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Posts Tagged ‘research’

Okay, so it’s time the rubber met the road.

The choices for going wide are:

  • Do it myself everywhere. This unquestionably gives me the most control. It’s also the most work–from having to upload to five major platforms, maintain the same changes on all platforms, and deal with accounting from all five platforms. Add to that that it’s very difficult to impossible to get onto GooglePlay this way at all. And, again, very difficult to upload to Apple iBooks at all without a Mac. So, this one’s a non-starter.
  • Smashwords. This one would be easy. About half my books are already there, where I unpublished them when I decided to give Kindle Unlimited a try. Smashwords would get me in everywhere but GooglePlay with one click, plus a host of smaller retailers and potentially libraries (ebooks). But, you can’t get around the meatgrinder. And I’ve been trying to do more professional formatting for my ebooks, most of which would likely be lost.
  • Pronoun. Pronoun currently only distributes to the five biggest retailers–Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple iBooks, GooglePlay, and Kobo (no particular order, except Amazon is still top dog in this market). They can even get better royalties for ebooks priced outside Amazon’s preferred $2.99 – $9.99 price range.
  • Draft2Digital. D2D distributes to all the major markets except GooglePlay and a few of the smaller ones (though not as many as Smashwords). Unlike either Smashwords or Pronoun, they will pay by direct deposit rather than through PayPal. (I had a bad experience with PayPal years ago and I’ve been a little leery of it ever since. I have an account, but it is very deliberately not linked to my bank account. I’d probably have to change that if I start making more than nominal money in those other markets–unless I use D2D, of course.)

In the end, the only real way to tell is probably to give it a try. So, I started yesterday trying to publish BECOME: BROTHERS

Brothers

through Pronoun (because it’ll probably always be priced lower than the level at which Amazon allows 70% royalties–except through Pronoun.) At first, of course, I’d have to publish everywhere but Amazon through Pronoun and eventually switch over there, too.

I still haven’t managed that. A certain amount of reformatting was to be expected. At the very least, I expected to have to remove all links to Amazon. Pronoun wants to supply your title page, copyright page and table of contents themselves. They provide all of six “professional” formats to choose from. None of which really fit epic fantasy and none of them appear to support a two-level table of contents, either. They do, however, allow you to bypass this by uploading your own .epub and .mobi files.

There was an unexpected blip when their processor objected to the file name of the embedded font I used for chapter headings (the same font I used on the cover) because it had spaces in it. With some help from Facebook friends, I got past that. But I have no idea what they are doing–or not doing–with the .mobi file. Only that they don’t acknowledge that I’ve uploaded it–five times–and won’t let me publish without it, even though they won’t be publishing to Amazon through them initially. And, there’s no support until Tuesday, because this is a holiday weekend.

Say what you like about the zon, I don’t care what day it is or what time of day, you can get support from someone. Might not be the most senior person, but there’s someone there. And, once, I had a technical problem with Smashwords on a holiday weekend. I sent an email through the contact form and got an answer from the president of the company, since everyone else was out of the office. So . . . there’s that.

I’m more than a tiny bit frustrated. The next step appears to be to take the next book on the conveyor belt, BLOOD WILL TELL,

Become3

give it that promised brush up, and see what happens with D2D. Then I can fairly make a choice between the two.

At the least, I’ve now got universal links for all my current books. So, I accomplished that much. (By the way, that service, Books2Read, is offered by D2D.)

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I’ve posted before about the complexities added by the order in which individual books can come out of Kindle Unlimited. And boxed sets just add another layer. All the elements of a boxed set have to come out of KU before the boxed set can go wide and the boxed set also has to come out of KU before any of the individual elements can go wide.

As my books begin to come out of their last 90-day enrollment in KU, I have to get serious about planning out a strategy. (To be honest, I’ve been slower than I should be about this. On the other hand, I know I’ve got a couple of months coming up in which I can devote a lot more time to this.)

Looking at things by boxed sets:

  • BECOME: BROTHERS was never in KU in the first place.Brothers
  • Both of the books in my ChimeriaChimeria series are already out of KU. But I want to give these a brush-up before taking them wide.ChimeriaBox
  • Most of the Dual Magics series is also out of KU, with the exception of the final book, WAR OF MAGIC, and one short story that is also included in the boxed set.Dual Magics 1-3 Boxed Set
  • And the three stand-alone YA novels included in the boxed set BY SWORD, TALE, OR MAGIC are tied up until the boxed set clears on mid-July.By Sword Boxed Set

So, that’s likely the order in which I will tackle this. Chimeria first, then Dual Magics, and finally the three YA novels.

Now, it’s down to deciding on a strategy:

  • Back to Smashwords?
  • Try Draft2Digital?
  • Try Pronoun?
  • Try to do everything individually.

Time to dig more deeply into the pros and cons of each of those choices.

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All authors suffer from this disorder to one degree or another. Other people wonder how we get the ideas for our stories. The truth is: When you’re a writer–and actually writing–ideas fall all around you like rain. It’s more an issue of sorting out the good ones.

And, usually, when that happens, we’re able to just jot down the idea, file it away, and keep going. Those ideas aren’t quite ripe yet, anyway. They’re just the seeds of stories. But, then, sometimes–and usually without warning–two or three of those ideas come together. And that’s something else altogether. That’s a story.

And a new story is always more exciting than an old one. It’s a New Shiny Object and we’re all, every one of us, magpies.

That happened to me this week. The story in question is a new sub-genre for me–a fairy tale retelling. Specifically, Cinderella. But with an entirely different motivation for the stepmother. What collided with this germ was the idea of a thriller-ish twist to what happens–or is supposed to happen–at midnight. And the half-ripe idea I already had that this story could fit into the same world as DAUGHTER OF THE DISGRACED KING,

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although with different protagonists, and continue the greater arc of the jeopardy facing Far Terra. I always thought that story had the potential for a weird sort of series featuring different protagonists in each book, with the previous heroes turning up as side characters or mentors.

I’ve only just started a new epic fantasy series with BECOME: BROTHERS

Brothers

and I really, really need to keep my head in that story. But, as I mentioned in my last post, I’m having some motivation issues with that. Plus, I need to be working on research for taking my books wide over the next month or two.

And then along comes this New Shiny Object. I’ve jotted down the ideas, but I’m not sure I’m going to be able to beat this one off with a stick.

 

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Right now, I seem to be suffering from a severe lack of motivation concerning my writing. I’m not entirely sure why.

  • It could be the dismal reports from Amazon, lately. If I had any doubt that page flip was eating me alive, this chart put them to rest.Page Reads PercentThat’s page reads as a percent of my royalty income (in the U.S. only). For months the number stayed in a small range. The upward swing corresponds to the release of WAR OF MAGIC.warmagicprintcover Then, after December–when, perhaps, people got new reading devices that were page-flip enabled–page reads from Kindle Unlimited start to drop like a rock. This is why I’m pulling my books out of KU. Yeah, that could have something to do with my motivation.
  • It could be related to the struggle I had finding my way into this story. I still believe in this story, but it’s true that it took me longer and more tries to find a way to tell works–I hope. I tried telling it chronologically, but that just took too long to get to the main story line. I tried using flashbacks, but that was distracting–and still took to long to get to the main story line. I finally settled on starting with the novella to get in the story of the relationship between these two brothers which is going to be important to the rest of the story. But I am still just a little nervous about starting an epic fantasy series with a novella. That doesn’t exactly comport with reader expectations for the genre.
  • Or, it could just be burn out. That happens. The good news is that it’s always temporary. But sometimes we all do need to take a break, even writers.

Or, of course, there’s nothing preventing it from being a combination of all three.

And, ultimately, it doesn’t really matter which it is. What matters is breaking through it. And, one thing I know: the only way to do that is to write.

So, here are my options:

  • Try to power through on BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING.
  • I have another epic fantasy series on the back burner, currently titled MAGE STORM. It should be a four-book series. I could work on that.
  • Something altogether else, like my Cinderella retelling.

Also, since I’m pulling my books out of Kindle Unlimited, I still need to research exactly how I’m going to go about taking them to a wider distribution.

Then too, because of the complications of the boxed sets, the first books that will be ready to go wide are the Chimeria series.

ChimeriaBox

But I want to run another editing pass through them first. So, there’s that to work on, too.

Now, all it takes is a bit of discipline to get back on track.

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Busy day, mostly because I had to reschedule things I would normally do tomorrow. But there’s something extra I have to do for work tomorrow. So . . .

The next logical step in planning to remove my books from Kindle Unlimited and go to a wider distribution is figuring out exactly how I’m going to do that.

When my books were available widely before, I mostly used Smashwords for distribution other than at Amazon. There are other options for the same service now, but the main one is still Draft2Digital, just as it was then. There are pros and cons to both services and I have to delve a lot deeper into that before I make my choice.

Of course, the other option is to handle the distribution to fewer, selected markets myself. That means formatting for each different market. Tracking sales and payments in several different places. And, for the Apple iBookstore, which is probably the second biggest market after Amazon, finding a way to deal with an interface that is built to only work with Macs from a PC.

Then, of course, there’s the whole complexity of how to manage and coordinate promotions with so many different markets. There’s no question Kindle Select makes that easier. But it’s just not feasible to stay exclusive with Amazon anymore. Not with page flip intentionally under-counting page reads–and therefore payment to authors. And yes, I’ve seen too much circumstantial evidence to doubt that that’s exactly what’s happening.

So, in addition to trying to move ahead on BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING

becomeblue

it looks like I’ll have a fair amount of research to work through in the next month or so.

In the meantime, I’ve already started taking steps to remove my works from Kindle Select–and therefore from Kindle Unlimited.

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So, one of the first steps in figuring out how to take my work back to wider markets is determining the schedule. And the first step in that is finding out when the various books, short stories, novella, and boxed sets can come out of Kindle Select. It’s the boxed sets that make this a little complicated.

The KS term for THE DUAL MAGICS BOOKS 1 – 3 boxed set ends on May 23, but the set includes:

Dual Magics 1-3 Boxed Set

  1. THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, term ending May 27
  2. THE VOICE OF PROPHECY, term ending June 1
  3. BEYOND THE PROPHECY, term ending May 29
  4. And, the joker in the deck, the short story “Modgud Gold”, term ending June 27

Apart from that “bonus” short story that I threw in, they’re all nicely grouped. I’ll have to pull the novels out of Kindle Select a month before I can do anything else with them. Not ideal.

On the positive side, WAR OF MAGIC, which isn’t in the boxed set, has a term ending date of June 23, so at least it will fall right in line when I prepare to take these wide.

On the negative side, I can’t do anything productive about these until late June, except start taking them out of Kindle Select.

But BY SWORD, TALE, OR MAGIC is even more interesting.

By Sword Boxed Set

The boxed set KS term ends on April 17, but the contents:

  1. FIRE AND EARTH term ends May 13
  2. THE BARD’S GIFT term ends also May 13
  3. DAUGHTER OF THE DISGRACED KING term ends May 6
  4. And the “bonus” short story “Becoming Liones” term ends July 4

Obviously, the thing to do with this one is take the boxed set out of KS last since it’s next term end date would presumably be somewhere around July 17.

Which, at least coincides closely with DUAL MAGICS. Looks like I might be busy for a couple of weeks early this summer.

Then there’s my CHIMERIA series.

ChimeriaBox

This and the two books included in it, BLOOD WILL TELL and BLOOD IS THICKER all have term ending dates of May 24. Easy. Except that I really don’t want to lead off with these. They were among the first things I published. I’ve been re-reading them and I seriously think they need a bit of work before taking them out to a wider world–and not just because my craft has improved in the meantime. These–and the handful of other short stories and one novella–will likely go last–which means late August at the earliest.

Well, at least I have plenty of time to research my options.

Meanwhile, I’ve got one more little scene to write and I’ll be ready to publish BECOME: BROTHERS

Brothers

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I first started publishing my stories five years ago. I stuck my toe in the water with a short story, “Heart of Oak”.

Heart-of-Oak

Then followed up with my first published novel, BLOOD WILL TELL.

Become3

When I started, I published widely–directly to Amazon and through Smashwords to other marketplaces, including Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Apple iBookstore. I didn’t have all my eggs in one basket. Three other novels, three other short stories, and one novella followed. I didn’t do very much in the way of promotion and no traditional marketing at all. And mostly, I broke even or maybe did just a little better than that.

And then, in July 2014, two things happened. I published the first book in my epic fantasy series, THE SHAMAN’S CURSE.

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(By the way, is it bad that I can type the link to that book from memory?) And, within a couple of weeks, Amazon started its Kindle Unlimited program.

Somehow, THE SHAMAN’S CURSE made it onto Amazon’s lists, which really boosted sales. It’s still my most successful book. And I’m still mystified by how that happened, because I still wasn’t doing any real promotion or marketing. But, because of that boost on Amazon, I did notice something else: That first month, I had sold about 8 copies of TSC in all of the markets I reached through Smashwords and about 1500 on Amazon.

And Amazon had this new Kindle Unlimited feature that was only available to us independent authors under certain circumstances–one of which was that we make our books available exclusively through Amazon. Well, that was pretty much a no-brainer.

I withdrew the book from Smashwords and joined Kindle Select. That went so well that I published everything new–four more novels (three in the DUAL MAGICS series and one stand-alone) and a new short story–exclusively through Amazon. Gradually, I withdrew all my other work (except one short story that I’d always intended to leave free) from Smashwords and made them exclusive with Amazon, too. That’s nine novels, four short stories, and one novella.

And I’ve had no complaints about that decision until recently. Over the last month, page reads–the measure by which Amazon pays authors for books borrowed through Kindle Unlimited–have fallen to almost nothing. I don’t have the data to determine why this is. I don’t know if Amazon’s relatively new feature, page flip (for which they purposely don’t count pages) has anything to do with it or if it’s something else. Disabling page flip certainly hasn’t made a difference–though I’m in process of finishing up that project anyway.

Maybe all the Amazon customers who would be interested in my work through Kindle Unlimited have already borrowed it. Though, sales continue at about the level I’d expect six months after my last release.

Either way, it’s time to start exploring my options again. I’ve started looking at the schedule on which I can remove my stories from Kindle Select. This is slightly complicated by the boxed sets. I can’t publish the boxed set or any of the books or stories in the boxed set anywhere else while any of them are still in Kindle Select. However, they all seem to be grouped in the May/June time frame, for some reason, with one outlier in mid April.

As I prepare to publish BECOME: BROTHERS

Brothers

and get back to work on BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING, hopefully this week but certainly this month, I have a decision to make.

  1. I can publish it exclusively with Amazon, at least temporarily. This ties it up for three months. On the other hand, I haven’t completed–heck, I’ve barely started–my research into the best way to take my books wide again, so I probably wouldn’t be ready to do that immediately anyway.
  2. Or I can publish to Amazon first, without tying the book up in Kindle Select and continue my research into other options.
  3. I don’t see any value on holding off until I’m ready to go wide, so I can cross that option off, at least.

Onward.

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