I received an email today from a review service. It seems they liked my book, The Almshouse and decided to feature it in BTS Magazine. The reviewer, Melanie, was very nice. She said she enjoyed the book and will be posting a blog review for the book on February 10th. Thanks Melanie, and here’s to looking forward to February.
This is the first entry of a new series: Author Stories. I got the idea to interview more experienced authors as a way of showing my affection for their books and to learn from their insights. These authors will all be picked based on merit, and no favors or payment were exchanged. I thought new authors might be encouraged to persevere if they could see the exact steps it took for established authors to get where they are.
When I was editing The Almshouse, I decided to check out the market for ghost stories and haunted house stories.
It was originally for market analysis purposes, but I got distracted by a pretty book: The Haunting of Gillespie House.
I bought the book after reading the first two pages. It seemed different from the other books on the list, probably because the cover glowed blue. Most of the other covers (including my own) used colors with low saturation, resulting in a gloomy atmosphere rather than the feeling that something nefarious was happening in the back yard.
After reading the story, I ran into the author, Darcy Coates, in an online forum. She had written so many books, many of which are in the Top 20 of Amazon Bestsellers lists.
Last week, I asked Darcy if she could share her experience with new authors:
1. When did you start writing and when did you publish your first book? What inspired you to tell that story?
I’ve been writing since I was a young teenager. I started a lot of stories, but didn’t finish many! About two years ago I wrote my first ‘proper’ book, a novella called Ghost Camera. In Ghost Camera, two friends find a strange Polaroid camera that can capture spirits on film. I really enjoyed creating the story – it asks some questions that I’d find challenging to answer. If you had the ability to see what spirits live in your home, including the malevolent or angry ones, would you?
2. Why supernatural suspense/ thrillers?
I’ve always loved horror, especially ghosts and haunted houses. While my friends went to watch chick flicks at the theatre, I’d be buying tickets to Blair Witch Project or The Conjuring. I can’t explain why – it’s just a fundamental part of me, like the need to eat.
3. How did you get your first book off the ground? What was your first week like as an author?
I didn’t, and terrible!
It’s very, very difficult to find success with just one book out. Some supportive friends bought Ghost Camera during launch week, and I had a handful of organic sales which gave me the motivation to keep writing.
Following Ghost Camera, I published a series of short stories. But it wasn’t until I released my second novella, The Haunting of Gillespie House, that I began to earn an income from writing. Now that I have more novels and novellas available, Ghost Camera’s sales have also picked up.
(Blanche’s note: Up until this point, I had assumed Gillespie House was her first book. Silly me.)
4. What’s your favorite book so far that you’ve written?
Oooh, that’s tough! It’s like asking me to name my favourite child!
I had great fun with my latest release, The Haunting of Blackwood House. While it’s (as the name implies) a haunted house story, it also has a strong romance subplot and some humour.
5. How do you deal with criticism/low reviews/trolls?
Like death and taxes, one-star reviews are inevitable. The world holds a lot of people who won’t like your story, and eventually some of them will read it and leave a review.
It’s tough (especially the first ones), but the single best thing you can do is see if they hold any valid criticism, absorb the parts that are helpful and discard the rest, then get on and write the next story.
6. What other genres have you considered writing for?
I really enjoy writing other genres, even though the stories all contain horror elements. I’ll be publishing a series soon called Cymic Parasite Breach. It’s a sci-fi survival story that shows an alien invasion from the perspective of five unrelated women. I’ve also written gothic romance with the House of Shadows series, and a supernatural thriller with Dead Lake. That’s one of the things I love about horror – it blends with other genres amazingly well!
7. Any words of advice for new or aspiring authors out there?
I’m going to parrot advice you’ve probably heard a thousand times: read a lot and write a lot! Just like exercise will make you physically stronger, using your writing muscles will do more for you than a hundred How To Write guides.
And there you have it, ladies and gents: stories from Darcy Coates. Feel free to let me know if you have an author to recommend.
This is probably overdue, but here is another list of ads I placed for The Almshouse. Funny enough, I found a copy of my book on Overdrive, the online library. It disappeared shortly after.
1. Ereader News Today: Overall, I’d play this in third place out of all the services I’ve tried. Second in terms of number of books sold, and fourth in terms effectiveness; the ad did not pay for itself. However, this is still a fantastic service, and it did produce a good amount of sales (~60) for $30. The acceptance process took about 3 days, and the people at ENT are very easy to work with. I would strongly recommend those who haven’t tried this service yet to try, and for those who have series. Since I only have one book, it may have been my fault for trying to recoup costs off of one book.
2. Fire and Ice Blog Feature: This is a smaller company with nice people and good service. For $5, they feature your book, and just your book, for the day. Unfortunately, it didn’t do much for me, but that does NOT mean it won’t work well for you. I get the feeling romance might do better than thrillers with this blog. Just a hunch
3. Betty Book Freak: Betty is a sweet lady, but please keep in mind this is still a small business. If you’re looking for big results, apply with Robin Reads, Ereader News Today, or Bookbub. Here, my $8 resulted in 8 sales. Perhaps I’m in the wrong genre again; I’ve heard stories from Fantasy authors that it does work.
4. NewFreeKindleBooks.com: This one was interesting, because they do accept discounted books, and the “free” pertains to author fees as well. The day the ad ran, I got 16 sales by noon. No other ads were running that day. By evening, I found 24 sales. My daily average is ~7 sales, so this is definitely out of my expect range. So either this is an undiscovered source of sales, or a group of readers out there suddenly decided to do their last-minute holiday shopping at once.
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.
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!
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?
The 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!
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.
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??