Lessons in Writing: New Authors

It’s hard being a new author; most authors will confirm. You just finished your first manuscript, polished it fervently until it shine and sparkles (metaphorically), and it’s the nearest and dearest thing to your heart next to friends, pets and family. But when you enter the industry, you find yourself surrounded by honed veterans with tens and hundreds of manuscripts to their names.

Suddenly, your one little manuscript doesn’t seem so valuable anymore. It’s like having an old dog; it may not be the cutest thing, but its yours, and you want from the world is for them to see how special it is. Yet, you have no idea how much attention is sufficient, and how far you need to go before feeling satisfied.

My experiment

coveralmsh3

After a month of swimming through the writing industry, I was able to sell a little more than 400 copies of my book,  The Almshouse. (I did not hit my 500th sale until 3 days after my 1-month anniversary.) I managed to shove it onto the top of the Hot New Releases list for my genre. At its best, it was ranked 3,000-something in Amazon’s paid rankings, and currently it has 19 reviews. Without ads, it sells ~ 5-9 copies a day.

I had no idea what to make of these numbers until last week.

Earlier last week, I was curious as to whether the behavior behind sales for The Almshouse was standard, so I launched an old manuscript under a different pen name. (We’ll call this New Story.) I did the same thing for New Story as I did for The Almshouse, including advertising through all of the channels I’ve listed below in “Ads” and “More Ads” and discounting this new book at $0.99. The result…

I sold 5 copies in 7 days.

It was pretty bad. The gentleman who ran BKnights even offered me a refund because of the abysmal sales. (I still consider him one of the best promotional source; I’m just amused that even he had a hard time peddling New Story.) Regardless of how hard I try to imitate my approach to marketing The Almshouse, New Story simply refused to sell. After 7 ads, most of which were free or cheap, nothing worked for New Story. In the end, I was satisfied with my experiment, and a little prouder of my first book.

The rest of this entry is just a summary of the lessons I’ve learned this past month, but have yet to write down.

1. The first manuscript usually sucks more than the author realizes:
When I started writing ten years ago, I was an idiotic, entitled teenager looking to get lucky. I spent 3 years writing and polishing my first manuscript, and thought it a unique work of literature that the world must see. I spent a year querying agents, got a 33% return rate in partial requests, only to have the blasted thing returned every time with a “not for me.” Frustrated, I complained to several friends that, if only the agents would give it a chance, they would see it was a bestseller. This manuscript is now known as New Story, and the only one who ended up eating her words was me.

2. Friends make decent guinea pigs:
The best thing I did was attempt to read my works out loud to friends. Your friends love you; they want you to succeed. They will do their best to listen to you gush about your novel. So… if your friends’ eyes are glazing over when you try to reach them your work, you know your story is boring, and if you can’t even keep the attention of your loved ones, it’s time to rewrite or give up on the thing.

3. Marketing early is not optional, and neither is math: Amazon does its rank calculation based on “# of units sold” divided by “# of days the book is on the market.”

This means, for every day you do not make a sale, your rank will drop. (This part is common knowledge.) BUT… this also means that, the later you make a sale, the less impact it will have on your ranking.

For example: no sales in 2 days and 3 on Day 3 = an average of 0,0, and 1 sale a day; this will result in an abysmal ranking for 2 days, and a slightly better ranking on Day 3. However, 3 sales on day 1 with no sales for 2 more days = 3, 1.5, and 1 sale a day; this will result in a much better ranking than the alternative.

4. Stick to one genre, the one you read the most: I have no idea why I tried to write a paranormal romantic comedy as a teenager.
I am not a romantic. I’m not even funny. And the most recent book I’ve read involving any sort of hanky-pankying was The Great Gatsby. Most authors have a tendency to write what they want to read, so when they present their books to the public, it’s to draw in everybody else that share their reading habits. If you don’t read romance (like I don’t read romance) you won’t be comfortable writing a “steaming? steamy?” scene about your hot princess or knight in shining armor.

5. Grow thick skin, the kind people get after tanning too long: 
Writing is not a competition, but that won’t stop some people from treating it like one. Unlike desk jobs (or in my case, law) there are trolls, and angry mobs, and even people with personal vendettas. If you read the writers forums, you’ll see some pretty interesting stories about readers giving reviews to the wrong book, or chefs getting 1-star reviews for their BBQ cookbooks from members of PETA. Remember: the reviewers mean less to the reviewers than the author. Don’t take anything one person says personally (yes, it’s easier said than done.) People read stories for different reasons. Some of them might be upset. Some of them might be drunk. Some of them might be rival authors. Just grit your teeth and ignore the reviews. Even Harry Potter has 1-star reviews (though goodness knows why.)

That’s all for now. This is just one person’s reflections. Feel free to take as much or as little to heart!

Story Updates: Nuts and Steel Rain

At the suggestion of a friend, I’m posting both of my manuscripts in progress for readers who are interested. They’re not fully edited, but I thought I could benefit from some readers’ feedback while I finish the manuscripts.
The first is Steel Rain. It’s set in modern day.

This is a sequel to The Almshouse; The Spirit World Series is set in the same world but follows different characters. The narrating voice also varies based on age and time period. This one follows Kathleen, a descendant of Julia’s family, as she herds spirits between worlds. Unfortunately, Kathleen’s weekly routine gets interrupted when a ghost from the 1960’s refuses to leave this world without her. He claims she’s his long lost fiancée, Katrina, but Kathleen is sure she is no one’s reincarnation. Can she find a way to force him to move on without leaving this world as well? And what is it about the real Katrina that he would mistake Kathleen for her?

nutsThe other is Nuts. This is a stand alone horror story set in the early 1970’s.

Nuts follows the story of Lucy Dane, a fifteen-year old girl who claims she can see ghosts. When a slip of the tongue in front of a renown psychiatrist lands her in Dover Hill Mental Hospital, Lucy stumbles across other patients not necessarily of this world. From the alleged oracles to the telepaths playing cards without cards, these people prove to Lucy that her powers do exist. But when the patients start dying one by one, Lucy must confront her own take on reality. Is she really the gifted medium she believe herself to be? Or is there a more nefarious, logical explanations to these mysterious deaths?

I’m hoping to finish at least one of these by the coming summer. Let me know what you think!

The Almshouse is FREE (today…I think)

As I was told by a friend, Amazon gave him a free copy of the first KUNG FU PANDA movie after he bought my book. Apparently the movie is free today with the purchase of eligible goods.

It seems The Almshouse is an eligible good. Funny, because it’s $0.99, and Amazon gives away $1 Amazon credit with each purchase.

coveralmsh3

How to get the movie for free:
1. Purchase The Almshouse for $0.99 HERE
2. You’ll get a code to redeem the first Kung Fu panda movie here HERE
3. You’ll get another voucher for $1 Amazon credit in your email.

Net cost: -$0.01…?

 

So… you make a cent??

The Almshouse

Silly me… I forgot to make a blog post about my own book. This is The Almshouse, a 1930’s ghost story mixed with a murder mystery.

coveralmsh3

Synopsis:

Come travel into the 1930’s and through the doors of St. Margaret’s School for Girls. The place used to be an almshouse, until its previous occupants burned to death thirteen years before. The townsfolk are at a loss as to what started the fire. Some said it was an act of the devil. Some said it was a resident who had too much to drink. The building, miraculously, survived.

When a bag of bones falls on twelve-year old Julia, she finds herself thrown into the spirit realm and face to face with house’s past residents. Her new neighbors aren’t so lively, and some can’t even remember their own names. But as Julia soon discovers, there’s more to these people than meets the eye. One of these ghosts is not like the others, and Julia must find out why someone had been cut from the town records.

Available for $0.99 until December 25, 2015 at:

Amazon Kindle

Coming to Nook and Apple iBooks on January 1, 2016

Lessons on Writing: Covers

I’ve learned that I like making book covers.

The Almshouse Neverland Lucinda on the Roof Rain

It’s relaxing, especially when I get stuck on my new manuscript or have reached my character-butchering limits for the day. As much as I like writing thrillers and horror, I try not to kill off more than a handful a day.

It started when I saw a fall in sales for my first book. I had just launched the thing, and already by the second day, I had half the number of sales as the day before. I ran off to consult established authors, and was told by many to change my cover.  My original cover was mediocre, and I had slapped it together on Canva in five minutes. Needless to say, it did nothing for my sales.

wapo2t

 

I left the lights on in the house, something no self-respecting burnt building should have….

 

 

 

At first, I considered upping my promotional efforts instead of changing the cover. That was a mistake. After a few more days of falling sales, I gave in and made a new cover. It’s similar to the old cover, but I changed the arrangement and lettering.

Sales picked up after that, just a few everyday, but it was enough to keep the book afloat. I got the impression that most people wouldn’t mind paying a dollar for something that’s at least nice to look at when they open their kindle libraries.

So I started making more covers. I changed the covers for my short stories as well. As much as I liked my doodles, they weren’t as pretty as photos.

I’m still experimenting with text and layout. One of these days, I’ll write a fantasy book (or have a friend write one) and make a cover for it.

 

Story Update: Free Short Story – Rain

After a week of emailing and pestering Amazon, I’m happy to report that my short story, Rain, is officially free!

RAINCOV

This was my first published item. The cover is new, but the story is old. I originally wrote it for a creative writing class four years ago. The professor was more of a literary enthusiast, so I don’t think this was quite her cup of tea. Nevertheless, I learned a lot from her about taste and the publishing industry.

This past September, I submitted Rain to KDP as a test run for the platform itself. It had a pretty silly cover then. My friends said it reminded them of Peanuts. I went on vacation the day after; it did alright on its own.

rainfinalscreen

Lessons in Writing: 2 More Ad Reviews

Another week done, another set of ad reviews. Here we go.

The spotlight this week goes to Robinreads. This well-known service lived up to its reputation by delivering a whopping 63 sales this past Saturday. They were fast respond when I first submitted my form, and payment was cheap, a mere $15.

coveralmsh3

Because my book saddles the boundary between horror and thriller, I first submitted it under horror to try out their service. The price for thriller and romance is $30, while the price for horror and dystopia is $15.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. When I woke up at 9 am, I already had 12 sales. By lunch, we had reached 28, and by dinner it was 56. (Please note that this book was discounted to $0.99 for the promotion.)

I had expect 25, as stated by their chart. (Chart belongs to Robinreads, not me)

Robin-Reads-Data2

Will I use their service again in 90 days? Absolutely. This time, I plan to file my book under thrillers and see what happens. However, I definitely recommend aspiring authors to try this service. It’s $15; you’ll make your money back in sales.

Which brings me to the next service… http://www.ebookhounds.com

Their staff seem nice enough, but at $10, I’m afraid I cannot recommend this service for authors expecting results, especially with:

  • Readcheaply.com outputting 16 sales for FREE
  • Bknights outputting 30 sales for $5
  • Robinreads outputting 63 sales for $15

Rumor (or forums) has it that they used to be $3, which I think is reasonable for their output. But at $10, http://www.ebookhounds.com outputted a total of 10 sales… and that’s with my thunderclap campaign going off on the same day.

For the three no-promo days prior to my using http://www.ebookhounds.com, my sales were 9, 16, and 9. In other words, I didn’t see much of a change.

That being said, I do not think they’re a bad service; their staff tries hard to be professional and I appreciate that quality. (I’d give them an A for effort.) I just want to caution writers expecting an increase in sales to temper their expectations. As their own website says, there is no guarantee that sales will increase. Know that you’re taking a chance.

I will have a few more services next week. Fingers cross and feeling optimistic. Now off to pester Bknights to help recoup sales numbers…