantly learning and trying new things, and if you’re smart, adapting to the marketplace. If you do the same thing for too long, you’ll be left in the dust.

You have to be smart, hard-working, and lucky, and even if you’re all three that doesn’t guarantee success. But it gives you a better shot. So you’d better be committed, otherwise you’ll either never crest the peak in front of you, or you’ll go tumbling down the other side once you get there.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000032_00033]As for me? I’ve got my crampons on, and I’m climbing this mountain like there’s no tomorrow. But I’m not going to say it doesn’t get a little hairy every now than then.

***

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out the newly available fourth Daggers & Steele installment: Fine Blue Steele. It’s only been out for one day (one day!) and already it’s reached the number one spot in Amazon’s psychic suspense category. So thank you, readers!

Buy it at: Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

Pirates, Kindle Unlimited, and more Amazon Thoughts

The Black Mast Murder
Buy it now on Amazon! Or read for free…

So first things first, let’s get the obvious part out of the way. I have a new novel available!

It’s called The Black Mast Murder, and as you might have guessed based on the cover, it’s a pirate novel. But what sort of pirate novel? Grim and dark? Whimsical? Historically accurate?

Well, imagine one of those Pirates of the Caribbean movies, complete with all their mystical, fantastical, grandiose elements. Now add in my own sense of snark and charm (which I’m sure you’re used to by now), mix it all up with a cracking good mystery, and you have yourself The Black Mast Murder.

In all honesty, I’m very proud of this novel. I think the setting will draw you in immediately, and the story has a nice balance of action, mystery, and even its fair share of romance. And you can BUY IT NOWexclusively on Amazon.

Which, as you may have guessed, means I’ve decided to put the novel into Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited (KU) program.

For those of you unfamiliar with KU, it’s a monthly subscription service that lets people read as many novels as they want, and we (the authors) get paid based on how much you read. To opt into the program, you have to make your ebook exclusive with Amazon, at least in increments of 90 days.

Now, let me be frank. I don’t like exclusivity—even timed exclusivity. I think it usually benefits the distributor, not the author. But the ebook market is changing. More and more readers (especially power readers, who read in large quantities) are shifting to subscription services, chief among them KU, and those authors who ignore them are leaving dollars on the table.

Of course, you can argue that going exclusive also forces you to leave dollars on the table—the dollars you would earn from other retailers. But those dollars are few and far between.

Over 91% of my lifetime ebook sales have been on Amazon. Barnes & Noble has about 4.5%, Kobo about 3%, and Apple/iTunes has brought me a meager 1%. AND those numbers are generous to those other retailers, as the majority of sales I’ve received everywhere other than Amazon came off the back of my successful Bookbub promo. If you exclude the month of May, my lifetime sales are about 96% from Amazon. (And considering that Barnes & Noble’s nook division seems to be going down the tubes, those numbers look likely to continue to worsen in the future.)

The Tau Ceti Transmutation
Now available on Kindle Unlimited. Read for FREE!

All of which is to say that I make the VAST amount of my revenue from Amazon, and if there’s a way to increase my Amazon revenue, even at the cost of revenue from other sources, it might make sense. Honestly, if I can earn even half of the amount from Amazon’s KU program as I do from sales, that would still be about five times as much as I make from all other retailers combined.

So what does this mean for you? Not much, probably. You can still buy my work (at a fantastic, low price, I might add!), but if you’re a member of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited monthly reading program, you can actually read The Black Mast Murder for FREE!

And at the risk of sounding like a used car salesman…wait, there’s more! Remember my science fiction P.I. novel, Rich Weed in The Tau Ceti Transmutation? Well, it’s also exclusive to Amazon now, and those of you in KU can read that for FREE too!

(Side note: My Daggers & Steele series continues to be available everywhere, for the time being anyway. Consider this a test. If my novels in KU do great, I might move everything there. If not, the exclusive titles will be made available everywhere. I’ll decide in about 90 days…)

One last note, before I go. You’ve probably noticed the link up at the top of my website encouraging you to join my new release mailing list. It’s the easiest way for me to tell you about my new novels. But, understandably, many people don’t like signing up for tons of lists. Our inboxes are cluttered enough as it is.

Well, Amazon has once again come to the rescue. Check out my Amazon author page. See that yellow button underneath my photo, the one that says “Follow”? If you click that, Amazon will let you know when I release new books. Why trust me with your email address when you can trust a massive, multinational corporation? (I kid, of course…) But nonetheless, it’s a neat feature, and if for some reason you’d rather not give me your email, why not give the Amazon Follow feature a try?

A World of Shadows Release

I’m a little late on this blog post, but I guess that’s what happens when you have a new release come out while you’re on vacation. How does that work, you ask? Well, normally I wouldn’t do such a thing—but this isn’t your average book release. This is my first multi-author book bundle.

It’s called A World of Shadows, and it features eleven (that’s right, eleven!) novels by established and up-and-coming urban fantasy authors. We’re calling it the Action-Packed Urban Fantasy Box Set because it’s, well, full of action-packed urban fantasy. But at the risk of sounding like a cheesy 80’s game show host—wait, there’s more! There’s humor and romance! Mystery and horror! In all honesty, it’s a great group of first in series novels by some amazing authors, and all of them are great people to boot. The following novels are included:

Justice Calling by Annie Bellet
Red Hot Steele by Alex P. Berg
The Seventh Sons by Domino Finn
Flashback: Siren Song by James A. Hunter
Till the Sun Breaks Down by Tom Leveen
The Fixer by Jon F. Merz
The Heretic by Joseph Nassise
London Macabre by Steven Savile
The Long Way Down by Craig Schaefer
Elemental Arcane by Phaedra Weldon
Half-Made Girls by Sam Witt

Because of its size, it’s ebook only, but it’s priced at just $9.99, which is a ridiculous steal for the number of stories you’re getting. Check out the buy links at the bottom of the post if it sounds like your cup of tea.

A World of Shadows CoverEbook: Amazon | Apple | Barnes & Noble |  Kobo

Time to Steele is here!

Guys—I have to apologize. I’ve been remiss in my blogging. Majorly remiss. When I realized my last blog post was a release notification for my last novel (The Tau Ceti Transmutation), I cringed.

Of course, the reason I’ve been neglecting the blog is to focus my time on more valuable things. Things like writing novels, the latest of which, Time to Steele, is now available! If you’ve enjoyed my Daggers & Steele series so far, the latest entry won’t disappoint, I promise you!

I’ve also been hard at work on a new project over the last few weeks—an audiobook version of Red Hot Steele. I don’t have it finalized yet, but when I do, you’ll all know. In the meantime, I’m working on a semi-secret new project that I’ll be announcing within the next month or two.

In the meantime, check out Time to Steele. Read it, enjoy it, let me know what you think.

Time to Steele

 

Ebook: Amazon | Apple | Barnes & Noble |  Kobo

Print: Amazon | Createspace

 

The Three Month Published Author Introspective

A couple months ago I wrote a One Month Published Author Introspective post, where I tried to share some of the insights I’d gathered in the brief month during which my first two self-published books had been available for purchase. I think it was a useful exercise, both for me and for others, so here I am with the three month update. I might also do the same thing at six months and a year, depending if I have worthwhile information to share. In the first installment, I used an unorthodox approach, describing things I was excited and disappointed about. Here, I’ll take a more traditional approach and discuss things I’ve learned along the way.

1) It can be done.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably an author, maybe an indie-published one, or you aspire to be, and you’re thinking, is self-publishing worth it? Can you really find success that way? Can you make it in the current environment?

Yes. You can.

I wondered the same thing when I started. I mean, there’s over 3.2 million books for sale in the Amazon Kindle store. How is someone going to find yours, and why would they buy it? But you’re not just selling a book. You’re selling your book, and your book is unique, isn’t it?

The one that started it all, Red Hot Steele.
The one that started it all, Red Hot Steele.

Take Red Hot Steele. It’s not just a book. It’s a mystery—a fantasy mystery, in an urban environment. That’s different. But there’s more. It’s not a typical urban fantasy, rather a mystery set in an urban setting with fantasy elements, if that makes sense. And it’s filled to the gills with humor. And elements of noir. And even some sexual tension. Now we’re talking. It’s not a book. It’s my book. And if it’s the sort of thing you’re looking for, you won’t find it anywhere else.

Why does that matter? Because most people who are searching to buy a piece of fiction are looking for an experience, and if you can offer them an experience they can’t get anywhere else, they’ll come back to you for more. And they’ll tell others about you, too.

I think word of mouth, to a large degree, has helped me achieve success so early on. And I’m not going to lie—it’s come very quickly. In the two weeks of October that my books were available, I sold 60 copies, which I didn’t think was particularly good, but other people might see it differently. Then my books sold quite a bit better in November. And they sold much, much better in December. And they’re doing even better so far in January. If things keep going the way they have been, I’ll make a living wage from my writing this year, maybe a really good living wage. But, I don’t want to count my eggs before they’ve hatched, which brings me to my next point…

2) Visibility is key.

There’s a lot of reasons I think my books have done well, first and foremost being that they’re really well written—by which I mean, in this case, funny, interesting, and exciting, right off the bat. Great characters, great plot. I also have a fantastic cover that makes people want to click on it when they see it, and I wrote, in my humble opinion, a really engaging sales blurb that makes people want to see what the fuss is about.

Cold Hard Steele
Book #2, already a #1 best-seller!

But I can’t stress enough the importance of visibility to readers in my success, and here I mean placement on Amazon lists. I put Red Hot Steele, and later Cold Hard Steele, on a fairly small Amazon list—Psychic Mysteries. That let Red Hot Steele get visibility right away, first on the Psychic Mysteries Hot New Releases list, and later at the tail end of the main list itself. People saw Red Hot Steele and started to buy, and bit by bit, it rose up the list, until, sure enough, it got to the number one spot. And the number one spot of an Amazon list, any list, no matter how small, means good sales. Really good. Honestly, anywhere in the top three means really good sales.

I realized this, and so I rejiggered my book’s categories so that it would show up on two lists—Psychic Mysteries and Psychic Suspense—and sales rose even further.

I’ll say it again: visibility is key. If you can, place your book in an Amazon list where it will get some.

Of course, the fact is, if you don’t have a great book with an awesome cover and an enticing blurb, your book won’t sell well enough to get visibility. So doing all that is a given. But on the bright side? If you do all that well, and your book sales slowly improve, it’s really hard to lose visibility. Amazon’s algorithms have a long tail, meaning they take into account past sales to a fairly large degree. If your book sales grow organically, you’ll be hard to displace by someone else who, say, has a 99¢ book promo and sells a tons of copies over a few days.

3) Don’t Sweat the 30 Day Sales Cliff

I mentioned this is my one month post, the idea that sales drop off a cliff after thirty days. I suppose it must be true for some authors otherwise the myth wouldn’t exist, but the only reason I can think of must be that for these folks, their only real visibility on Amazon comes from the Hot New Releases list, which lasts for thirty days. But if your only visibility comes from those lists, chances are you’re probably not selling particularly well anyway.

Once more, with feeling: visibility is key. Find a category, somewhere, where you’ll get some—just be sure that category really is a fit for your book, otherwise readers will be upset with you.

4) It’s True What They say About Book Two

There’s an adage that nothing sells book one like book two, and even with a book like Red Hot Steele that had quite a bit of success early on, this has been absolutely true. It took Red Hot Steele two months to reach the #1 spot on its first Amazon list. It took Cold Hard Steele a week to do the same. They were even both #1 on separate lists at the same time. Still are, in fact. And the release of Cold Hard Steele boosted Red Hot Steele, which had been flagging slightly, higher on the Amazon best-sellers lists than it had ever been.

RHS and CHS Both #1
What’s better than an Amazon #1 bestseller? Two, of course.

 

The fact of the matter is, people love series, but many people aren’t willing to dive in until there are multiple books available. For one thing, you need to convince people that you’re not a one shot wonder—that you really will write a book two and a book three, and that they’ll hold up to the first. And people love to binge read. When was the last time you read a great book one and immediately bought the rest of that series?

So don’t worry if your book doesn’t take off right away. It might be frustrating, but there’s time. Each book you release will help the profile of the ones before it, which brings me to my last point.

5) The Launch Doesn’t Matter

It may be hard to convince yourself of this point if you release a book into the wild and it bombs, but it’s true. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s great if you can have a successful launch. You should try and drum up support for your book by any means possible: through social media, by sending an e-mail blast to your mailing list (you have one, right?), and by talking to people in person (a time forgotten art, I know).

But even if you don’t sell any books right away, remind yourself: it doesn’t matter. In this day and age, with e-books and print on demand, your book is eternal. There is no such thing as a new book—just a book that a reader hasn’t read yet. You have all the time in the world. So sit back, relax, work on your craft, write another book, one that’s better than your last, and hope that somewhere along the line, people start buying your stuff.

Well, that’s all I’ve got. Hope it was of use to you. If you have any questions for me, please feel free to start up a conversation in the comments.