Friday, January 31, 2020

When Work and Creativity Collide (aka My Work Side is a Bully)

I have a problem.  The part of my brain that deals with work stuff - finances, marketing, spreadsheets, etc. - is a bully.  When it's on, it grabs hold of the part of my brain that deals with creative stuff, smacks it around, and shoves it into a locker. 

I hadn't really thought about it before, but I suppose, looking back at it now, it's been a problem for a while.  I try to separate the two by doing work stuff in the daytime and creative stuff at night, but it doesn't always keep the bully in check.  Sometimes if I spend a lot of time on the work stuff during the day, I'm too beat up to let my creativity side play at night.

Not sure how to fix this.  I mean, I probably need to put my creative side on a regimented exercise plan ala Jack Lalanne, so when the bully side gets uppity, the creative can hold its own. 

I don't want to shut down the work side completely.  It's the side that makes me money.  But if all I have is the work side, I don't produce more product to make money with.  I'd love it if I could find a balance somewhere, make the two sides play nice for a while.  They need each other, after all.

I suppose I should just shut up and get 'er done.  Pull the creative side out of the locker and push it to stand up for itself. 

How about you?  Does your work side bully your creative side?  Vice versa? 

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Make it Easy

The other day I was scrolling down my FB feed when I saw a link to the review of a book that sounded really interesting.  I clicked over, scanned the review, and found it more interesting.  At the bottom of the review, there were links going to various ways to access the author.  But no link to the book.

That was the first mistake.

Okay, still interested in the book, I clicked the link to the author's Amazon page.  Umm, it went to my author page.  I checked the URL and it was the general 'author page' link, not a link to that particular author.

And that was mistake #2.

So, I clicked the link that would take me to the author's Facebook page, still hoping I'd find a place where I could actually access the book in question.  And it sat there, trying to load but not actually loading.  I waited and waited...

Mistake #3 and I gave up.

While none of these mistakes are necessarily the author's fault, they lost the author a sale.  (Or at the very least a future sale because I would've at least wishlisted it.)

All of this brought something to mind, though.  I see a lot of posts where the link is broken or there is no link at all or it takes forever to load or... something.  My point is that authors need to make it easy for readers.  You put all that work into marketing your book, from creating a really grabby blurb to writing the marketing copy to creating pretty graphics that encourage readers to click through, don't waste it.  Post a link that goes directly to the place where they can buy.  OR at the very least to a page where there are additional links that go directly to a place where they can buy.

As for the reviewer thing... if you have someone reviewing your book, make sure they have all the right links.  Check their links and let them know if they're broken.  Say 'hey, thanks for the awesome review, but the link to my author page should be X' or something.  Anything.  (Of course, this only works if you know they reviewed your book.)  If you are a reviewer, check your links so you're not putting up that awesome review and then frustrating the readers.

Just sayin'.  And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go check all my links and make sure I'm not being a damn hypocrite.

Oh, and I updated the photo on my About Me page here.  Gotta remember to do that stuff every now and then.

Speaking of making it easy, I almost forgot... Blink of an I is free now through Friday worldwide.  If you haven't read it yet, now would be a good time to snag a copy. 

Monday, January 27, 2020

Writer Brain

The writer brain is a strange, strange place.  I think, usually, the term 'writer brain' is used for times when writers can't necessarily connect with what's going on around them.  Stuff happens and we're all like 'huh, what?' 

But there's another thing writer brains do... at least mine does... and that's to come up with endless possibilities for any given thing all the time.  To see not just both sides of an issue, but every possible side to the issue.  To wonder 'what if' about everything.

For me, this comes in really handy watching true crime shows and reading mysteries.  I can usually figure out the whodunnit or if not the exact killer, then several possibilities of who did it. 

It also leads me to a wide array of conspiracy theories.  This came in pretty handy when writing Project Hermes.  (On sale now... see what I did there?)  I thought about microchips for animals and wondered 'what if a microchip carried more than just information?'  And then 'what if there was something in there that could kill?'  And then 'what if someone bad in the government got a hold of the ability to use that?'  Bingo bango bongo... a book. 

I also think about smaller conspiracies...  like 'what if she left her car running because she was actually trying to fill my house with CO2 and kill me?' (Accidental Death)  Or 'what if an elderly person's death wasn't because they were old?' (Early Grave)

My conspiracy theories also come in handy for a laugh around the house.  This morning, I posited a theory to Hubs and he suggested that perhaps he needed to look into buying me a tinfoil hat.  And we laughed. 

I don't really need a tinfoil hat. Just because I posit a theory doesn't mean I believe it's true.  I'm just putting it out there.  Because it was just in here (points to head.)   If it never comes to light that it's true, it's just one of my weird theories.  And if it does turn out to be true, I can say 'I told you so'.   If nothing else, it's good fodder for the writing.

Do you have any conspiracy theories?  Or is it just me?

Friday, January 24, 2020

Writing Necessities and Obsessions

Earlier, a FB friend was talking about her obsession with pens and paper.  And I commented that I don't have an obsession, but then went on to talk about my 'writing necessities'.  At which point, she pointed out that I perhaps do have an obsession.  She's isn't wrong.

In order to write, I have to have a 5-subject notebook and a red gel pen.

On the other hand, I don't think I'm as obsessed with the tools of the trade as some writers.  I don't feel the burning need to buy stacks of notebooks or boxes of writing implements.  I don't have any pretty notebooks - except the ones I got as prezzie that I don't actually write in.  I don't have any really nifty pens.  And I only write longhand as a way to shake myself up or when I need to work through a problem.

For that, I need one big notebook and at least two pens - one for using and one for backup in case the first one runs dry.

Now, the reason I use a 5-subject - must be college-ruled - is that it has the right heft, so I don't feel like I need anything sturdy behind it when I'm writing in my chair.  And college-ruled, because the wide ruled just feels wrong somehow.  You can get more on a page with college-ruled anyway.

As for the red gel pen, I think I got into the whole red thing as a way to combat the fear of the editor.  I mean, red means bad.  If it's red, you've done something wrong, right?  So, I use a red pen for regular writing.  And when I have to do any editing on that, I use a plain ol' black ballpoint.  Whichever one is handy.

In the last package of red gel pens, I got a purple pen for free.  Not sure what to do with that sucker.  I mean, I know a gal who writes in purple, but :shudder: totally not my bag.

I know we don't actually need any particular item to write.  We could all write as easily on one thing as another, with whatever implement put marks on paper.  But writers get into their grooves and stepping out of the groove harshes our ability to make stories.  For me, it's one thing.  For you, perhaps another.

What about you?  What are your writing necessities?  And if you don't write, what little things do you need to do your job?   Are you obsessed with them?

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Next Up on Sale - Project Hermes

Next up on the rolling book sale, PROJECT HERMES. Only 99c/99p right now. (Always free in Kindle Unlimited.)


It's the little things that kill

The highest levels of the government believe Project Hermes is the best way to control America’s immigration problem. A simple microchip carrying a citizen’s information will allow officials to sort out who belongs—and who doesn’t. Harmless.

Unless the chip carries more than just information.

#political #suspense #medical #conspiracytheory #ebook #99c #99p #nanotechnology

Monday, January 20, 2020

Forced Diversity

I saw a link to something the other day and the commentary that went with it, but I didn't follow the link, so I can't respond to anything but what the commentary indicated.  And to what seems to be a thing in the writing community.  Diversity in fiction.  Apparently at the end of the link was a thing advocating forcing diversity in fiction. 

Umm, yah.

I don't know about other writers, but I pretty much let the characters tell me who they are.  I mean, at the beginning of Fertile Ground, Teri walks into a meeting where a big black guy is getting the go-ahead to investigate a case that might not be a case.  When it came time to write another SCIU book, the guy stepped in front and demanded I write his book and thus came Ned Washington in Early Grave.  I like Ned.  He was fun to write.  (And if you haven't read it yet, he pairs up nicely with Lynn from Dying Embers.)

The idea for a, if not bad certainly annoying, guy in Wish in One Hand came from mixing Othello up a bit and making Iago the Moor.  Later in the series, Hans is gay because it was an interesting juxtaposition to Frank.  Then there are the twins, who are black because white Nubian princesses would be weird.  And, naturally Ezekiel ben Aron is Hebrew, modeled after an Israeli guy I knew.

All of the characters in Accidental Death are white except for the librarian, mainly because in a small town in Colorado, that's about the ratio you get.  There might be gay people in there, but their sexual preferences weren't germane to the story.  In my opinion, it rarely is.

In both of my dystopian novels, I don't think I even describe race.  It's just not important to the story.  It doesn't matter because whoever you are, you're going to get screwed if those futures come to fruition.

Gah, just writing this post, trying to pinpoint which characters might check the diversity boxes made my head hurt.  I don't write them that way.  I don't think that way.  I'm more of an 'each individual is who they are inside' kind of person.  Good and rational comes in every color, shape, size, etc.  Evil and irrationality comes in every wrapping, too.

The point is that of course you should pepper your stories with different characters.  Because it adds seasoning and makes things interesting in your story.  Not because you're ticking off a bunch of boxes in the social justice pamphlet.  Definitely not because some twerp somewhere has a checklist they're comparing to every piece of fiction written, praising those that adhere and damning those that don't. 

Stop thinking about it and focus on writing the best story you know how.  The diversity will come if you do that.  If you force it, it will only hurt the story because readers can tell when something is forced.  And the story is really the most important part, right?

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

A Dennis Haggarty Mystery Sale

It's time again for another sale.  This time around, Accidental Death and Natural Causes are on sale for 99c/99p each. 
Actually they're on sale today through next Tuesday night, but I made the graphic for posting on FB.

I know tons of people bought Accidental Death, but haven't bought Natural Causes yet.  Now's a good time to rectify that, if you're one of them. 

In AD, you get to meet Dennis Haggarty, a gritty Denver Homicide Detective, as he comes up against small town attitudes while trying to solve a murder no one wants to believe is murder. 

In NC, you find Dennis is now the Chief of Police in a small mountain town where an apparent cougar attack isn't what it seems.  The place has changed, but the attitudes haven't.

I got the idea for AD while living in a small town in the middle of nowhere and realizing how easy it would be to have a murder explained away as accidental.  The young man found hanging in his garage.  The stranger found burned up in his car in the middle of a wildfire.  The time my insane neighbor almost asphyxiated us by letting her guests run their RV in her driveway while my home filled with exhaust.  Little things that made me wonder and wondering always leads me to stories. 

I grew up outside a small town, hearing about the attitudes inherent there  - although being outside of it then.  Then I found myself smack in the middle of it later in life.  I'm well outside of it now, but hell, I hear about it here, too.  Three different towns, three different states, same small-town ideas and prejudices and attitudes.  Go figger.

Anyway, I had a lot of fun writing these books.  I hope you have a lot of fun reading them.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Self-Publishing Income Versus Outgo.

It's time to talk about the thing I hate most - Income versus Outgo.  What I've made versus what I've spent. 

As you might have guessed, I keep it all in a spreadsheet.  Every time I spend money on the writing business, I put it in there.  And every time I make money from the writing business, I put it in there.  Of course, since I hate looking at this, I hadn't then taken those incomes and outgoes and transferred them to the sheet that does the math on it all since last January. I did that on Saturday, so I figured I'd share the results with you here today.

At first glance, the income and the outgo nearly match with income coming out a little ahead.  This is because for 'incoming', I also put down any money I've contributed to the process from other non-writing sources.  The reality of 'sales' versus 'outgo' is the depressing part.  The reality of it is that I am $8K in the hole.

:shrug:  That's the reality of this self-publishing thing I'm doing.  Some writers have it better.  Some have it worse.  I expect a lot of writers are about the same.

Okay, so how does outgo/sales break down by year?

2015: -$4958.94 / $1357.92
2016: -$2079.18 / $786.15
2017: -$1525.56 / $318.92
2018: -$2329.14 / $627.53
2019: -$428.00 / $468.80

On the upside, last year is actually showing in the black by like $40. 

I won't bore you with the actual 'by book' numbers.  The book I've made the most money on is Dying Embers.  I assume because this one has been out the longest and my first year was my best year.  The book I've spent the most on is Wish in One Hand - because I had to do the cover art twice and I spent a huge sum on the first cover.  The book that is closest to being in the black is Accidental Death.  Another $100 in sales without spending any more on it and it'll have paid for itself. 

Of course, I've spent $300 on two books that aren't even out yet - covers for Ugly and the Beast and Cinder Ugly.  Maybe I'll start recouping some of that in the first half of this year.  We'll see.  I'm still playing with the idea of publishing those without sending them through the editor.  If I go with the editor, add another $400-$500 to each of those.

So, there are the hard numbers for my first five years of publishing.  Like I've said before, if you're in this for the money, you'll probably be sorely disappointed.  Then again, maybe you'll break out and soar.  Your mileage will probably vary.  Good luck out there and may 2020 be a better year for us all.

And here's the point where you can ask questions.  I'll answer them if I can.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Talking Pricing Again

I've been noticing something lately.  The price point for new indie books seems to have risen again.  I'm seeing quite a few that are set at $6.99.   (In fact, the book I just finished that I got for free is now $6.99.  It was pretty good, but I would never have gotten it at that price.)

Six ninety-nine.

I mean, it's good margin if you can get that much for your books.  But are they actually getting that much?

I just looked at one that sounded really interesting in the FB marketing post.  Clicked over to Amazon... $6.99.  Nope.  Too rich for my blood.  And then I noticed it had no reviews and its ranking is in the 7 millions.  (I've never even seen a book in the 7 millions before.  Ugh.)  For a book published in 2018.  Sad.

So, the question in my mind is 'what is driving these indie authors to price their books so high?'

Okay, the first real question was 'am I pricing my books too low?'  It's an eternal question floating around my head.  The answer... I don't know.  A few years back a popular author told people on his blog that $2.99 books were all crap.  (Yeah, thanks for that, dude.)  All my books were $2.99 at the time.  Since then, I've raised several of them to $3.99 and a couple to $4.99.  But for me, the regular price doesn't really matter because I'm only actually moving books when they're on sale.

Now, back to the question of what's driving this.  I suspect part of it is a wish to make more per book - I mean, who doesn't want to make more per book? - and the belief people will actually buy their books at that higher price point.  I mean, if traditional books are $9.99, why not price your indie books at $6.99?  Surely people will see that your book is worth that.  The problem comes when people aren't actually buying books at the higher price point because the author is unknown to them, the ranking sucks, etc.  Which makes the rankings worse and... it's a vicious cycle.

Then the question comes around of 'if your books aren't selling at $6.99, why are you keeping them at $6.99?'  Or maybe that's just a question in my head and they aren't thinking about it.  :shrug:

Anyway, I'm just pondering things this morning.  I did feel bad for the guy.  Like I said, the story sounded really interesting.  I might've even taken the chance if it were $3.99 or $2.99, but I just can't afford to drop $6.99 for a new-to-me, underappreciated author.  Plus, I've been burned taking a chance on books that were 99c or free.  And every burn makes me less likely to take a chance again.  I'd love to be in a position to splash money around to all the indies I wanted, but I just can't.

What about you?  What are you willing to spend on a book?  What if it's an untried author? 

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Updates and Changes

I started a paranormal mystery last night and sure enough, it had a black cat in it.  And this one talked, too.  Again. 

Other than the cover art for Ugly and the Beast, it's not that hard to change the cat from black to some other color.  At this point, any other color would do. 

I need to contact my ultra-busy cover artist and see if she can squeeze a quick change in.  If swapping out the black cat for another cat is too much work or requires extra payment, I may just nix the cat from the cover altogether.  She didn't charge me when I had her pull Mary off the cover of In Deep Wish, so there's hope. 

It's just as well I'm finding this stuff now.  Once the book goes live and people start reading it, it's a bitch to change anything in it.

If she can't do it, Kazimir (formerly Oliver) will remain black.  No help for that.  Can't have a black cat on the cover and not have the damn cat be black.

I keep having to change things in these books because I keep finding similarities to other books.  Which reminds me, Pinky isn't Pinky anymore.  He's still a pink hellbeast, but the name has changed to something more interesting because someone else had a hellhound named Blue.  Too same-same.  I like the new name better.  It has a story behind it - relating back to a manager I had once upon a time who wore the most garish pink nail polish, and her use of nicknames for everyone.  But I'm not talking about the new name here because it seems like every time I let a piece of info out, I have to change it and it's very confusing.

I rewrote the end of Ugly and the Beast, too.  Which I think I like better.  I kept the old ending, just in case. 

Anyway, I'm making headway.  I've re-read and edited the 9300 words I have for Cinder Ugly and will be adding new words to it starting today.  Not sure where I'm going but the fingers will do the walking and we'll see what happens.  Weeeeee.

And that's what's going on in my world. 

I'm still not posting here very often.  If you want more posts, visit The Writing Spectacle.  If I'm not here, most likely I'm there.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2019 Sales and Marketing Wrap-up

Happy New Year!  Well, that's another year in the can.  I can't say I'm sorry to see 2019 go.  :waves buh-bye:  Let's just go ahead and get this wrap-up out of the way so we can put 2019 away.

It was not a banner year for the whole writing/selling books thing.  I had hoped to get two books out in 2019, if I remember right.  That didn't happen.  I started the year in a slump and it pretty much lasted all year.

I did get Ugly and the Beast written.  I also got it kind of edited.  Then I started Cinder Ugly and the wheels came off.  I wrote part of a Space Bunny thing.  I also did some noodling around with ideas for another SCIU and another Dennis Haggarty.  I participated in NaNo and got another big chunk written on a YA fantasy I started 6 years ago.  Oh, and I started a short Christmas story involving the genies.  Not much to crow about considering there were 365 days in there with which to work and how little I actually worked on writing.

In the selling books arena, here are the numbers.  It's easier to deal with numbers sometimes.

Total sales $: $469
Total copies sold: 484

Not as much money as last year, but better than 2017, so I'm not crying into my coffee too much.  With no new books hitting the market, I should be happy I got that many sales.  This year, I did roll over 3K books sold over the entirety of my publishing life.  It averages out to 603 books and $712 a year.  (2015 was a big year, so it skews the average.)  Woohoo.

Dollars spent on marketing: $316
Sales $ earned from paid ads: $353

So, I finished the year in the black on paid marketing, but not by much.  If it weren't for marketing, I wouldn't have sold much in 2019.  I mean, take the $353 off the $469 and you get $116 worth of books sold without any paid advertising. 

Average per book income: 97c

Considering that I only sold 24 books at full price, I'm amazed I averaged that much.  I attribute it to Page Reads, which, while not netting me the same dollars as selling a full-priced book outright, certainly nets me more than a discounted 99c book.  I sold 316 books at the sale price of 99c, of which I get about 64c.

Speaking of Page Reads...

Number of books sold through the KU program: 72.82
Dollars earned through Page Reads: $126.04

And the majority of that can be attributed to paid ads.

It's getting harder and harder to sell books as a self-published author.  For me, anyway.  I'm sure there are writers out there doing much better than I am.  They're probably dropping new books at least 4 times a year, spending a bunch more on marketing, and have more social presence than I do.  I can only do what I can do, so I'm trying not to come off as whiny.  Like I said, this was a hard year but not the worst year ever.  Sure, I'd like it to have been better.  Who wouldn't?

My goals for the year ahead depend mostly on having the funds to pay my editor.  If I can swing that, I'd like to see Ugly and the Beast and Cinder Ugly hit your ereaders in 2020.  I'd also like to get another SCIU and another Dennis Haggarty at least written, if not out there in public.  Beyond that, I can't commit to anything.  Not yet.  I hope to under promise and over deliver.

Ah, hope. It's a thing.

Do you have any questions for me?  How was your 2019?  What are you hoping to accomplish in 2020?