Hi, folks! January 28th is the 10th anniversary of The Book of Deacon’s first publication. I’m going to celebrate with a Q&A/Announcement Video.
Do you have any questions for me?
They can be anything from questions about past and future books, questions about/for characters, personal questions, business questions, trivia questions, you name it! You can ask in comments here, or if that turns out to be problematic, head over to my Goodreads Page, my twitter page, or my Facebook Fan Page.
I’ll also be announcing some plans for the year, if only to hold myself accountable so next year, if I fail to do any of them, I’ll be able to shake my head at Past Jo for putting so much on my plate.
The Questions So Far (POSSIBLE SPOILERS):
Dave (from Twitter): Where did the red shadow get the cloak that made him appear to be just another human?
April (From Goodreads): Will there ever be a follow up to Structophis?
Zachary (via Email): What books are you planning to release this year?
Various: Which of your stories is your favorite?
Various: How can I get one of those cool coins?
Questions will be in the video first, and subsequently posted (along with the video) in a new Blog Post.
Hi folks! As I write this, it is the last day of the year, and thus the last day of the twenty teens. As has been pointed out by an awful lot of people, this is just an arbitrary point in time and thus has no more real importance than yesterday or tomorrow, but I’m all about assigning meaning to meaningless things, so let’s take a look at the last few years!
The Year is 2010. I am working at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. I’ve been there for about five years, and it is becoming increasingly intolerable. I’ve spent the last three years or so sending out query letters to agents, seeing if anyone would be interested in taking me on as a client so that I can perhaps have my pet project, The Book of Deacon, published. I’ve sent out a few dozen of them in groups of two, and the vast majority of the the agents failed to reply. Of those that did, most rejected me outright without looking at my story. If I recall correctly, exactly one of the agents asked to see the first five pages of my story, and rejected me shortly after that. I was sick and tired of being rejected, as I did not handle that very well at the time. (I don’t handle it very well now either, but I was FAR worse then.)
My friends (mostly Cary and Sean) are the only people who even know I have a book I’m shopping around. I’ve not told most of my friends and most of my family because I am, inexplicably, horribly embarrassed that I’d written the story. I announce my intention to stop shopping my manuscript around, so they convince me to self-publish. I look into it, do some research, and publish it on Smashwords and what was then called Amazon DTP. The book looked like this.
The book is not professionally edited, I made that cover, and it costs $9.99. I sold one copy.
Over the next few months, see that customers have about the same opinion of my book as agents. They don’t feel the need to read it. I drop the price to $4.99 and sell one more copy, then drop it again to $2.99 and sell another copy. After getting some bad reviews, I go through and give it another cleanup pass to iron out some of the typos, and I make a new cover.
It’s better, but not much. I decide that maybe people don’t like how long the story is, so I write and publish Jade, which is shorter. I sell it for 0.99 cents. No one buys it.
Now it is May of 2011. I’ve made a grand total of $19 from my writing. After reading an interview in which Brian S. Pratt explained his decision to make his first book in his series free, I do the same. Not long after, a website called Pixel of Ink picks it up and features it in a blog post.
25,000 people download the book.
Something like 10% of them pick up the sequel. I make $1900 before the end of the month. Against the advice of my brother, who was decidedly of the “Take the money and call it a win” camp, I decided to reinvest the money in a professional edit, plus professional covers from Nick Deligaris. Now the book looks like this.
My sales quintuple over the course of the next few weeks.
Over the next few years, my earnings continue to grow, year over year. Start a sci-fi series which could come to be called Big Sigma. Then a steampunk series which I call Free-Wrench. I jump back and forth between these series. Once I get the hang of things, I’m able to write about one new book in each series per year. By 2014, I am making far, far more from my writing than my day job.
Now I’ve been working at Horizon for 9 years. When they hired me, it was with the promise that I would be recruited into the main company as soon as possible. Nearly a decade into it, that day had finally come. I was going to be given a raise that would bring my annual salary to about half of what my books had earned that year. In exchange, I would be expected to work nearly double the hours I’d been working, and my hiring would come with no seniority from the 9 years I’d already spent with the company. I’d effectively be a new recruit with a slightly bumped up salary.
I politely declined. In September of 2014, I quit my job.
I was now an author.
The next few years went pretty well. I increased my creative output. I experimented with a few new books, most of which didn’t make much of a splash. My earnings stayed comfortably in the six figure range. By this time I was co-host of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast. Things were good.
The Going Gets Tough
One of the impressive parts of my career to this point was that I’d maintained it almost entirely off new releases. I did little in the way of promo and nothing in the way of advertising, save the occasional BookBub Feature. My earnings were sagging a bit on the bigger stores, but it was made up for by other opportunities. I got to work with StoryBundle and helped put together bundles. Audio Book companies contacted me to do releases of my stuff. Foreign publishers bought the foreign language rights. Basically, I didn’t see the need to steer the boat in any new directions, because things were holding steady.
But things weren’t improving. I experimented time and time again with fun new ideas, or new promotional tactics. They fell flat. I tried my hand at advertising or spicing up my blurbs, but found I lacked the knack. No big deal, I figured. Things are going pretty strong without them. Plenty of time to work them out in the future.
But the earnings kept ticking down. I was not kindle exclusive, and bit by bit the introduction of lots of Amazon Ads and the dominance of Kindle Unlimited in rankings made my earnings at Amazon slip. My earnings elsewhere slid as well, albeit more slowly.
In 2017, I narrowly missed the six figure mark from my author earnings.
In 2018, I missed by a little bit more.
Now 2019 is coming to a close, and it has been my worst year professionally since my first big break. (It’s been pretty bumpy in my personal life, too, but this post is already a bummer, so I won’t trouble you with that.) I tried a Kindle Unlimited experiment, but I botched it by not adjusting my release tactics properly. Dedicating the time necessary to get that gambit in place meant my other series went without new entries. Earnings plunged.
I have no one to blame but myself. As the co-host of The Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing podcast (and now the Six Figure Authors Podcast), I had all the information I needed to get things rolling in the right direction again. Indeed, I’ve helped young writers get started in the biz by giving them advice that I myself had yet to start following. But here I am, ten years into my career, struggling more than I have in the last half decade.
So what comes next? Well, for starters, I’m shooting to release new stories in (and potentially conclude) my three main series this year. Each will earn a sixth book, if I play my cards right. Each of those new releases will include attempts to boost sales in the earlier books in the series.
Some experiments I started more than a year ago are also likely to bear fruit, or at least blossom.
I’ll be trying to get a solid baseline of advertising established. I’ll be trying to get my newsletter whipped into shape. I’ll be trying a lot of things.
I’ll be trying.
Who knows what the next few years will hold? I certainly didn’t know in 2010 I’d be looking at literature as a career. Maybe I’ll get my butt in gear and start rocking and rolling again. Maybe I’ll run out of steam and go back to the workforce. But whatever happens, I’ve cherished the decade of writing that is just coming to a close, and I thank each and every one of you for the part you played in getting me to where I am today. I hope in my small way I’ve returned the favor.
Another update, so soon!? Yep! Let me tell you a little story about a somewhat longer story, shall I? (For the quick version, you can buy a Halfax Novella now.)
I’m currently running a Patreon as a way to make shorter stories financially viable. I tend to price my books low, which means stuff less than 50,000 words or so has to be 0.99 cents. A book that cheap has to sell a LOT of copies to make back the cost of a professional cover and a professional edit. But in a patreon, so long as the whole subscribership can get me up over the cost of the cover and the edit, then I can release a story a month without putting myself in the poorhouse or having to so aggressively push their sale that you all get sick of me.
The art (until recently) has been provided by Fable. They’ve really done a great job, but they’ve got some tight deadlines so they’ve had to hand off the illustration task to a whole phallanx of other talented artists. A few months ago, they got to work on the cover for Halfax. When the release date came around, I had (roughly) this.
Looks good to me! But I believe the specific phrase Fable used was “I am becoming invested in this dragon.” So I released with a placeholder and the illustration continued, now with the $100 price tag bumped to $200. Over the course of the next few months, that kept happening. Month after month, the cover became more gorgeous, more powerful. Finally, this glorious thing arrived in my inbox.
Magnificent, right! But then I was in a dilemma. This beautiful piece of art was intended to be applied to a story that was already released, hidden away where only 18 or so people could enjoy it. AND THAT MUST NOT STAND!
So what we have is a situation where art was so good, it got the associated story a full release. Thanks Fable!
Now, what sort of story is it? One of the first stories I ever released was Jade, a distant spin-off sequel to the main Book of Deacon series. Halfax is a sequel to that. So if you’ve read Jade, you’re ready for this one. Enjoy!
Boy oh boy, it’s been a while, hasn’t it. I’d love to say I’ve got a good excuse for not updating my web page, which ostensibly is my primary source for new information, but mostly it was a confluence of very avoidable maintenance issues combined with a little bit of burnout. But all of that is beside the point. I’m here, you’re here. What’s been going on!
A BRAND NEW SERIES
The main update, and one I really should have focused on a long time ago, is the recent release of a brand new series! I call it “Shards of Shadow.” Unlike most of my other series, which either take place in another world or in the distant future, Shards of Shadow is my first real foray into urban fantasy. It takes place in modern day Philadelphia, and follows the exploits of a photographer named Alan, who has found himself embroiled in a supernatural invasion thanks to the arrival of a shadowy fiend called Blot.
It’s been so long since I updated this page, I’ve released the first three of the books in Shards of Shadow. They are, in order:
Currently, they are Amazon exclusives, and are included in KU, but the paperbacks are available everywhere, and if you’re curious when the series will be available in your store of choice, feel free to drop me an email (the address is on the contact page.
A Brand New Podcast!
Though I never spoke much of it here, I’ve actually been the co-host of a podcast for quite some time. It was the Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast. We closed up shop on that podcast a few months back, but recently we started up a new one very similar to the old one. The Six Figure Authors podcast features Lindsay Buroker, Andrea Pearson, and myself interviewing authors and marketing experts on how to sell more books. There’s very little talk about craft or my own stories there, so it’s probably not much of an interest for readers, but if you’re an aspiring author yourself, give it a try!
A Brand New Plan!
So, you may ask, what are the plans for the future? Well, I’m glad you ask.
I took a lot of time to prepare and create the Shards of Shadow series. While it was a lot of fun, and readers really had a great time with it, it hasn’t blown me away with its performance. I’ll most likely continue it one of these days (it is a planned five book series), but for now it’s time for a return to form.
I’m proclaiming 2020 “The Year of Six.” All three of my main series will have a sixth installment. Book of Deacon 6 is already mostly done, in fact. It needs some bulking up, but I blasted through it for NaNoWriMo this year. After that, the long overdue Free-Wrench 6. And then Big Sigma 6 to close the trio out. I really hope you folks will like them, and I’ll do better to keep you apprised of my activities in that regard.
And finally, Patreon
Yep, I still have a Patreon. It’s been puttering along pretty nicely this past year. I’ve released a dozen short stories or novellas there, and soon I’ll be collecting up the formerly exclusive stuff for a collection that’ll be for sale. Keep your eyes peeled for it!
If you have followed my writing for any amount of time, you’ll know who Sorrel is. (If you haven’t followed my writing until recently, this is an excellent way to get into the story, as it stands alone fairly well.) Sorrel was without a doubt one of the most popular characters from The Rise of the Red Shadow, which was itself a story about one of the most popular characters from The Book of Deacon. If you do the math, the favorite character from the prequel about the favorite character of the main series is basically popularity squared.
This has been simmering for a long time. I would write little chunks of it whenever I was in the car or on the train. Any long trip when it would have been irritating for me to use my full-size computer. I would pull out my phone or chromebook and write a little bit of what would become The Story of Sorrel. There was even a big hand-written hunk in one of my big fat moleskine notebooks.
Slowly, over the course of many years, it grew into what it is today. First it was a short story. Then a Novella. Now, at about 60,000 words, it’s a full novel.
So what’s it about? Well, if you read The Rise of the Red Shadow, you’ll know the circumstances under which Sorrel left our hero. This story picks up a few weeks to a few months after that, in the place that she had been headed to when we last saw her. In the story, we’ll see how Sorrel raises her kids, and see how serious she can get. If you look at that excellent cover art by Nick Deligaris, you’ll see she’s not afraid to go toe to toe with a particularly terrifying dragon (who may seem familiar to long-time readers).
I was recently on a trip. My friends and I attended our tenth PAX East video game convention. It was a lot of fun, as it always is, but the organizers couldn’t compete with the dining experience we had on the way home.
Let me set the scene. The trip involved four of my friends. After four straight days of waking up bright and early, walking the show floor for 8 hours, sitting in a crowded tabletop area playing board games for six more hours, then getting back to bed at 1-2 am to wake up for another full day, we were all fairly worn out. One of us split off to drive separately, leaving me and three friends less than an hour into a four-hour drive from Boston to New Jersey. If our estimated travel time was any indication, we would not arrive at the first of our three destinations before all but the fastest of fast food restaurants were closed. It seemed like it was the best idea to pick someplace local. Someplace we didn’t have at home. Someplace with character.
tl;dr: The Story of Sorrel is available for Pre-Order! It’ll be out April 9th.
Cover by Nick Deligaris (as if you didn’t know)
Fun fact, I tend to have at least one story in a file labeled “Travel Notes.” When I’m riding on the train or (more rarely) flying on a plane, I’ll add to that file. I never really expect that stuff to come to fruition. But I’ll be darned if The Story of Sorrel didn’t finish up.
What’s The Story of Sorrel, you ask? Well, if you’ve read The Rise of the Red Shadow, you know who Sorrel is. The Story of Sorrel is a tale that picks up shortly after her departure from The Rise of the Red Shadow. It’s a bit of a fairy tale. I was almost tempted to label it young adult, but there’s all sorts of weird, semi-official rules about what counts as young adult, so it’s good ol’ general audience.
The Story of Sorrel stands alone fairly well, but if you’ve read the rest of my stuff, you’ll find a strong connection to The Crescents. This effectively serves as a prequel to that book. So if that sounds good to you, pick it up! And if it sounds so very good that you just can’t bear to wait, head over to my Patreon. A Novella-tier pledge will get you a copy of it RIGHT NOW! (Along with a bunch of shorts.)
Indra Station picks up shortly after Temporal Contingency leaves off. Lex is doing his best to get back into racing, thanks to the soon to open “ORIC”, a league set up by Nick Patel and run by his niece, Preethy Misra. Despite ostensibly giving her blessing, Michella’s none-too-pleased at Lex getting mixed up with people she sees only as organized criminals, so she puts her journalistic skills to work finding out what sort of dark underbelly this league has. The results are predictably pyrotechnic.
Indra Station releases on January 30th wherever ebooks are sold, but you can pick it up on pre-order from all the usual places. And one of those places (where you’ll actually get it early) is…
Yeah, yeah. I know. I talked about it in the last post. But if you missed it, here it is again. Consider supporting, particularly if you like short stories. So far there have been two, and a third one drops in a couple weeks!
I’m actually planning some new stuff for next year. I’d very much like to get six books (or so) out next year. Those would include, at the very least, a brand new series. It’s early enough in the process that it doesn’t even really have a name, but it’s Urban Fantasy, and there are sentient shadows. Stay tuned!
The time has come. If you missed out on the Amazon exclusive Rogue Derelict run, and didn’t take advantage of the recent Bundle, then you can finally get your hands on this standalone entry to Lindsay Buroker’s Fallen Empire series. It’s available everywhere now!
Also, the first Patreon release hit patrons a little while ago.
Artwork is by Fablepaint
This is an origin story for the surly little aye-aye who keeps the Wind Breaker in the air. If you’d like a copy of it, support for $1 over at Patreon, or wait six months or so for it to be released as a perk or part of a collection.