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Posts Tagged ‘research’

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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I posted a while back about having to go back and clarify some of my world building for BECOME. But that was the world building relating to the cultures and religion of this world. There’s another kind.

Become4

I’ve now reached the part of the story where my main character will first encounter a new part of this world–one that will be very important to most of the rest of this story. And so I need to describe it.

Now, the physical aspect of this part of the world is based heavily on the temperate rain forests of the Pacific Northwest. In particular, on Princess Louisa Inlet. So, I thought it would be a good idea to refresh my memory. Since a trip there is, unfortunately, impractical at the moment, that meant getting out the photo album from that trip. I thought I’d share a few.

This is the entrance to Princess Louisa Inlet. It’s actually called Malibu Rapids, and it’s very narrow and only about 30 feet deep–at high tide.

Entrance to Princess Louisa Inlet

That little spot, black below and red or yellow above, you can see off the point? That’s the zodiac going ahead to make sure of the channel.

The forest is the very definition of a temperate rain forest.

Princess Louisa Inlet

Princess Louisa Inlet Forest

Princess Louisa Inlet Forest 4

Princess Louisa Inlet Forest 3

It was September when I was there, and the Fall colors were just starting.

Princess Louisa Inlet Forest 2

And, at the head of the inlet, there’s Chatterbox Falls.

Chatterbox Falls Close Up

Chatterbox Falls 2

This is the valley above Chattebox Falls.

The Valley Above Chatterbox Falls

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I’ve been reading–admittedly slowly because it’s just not as much fun as reading fiction–a graphic design book, trying to improve my understanding of what I’m doing when I design a book cover. I actually looked for a course at my local community college, but they didn’t have one. Graphic Arts, yes, but not Graphic Design, specifically.

I think typography will likely be an area where I need to get into more depth. I have a tendency to just pick a standard font and go with it.

This is particularly apropos because I’m trying to get a start on two covers right now. The one for BEYOND THE PROPHECY, the third book in the Dual Magics series. And one for DAUGHTER OF THE DISGRACED KING, a young adult fantasy romance that I wrote over a year ago.

I actually have the concept for BEYOND THE PROPHECY pretty well in hand. Not that it will hurt to have a better understanding of the principals of design. But the background theme–blue and red on a dark background–is already well established. The backgrounds advance from lightning, to a veritable storm of lightning, to smoke, and finally to flames. The only thing I really need to choose for those covers is the foreground image. For BEYOND THE PROPHECY it will be a white eagle (or as close as I can get, which may be a gyrfalcon. There aren’t very many images of truly white eagles.) That might, or might not, give you an idea of what happens in the story.

DAUGHTER OF THE DISGRACED KING is proving more difficult. I think I may finally have a concept. Something I may try out on a couple of Facebook groups I belong to, to see how it flies. That’s very helpful, too.

Indie authors have to wear a lot of hats.

 

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First, let me say that the release of THE VOICE OF PROPHECY is still scheduled for December 15th.

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Second, I know I said that I was targeting November 17th for the pre-order. That may not happen for a couple of reasons.

  1. I’m still assessing what information I can gather about Amazon’s pre-order system. I notice that people who generally know a lot more about how these things work than I do have chosen shorter pre-order periods. There’s a reason for this. (Maybe more than one.) It has to do with the way Amazon helps with the discoverability of some books. This was a huge factor for me with THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, and I don’t want to screw it up with this one.????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????The thing is, Amazon has several lists. One of them–the Hot New Releases–is only available for thirty days. As far as I can tell, that could expire before the book is ever released if I start the pre-order to early. I’m not sure about that, though. I may have to contact Amazon for a final answer. It wasn’t in their FAQs.
  2. The second reason is more practical. Before I can expect anyone to order it, I need to have a good blurb. And, like everything to do with a sequel, that’s harder than it was for the first book. Trying to balance enough information, potentially for people who didn’t read THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, with an enticing peek at this story. Well, let’s just say I may not have that by the 17th. I’m leaning toward this:

When the two kinds of magic combine, unexpected things happen.

Vatar overcame his tribe’s superstitions to accept his own magic. That doesn’t mean he’s prepared to tell them about it. He’d rather keep that secret forever. Especially when unprecedented things start to happen that even the experts in magic can’t explain.

Even more when a mysterious voice only he can hear starts volunteering information Vatar can’t possible know.

After enduring an Ordeal to prove he wasn’t possessed by an Evil Spirit, Vatar now thinks he may be after all. Or losing his mind. Or cursed. It’s enough to make him want to give up on magic altogether.

But he’s going to need all his wits—and all the magic he can muster—to defeat those who want to use him and his magic for their own ends.

But that’s not right yet. For one thing, the word “magic” is used five times in as many paragraphs. For another, it lacks enough specifics to grab a new reader. And third, some of hte references are probably confusing for someone who hasn’t read the first book.

Oh, and I also have to whip a couple of chapters from the first draft of Book 3 (probably to be titled BEYOND THE PROPHECY) into shape to include as an excerpt.

Yeah, nobody said this part was going to be easy.

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The name of the game with independent (or self) publishing is getting potential readers to even see your books. They can’t read it if they don’t even know it exists. For me–for a lot of authors, really–this is the hardest part. And I was determined to do better at it this time, with THE SHAMAN’S CURSE.

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  1. When I released BLOOD WILL TELL, I basically set it loose and expected it to fly on its own. It fluttered some, but it certainly didn’t soar.
  2. With FIRE AND EARTH, I attempted to contact book bloggers for review. I spent way too much time at it and still only got a few reviews. It takes a lot of time to find book bloggers, determine if they even like books like the one you’ve written, and contact them. Many are too backlogged to take on anything new. Even those who aren’t may take months to get to your book. It’s not that it’s not worthwhile to try to find book bloggers to review your book. Just maybe a little at a time.
  3. BLOOD IS THICKER got a paid blog tour. Not an expensive one, since that wasn’t in the budget. I also put out an omnibus edition, combining both BLOOD WILL TELL and BLOOD IS THICKER and made it the same price as either book alone for awhile. It did help.
  4. I didn’t put a lot of thought into the launch of THE BARD’S GIFT. It went up only a week or so after Christmas. But I have tried a few things after the launch. Some writer friends put together an impromptu blog tour. I tried Story Cartel to get reviews. (I got one.) I published the short story that was the starting point for THE BARD’S GIFT, with a long excerpt of TBG, and priced it free. (Everywhere but Amazon. I still haven’t succeeded in making “Wyreth’s Flame” free on Amazon.) But, to be fair, an historical fantasy set in 14th Century Greenland, Iceland, and Markland is probably just a hard sell.
  5. Taking all of this into account, plus the advice in David Gaughran’s LET’S GET VISIBLE, THE SHAMAN’S CURSE strategy has been as follows:
  • Use a free short story (“Becoming Lioness”) set in the same world as TSC, with an excerpt of TSC, to try to generate interest IN ADVANCE OF THE LAUNCH.
  • Set the initial price low ($0.99) for a limited time.
  • I’ll probably start trying to find some reviewers, too. I’ve also added a request for reviews right in the back matter of the ebook.

So far, I’ve been reasonably pleased with the result. We’re still not talking best-seller, here, but it’s better than I’ve done with any launch so far. In fact, I’ve already gotten my first review. That, after all, is the point. To get at least a little better at this with every book.

 

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