Posts Categorized: Publishing/marketing

Dragons, dragons everywhere!

December 16, 2017 Brightmoon world, News, Publishing/marketing, The Dragon Caller, The Dragon's Egg 0

I’m awash with dragons just now. First of all, I’m thrilled to tell you that the 9th book set in the Brightmoon world, The Dragon Caller, is out in the world and ready for you to read. You can buy it for just $2.99, but if you have a subscription to Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Prime, you can borrow it for free. What’s it about? Ruell is a young man obsessed with dragons, Garrett is his seen-it-all-before warrior dad and there’s a whole bunch of pissed-off dragons heading their way. Click the image to buy or borrow.

As if that isn’t enough, book 6 of the series, The Dragon’s Egg, is currently FREE for just a few days. This is also about Garrett, set about 13 years before The Dragon Caller. The two books can be read independently of each other, but if you read them both, it works better to read The Dragon’s Egg first. Click the image to buy or borrow.

And if you want even more bargains, book 1 of the series, The Plains of Kallanash is just 99c, and for a short time you can pick up The Fire Mages Collection (books 2, 5 and 7 – 1200 pages of epic fantasy reading) for just 99c. So this is a great time to fill in any gaps in your Brightmoon library. Enjoy!

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New release (and other Brightmoon news)

June 22, 2017 Findo Gask's Apprentice, News, Publishing/marketing 0

I’m delighted to tell you that the 8th book in the Brightmoon world, Findo Gask’s Apprentice, is now available. You can buy it at the special new-release price of just 99c, or borrow for FREE with your subscription to Kindle Unlimited or Prime. Click the Buy! button above to buy or borrow from your local Amazon, or click here for more information about the story.

I had so much fun writing this book (dragons at last!), and I’m thrilled to share it with you. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Watch out for The Dragon Caller in the autumn (and yes, there’ll be even more dragons!).

Other deals coming up soon…

To celebrate the release of Findo Gask’s Apprentice, I’ve got discounts on some of the other books in the series coming up, too. Here’s a list, so make a note in your diary if there are any Brightmoon books you haven’t read yet:

The Fire Mages: FREE NOW until Sun 25 June

The Dragon’s Egg: 99c on Sat 1- Sun 2 July

The Fire Mages: FREE again Sun 16-Wed 19 July

And don’t forget that The Plains of Kallanash is always just 99c.

And in other news…

The May giveaway is over – thank you for all your entries. I’ve loved finding out who your favourite characters are. Most popular was… the dragon! No surprise there, but votes were also received for Garrett, Kyra, Drina, Ly-haam, Allandra and Drusinaar. Congratulations to winners Jane Woods, Suzanne Swift, Maria Janney, Renee Mergott, N Carroll and Anne Monteith.

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More new covers, and a competition for 50+ books

March 25, 2017 General, Publishing/marketing 2

More Brightmoon covers

Here are some more stunning new covers from Deranged Doctor Design. The changeover has begun with the first three books, so just for a while you’ll see both the old and new covers around – it’s not easy updating paperback and ebook covers all at the same time, when there are seven books in the series so far!

And a great competition

I’ve joined up with 50 other fantasy authors to offer you the chance to win an amazing collection of books AND a Kindle Fire! The Fire Mages is in there, plus books from some fantastic authors, like Michael J Sullivan, Intisar Khanani, D K Holmberg, Michael Ploof and lots more. One lucky person will win a Kindle Fire and a copy of every book shown, and a second winner will get all the books. Click the image to enter the competition.

Not read The Magic Mines of Asharim yet?

Then make a note in your diary to pick up a copy on Monday 27th March, when it will be FREE for the first time ever. It’s perhaps my least-read book, but I love the characters of Allandra, Xando and Zak, and their sweeping adventure across the northern end of the Plains of Kallanash, which takes them from the inhospitable Sky Mountains (home of those magic mines), through the decaying canals of the Two Rivers Basin, to the faded glory of Mesanthia and finally to the warrior culture of Hurk Hranda. Enjoy!

And finally…

News of the next book in the Brightmoon world: Findo Gask’s Apprentice is finished! It weighs in at 126K words, the second shortest of my books so far, just a bit longer than The Dragon’s Egg, and about twice as long as an average mainstream novel. Now it rests for a while, and then the process of editing and polishing ready for publication begins. I hope to publish it in June or July, but if it takes longer, so be it.

However, I’ll be posting excerpts over the next few weeks to whet your appetite. The main character is new, but there are some very familiar faces putting in an appearance, both from The Magic Mines of Asharim and from The Plains of Kallanash, so for anyone who was wondering how Mia, Hurst and Dethin were getting on, you will soon find out!

Next month I start work on the ninth book in the Brightmoon world, The Dragon Caller, featuring Garrett and his son Ruell from The Dragon’s Egg. And lots of dragons! With luck, that might be out this year. So many stories to tell, so little time. Happy reading!

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2016 review: Part 1: Publishing

January 4, 2017 Publishing/marketing 0

Inspired by Chris Fox’s discussion of his 2016 self-publishing financials {link below}, I thought it would be interesting to have a look at mine, which are on a much smaller scale but perhaps more typical of small-time self-pubbers. I’ve never had a wildly successful book, but they chug along bringing in income every day.

To start with, let me recap my self-pubbing career to date. I published my first epic fantasy book in September 2014, and by the end of that year, I’d made royalties of $263. Sadly, my accumulated expenses at that point were $4,000. It can be expensive self-publishing; I spent money on top quality covers, professional proofreading and paperback copies, as well as a number of books and software to help improve my writing, but virtually no promotion at that point.

In 2015 I did rather better. I published three more epic fantasies, and made $12,800 royalties from sales and borrows/pages read under the Kindle Unlimited subscription scheme. That looks good, but expenses that year were $6,800 (which included a new writing computer), so, combined with the $4,000 debt carried forward, I made virtually no profit.

And so on to 2016. This year was a bit different. I released another three epic fantasies, making seven in all, although the release program is going to be slower in future. I also had a new project – Regency romance, in the style of Georgette Heyer. Short, light, fluffy and quick to write, I published four and a companion novella from June to November, and the last two in the series are ready to go next year. So seven books published this year, which finally put me into decent profit. Hooray!

Let’s look at income first:

 

FANTASIES: ROYALTIES:
F #1 3600
F #2 5200
F #3 2800
F #4 2800
F #5 (Jan) 5000
F #6 (May) 5800
F #7 (Sep) 1200
TOTAL: $26,400
REGENCIES:
R #1 (Jun) 2600
R #2 (Jul) 2200
R #3 (Sep) 1800
R #4 (Nov) 750
TOTAL: $7,300
TOTAL ALL BOOKS: $33,700

 

Which sounds good, doesn’t it? Until you take off expenses:

 

EXPENSE: COST:
Covers, betareading, proofreading 2900
Print books, formatting 1900
Amazon ads 1800
Other promo 2700
Hardware (new desktop computer!) 1600
Software, subscriptions, books 640
Website 132
Tax (estimated) 4400
TOTAL EXPENSES: $16,000

 

So (tada!):

NET PROFIT: $17,700

This is quite a comfortable profit for me. I’m not a full-time author, nor aiming to be, so I don’t need to stretch for every last cent or try to minimise my expenses. In 2015, my royalties bought my new writing-only computer, and in 2016 they paid for an upgrade to my desktop system, which is where I do all my editing, website maintenance, planning and admin. I don’t charge anything for a home office, since I can write pretty much anywhere, and I don’t claim general computer software (like Word or my finances program or my broadband connection, because I use them for mostly non-writing things). I do claim for anything that’s purely book-related, like BookReport (which analyses my Amazon sales numbers), the awesome brain.fm (music designed to help with focus while writing) and the costs of the two websites I have (one for each pen name).

For 2017, I’m hoping to publish a couple more epic fantasies, plus perhaps four Regency romances, which (if it comes off) would give me 17 books. I expect the royalties to increase, but there’s no knowing how changes within Amazon might affect that. There have been changes these past few months that have seen some authors lose huge swathes of revenue from books within the KU borrows system. I haven’t been affected by that, as far as I can tell, but some little tweak deep in the Amazon basement could knock my royalties for six at any moment. So, fingers crossed for a good year and nothing untoward happening.

For comparison, you can read Chris’s (somewhat bigger) numbers here. For anyone who can’t watch the video, the basic numbers are: gross earnings $170,000; expenses plus tax set-aside $100,000; net take-home $70,000.

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Now out! ‘The Second God’

September 24, 2016 Publishing/marketing, The Fire Mages, The Fire Mages' Daughter, The Second God 0

Yes, folks, the story that started in The Fire Mages and continued a generation later in The Fire Mages’ Daughter now reaches its dramatic conclusion, as Drina and the two men in her life, Ly-haam and Arran, are forced to make difficult and dangerous choices to defend their country from new threats.

The Second God is currently just $2.99 for a short time, and The Fire Mages’ Daughter is just $0.99. If you’d like to pick up a copy of The Fire Mages too, hold off until 3rd October, when it will be FREE. All these discounts are available worldwide for the Kindle. If you have a subscription to Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Prime, you can borrow all three books free. You can also buy the books in paperback, and download the ebook free of charge. Click the cover image to be taken to your local Amazon.

Here’s the blurb for The Second God:

Rival gods at war. Mind-bonded giant beasts. A fanatical golden army. Dangerous blood magic.

secondgodcover2500After The Fire Mages and The Fire Mages’ Daughter, the dramatic conclusion to the story…

It’s been five years since the war with the fearsome Blood Clans, whose giant bonded beasts almost destroyed Bennamore. Now the tenuous peace is being put to the test.

Drina’s prisoner-husband and Blood Clan god, Ly-haam, is challenged by the emergence of a second living god.

Drina’s lover, Arran, is vulnerable to flattery from the ambitious fringes of the ruler’s court, but his weakness could endanger many lives.

Meanwhile, on the southern Plains of Kallanash, a new force is arising from the chaos of the Karningplain — a vast golden army, raised in ferocious discipline, and fanatical followers of another kind of god, who is determined to spread his power into an empire, and will let nothing stand in his way.

To combat the threat to Bennamore and its allies, Drina, Arran and Ly-haam must set aside their personal differences and combine their talents in a uniquely dangerous way which will test their heroism to its limits. How much will they have to sacrifice to save their country?

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Starting all over again: new book, new genre, new pen-name

July 6, 2016 Publishing/marketing, Regency romances, The Dragon's Egg, The Fire Mages, The Plains of Kallanash 0

When I first became a self-published author, I was right at the very bottom of the pecking order, in author terms. I had no previous published history with a major or independent publisher. I’d never had a short story published in a magazine. I had no fanbase, no mailing list, and my blog had maybe three people following along. I’d hung around the forum at Kboards (the Writers’ Cafe), for a while, so I knew a little bit about starting out. I knew enough to get a professional quality cover, for instance, although not enough to know what sort of cover was needed (luckily, my cover designer did, and came up with a great set of well-branded and striking covers). I knew to have other eyes look at my work before tossing it up on Amazon. I paid a proofreader to tidy up my wayward punctuation.

The-Plains-of-Kallanash-160But there was so much more that I didn’t know — about promotion and launch strategies and hitting the tropes of your genre right on the nose. The result was that my first book, The Plains of Kallanash, pretty much fell flat on its face. A few kind online friends from my critique group and forums bought copies, and after that — crickets. I sold 50+ the first month. The second month? 4 copies. The third month, 4 again. But by the fourth month, I’d discovered promotion, and I sold 68 books. In the fifth month I released The Fire Mages with a ten day promotion campaign and sold 428 books. Borrows were beginning to show up, too, through Amazon’s subscription service, Kindle Unlimited. After that, each new book increased the overall level of sales. DragonsEgg160My sixth book, The Dragon’s Egg, was published at the beginning of May and that month saw combined sales and (estimated) borrows of around 1,000 copies overall. These are far from being order-the-yacht numbers, but the books have earned more than they’ve cost, and continue to earn month after month.

New girl at school

So then, on 28th June, I released a new book. Not just a new title, but new genre, new pen name, new everything. It feels a little like starting at a new school, where everything is different, I don’t know my way around and nobody knows me. I have no fanbase, no mailing list and a brand new website that no one ever visits. No one is out there saying, “Oh look, a new Mary Kingswood book.”

But I do have one huge advantage — the experience gained from publishing the fantasies. I know a lot more about covers and branding and genre expectations, and I had more input on the design this time. I’m more comfortable with my own editing skills, so I’ve skipped the  proofreader (although I’m really nervous about this!). I know that having other eyes look at the book before release is essential, though, so I haven’t skipped this stage. I know that, without a mailing list or fanbase, I need heavy promotion to make the book visible.

Keeping costs down

One aspect that was important to me this time was keeping expenses under control. With the fantasies, I was quite happy to pay whatever it took to ensure that the book was presented to the world as professionally as possible. I hired a top-quality cover designer. For some of the books, I paid for professional beta readers. I bought my own ISBNs and published paperbacks — which turned out to be a huge financial drain, given the number of copies I gave away to friends and family, copies sent to six national libraries (a UK legal requirement) and the shipping costs from the US. The biggest expense was my proofreader, since my fantasies are stupidly long, although she was worth every single penny.

But it took me almost eighteen months to earn enough to cover all those costs and, frankly, I got very twitchy about it. I know a lot more now about writing, editing and publishing, I know what I can and can’t do for myself, so I made the decision to keep the costs for the new series as low as possible. I still needed good covers (I am artistically incompetent, so doing them myself wasn’t an option), but I opted for a less famous cover designer, who did a great job at half the price. I crossed my fingers and did my own proofreading. And there will be no paperbacks for these books, at least until they’ve earned enough to cover the cost.

Release strategy

I don’t need this book to do spectacularly. It’s the first in a series, and I don’t expect to sell many until books 2 and 3 are out. So the launch was deliberately planned to be low-key, full-price, with only a couple of days of modest promotion just after launch to get things off the ground. Then a bigger push for book 2, and all out for book 3. So I put the first three books up on pre-order at $2.99 for release in July, August and September.

At that point, I discovered that romance fans don’t really do pre-order. Oops. The first book dropped to a rank of 650K, and the second was beyond a million! The third book didn’t get a single pre-order, so it had no rank at all. But one of the advantages of self-publishing is flexibility – I brought the release of book 1 forward, to 28th June.

What happened?

It had 11 pre-orders, and after five days had a dozen more sales and 5,000 pages read (equivalent to more than 16 full read-throughs). The rank bobbed around between 15K and 25K, it had just one review, and a good array of also vieweds from the start, but no also boughts. That’s not bad, but it’s not enough to bring in more reviews, mailing list signups or pre-orders for the later books, and the rank was already dropping. The planned promotion was still three weeks away, and the pre-order for book 2 was now six weeks away. I don’t need the book to trouble the bestseller lists, but I do need to keep it from disappearing into oblivion.

So I made the decision to reduce the price to 99c for a few days. Sales increased six-fold and pages read more or less doubled. The increased sales triggered the all-important also-boughts. I’ve already made the decision to keep the 99c price for a few more days.

So what have I learnt?

1) Don’t bother with pre-orders unless you already have a fanbase waiting. Especially, don’t bother with long pre-orders. What I should have done is a short pre-order on book 1, with book 2 set to drop a month later. Book 3 would only go on pre-order when book 2 goes live. I do think the multiple pre-orders help to encourage sales – at least readers know that the rest of the series is on the way.

2) 99c is a powerful incentive. I know a lot of people swear by a 99c launch, and for a big splash that’s a great idea. I wasn’t aiming for that, so I’m happy with the full-price launch, using 99c and free as short-term promotion-only prices.

3) Having no fanbase, and therefore no ARC readers, has really hurt reviews. So far, a week in, I have one review on Amazon.com and one on Amazon.co.uk. I’d got used to a mini-flurry of reviews just after release, so the suspense is killing me!

4) Romance is different. Borrows on the fantasy books run at about 2-to-1 over sales (as best I can tell), but for the romance, borrows are more like 3-to-1. And when the price drops, both sales and borrows go UP (unlike the fantasies, where a lower price increases sales but reduces borrows).

All of this has been a salutary lesson – branching out into a new genre means starting again from the bottom. I shall experiment with 99c and free promotions, and I’ll probably bring forward the release dates of books 2 and 3 to avoid a lengthy spell in the telephone number rankings, but I can’t cancel the pre-orders now without a penalty from Amazon. And next time, maybe I’ll get it right!

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Launch report: book 5, ‘The Fire Mages’ Daughter’

February 23, 2016 Publishing/marketing, The Fire Mages' Daughter 0

The strategy:

After The Fire Mages and The Mages of Bennamore took off rather well, thanks to some paid promotion, The Magic Mines of Asharim, released in September 2015, was less successful. It sold during the promotion, but sales died away straight afterwards. But there were two bright spots: borrows through Kindle Unlimited were high, and emails sent out by Amazon to ‘followers’ produced a bump of around 80 extra sales. Both of these were independent of any promotion by me.

So for The Fire Mages’ Daughter I took the risky step of launching on 15th January 2016 without any paid promotion at all. Since it’s a sequel to The Fire Mages, I made that book 99c for the whole of January, and kept the new book at $2.99; that way readers could pick up both books for the usual list price of $3.99. Then I told my mailing list, blog and social media, and sat back and awaited the crash.

What actually happened:

 A splurge of sales over the first few days, which then died away. But borrows were good, as expected. And then Amazon jumped in and started sending out those emails to followers. The result was my best month ever in sales and in revenue. I estimate that those emails brought me an extra 450 sales, plus an unknown number of borrows from the increased visibility. The tail from that is still going on, in the form of sales still well higher than before the new release.

One interesting aspect, for me, was that both The Fire Mages and The Fire Mages’ Daughter sold well, so obviously a lot of people picked up both books. Since The Fire Mages has been my biggest seller by far, I’d expected that most people would already have it. But apparently not. And for some unfathomable reason my ugly duckling book, The Plains of Kallanash, which has never sold terribly well, also shifted far more copies than expected. Now, after five weeks, I’m seeing more sell-through to the other two books.

Conclusions:

The power of Amazon to shift books is awesome. Who would have thought that small-fry like me would have so many followers? And Kindle Unlimited has also done very well for me, partly because my books are so long. For my next release, I’m going to experiment further – not just no paid promotion, but no pre-order either. As my mailing list builds up, I’m hoping to make a bigger splash at launch, and hope for some uplift from Amazon’s algorithms.

All the numbers:

Before release:

A typical week before the new release would be 20 sales spread over all 4 books, and 40K pages read. There were 257 pre-orders (not included in sales numbers below).

Week 1:
Book 5: 99 sales, 30K pages read
Total for all books: 237 sales, 68K pages read.

Week 2:
Book 5: 88 sales, 39K pages read
Total for all books: 259 sales, 95K pages read.

Week 3:
Book 5: 51 sales, 28K pages read
Total for all books: 150 sales, 87K pages read.

Week 4:
Book 5: 37 sales, 20K pages read
Total for all books: 90 sales, 51K pages read.

Week 5:

Book 5: 31 sales, 15K pages read
Total for all books: 78 sales, 47K pages read

Grand totals for first 5 weeks:

Book 5: 306 sales, 132K pages read
Total for all books: 814 sales, 348K pages read
Total sales including pre-orders: 1071

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Writing to market: or, can I make money self-publishing?

February 21, 2016 Publishing/marketing, Writing musings 0

There’s a lot of discussion amongst authors about whether it’s possible to make any money from writing books. Pundits suck their teeth and shake their heads and stroke their chins in gloom. Typical advances for a deal with a traditional publisher are only a few thousand, we hear, even if you’re lucky enough to get any offer at all. The average book sells only 500 copies, ever. Even modest successes sell only a few thousand in the book’s lifetime.

So self-publishing is the way to go, right? That lovely 70% royalty that Amazon offers – there must be money to made there, surely. More chin-stroking and tut-tutting ensues. Self-publishers, they’ll tell you, fight for visibility in the vast, shark-infested ocean of Amazon and what about average sales of a self-published book? Just 100. Ever. The classic advice is: think of it as a hobby.

Well, rubbish. Can you make money self-publishing? Yes. You can. Unequivocally.

But…

Ah, you knew there’d be a but, didn’t you? There’s always a catch. Well, it’s not really a catch, so much as a couple of rules. Or maybe guidelines. Here they are:

1) Write something that people want to read

Well, duh! Talk about stating the obvious. Of course you have to write something that people want to read. If you craft poetry in iambic pentameter, your audience is necessarily going to be limited. If you put forth your highly original genre-mashup, you may well find the world isn’t quite ready for you yet. But how many readers are looking for another Harry Potter? Or Twilight? Or {insert bestseller here}? Must be millions, and that’s exactly what the big publishers are looking for, too – something that will sell a lot.

However, you’d be surprised how often an author’s first novel isn’t aimed at any particular reader. It’s the story that’s been burning inside the author’s brain for months or years, the one that has to be told, that won’t let up until it’s transcribed to paper for all eternity. It’s the one the author most wants to read herself, probably because she can’t find anything quite like it in bookstores. And that’s absolutely fine. However unusual it is, there are bound to be a few readers out there waiting for something just like it to happen along.

Just not very many. Sometimes an author just happens to hit a home run at the first attempt even without aiming at Harry Potter fans, but it’s extremely rare. As a rule of thumb, assume your magnum opus isn’t in this category.

So if you want to make money, whether it’s a comfortable income so you can give up the day job, a little extra to pay for a new car, or just enough to cover your publishing costs, your readership has to be more focused, and you have to give them what they want to read. What a lot of them want to read.

2) Publish often

This is where traditional publishing veers away from the indie brigade. With a trad deal, one book a year is the norm, and each book takes a year or two, maybe more, to reach the point of publication, even after the manuscript has been handed over. But that’s fine, because a committed publisher will drum up loads of publicity for each new release, so an author doesn’t have to worry about readers forgetting all about him.

But for indies, visibility is key, and one of the best ways to increase visibility is to release another book. And then another. If you could publish a book every month, you’d always have one in that honeymoon new-release phase. Even for notoriously slow-release genres like epic fantasy, two or even three books a year is a good idea to keep the pot boiling.

But… but… but… I hear you saying. But I can’t possibly do that! I have to polish every word until it’s perfect. I have to give it a thorough editing. I have to plan and plot and outline and develop my characters and then there’s all that world-building… If I write fast, it can’t possibly be any good, can it?

Ah, the quality issue. Here’s the thing. If you want to write exquisite prose, feel free to do that, even if it takes you ten years to produce something that satisfies you. But if you only aspire to prose that’s good enough to carry the story without being breathtaking, you can do that in a lot less than ten years. And experience counts for a great deal; each book will be finished a little bit quicker than the previous one, as you hone your craft and perfect your methods.

The solution: writing to market, and writing fast

For anyone who’s serious about making significant money from self-publishing, there are techniques that will make that outcome more likely. There are no guarantees, of course, but if you write to market, and write fast, you greatly increase the odds of a good income from your books. Writing to market means analysing the bestseller lists in your genre and identifying the key tropes (or storytelling conventions) in them. Then you write a book that sticks very closely to those tropes, package it in a similar way to the bestsellers and send it on its way. And then repeat, since a series is more effective than stand-alones. Writing fast means exactly that: increase your productivity. The fastest authors can write 10,000 words a day or more, which means producing a novel a week. But even 1,000 words a day will result in a 60,000 word novel in two months – that’s six books a year.

If you want all the detail of how to do this, author Chris Fox has published some books to help. 5,000 Words Per Hour will help increase writing speed, and Write To Market explains how to analyse the bestseller lists and target your book at a specific (but large!) audience. And Chris isn’t just talking about it: he’s currently committed to writing a novel in just 21 days, and documenting every step of it on video, starting today (Sunday 21st February 2016). You can follow along from Chris’s website here.

 

And there’s still the slow but steady approach

For those who don’t want to go the full-on writing-to-market way, it’s still possible to build a profitable self-publishing career. It may take longer, but it can be done. I don’t have the ability to analyse tropes, or to write to them even if I could, so I’m stuck with writing what I like and hoping it will fly, but I can still make sure I have genre-appropriate covers and blurbs, for example. And categories. When I released my first book, I mistakenly labelled it as romance. Now, it has a romantic element, it’s true, but it’s not something that a romance reader would expect, at all. And when I had a promotion that got it up into some sub-genre bestseller lists, it felt very uncomfortable to see it lurking amongst all the werewolves and half-naked men. So I took it out of the romance categories.

As for writing speed, this is something that generally improves with time and experience, but I’ve also been making a concerted effort to increase my productivity. I used to think 1,000 words in a day was a good effort; now I aim for 1,500-2,000. How do I manage it? One of the tips in Chris’s 5,000 Words Per Hour book is to write in short bursts, or sprints. You plan ahead what you’re going to write, and then you sit down and write it, fast, without thinking too much about it. I’m not much of a planner, and I can’t switch off the editing side of my brain as I write, but the idea of short sprints appeals to me. So I’ll set a kitchen timer and write for 15 minutes or half an hour between chores. To facilitate that, I bought a hybrid laptop/tablet to cart around the house with me, so I can stop and write wherever I am. There’s never a point now where I think: I haven’t time to write a few lines. I can always find time.

The other trick I’m trying is to write shorter books. My first book was 220K words, or enough for a complete trilogy (which is probably what I should have done with it). Then 151K, 157K, 164K and 137K. The next book, The Dragon’s Egg, weighs in at only 100K words, much leaner. And the Regencies I’m working on will be around 50-60K words apiece.

With an approach like this, it’s possible to write and publish at least three books a year. That’s enough to build a solid backlist that, even if nothing makes bestseller status, will still bring in a comfortable income.

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‘The Fire Mages’ Daughter’: now available!

January 16, 2016 Publishing/marketing, The Fire Mages' Daughter 0

Great news! The latest book set in the Brightmoon world,The Fire Mages’ Daughter, is now available for purchase from all Amazons at a special introductory price. If you pre-ordered – thank you! The book should already be available on your device. If not, you can:

Buy for Kindle or your phone, tablet or whatever for just $0.99 or equivalent, or

Buy the paperback for $10.99 or equivalent (and download the Kindle version free), or

Download for free if you have a subscription to Kindle Unlimited or Prime.

Click the Buy! button for a link to take you direct to your local Amazon. This special low price will only be available for this weekend, and the price will rise to $2.99 or equivalent on Monday 18th, so be sure to tell all your friends about the deal.

Although this book can be read independently, it is best enjoyed after The Fire Mages, which you can also buy for the special price of $0.99 or equivalent. This price will last until the end of January.

I hope you enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoyed writing it! When you’ve finished, it would be wonderful if you could write a review on Amazon, Goodreads or your blog, to help other readers decide if they would like it. Thank you! And if you have any comments or questions, do feel free to email me. I’d love to hear from you!

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2016 strategy part 2: launches and promotions

January 7, 2016 General, Publishing/marketing, Writing musings 0

I talked in part 1 about my writing and publishing career to date, and my writing plans for 2016. This time, I want to talk about the other half of the writing/publishing equation, which is launching and promotion, or telling the world your books exist.

There’s a lot of talk about marketing strategies and building a platform and the value of blog tours or Facebook boosts or whatever. However, the only truly effective measure I’ve found has been paid promotion via mailing list sites. The most effective ones included Ereader News Today, One Hundred Free Books, Book Barbarian, Robin Reads, FreeBooksy/BargainBooksy, Booksends and Free Kindle Books and Tips. Both discounted books (setting the price to 99c) and free worked well.

Having a mailing list is reputed to be a good way to boost a new book launch, by setting the book to a special low price for a day or two, and telling your mailing list about the deal. Some people expand their mailing list by offering a free book as an inducement to sign up, but this results in lower engagement from the list. I’ve allowed my mailing list to grow organically, through links at the end of each book and on the website, so my list is still small, but one day I hope to have enough readers signed up to be able to launch a book with no promotion other than a single email to the mailing list.

Another long-term strategy is the obvious one: write more books! With only one book out, a reader who enjoys it has nowhere else to go, but if there are several, there’s a good chance of readers moving on to devour the whole set, one after the other. I’ve noticed a definite increase in baseline sales and borrows, now that I have four (soon to be five) books out. That increase is something that will likely continue into the future, so long as I can write and publish at a steady and not too infrequent rate.

There are other promotion strategies that might help, but at a much smaller scale. Blogging, social media engagement, soliciting reviews from bloggers – these get an author’s name out there, and may result in a few sales, but I don’t recommend spending a lot of time on any of these unless you happen to enjoy them. And don’t let them eat into the writing time.

Launch strategies

For my first published book, I had no clue about marketing or promotion, so I basically didn’t do any! Sales were low in consequence. For the second book, I splurged rather at the time of the launch, and that worked very well. It worked even better for the third book. It began to look as if I’d worked out a successful launch strategy. Nowhere near bestseller status, but enough to bring in steady sales.

But for the fourth book, the same technique was a flop. While the book was cheap and being promoted, it sold pretty well, but as soon as promotion ended and the price went up, sales dropped away. The long post-promotion tail from the previous books just wasn’t there.

Partly, this is the result of Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s subscription borrowing service, which changed the landscape fundamentally. If a reader is paying $9.99 a month to read as many books as they like, they’re bound to be less inclined to buy books. And the most voracious readers, those who once would have bought the most books, are now in KU. As soon as the fourth book was launched, pages read surged, and stayed high for the whole of the first month, while the book was featured on Amazon’s Hot New Releases lists. And that was unaffected by promotions.

The other significant factor is Amazon’s new policy of encouraging readers to ‘follow’ an author if they liked her/his books. When there’s a new release, Amazon will send out an email telling those followers about it. That can result in a surge of sales – at full price! – some time after release. My fourth book saw some 80 additional sales as a result, which absolutely astonished me. I would never have suspected I had so many followers. And again, this is unaffected by promotions.

The no-promo launch

So for the fifth release, on 15th January, I’ve decided to change tack experimentally. The book has been on pre-order for three months, and has 200+ pre-orders now, all at 99c. I’ll keep it cheap for a couple of days, so that my mailing list and blog followers have a chance to pick up a bargain if they didn’t pre-order, and after that it goes to full price. However, since this is my first sequel, it will be only $2.99 and the previous book in the sequence will be only 99c for the first month or so.

And there will be NO PROMO. This is the really edgy part, for me. Will it sink like a stone? Will it flap its wings for a couple of days and then crash land? Or will it actually stick a little better, because of the higher price point? Whatever it does, I expect to see two certain outcomes: 1) an increase in pages read as soon as the book is released; and 2) assuming Amazon sends out its oh-so-helpful email again, a bump in sales after a couple of weeks. I’m hoping that this will be enough to keep things afloat for a while. After the first month, I’ll re-evaluate, and perhaps organise some promo if needed.

The no pre-orders launch

For the following book, my sixth, which I hope to release in May, I’ll try a different strategy again – no pre-orders. I hope this will encourage readers who like the books to sign up for my mailing list. It seems to be an either/or thing: readers either pre-order the next book or they sign up to the mailing list. Either works as a way of finding out about the next book, but the mailing list brings in potential customers for every new book, not just one.

Pre-orders have worked very well for me, especially the long-running ones, which have kept the book constantly in the Hot New Releases lists, even with only 2-3 pre-orders per day. It does dilute the impact of the launch, though, since many guaranteed customers have already bought the book. But I’ve found an unexpected bonus to pre-orders: because they keep the book visible for several weeks or months before launch, and the price is low, I get pre-orders from people who haven’t read the other books. When the new book is released, there’s a little spike of follow-on sales of all the earlier books. So, swings and roundabouts.

But this business is all about experimenting, so I’m going to try launching a book without pre-orders for the first time ever, just to see what happens.

The bang-bang-bang launch

For my Regency romances, I intend to try something very different, but a technique that’s well-tested by others, and is known to work well. This will be a series, probably of six books, but I could stop after four or take it further than six if I want to. They’re shorter than my epic fantasy – I’m aiming for 50,000 words apiece, whereas the fantasy is typically 140,000 words or more. Because they’re shorter and, individually at least, less complicated, I should be able to complete each one in 2-3 months. However, rather than publish as I go, I plan to stack them up until I have at least four ready to go, then release them a month apart.

Why? The idea is to take advantage of Amazon’s 30-day grace period wherein new books reside on the Hot New Releases list and get a ton of exposure. So, release one, then 30 days later, release another before the first has quite shot its bolt. That way, the series stays in the limelight for as long as possible. Of course, this also allows me to weave a number of long-running sub-plots into the mix, which will meander through the whole series. It’s not so easy to do that if the early books are already out.

On building a career

There’s a school of thought that says a book has to hit the stratosphere just after launch or else it’s sunk. I don’t entirely agree with that. I’ve seen authors whose careers gradually built over two or three years or more, and I’ve seen individual books revived by a timely promotion, which went on to sell very well. So I’m not overly concerned about a launch that’s less than stellar, or (for the Regencies) a series that doesn’t take off immediately.

To me, the important factor is to produce books that I enjoy writing, and to minimise the stress and pressure of self-publishing. It’s very easy to get swept up into the gotta-get-another-book-out fever. Well, blow that. I’m having fun here, and I’m happy to take things at my own pace, which is faster than some but slower than many.

Expectations for 2016? No expectations. Hopes, maybe. I hope to publish three fantasy books this year, and the first of the Regency romances. I hope sales and borrows continue to rise, month on month, and year on year. I hope readers continue to find the books and that some of them at least, find my style of storytelling to their liking.

And I hope that the writing and publishing continues to be so much fun. I’m having an absolute blast.

Have a good 2016, everyone.

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