Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Too busy for my own good

There's line edits for three novels on my desk now - each one's urgent. (So yeah, why the hell am I blogging?)

I'm hoping to wrap Counterpunch tomorrow - it's only 53k (2k less than the last version), and the most urgent. Then there's Lone Wolf, which has about a thousand comments on it and clocks in at nearly 100k, and No Place That Far, which has 63k. Just thinking of how much time and concentration it takes to polish them up makes me slightly nauseous. I cancelled on a BBQ on the weekend so I get three uninterrupted days of work to do as much as I can. It might not be enough, but I'll try. (I wasn't keen on the BBQ anyway, so it's also a convenient escape from what will be geeky roleplayers and lots of alcohol.)

That's the remaining books until January 2015, and after that, things slow down massively, which is just as well. I don't really have time for editing, so it's probably only fitting I have no time/headspace/focus to write, since writing leads to editing, and any project just gives me a double whammy of stress and anxiety.

Emotionally, I'm low. I've written a number of whiny blog posts, and ended up deleting 70% of what I've written. Nothing I say will change a thing. In some ways, that's the saddest thing of all; writers must believe that words have power. Nothing feels sadder and lower and more powerless than silence.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Return on Investment - Update

It's literally that - I've just uploaded Return on Investment to Amazon and the file has already updated. No big changes - the cover should be a bit sharper now on the high-resolution devices, and we applied a minor fix to the cover page. The text itself stayed the same.

On that note, I've moved one large step closer to releasing the book in print. My layouter was extremely busy (likely still is), so it took a while for the print interior to be done. I uploaded the file yesterday and ordered a print proof copy to actually get a sample what the print book will look like. I expect it to arrive on Wednesday - if it's all good, I'll have to fill in some legal and financial stuff and I'll then publish the book, at which point it should become available. So, end-August/early September for a release date.

I'm also currently working on the line edits for Counterpunch, trying to cut down on some word repetitions, and I expect it to be done today, mostly because I have no other choice. I won't have time or energy during the week.

I'm trying to shake what's increasingly feeling like writer's block, but meanwhile I'm slammed with edits on two novels. I can't write much more about that blocked state without coming across as whining, and in the grand scheme of things, a blocked writer might be pretty pitiful, but it'll eventually lift and I'll go back to writing.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Adventures in self-publishing, 1 month later

I've self-published Return on Investment just over a month ago on 12 July, because it's not a romance (though it does have a love plot) and because the alternative would have been to finally give up on the book after it had already languished in a drawer for about six years. Since I will be writing more books like this - books outside the strict m/m romance category but distinctly gay, at times sexy, and with a love subplot - it seemed like a good idea to give self-publishing a try.

(Since then, I've been accused of basically feeling "too good for romance", and me saying "this is not a typical romance" as a cynical marketing ploy.

To that I can only say, I can only write the books I feel, and I don't always feel romances. When I do, I write them. It's basic author mental health - you can only write well what you feel. If I feel like sci-fi or fantasy or hetero books, I'll write them. Life's too short to write other people's books, and writing a book is too much work to undertake it for any other reason than because you gotta - at least that's my take on it. 

On the second point, I really wanted to make absolutely clear that Return on Investment is not a typical m/m romance so people who buy it hoping for a romance won't get disappointed. That's the problem when a lot of your work has been in a category - there will be readers who blindly pick up your next title, hoping for more of the same, and I've spent a significant amount of time and energy trying to explain that I don't write the same category or tone or thing over and over. There's no consistency. I frankly don't know what I'll write tomorrow. And I rather lose a few dollars than have justifiably pissed-off readers hunt me at conventions with pitchforks - not that my readers would, but you get the idea. 

It has nothing to do with marketing - actually I didn't do any marketing, having just started full-time day job again, and with my head elsewhere. Return on Investment emphatically is a book I published because the alternative would have been to take it behind a shed and shoot it there and put it out of its misery, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. That's all there is to it. I'm not James Bond villain who spends his days plotting how I can screw my readers. I'm a guy haunted by books and trying to share the decent to good ones to the best of my ability.)

Anyway, numbers. 

It's a full month now, and I have an update on numbers. This will get a bit less frequent now, as I'm planning to do another update after a quarter, 6 months and a year, and, if I remember, 3 and 5 years from launch. All of this is is a fact-finding, fact-sharing exercise, based on my theory that more information about sales is a good thing - and because there seem to be people out there who believe I'm one of those lucky souls who shifts millions of copies. I'm not and I don't. The good news is: I don't have to.)

So, book launched on 12 July, so I'm pulling data up to 11 August. (I launched the book in the UK afternoon, so it's not exact.)

For that 31-day period, the numbers are:

24 copies refunded
356 net copies sold (royalties: $4.11)
266 copies "loaned" (royalties: ~$2) via KU/KOLL

Money-wise, it has recovered its costs of $500-600 and I'm well on the way to getting enough money from this release to fund the next one - which I expect to cost $1,500ish, as I'll be hiring my favourite editor.

The country breakdown is:

US: 223
UK: 73
Germany: 33
Canada: 9
France: 6
Italy: 5
Spain: 2
Mexiko: 2
Brazil: 1
Japan: 1
Australia: 1

Or: 
US: 223
Europe, without UK: 46
Europe, with UK: 119
Rest of World (RoW): 14

Predictably, Germany is the biggest market for me in Continental Europe. The US globally by a huge margin, but I'm quite heartened that, together with the UK, it's about 60% of the US sales. It does confirm my suspicion that I have a strong base in Europe overall, possibly because of the more European flavour, which is based on what countries and mentalities I know reasonably well and can write about with some authority. 

In terms of UK sales, ROI has occupied the #1 Financial Thriller bestseller spot for about 3 weeks out of 4 (possibly more, I didn't track it exactly) in the UK Amazon shop, holding its own against an Amazon-published title and a whole raft of much cheaper titles of decent length. That shows Financial Thrillers in the UK is a tiny category where few sales (=> 73 in that month) can get you to the top spot. I found that pretty fascinating. I'm also not convinced I sold more than a few copies to thriller readers, though I gratefully noted that lots of people with financial backgrounds of some description who also read romances seem to have enjoyed it.

It's important to note that 60 of those 358 copies were sold on launch date. As predicted, I'm currently selling 5-10 copies a day, but there's a slight downwards trend. There are days when I only sell 2 copies. If Return on Investment performs as other books of mine, it'll keep going at that level for a few more weeks, and then taper off to maybe a copy a day or less - the good news is that those sales are possibly forever, or "money nobody has to work for anymore". Long tail. It's all long tail for me. One copy a day is still about $120/month for me, minus fees and taxes. Every little helps to push the mortgage down or fund some travelling.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Zero productivity

I've been back in an office for weeks now, and it's pretty clear that writing isn't happening. Everything else has slowed to a crawl as well. Edits I would have turned around in a couple days now take weeks. I'm doing a bit of research (aka, reading on my commute), but otherwise not a great deal is happening towards getting something finished. Wrapping those two short stories by month end didn't happen; the "easy victory" doctrine has failed in that regard - instead of scoring an easy victory as a morale booster, I got myself mired in research and rewriting.

I'm hoping I'll finish them this month, then produce them during September.

Meanwhile, my intrepid layouter is working on the print version of Return on Investment, so that should get published this month. I'm also toying with the idea of translations and an audio version, depending on sales/profits. That's the nice thing about self-publishing - I can push for my own translations/print versions/audios instead of hoping that some publisher is willing to burn money for the benefit of a midlister.

If the translation stuff works out, I'll be pushing to get my translation rights for my whole backlist over time, but that's going to take many, many years. The big challenge is low sales - paying somebody a decent amount of money for the translation and the edits of that translation costs about as much as I'd expect a book to make in a year. So I'm starting very small.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Adventures in self-publishing, day 20

I bring a few numbers after 20 days of selling Return on Investment - nothing terribly unexpected here, but I thought it might be interesting.

Refunds:
While people kept 275 copies, 22 people refunded - a refund rate of 7% is pretty much standard, so, nothing exciting here.

Sales vs Loans:
298 sales (out of which some were refunds) contrast with 158 loans via Kindle Unlimited/Lending Library - so 65% sales versus 35% loans.

Geographic breakdown:
US: 65%
UK: 20%
Germany: 10%
Italy: 3%
Rest of World (RoW): 2% (Canada, Mexiko, Brazil, Australia, Spain)

So Europe is about 35% of my sales, which I found interesting. 

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Counterpunch re-release

A while back, I bought back my rights for Counterpunch. The reason was that it wasn't a great fit where it was - it's part of a larger project, the Belongingverse, which is the same as our world, just slavery was never abolished. The Belongingverse is Rachel Haimowitz's brain child, with a number of books scattered across several publishers.

Two of those books were bought back, one benefited from the publisher going under, setting that book free. In short, it's already had a bit of a tumultuous story. Throughout, we thought it would be cool to have an actual series design (same look and feel), and combine the series under one roof. That time has now come - Riptide has taken on all the books and possible future novels/stories. Here is the new cover - the artist did an outstanding job.


If you already own the old version, the new version has been cleaned up and is generally smoother. I haven't added anything to it because I think the book is pretty solid as it stands. It'll be out on 15 September, and you can pre-order it here. 

Saturday, 26 July 2014

The 1999 short story

I'm finding it hard to adjust to a full-time job - above all, and with the heat and non-air conditioned office, I'm exhausted when I come home. And it's not easy to be in an office with other people, either. The team is perfectly lovely, and the geek, military and history quotient is high, but I'm not used to being around around people for 9hrs a day, plus 2hrs of commute on packed London trains.

Anyway. Cleaned the library, put up the massage table and got everything ready for my "body" to  show up - researched diabetes and massage (diabetes being a contra-indication, so did some research what to keep in mind to keep my client safe) and chiseling away at that short story I wrote in 1999. I've already lined up a cover artist and an editor, but it'll need work before I can even think of putting it into production.

There's a scene that's a flashback to Afghanistan and it's pretty clear I wrote this without having the foggiest about either the Red Army or Afghanistan, so I corralled all my research books I bought for Special Forces back in the days and am doing some reading. (So much for lining up an "easy victory" to boost my motivation - I don't think this will be quite as fast as I'd hoped.) All for a scene that's less than 250 words. I don't want to cut it, so I must get this just right, but for that, I need to know. So yeah, I'm the kind of writer who reads five books to get one scene right. What a colossally inefficient way to work. My German DNA is shriveling in disgust.

So, yeah, that's what I'm doing. Research the hell out of Afghanistan/Red Army, and try to fix that story by doing a simultaneous re-write/translation. It's fascinating to see how far I've come in the last 15 years. I'm definitely less clunky these days - more controlled and measured overall. Also less given to melodrama and cliche. I know some people think I'm a "cold" writer (somebody even called me "robotic") and somebody told me I'm "very proficient craft-wise, but soul-less", and that's fine. I'm aiming for understatement generally, which is not everybody's cuppa, and if there's one thing I've learned from painting is that the absence of something is just as powerful (if not more so) than its presence. Some people prefer for everything to be on the page, but having everything spelled out bored me witless as a reader.

It appears editing that story is almost like writing it from scratch, which wasn't what I intended, but oh well. It's still worthwhile to resurrect an old story I've always loved and thus excavate another piece of my creative past.

Also, Return on Investment has sold almost 250 copies at this stage. Sell-through rate is way down to about 8-10 per day, but that's as expected. I'll use some of those profits to acquire some copyrights and finance editing and covers of other books, so thanks everybody for buying a copy - you're helping me keep this going.