As a Sequel to a Recent Post: One Kay for The Flood Circle

Standard

The Flood Circle reached one thousand copies sold (counting Amazon sales only) as of yesterday, 11/29. The Iron Gate hit this same milestone on in early November, so copies of TFC have moved a little faster.

I’m sure that’s because of the cumulative effect of promoting the previous book.

And while reviews of The Iron Gate have been terrific, I was concerned that some readers would have been dissatisfied with the plot and would just quietly stop buying. That doesn’t seem to be happening.

::dabs brow with hanky::

Also, I’ve posted a note on Twitter about the order of the stories in the Twenty Palaces series. Here it is

With luck, that embed won’t be a dead link in two weeks.

Anyway, the reading order is the order on the front page of my website. The only exception is the novelette “The Homemade Mask”, which is included with my short fiction collection. It comes after Circle of Enemies but before The Twisted Path.

“The Homemade Mask” isn’t what I’d call “essential” to the series as a whole, but if you’d like to read a story told (partially) from the POV of a predator, that’s the place to go.

I’ve also dropped, for a short time, the price of the first book in the series to 99 cents. At this point, there isn’t a lot of promotional stuff left for me to do, unless I start buying ads or whatever, and that has been a decidedly mixed bag for me. I mean, I have basically one social media platform that I use with any regularity, and there’s only so many times I can tell the same group of followers that I have a new novel out.

Which is why I ask once again that, if you haven’t already, please post reviews on your online spaces, on the sites where you bought the book, and even in face-to-face encounters in the real world, assuming that still happens.

Finally, I’m currently at work on my next book, which I’ve mentioned before will be a stand alone. The story and tone are coming together slowly, but I knew this new project would be challenging, and a new challenge is just what I need.

A Milestone, of a Sort: One Kay for The Iron Gate

Standard

Two days ago, sales for The Iron Gate at Amazon crossed the 1000 copies mark. That’s print and ebook combined and it’s just the one vendor.

An ordinary sales run for traditionally published midlist sf/f can be between 2K and 5K, so that puts me on pace to be pretty average. That isn’t a bad goal for me at this stage of my non-career. It also assumes that sales will keep chugging along a pace that will let me pass the “You must sell this many copies to ride this ride” sign. Otherwise, I lose even the pretense of being midlist.

Some other works have done better. The Way into Chaos has sold nearly 14K at Amazon. Those would be respectable numbers at pretty much any publisher, and they don’t count the copies “sold” through the Kickstarter. It makes me wish I could take those numbers back in time to show the editor who rejected that novel because it was a fantasy, had a portal in it, but the protagonists didn’t go through the portal. Only the antagonists did. It was a story about being invaded, not about invading somewhere else. The editor called that “bad worldbuilding.”

Then again, that trilogy came right on the heels of the books Del Rey published, and which they marketed and publicized heavily. As of my last royalty statement, Child of Fire has sold almost forty thousand copies. It would have just earned out its advance if the contract didn’t call for basket accounting for all three books. To this day, those books from Del Rey outsell anything in my backlist that I’ve self-published.

So were the sales for The Way into Chaos so good because of residual effects of all that money and hard work Del Rey put into the Twenty Palaces books? No doubt.

Were sales so good because of that incredible Chris McGrath cover? Absolutely without a doubt. I’ve always known cover art is really important, but I’m thinking I should have put a couple of extra reallys in there.

And then there’s the very real possibility that this is just a slow fading of a career that never really took off. I have readers who enjoy my work, but it seems like there are fewer every year, as later books make readers lose interest without bringing new ones in. I used to think that my creative instincts could appeal to a broad audience, but now that I’ve been writing for a while, it seems not.

Not sure where I’m heading with this, except to say that I’m not going to stop writing and that I will write Twenty-One Palaces at some point. I’m grateful for the readers I’ve got. I’m grateful for the chance to write my books and a system that allows me to publish them in the face of widespread publisher disinterest.

But I still feel that my non-career is aging the same way that I am. Things don’t work as well as they used to. Everything is slower. It hurts more. People fall away, leaving you with a smaller circle. And there’s really nothing to do but work hard to slow the decline while also coming to terms with its inevitability.

How Not To Do It: Why I’m Not Much of a Publisher

Standard

Friday was the release date of my newest novel, The Iron Gate. It was my return to the Twenty Palaces series, the books that landed me a publisher and a fanbase, and it’s the first new novel in that series since 2011.

And I have really borked the release.

Did you preorder a copy of the book? Did that preorder never show up?

That was my fault.

Let me back up.

After I ran a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 for The Great Way, I told myself I was never going to run a crowdfunding campaign again.

I’m not what you would call an organized person. I can never keep a calendar or a journal. Even a to-do list can be a challenge. So, when I published that epic fantasy trilogy, I made a bunch of mistakes, missed important deadlines and paperwork, and generally made life harder for the people I was working with. And myself, too.

I told myself I wasn’t going to do that again.

Then 2019 came along and up popped an opportunity to do things differently. I thought This new Kickstarter will be different. It’ll be simple in the extreme. No pledge levels. No stretch goals. I’ll put together some ebooks and email them around.

I thought that would be so simple that even I couldn’t screw it up.

Cut to this week and my attempt to get The Iron Gate on sale. I was dealing with one ebook vendor that would not upload my book, would not tell me that it had not worked, would not tell me why it wouldn’t work, would not tell me what I had to change to fix the problem. I’m usually pretty good with Googling up answers to my problems, but this took way longer than it should have to fix.

I also discovered several ebook vendors had more than one copy of the book, even though I’d only uploaded it once. I had problems with the cover art that had never cropped up before, and I wasn’t sure if standards at the printer had changed or if this time I’d done something different.

All these problems got handled, thanks to some totally normal and non-frantic wtf google what should I do? activity, but it was still frustrating as hell and wasted a bunch of my time.

I also found myself locked out of my Kindle Direct account the day before the book launched because Amazon decided to impose two-factor authentication. They wanted to send a special code to a landline I don’t even have any more. Was there an alternate to the special code to a non-existent number? Sure. All I had to do was upload a picture of my ID and wait 1-2 business days for someone there to look at it.

That was not how I wanted to discover I had yet another online account that I should have updated with my correct contact information when I moved more than 15 months ago. And yeah, two-factor authentication is great. But they need to let me set it up, not drop it on me.

But what about those preorders?

Here’s the deal. I fucked that up. There’s no other way to say it. I arranged for the books to be available for preorder. I asked people to preorder them, because the publication date was Sept 30, and vendors usually wait sixty days to pay the author, and I was hoping to get a decent chunk of sales revenue to arrive in the same tax year as my expenses.

But I fucked up. I was trying to do something else (at this point I can’t even remember what it was), I was not being careful and I was all click click click until I realized I had inadvertently cancelled more than 150 preorders from the Amazon listing.

Did you preorder from Amazon? Did that order never arrive? Well, it’s never going to, because of my error. You won’t be charged for it, but you won’t get it, either. If you still want the book from Amazon, please buy it from this working link.

Here’s another fun fact: after I stupidly cancelled those preorders, I got on the help chat with Amazon and spent more than two hours trying to get straight answers out of two different people. What I really wanted to know was whether the book I’d uploaded, and had set to publish at midnight that night, would still come out as scheduled even though I’d cancelled the preorders.

In other words, did I need to upload a new copy of the book?

After all that time, I couldn’t get a direct answer. Eventually, I was promised a call back which never came. The midnight publication time came and went without an actual publication, and I did in fact have to upload the book again to a new listing so people could buy it. Which meant the book was published late on that site and that the people who had preordered had to buy the book elsewhere.

I think I’d be better at publishing if I did it more often. The last thing I released was One Man, which was three years ago. There’s no way I’m going to remember all the little everythings I need to do to get this done. I mean, maybe if I journaled the process, I’d… oh shit. Nevermind.

Sometimes I think my chaotic, jump-around brain is helpful for my writing. Sure, it makes me slower than most, but a lot of my readers tell me my work feels different/ unusual/ original, and that’s great. To me, the stories feel like they’re playing out the only way they could, but other people are surprised and that pleases and startles and confounds me a little.

But if I had a more organized thought process, wouldn’t I be able to publish these books better? And write cleaner first drafts? And plot everything out in advance? And make a menu for the week when I’m getting my grocery list together? And go to the gym, wear shorts that can’t be described with the word “cargo”, and grow a full head of hair? The answers are unclear.

I guess what I’m saying is, if you enjoy my books, thank you for your support. As for my publishing process, I apologize for putting hurdles in your way to getting these books. I hate that I make these mistakes, find them both embarrassing and dispiriting, and am incredibly grateful to anyone who perseveres and buys a copy anyway. You guys are the best.

The Iron Gate

Standard

Buy links:

Ebook:  Amazon  |  Apple Books  | Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo  |  Smashwords

Print:  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Bookshop.org  |  Indiebound  |  Mysterious Galaxy  |  Powell’s

Audiobook download:  Apple Books  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Bookshop.org  |  Kobo

Audiobook cd:  Bookshop.org  | Indiebound  |  Mysterious Galaxy

—-

Some time ago I started wondering how much actual interest there was in a continuation of the Twenty Palaces series. I’d tried the novella route with The Twisted Path, but sales were unremarkable. When I first started publishing with Del Rey, I’d thought I was a mid list writer. Later, it seemed I’d become a writer with a small following, then maybe not even that.

What was the point of trying to plan a career when my choices kept sending me in the wrong direction?

When Kickstarter got around to their brief “Break Kickstarter” idea, I had a really dumb idea: What if I started taking pledges for new Twenty Palaces fiction, but instead of offering a specific goal, I let the backers choose it. Break Kickstarter was meant to encourage people to use the service in a new way, so I set a rate of five cents a word and promised to revisit the series at whatever level of enthusiasm readers chose. No stretch goals. No pledge tiers. For every dollar a backer pledged, they could pick twenty words to call their own.

So, if I made a fifty dollars in pledges, I’d write a thousand-word short story. If pledges were higher, I’d write more, with a cap at two complete novels because I really had no idea how much or how little interest there was.

Well, pledges did hit that cap, and I owed my backers two full novels of at least a hundred thousand words each. The first, called The Iron Gate, is out now.

Cover for The Iron Gate

The Iron Gate

Here’s a description of the story:

Stormy Bay is a dying town nestled against an eerily placid ocean, and Ray Lilly is trapped in it. He can barely remember his name let alone his mission for the Twenty Palace society. Worse, he realizes that for some time now he’s been living as a puppet, his body and mind under the complete domination of an unknown power.

And that power can still seize control of Ray’s body at any time, forcing him and the people around him to playact in nonsense stories that center around a mysterious boy and his monster dog.

The town and its people shift and change, but only Ray seems to notice. He has no idea what sort of magic has imprisoned all these ordinary folks in Stormy Bay, but he does know he needs to get them, and himself, out.

But that might mean crossing a line he has never crossed before. While Ray has certainly taken lives in his work for the society, it was always in self-defense or in the desperate moments before impending calamity. Can he bring himself to commit cold-blooded murder, even to save dozens of lives?

Next up, after The Iron Gate, will be The Flood Circle, hopefully released sometime next month.

After that, I’ll be writing something else to let the creative energies renew. At some point later, finally, I’ll be ready to write Twenty-One Palaces, the final Twenty Palaces novel, The one that wraps up the series.

In the meantime, here are buy links to online vendors below. I’ve hit a few glitches here and there, and will connect to the books as they appear on the various sites. Apple Books is being Apple.

If you want a print edition, options are limited for the moment. I’m waiting for other vendors to connect their catalogs to Lightning Source before I can add them.

As for audio, Tantor will be creating an audiobook that combines The Iron Gate with The Twisted Path, since the latter is a novella and is too small to be on its own. I don’t know when that will be available but I will let you guys know.

And I can’t wait for the book to be fully out, so I can edit these last four paragraphs out of this post.

In the meantime, if you read the book, please write a review.

—-

Buy links:

Ebook:  Amazon  |  Apple Books  | Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo  |  Smashwords

Print:  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Bookshop.org  |  Indiebound  |  Mysterious Galaxy  |  Powell’s

Audiobook download:  Apple Books |   Barnes & Noble  |  Bookshop.org  |  Kobo  |

Audiobook cd:  Bookshop.org  | Indiebound  |  Mysterious Galaxy

A Finished Draft of a New Twenty Palaces Novel, and More

Standard

If you’re a Kickstarter backer for the two new 20P novels, you’ve likely already received the announcement that the zero draft (aka: the vomit draft) of The Flood Circle is done. That means both this new book and The Iron Gate are ready for revisions, and since they sort of tie together, it’ll be good for me to tackle them together. So, Yay for that, and also I wish I wrote cleaner first drafts.

In other pleasant news, my months-long plan to say “Or we could just play Jinkies” every single time my gaming group was about to try a one-shot or switch games has had the desired effect. One of our players is taking a holiday trip, so I get a chance to try out this game I’ve had in my personal, figurative on-deck circle for months. It’s like getting an extra Giftmas present a week before the holiday.

In less happy news, I had to switch to a new doctor this year, and my wife convinced me to make an appointment for a minor health issue that’s been bothering me for (literal) years. Basically, I break out in itchy hives any time I get slightly warm. A hot shower will do it. A walk to the grocery store will do it. A tense conversation with my wife will do it. On the advice of my previous doc, I take an OTC allergy med, but that only eases the itching, it doesn’t eliminate it, and it does nothing for those ugly fucking hives. It’s just so gross and embarrassing, and it’s been getting in the way of my exercise plans for literal years.

So I went to the doc. I told him I’d spent months working hard to lose weight and had dropped 40 lbs. Then I went to my father-in-law’s house to help my wife deal with his estate, and the place was not exactly clean. (Which is not a dig on my f-i-l. He was a good guy, but he was in his eighties and his health had been terrible for years.) It was there, cleaning out that house, when I started breaking out in hives, and it took me weeks to figure out why. (Finally, I googled “I am allergic to my own sweat.” — It turned out I wasn’t actually allergic to my own sweat, although some people can be. It was just body heat.)

That was in January, 2012.  My appointment with the doc was last July, and after I ran through the whole thing, he ordered the usual tests, then said nothing about the hives. When I sent a note asking about it, he told me I’d need to make an appointment for it.

Which I already did. Last July.

I suspect he’s over-focused on my weight, which has indeed gone up now that any sort of exercise makes me look, feel, and act like a leper with fleas.

Eventually, I’ll have to go in for that followup appointment to cover the actual issue I went to see him for in the first place, but the holidays are busy and I have writing to do and whatever. I’d be more willing to go if I thought something good would come of it. Very discouraging.

On the plus side, the internet assures me that this issue usually goes away by itself in three to thirty years, so really, this will might be fixed any day now.

Anyway, that’s it. Take care of yourselves and happy holidays.

Welp, It’s Black Friday

Standard

Today is Black Friday, and if you’re planning to visit a bookstore to do any of your holiday shopping, I just want to make note that you ought to be able to order One Man through Ingram.

I hope so, at least. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

Thanks very much to everyone who bought the book and everyone who has written an online review. Right now, the book is selling to people who already know and like my work, but spreading the word will help this book (and my backlist) reach a larger audience.

At which point I should just say: Happy Leftovers Day. As soon as I finish this, I’m having a turkey sandwich and a slice of apple pie for breakfast, then I’m heading out to work on The Iron Gate.

Cover for The Iron Gate

Standard

It occurs to me that I have shared this all around but not here, which is dumb.

On the first morning of the campaign, Fred Hicks sent me a mockup he’d done of the cover and I liked it so much that I’m going with it. Here we go:

Cover for The Iron Gate

And that’s why Ray Lilly will be wearing a tie in the new book.

The campaign is winding down, obviously, but it’s already met its goals. What’s the opposite of “stressing about it”? Hmm, it seems like there should be a word for phrase that means the opposite of stressed but gosh, I haven’t had a use for it in so long…

Anyway, the lack of stress is thanks to everyone who backed the campaign and shared it with their friends.

Other updates: Writing on The Iron Gate continues at a decent clip, and the copy editor is hard at work on One Man. Later today I hope to work on the cover for OM with my son. Work continues.

Here’s the latest status on the campaign:

It’s Not the Thing You Don’t Know That Get You…

Standard

It’s the things you think you know but are wrong.

For ex:

Everyone was telling me that five cents a word was too low, and I kept responding by saying some variation on, “SFWA set the minimum pro rates (for short fiction) at five cents a word. That’s the number I’m going to use!”

Except I was wrong.

As pointed out to me by another author (and if you have a middle grade fantasy reader in your life, or if you like historical fantasy with lots of Big Romance, you should definitely check out Stephanie’s books) SFWA changed the minimum pro rate months ago. I should have gone with eight cents a word.

Which is hilarious to me. It would have been the work of sixty seconds to check that, but it never even occurred to me that I should.

And of course, nothing has changed about the Kickstarter or the books I’m planning to write, except now I have to explain to my wife that she was totally and absolutely write all along, and with a little more smarts I would have done what she wanted me to do.

Anyway, as you can see by the embed below, one novel is already paid for. You can help make a second happen by pledging $4 or more. (Which gets you two ebooks)

The Iron Gate Kickstarter Campaign at 24 Hours

Standard
screencap from KS dashboard showing 921% of goal

That’s pretty much a novel right there.

After 24 hours, the dollar amount guarantees more than 90,000 words, so I’m thinking The Iron Gate is going to be a novel.

It also looks like the campaign might reach the upper limit, which means I’d have to write the next Twenty Palaces book pretty much right away. (For more info about the upper limit, check the campaign page itself).

This is wild, guys. This is also a lot of work. I spent most of yesterday wandering around my apartment, then checking the pledges, then washing a few dishes, then checking pledges, then vacuuming, then checking, then playing SOTM, checking, scrub toilet, check, open the file for The Iron Gate, then close it again so I can check.

Which means I haven’t been as productive as I need to be. That changes today. If I’m going to get this first book to you in 12 months, I have to do some thinking and some typing.

Anyway, please spread the word to any other fans of Twenty Palaces or contemporary/urban fantasy that you know. I’ll keep tapping away at these keys.

Here’s the updated version:

The Iron Gate, a New (Break) Kickstarter Campaign

Standard

Kickstarter is running a “Break Kickstarter” campaign, which invites creators to use the platform in unusual ways. Not to break their rules, but to organize a campaign in an unusual way.

Until I saw that promo, I hadn’t been planning to use Kickstarter again. To be honest, I was gratified that my 2013 campaign for The Great Way did so well, but it was a crapton of work, and I’m a naturally disorganized person. I screwed up a few times while fulfilling that campaign, and that was extremely embarrassing. I didn’t want to put myself into that position again.

But if there’s an opportunity to flout the usual expectations? I’m signing on for the next Twenty Palaces story, The Iron Gate.

Here’s what’s going to be unusual in this campaign:

No video
No stretch goals
One reward: an ebook (although you could decide not to take a reward if you prefer)
One pledge level: (although KS lets you pledge more if you want)
You decide how long The Iron Gate is going to be

The Twisted Path was a novella, and some readers really wanted me to go back to novels. I’m not sure how much demand there is for this, but let’s find out.

For every $50 pledged to this campaign, I will write a thousand words. That’s the minimum professional rate, established by SFWA, of five cents a word.

In practical terms, I’ll look at that as a minimum word count.

So, if the campaign meets its goal of $500, I’ll write a 10,000-word novelette, which is about the length of “The Home-Made Mask”. If all twelve-hundred-ish people from the Great Way campaign pledge $4, that’ll be about enough for a novel.

I’ve set an upper limit, too. If you want to know what that is, or have other concerns, please check out the campaign. Also, if you’d like to take part.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/harryconnolly/the-iron-gate-break-kickstarter