Friday, March 30, 2012

Plans for the Future and Notes on Pricing

Hello again.  Just figured I'd update, pass along some info on the seemingly-strange pricing structure I have, and share some plans I have for the future of my novels.

Let's get to it, then.  My immediate plans for my novels are on hold.  There are several reasons for this, but probably the biggest one is called stress.  My doctor had to double my blood pressure medication to bring my numbers back down to a reasonable level.  Yes, at 32 I'm battling high blood pressure.  I've been fighting it since I was 15, so this is nothing new, but the increase in medication level is.  Normally any change is just in type of medication rather than the strength, but that's pretty irrelevant.  Right now I'm on the highest dose of this particular medicine and if I can't get my numbers under control long enough I'll have to add more -- and that will bring with it even more side effects.  So far the worst one seems to be a very depressed energy level (which I probably don't have to tell you why that's not good for writing), but I'm watching out for some worse ones.  However, I am trying to get some writing done.  I've written probably two thousand words in the last two weeks, which makes me feel embarrassed at such a low output level, but it is what it is.  Adding to my stress are tax woes, though half of that is my own fault.  I could have used some advice for a fist-time filer that I didn't get until after I'd already filed.  Yeah, I only owe $65 more in taxes than I paid, but it's a pain in the butt to amend a tax return.

Now, that's probably more personal information than anyone actually cares to read, so let's move on to the pricing structure.  Put simply, The Grand Granger is $2.99 because Amazon forced me to price it that way.  That's a head-scratcher to some, so I'll try to explain.  First off, Amazon has two royalty schemes; 35% and 70% (compared to traditional-published royalty rates of 25%).  Obviously the 70% royalty scheme is more attractive, but it comes with some strings attached.  First, a book has to be a wholly-new creation (that's how I'm simplifying the actual details) instead of a public-domain novel (aka a classic).  Secondly, and this is the kicker, the book must be priced between $2.99 and $9.99 in the USA store.  What does that mean?  Well, since all books have to be priced (at least last time I checked) in $1 increments starting at $.99, I could either get paid ~$.35, $.69, or $2.09 (not counting the delivery charge).  Considering I feel The Grand Granger is worth more than a paltry 70 cents per sale, I opted for the $2.99.  If Amazon would allow the 70% royalty option at $1.99 you can bet your breakfast I'd have my price lowered to that as soon as the Kindle Select promotion period ends -- or sooner if they'd let me while keeping the Select status.  Meanwhile, when I debuted Subject 12 I priced it at $4.99, dropped it to $2.99 to boost Christmas sales, and pushed it back up to $3.99 because I noticed sales were the same at both prior price points.

Continuing in that vein, there are a few things that probably need more explanation.  For starters, what is Kindle Select?  It's an exclusivity agreement with Amazon.  In return for a 90-day exclusive sales agreement, Amazon offers to let me offer any book enrolled in the program for free for up to 5 days during the 90-day period, pays me if anyone who subscribes to Amazon Prime "borrows" the book, but at the caveat that it has to be enrolled at the 70% royalty level as well.  There's a little more to it, but that sums it up.  Since I wrote The Grand Granger to be kind of a loss-leader to get more sales of Subject 12 on the books, my plan all along was to get it either at the $.99 price point or in the Kindle Select program so I could give it away, and it took me 4 months to write instead of 4 weeks, I went the latter route for now.

So, why do I price my books so low when some people have been surprised that I wasn't published traditionally?  Simple.  Value.  I'm of an age where I remember going into bookstores and walking out with three paperbacks for $10, and I don't mean used paperbacks.  I remember staying up late to devour those books, being tired all the next day at school but insisting on staying up late again so I could finish one more chapter before passing out again, dragons and spaceships and superheroes battling it out in my dreams.  I wanted to continue in that tradition of fun, inexpensive books, so I went low-ball when I had the chance.  Unfortunately that also comes with it the perception of value.  How good could it be for only $4?  $3?  It must be crap!  Well, I'm trying to prove those people wrong every day, and with your help I can do it!

Well, I think I'm done for the night.  I encourage you to leave comments or hit my up at my Twitter if you want.  I promise to get back to you as soon as I can.  Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Free Promotion Fallout

Well, as you no doubt are aware, I ran a free giveaway promotion of The Grand Granger on Amazon for my birthday.  Total tally for the day was, worldwide, 274 copies "purchased" and I reached a high of 33rd for the day on the science fiction charts under the free titles.  While I realize that a lot of people probably won't ever even read it, the fact is that for a book that's been on the market for less than three weeks (just over two at that point, actually) that was pretty good.

So thanks, everyone, for helping that number reach so high.

As to why I entitled this "Fallout" when "Update" would have been appropriate...  I guess sometimes I just need to make things sound dramatic when they aren't.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Little More About Me

Okay, it's been a few days and, with my impending birthday and accompanying giveaway of The Grand Granger for that 24-hour period (see my Twitter feed on the right if you haven't already), I felt it was probably a good idea to share a bit more.

Since I left things focused mostly on my currently-published books and some experiences while publishing them, I'll spend more time talking about myself so you, the reader, can get to know the author better.

To begin with, I am not a city boy.  I like being able to step outside and see trees rather than neighbors, an open field instead of asphalt, and to hear my roosters crowing, my ducks quacking, and the wind rustling through the leaves.  There's nothing quite like sitting in the shade on a warm summer day, savoring a cigar, reading a book, knowing the chores are done and the only thing I have to worry about is one my cats jumping in my lap or a chicken being stupid and pecking at the ash on my cigar.  Yes, it has happened, and it's usually followed by a look of disgust and some serious beak-wiping on the grass.

I've loved reading all my life.  I've devoured books from almost every genre at some point, and when I was sick last year I read almost the entire Discworld series by Terry Pratchett in about two weeks.  If you haven't yet, and you like books that make you laugh out loud and read passages to friends and family members, I highly recommend them.  However, despite dabbling in other areas, I find myself returning to fantasy and science fiction time and time again.

When it comes to my writing I usually have more than one project going at once, which does help me from getting too bored with any one of them, but slows my output and encourages mental and physical exhaustion.  Since I suffer from bouts of tendonitis in my right wrist (and being right-handed), extended bouts of writing will often leave me in pain for days, preventing me from typing excessively or even writing things out long-hand.

Speaking of writing things long-hand, a lot of my rough draft work is done on paper, with a fountain pen.  I find the two-stage process encourages creativity while allowing me to write almost whenever the mood strikes.  Too bad it usually happens after I'm in bed, trying to get to sleep.  Insomnia is often the result -- but so is some of my best work.  If you do a lot of writing and don't need to worry about carbon paper (which is actually the reason the fountain pen lost favor and the ball-point became so ubiquitous) and haven't tried a fountain pen, treat yourself and give it a whirl.  Just don't totally cheap-out or you'll find out why a good fountain pen would last fifty or sixty years of use and still work well and why a cheap fountain pen usually found its way into a desk drawer to be forgotten about as soon as something better could be obtained.

So, we come back to progress reports on my writing.  The sequel to Subject 12, Rogue, is progressing very slowly.  There are various reasons for this.  Without going into detail that's irrelevant at the moment, my free time (which includes writing time) is at a premium and has been for a while, I'm working on the second complete rewrite of the first chapter, and in an attempt to boost cashflow I'm editing an old book I wrote in an attempt to make it marketable.  That I have a sequel to this old one already partly written doesn't hurt, either.  But, have no fear, I am working on Rogue.  My goal is to have it up by the end of the year.

On the subject of Subject 12 and Rogue, another goal I have for the year is to edit out all the typos in Subject 12 and update the copyright page (among other things) so I can republish it.  When I do I'll include a sneak peak at Rogue as a bonus, so keep your eyes peeled because I'll post an announcement here when that happens.  Anyone who has a copy through Amazon will get the update first (though they'll probably have to delete their existing copy on whatever device they have) because of Smashword's publishing requirements.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day, everyone, and thanks for reading!

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Welcome to my blog.

First, a little about me.  I've lived all of my life, aside from a month or two here and there, within forty-five minutes of the Saint Lawrence River.  Northern New York state is fantastically beautiful (at least this part of it) at some point during all four seasons -- and for two of them the entire season.  I've tried my hand at a few things, including four fabulous years as a paranormal investigator (and on occasion eliminator, but I'm no Ghostbuster and I never crossed the streams), but I always kept coming back to my desire to write.  So, in 2010, I made it my goal to take this novel I'd just finished (Subject 12) and get it published.

I couldn't get a single agent to return an e-mail.  Not even a rejection letter.  Of course, I respected those that advertised and said "no unsolicited manuscripts" and every other caveat they put down, including the dreaded "do not submit manuscripts to anyone other than me if you expect me to respond".  Again, I got nothing.

So, since I knew Subject 12 would have a fairly small audience, I went ahead and looked into electronic publishing.  Luckily, Amazon had released the Kindle and made things relatively easy for the new author to publish.  I say relatively because their formatting guide was a joke and you needed extensive knowledge of XML, HTML, and (it seemed) two different programming languages to create a book suitable for e-publishing on Amazon.  Thankfully things are a lot easier now, but at the time it was stressful.  I spent a week (giving up the opportunity to meet someone I'd grown very fond of in the proceeding couple of months -- who moved shortly thereafter and I've lost track of her) putting in up to twelve hours a day researching tools, programs, and formatting aids to figure out how to get a file that Amazon would accept.  The day I was supposed to leave and drive to Vermont I found the two tools I needed, but only well after I would have had to have left.

Fast forward a couple days of experimenting (and a lot of cursing on my part), frustration (more cursing), failure (did I mention cursing?), and almost-successes and I finally had what I wanted.  It was crude (if you've read the Amazon version you can see what I mean), it barely passed muster, and I really should have spent some of that time cleaning up typos that I had missed during the editing process, but it worked.  So I published, filed for a copyright (I think I filed for a copyright first, but that's not central to the narrative at this point), and waited.  Amazon was on the ball and I got it up in short order.

Time for a celebration!  Except I couldn't get a sale in the first few days.  I closed out October of 2010 with zero sales.  In a way, though, I didn't mind too much.  It was almost the end of the month and my goal was it WOULD be up before October 31st come hell or high water.

So, I published on Smashwords (which has turned out to be a mistake for a variety of reasons) because it was the ONLY way I could find to get on the Barnes and Noble bookstore -- and, amazingly, it also got me on Sony, Apple, and Diesel.  The markets they serve have continued to increase over the years, and unlike Amazon they allowed me to publish a freebie.  So I dug out this "story" I'd written as a joke and published it.  The Supernatural Cookbook was a joke I'd come up after a conversation with a friend.  She'd said I could make anything sound good to eat.  In the internet meme world I would have put the CHALLENGE ACCEPTED banner on it, because I instantly -- and I do mean instantly -- began describing roasted ghoul haunch.  She laughed, I laughed, the people she shared it with laughed...  And my "story" was created.  It tied in with another short I'd written, so I ran with it.  To date the Supernatural Cookbook has been downloaded at least 4,000 times between all outlets, but I can't attribute a single sale of Subject 12 to it.

I don't want anyone to think that I feel Smashwords isn't a great venue.  It is.  It offers a higher royalty rate than anyone else, it allows both free and paid works, it publishes to all the major e-tailers except Amazon, the cost of admission is merely an annoying and potentially frustrating and (I'm going to be honest here) pointlessly byzantine and draconian formatting method.  The net result is a clean, finished product, in every major (and a few minor) formats for any and all e-reader devices and tablets, but having to lose all your formatting or use a specific word processor (that I, as well as many others, hate) that costs a lot of money isn't worth it.  At least not to me.  Furthermore, despite sales that started topping 100 copies a month on Amazon with Subject 12 alone, I was lucky to sell a single copy of Subject 12 on Smashwords, Apple, Diesel, Sony, Barnes and Noble, etc, per month.

In the meantime I began work on several different projects, got extremely sick and almost died, had to deal with family drama, had a neighbor's dog kill several of my ducks and the ensuing confrontation was so unpleasant that I've been looking for a place to move to, and in general had life decide that I needed to be a punching bag again.

The sad fact is, Subject 12 exhausted me.  The reason why it ends on such a cliffhanger note is because I had a choice -- continue writing and try to wrap up such an epic storyline in a single paragraph while I was finding it harder and harder to even put a hundred words a day to paper (my goal while writing was one thousand per day) or wrap it up and do a full-blown sequel.  I chose the sequel and, from the sounds I've been getting from most of my readers who have reviewed or contacted me directly (I've replied to every one that I'm aware has done the latter), I chose wisely.  But, and this is the point I want to stress, I was burned out.  The fight scene between The Justice Fiend and Hammer was written in a single day.  If you do a word count you'll find it's around, and probably north of, eight thousand words.  You'll also find it's the only place in the book that has numerous typos in a short space.  It took more out of me than I had to give, yes, but I refused to compromise on quality for the rest of the book and, ultimately, was why I decided on the sequel.  I'd failed to meet too many of my self-appointed goals already.

I started working on the sequel but I ran out of oomph and interest way too quickly.  I started another project that I plan on revisiting soon, but I ran out of steam and interest (mostly because I shared the first part of it and the entire feedback I got was "can we start an off-topic area in the staff area of this forum for posts like this?" directed at an Administrator) shortly after beginning.  Again, I was burnt out from the intensity of that fight scene in Subject 12.

Fast forward a year.  November, 2011, I decide that I need to keep rolling on the wave of Subject 12's minor popularity.  After all, sales jumped in June, then again in August, and continued growing slowly in September, and October, and November was shaping up to be the best month yet!  I wanted a quick-and-dirty short, no longer than 20,000 words, that I could sell on Amazon for $.99 to really attract attention to me.  About that time Kindle Direct Publishing Select program had come out, but only for books with a 70% royalty rate, which meant a $2.99 minimum price tag.  Thus began The Grand Granger.

Health issues, family issues, relationship drama, wash, rinse, repeat.  I was late getting it out the gate.  I "finished" the first week of December, but it wasn't good enough.  I sought feedback so I could tell where it needed improvement.  Very few would give me any, and the first person to read it described it as "like sex, but without an orgasm".


I mean.  Damn.  Really.  Ouch.

So, I went back.  I hammered on it, tweaked it, cleaned it up, expanded here and there, and put more backstory and a glossary in it.  Got some more feedback on it, but it was like pulling teeth.  Gave up, came back to it, lost time due to more drama, worked on it some more.  But I got it done.  By then I had at LEAST six times as much in time, effort, and energy (not to mention frustration, aggravation, and disgust) tied up in it, and Amazon still only offered Select status for 70% royalty books.  So, since I could get virtually no feedback on the finished product, I decided to go ahead with it anyway.  A friend sent me a list of typos and I fixed them.  Two or three days later I had formatted for publishing and I started the process.  Filed a copyright, made 2 sales, and found a typo that had been overlooked.  I fixed it, uploaded the final result, and notified the two buyers (both of them follow me on Twitter), and started expanding my outreach to you, my readers.

That brings me up to tonight, where I'm going to wrap this up.  I'll try to use this site as a contact point for you, so don't hesitate to leave messages or e-mail me (which I'll have up as soon as I can get this thing figured out), comment on any blog post I make, and to keep you updated on what the heck is going on with my various projects.

I guess what I'm trying to say is have no fear, Hammer will strike again.  The Confederation and the Tal'Red have many more stories about them yet to be told.  I hope to have another book I wrote years ago cleaned up and published before the end of the month, but Hammer and the Confederation may call me too much to make that happen.

In the meantime enjoy the stories and don't hesitate to contact me.  Thank you for reading!