What I’m doing now

So while volume 2 of my own series is in the hands of my editor, I decided to take time off to read some books. See, there’s a novel I wrote – the very the first one, in fact – waaaaaay back in 2003. It was absolutely awful, but since I loved the plot so much, I tried to rework it. I’ve rewritten that sucker 4 times from start to finish since 2003, and I mean literally rewrote it. The first three iterations were first person and the last was third with two POV characters. But at no time did I get the story right.

However, over the past 6 months or so, a nugget of an idea has taken hold, and I’m excited to see if I can finally bring the island of Arylyn to life.

Thus, the books I’ve been reading are young adult. I don’t know the sensibilities of that genre anymore, so I thought I’d re-familiarize myself with the type of books that made me fall in love with reading in the first place. The first series I picked up was The Seven Realms quadrology by Cinda Williams Chima.

The setting is the northern city of Fellsmarch, a place always ruled by queens and never a king. Enter the thief, Han Alister, who has done many bad things in his life but wants to do good. Early on, he and his friend Dancer end up in the wrong place at the wrong time and Han gains an amulet that leads to tragedy. Then there’s always the witty, but at times witless Raisa, heir to the Queendom. She’s just trying to find her place in the world. You know, save her mother, save the Queendom, and figure out how to marry the boy she’s always loved. The first book plods along and finally becomes interesting when Han meets Raisa. After that, the next three volumes go by quickly. Some of the characters are cliched, like Raisa’s bratty sister who reminded me of Dawn from Buffy. Shudder. Otherwise, the characters were likable, and I was especially happy to see the thought the author put into the plot. Trouble loomed in unexpected ways, pain followed, and the characters had to grow. I liked it.

The other series was The Elemental Trilogy by Sherry Thomas, the first book of which was The Burning Sky. This was an intimate novel. What I mean is that it’s really about just two people, Titus VII, Master of the Domain, and Iolanthe Seabourne, the elemental mage that Titus has waited to find his entire life. That’s it. Sure, there’s other characters, but they’re secondary at best. All the focus is on the relationship between Titus and Iolanthe. They don’t like each other or trust each other, but circumstances cast them into an uneasy alliance. As expected given that it’s proudly labelled a romance, love blossoms between them, but by the second book, the equally well done The Perilous Sea, that simple attraction and affection is put to the test by amnesia of all things, and the prophetic visions of Titus’ mother. The setting is a fantasy world that is separate from, but overlaps our own and filled with high level magic that is indistinguishable from science and Eton College in 1883 England. Odd, right? But it works because of the intimate nature of the writing and the fact that Iolanthe is instantly attractive as a character, and Titus, who some might find detestable at first, I found sympathetic. I liked these books a lot and am looking forward to the finale.

Back to writing!

Now that my stupdenously annoying and difficult ten year recertification exam is over – HUZZAH!!! I get to get back to writing volume 2 of The Castes and the OutCastes.

But not until I finish reading The Raven’s Shadow by Elspeth Cooper. So far this year, in just these four months, I’ve probably read more than I had all of the last two years, nearly all of it epic fantasy, and most of it rather large misses. My favorite book thus far was actually a book of poetry, Inside Out & Back Again.

So it was with trepidation that I purchased Ms. Cooper’s latest book. I really enjoyed the first novel in her series, Songs of the Earth, but didn’t care as much for Trinity Rising, but I find myself enjoying this latest edition quite a lot – other than wanting to whack Gair upside the head for being such a sniveling whiner.

Another marketing post – yuck!

Here are my experiences so far:

I initially priced A Warrior’s Path at $5.49. I chose a number I felt was worthy of the work I’d put into the novel, and I factored length of the book into the equation as well. Many indie titles are selling at $2.99-$3.99, but those titles are usually half as long as mine. I thought $6.99 was too much to ask (although there is one indie novel titled Crucible of Souls that is about the same length as A Warrior’s Path that is listed occasionally at $7.99 – a brave choice and it seems to be working out for the author) and $4.99 was too low. Thus, I chose $5.49, which I hope is a reasonable compromise.
As for marketing, I initially purchased a Kirkus review. I think it takes courage to do this because there is no guarantee that the reviewer will like the book (and it costs $495). However, more than anything else I’ve done, I think the Kirkus review has helped sell the book and has paid for itself many times over.
Before launch, I asked over 50 reviewers to read the book and of those who responded, 5 said ‘yes’, but only 2 actually read the book. I won’t go this route again. Too much work for too little return.
The book then launched and landed with a thud, but somewhere in January it took off. I don’t know why it suddenly started selling. Possibly it was because Amazon listed it as a ‘New fantasy to read’ on their blast emails. I wish Kobo and Nook did the same because for every one sale on both those platforms, I’ve had over 100 on Amazon.
I ‘boosted’ a Facebook post about the book, and got lots of ‘likes’, but I didn’t see an increase in sales. Overall, I can’t say that Facebook has helped with sales much, but I’ve heard other authors had greater success.
I’ve also advertised on Goodreads, but that hasn’t been very helpful except to vastly increase the number of people who’ve added the book to their to-read-pile. I also did a Goodreads giveaway, and I included basically the world. Again, that boosted the to-read-pile numbers, but it also cost me an arm-and-a-leg in shipping expenses since one book went to Sweden and another to the UK.
I also started a Twitter account (@DavisAshura) and purchased a marketing plan through Selfpublish Showcase. It only cost $37/year, and they send out blast tweets daily about the book to their >37k followers and those often gets re-tweeted. I don’t know if this is helping, but it didn’t cost me much, and it’s another data point I can use for book 2.
I did a price drop last week for 5 days. The first 3 days, I saw a definite uptick in sales, but the last two days, not so much. I think the moral is to not leave the price low for too long.
The book continues to sell well, although it’s starting to taper off, but that’s life. Can’t stay on top forever. 🙂

Slow burn success

A post from the wonderful Janny Wurts about the history of sales in fantasy and expectations of success. A useful reminder in today’s world, which seems to be all about instant gratification.

The Unrecognized Trajectory of Slow Burn Success by Janny Wurts

BTW if you haven’t read Janny’s Empire series with Raymond Feist, you’re missing out on a great trilogy. Sadly, it’s not yet in ebook format.