Reflections & Book Update on Nuts

One of my friends reminded me yesterday that The Almshouse is approaching its one-year anniversary.

317bffbbdee53d8fd57d24a1e6846c4b

I must say, I’m proud of the little book. Though it dipped in rankings, the book held out its own since early February 2016. I feel a little like a parent whose kid is self-sufficient, and claim no credit to its ventures or its friendship with its readers.

Thinking back, the story used to be just questions floating in my head, keeping me occupied in class while my teachers went on and on about some form of math. I found an old copy of the manuscript from my teenage years, back when I still scribbled in notebooks. For some reason, I thought clam chowder served as a better soup than chicken, and Lyle had spent a great deal of time teaching Julia to dance rather than playing his violin. It’s a good thing I wrote the story in drafts.

Along the same lines of nostalgia, I thought of the little girl who inspired the story, and wondered what she’s been up to. She had been a pretty little girl: blond, with curly hair, around my age at the time I saw her. We had both been preteens, though she a much better dressed one than I. I should also revisit the cemetery that inspired Mansion Park, maybe finally read the epithet on the headstone the girl had been staring at. (When I was younger, I tried to make out the words below the date, but had to leave because my friends wanted to go for ice cream.)

Anyway, I’m working on a prettier cover for the paperback version. The sequel is ~ 33% done, and the third book is ~20% done. Sincerely, From the Other Side is a spin-off, written long ago during homeroom and English, and tags on after the third book. I should probably learn to write in order.

nutsBook update on Nuts: It’s 95% done. I had originally planned to finish the book by September and launch it this month. Instead, it’s November, and Nuts sits one chapter away from completion. It’s been this way for months. (I will ramble about it below.) The copy editor has already started reading the beginning, and I’ll finish it by the end of next week in time for him to get through it.

I really shouldn’t make excuses. The trouble started after I returned from a business trip in early August. I’m an attorney by trade, working in a large law firm with rules, regulations, and people that remind you of the TV shows Suits and The Good Wife. If those shows teach anythings, it’s that law firms are no strangers to bad news. So when I got back to the firm, I found that the partners funding our practice area left with the business. Skedaddled, vamoosed, ran away and left behind a handful of associates. As the most junior person (I graduated law school last December), I found myself with half a team left at a firm targeted by major legal news outlets and headhunters. It was open season on our business, our associates, our clients. Every week, someone left. Every week, headhunters poached us. The legal news outlets went crazy: our firm is sinking, they said. Our firm might collapse, they said.

Well, they’re wrong. We did not collapse, thanks to management rescuing as many folks as they could. The remaining younger associates got sent to different departments, and older partners called in favors to help rescue the team. We’re now a different firm, but at least we’re stable… only we won’t be “we” anymore. I’m off to a new venture, to clerk for a judge. It was something I had planned for next year, but given recent developments, I thought I’d head off now and come back later. Hopefully, this will allow me to do what I really want to do: be a prosecutor.

Advertisements

Lessons in Writing: Even More Ads

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.

coveralmsh3

 

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.

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!

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…

Lessons on Writing: Serialization

Disclaimer: The following realization is not scientifically accurate. It is simply the meanderings of a procrastinating writer.

Since advertising is the bread and butter of aspiring authors, I spent the last two weeks learning the trade. Part of the process, I’ve been told, includes redirecting focus towards serialize my books rather than actively promoting the book I have. To this, I admit I gave a great deal of consideration (and respect), and possibly, insufficient credence as I have yet to try the process myself. However, I can’t help wondering if serialization will really benefit my books, or the books in my genre.

Take for example my only published novel:

coveralmsh3

It’s thriller/suspense/horror. It has sold a couple hundred copies to date, and I’m grateful it got off the ground at all. The sales were mostly due to social media advertisement, though I’ve also looked into specific market behavior. The following are my findings:

  1. The dominating authors in my genres are Stephen King, Dean Koontz and John Grisham.
  2. King’s first bestseller was Carrie, a stand alone novel about a girl with psychic powers.
  3. Koontz’s was Whispers (or Demon Seed, if we’re counting crossover genres), another stand alone suspense thriller.
  4. Grisham’s first was A Time to Kill, another stand alone novel.

In short, there doesn’t seem to be a predominance of serialization among the bestselling thriller authors; it doesn’t seem necessary for the genre.

That being said, I looked into other genres, and fully acknowledge that serialization is very important for some of these, specifically sci-fi, fantasy, and detective mysteries.

  1. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series wouldn’t be very interesting without the short stories that came after A Study in Scarlet.
  2. George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series wouldn’t be half as epic without its multiple volumes and ever-rotating cast.
  3. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series would have left billions upset if it simply stopped after one book.
  4. Heck, fantasy novelists have made such a habit of serialization that almost all of their books have been named “[NOUN] of [NOUN]” or “The [ADJECTIVE] [NOUN]”

Perhaps this phenomenon is the result of readership focus. While sci-fi and fantasy fans are very character focused, thriller/suspense/horror readers tend to be event focused. The respective audiences are looking for different derivatives; one wants to know everything from the family lineage of the protagonist to the names of their future children, while the other wants only an escape or answer. As such, perhaps the better thing to do in this situation is to serialize the world, rather than the characters of The Almshouse. I plan to do more research on the subject.

In the meantime, I have started a new novel called Nuts.

COVER_THUMBNAIL

It tells the story of Lucy, a girl stuck in a mental asylum and surrounded by patients who claim to have magical powers. Whether they are magical or simply deluded, the patients die off one by one, and Lucy must figure out if the source is magical or something more down to earth.