Progress report

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Let’s see if I can briefly cover everything that’s been going on.

First, I’m revamping the Kickstarter page pretty thoroughly. As I mentioned before, I asked some folks with KS experience to check it over and I made a bunch of changes. Then my agent had a look and she told me that I was underselling everything. Like a lot of writers, I’m not the best advocate for my own work. She encouraged me to explain why the books are actually fun instead of, you know, doing the whole “Here’s a thing I wrote you might like it maybe” bit that writers do.

So, revisions. I have new text for the main page ready to go and I’ll be shooting a new video this week. As some of you folks know, I get ugly red blotches on my face when I eat certain foods, so I’m trying to be super careful about every meal until then. I don’t think it would help me make my goal to have leprosy face.

By the way, if you want to know when the Kickstarter launches before anyone else, you should sign up for my newsletter in the form on this page.

The print edition of TWENTY PALACES is still a few weeks off. Everything takes longer than you think it should. That’s the law.

Finally, while the Kindle version of TWENTY PALACES is still only $2.99, there’s a sale price of $5.99 for CHILD OF FIRE, GAME OF CAGES, and CIRCLE OF ENEMIES. If you read from the Kindle and have been meaning to pick up some or all of my books, you’re not going to get a better price.

I recommend starting with the prequel, although I wrote each book to stand alone.

There are shiny new ideas for me to work on, but I have so much revision and other work ahead of me that I don’t expect to get to any of it before the end of the year. Yeah, that sucks; we only get so many productive years in this life, but it needs doing.

More later.

So, Smashwords won’t publish to Kobo anymore? Apparently?

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I published TWENTY PALACES (now only $2.99!) through Smashwords so it would also go to other stores through Smashwords’s distribution system. However, a week and a half ago I realized that, for whatever reason, Kobo wasn’t selling the book. They have my others, but not the one I published myself.

I emailed Smashwords about it the week before last and received a chirpy response that there was nothing they could do about it, and had forwarded the issue to Kobo. A followup email brought the same response. Cheerful nothing.

I know Kobo will let you set up your own account, so I assume they’re rejecting or delaying books submitted through Smashwords to drive people to them directly.

Because I don’t have enough to do.

When I finish this book and revise KEY/EGG, I may need to take a week off just for business stuff: find a new WP theme I like that’s similar to what I have, set up a functional store on my site, create accounts on all the book vendor sites to sell my stuff directly, and so on. Very annoying.

Added later: Fixed. I should learn to skip customer service and take my problems straight to Twitter through my blog. Timeline: Complain (late) on a Friday. Hear back from Smashwords on Wednesday. Still nothing by the Tuesday after that. Complain on my blog so company name is right in the automatic tweet. Fixed by the end of the day.

(Not So) Permanent Price Drop for Twenty Palaces

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[Edited 1/30/2014: Dropping the price did very little for sales, so I’m returning it to $4.99.]

Folks who follow me on Twitter might have heard this already, but sales for TWENTY PALACES, the self-published prequel to CHILD OF FIRE, have dropped to the point that they are genuinely disappointing, so I’ve dropped the price to $2.99.

That price is already live at Amazon and B&N, but I’m still waiting on places like iBooks to update. I publish there (and to Kobo along with others) through Smashwords, and it can take a while for the prices to propagate.

The old $5 price point made sense when CHILD OF FIRE was still being offered at the promotional price of 99 cents, but that ended a while ago and I haven’t made the time to change it.

I also have short fiction for sale on those sites, but come June I’m planning to wrap them all up (along with a few new stories) in a single collection. You can buy those short stories and novelettes individually for now or get them all at once later. Your choice.

One other thing: the prequel has “lending” enabled and it makes a cheap three dollar gift. If you read and liked the books, would you mind sharing them, in some fashion, with others who might like them?

Thanks.

Twenty Palaces sales: the first year

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A few weeks ago, the November 2012 sales numbers for self-published books became available to the people who published them. Since I first published the Twenty Palaces prequel (cleverly title Twenty Palaces) in November of 2011, I thought it would be a good idea to post the sales figures. Why not?

Looking at this, you might be tempted to look at the price I’m charging and try to work out how much I’ve made. That won’t work. For one thing, not all of these sales came at Amazon’s 30% sales commission (I refuse to call them royalties; Amazon isn’t my publisher). Despite setting the price above $2.99, they charged me 65% on a surprisingly high number of them.

Which sucks, but that’s the price of doing business with a company like Amazon. So, if you think you can figure out what I earned, it’s actually quite a bit less than that.

Also, the first month’s sales were small because I posted it just in time for the last week. December was the first full month.

Anyway, the Smashwords sales cover Kobo, iBooks on Apple, Sony Reader, and Smashwords themselves, and since I didn’t start them until months later than Amazon and B&N, I didn’t break them out by month. I would have had to break out each seller and that was too much work. They’ve been small players for me anyway.

Here’s the table:

Month Amazon US Amazon non-US B&N Smashwords Group Total All
11-Nov 83 6 0
11-Dec 902 27 54
12-Jan 430 25 55
12-Feb 281 19 40
12-Mar 211 13 42
12-Apr 182 2 20
12-May 131 16 31
12-Jun 126 14 32
12-Jul 98 8 27
12-Aug 96 11 27
12-Sep 71 8 17
12-Oct 62 5 14
12-Nov 44 0 11
 Total 2717 154 370 170 3411

Christmas! The Christmas season is worth a few sales, and that’s a fact. Checking the numbers for Giftmas ’12, there was another small bump not reflected above.

Anyway, the numbers aren’t terrible but they aren’t fabulous either. I’m certainly not going to be touring Europe by rail on this novel, and it doesn’t inspire me to Kickstart The Twisted Path, which would have been book number next. Still, for a book I’d already written, I’m happy enough with the results and grateful to everyone who bought a copy.

If you haven’t bought a copy, I put some handy links into the table above. Knock yourself out.

Finally, I know some authors post their numbers every year, but this was sort of a pain to do. I’m not seeing it becoming a tradition.

Twenty Palaces not for sale

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Some folks might have noticed that certain online sellers no longer show Twenty Palaces, my self-published prequel novel, as available for sale.

There’s a brief, frustrating story behind that: I lowered the price just before Giftmas and now some sellers don’t seem able to get the message that the price should return to it’s previous level. It’s the “channels” through Smashwords that are causing the basic problem, which of course means that Amazon is cutting the price on their site, as they do.

I’m not sure what the problem is. Sony, et al, got the update that lowered the price, but multiple attempts to revise it since have gone unnoticed.

So I’m in the process of pulling it from all of those stores. Once they’re all gone, I’ll begin listing them again, but at the price *I* set.

It’s frustrating and a waste of time, but I don’t have a lot of choice. In the meantime, B&N and iBookstore have been responsive and are currently selling the books. You’ll have to buy them from there for now.

Twenty Palaces: Supernatural Noir For Your Loved Ones’ Stockings

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Ho ho ho!

Many of the people reading this will remember that, for most of the day on Halloween, I gave away copies of Twenty Palaces. I know there are folks who grabbed copies (and even read them) because I received a few nice notes about it.

For first-visitors who aren’t familiar with my work, my debut novel Child of Fire, was on Publishers Weekly’s Best 100 Books of 2009, and the two sequels, Game of Cages and Circle of Enemies both received starred reviews.

Sadly, sales were not as high as expected and Del Rey passed on the fourth book, which was a prequel to the series. Luckily, this is the 21st century and I self-published that book myself.

Why mention all this? Well, from now until the day after Christmas, I’m going to reduce the price of Twenty Palaces to only $2.99. Three bucks. If you know someone who reads ebooks and who likes supernatural thrillers with a noirish touch, take a quick look at these links:

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords (These guys offer multiple formats for several different brands of ereader, like Kobo).

Unsure how to give an ebook as a gift? Open Road Media has a number of short instructional videos for several of the major ebook retailers, including iBookstore and Kobo. If you decide to buy from Smashwords, they have an instructional right on the linked page above.

Tobias Buckell revives his moribund series via Kickstarter

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Novelist Tobias Buckell posted a longish (5K) analysis of his own successful Kickstarter project; his Xenowealth books were not as successful as he and his publisher had hoped and he stopped writing them after three books. With the support of his fans, he Kickstartered (<-- new verb, just to annoy people) book four. Then, being him, he analyzed it and shared the information. Of course, having finished the post, I found an email in my inbox directing me to it, with the idea that I could do the same with the Ray Lilly books. That's not going to happen for several reasons. His readership: My blog gets fewer than 10% of the hits that his gets. He has nearly five times the number of Twitter followers. Also, he’s much better connected with other pros who can spread the word about his books.

His series: The Xenowealth books were not sinking in sales, they were stagnant. In hardcover! Mine were mmpb and sales for each book was dropping by about 5K readers for each. Also, I have the ebook figures for the prequel, Twenty Palaces: while they’ve been okay for a book I already wrote, it’s not worth setting aside a year (or a large part of a year) for those sales. I’m planning a post on sales of the prequel, so stay tuned for that.

His productivity: Dude had major surgery and serious health issues, and yet he’s still way more prolific than I am. That matters because as I said: setting aside a year to write a book. Not to mention that, while he’s finishing his novel (and running his Kickstarter) he has short fiction coming out all over the place and blah blah blah.

Anyway, give his post a read. It’s full of interesting ideas and common sense. As for me, I’ll keep plodding along with EPIC SEQUEL WITH NO DULL PARTS.

For Halloween only, I’m giving away free copies of Twenty Palaces

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And since Shopp, the WordPress plugin I use to sell my stories has stopped working, I’m just going to link to them here. Everything is DRM-free. Use these files as you will.

If you want to read the book as a .pdf: Download.

If you want it as an .epub: Download.

If you want it as a Kindle-ready .mobi file: Download.

If you want all three as a single .zip file: Download.

Happy Halloween, you guys.

Edited: Sorry, but the giveaway is all done now. You can buy the book from the usual online shops but not from my website. Not until I find a replacement for the plugin I’ve been using.

Passing into a new world: Portal fantasy

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Rachel Manija Brown posted something provocative about so-called “portal fantasy.” For those who didn’t click the link: essentially it’s a Narnia-style story, in which a person or persons from our mundane world is transported to a second-world fantasy setting. Apparently, agents reject those stories at the query stage without ever requesting a full manuscript, and the reasons described in the post (all frustratingly second-hand) strike me as extraordinarily bogus.

They’re talking about non-adult books: YA and MG, but I don’t remember seeing a lot of adult-oriented portal fantasies.

But it’s only after I read a post on Making Light that I realize I myself have been All Over Portals in my books.

Now, that Making Light post is talking about Fantasy With Portals In Them rather than Portal Fantasies, which is not exactly a subtle distinction. For one thing, modern person transported to fantasy world setting is a very specific thing. Still, Circle of Enemies and Twenty Palaces both contain literal portals in which Things Intrude Into Our World, and the other two books have implied portals.

What’s more, EPIC FANTASY WITH NO DULL PARTS is full of portals; the barely-Iron-Age society conducts trade through them and they are the center of the plot.

It’s not portal fantasy, per se, but… is this my subconscious calling to me? Has the online discussion finally made me look into my heart and realize that what I’ve really longed to do all this time was write a book about a mafia hitman transported to pseudo-Narnia? Or a pipe-fitter in Osgiliath?

Well, maybe not, but it’s fun to think about.

One year anniversary of the end of 20 Palaces

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I’m writing this ahead of time because I expect to be hanging with my son at the tournament when this posts, but today is exactly one year since I announced that Del Rey would not be picking up any new Twenty Palaces novels and that I was putting the series on hiatus, with all the ominous implications of the word.

And that fucking post is still the most popular thing on my blog. More people have read about my failure than ever read my books.

What has changed since then? Well, A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark is on indefinite hold. The book itself is a major misfire–not in concept but in execution. It needs a massive rewrite before it’s ready to be shown anywhere and that’s not a very high priority for me right now.

What about Epic Fantasy With No Dull Parts? aka A Blessing of Monsters? Well, shit. We’ll see, won’t we? One big change is that I seriously underestimated the amount of story there; what I’d planned to complete in one volume is not, in fact, complete after 140K words. So it will become two books. Possibly three. We’ll see what my publisher says, assuming I find one for it.

As for me, I’m working on a Twenty Palaces short story, which won’t be told from Ray’s POV. I’m hoping to have it finished soonest so I can get to work on Epic Sequel With No Dull Parts. I’m still waiting on editorial notes for King Khan, the game tie-in book I wrote for Evil Hat’s Spirit of the Century role-playing game, and that will likely be the only book release for me in 2013.

I know. 2012 saw only two anthologies: Don’t Read This Book and Tales of the Emerald Serpent, and next year will almost certainly be a single game tie-in novel. I like all of that work and I’m proud of it, but I need to put out original novel-length fiction if I want to keep my career going.