What’s coming up, Christmas giveaway and news

Ambassador 4 will probably head off to the editor within 2-3 weeks. It may be out before Christmas. I hope so, because for Christmas, I’m going to give away a signed copy of the book with Tom Edward’s awesome cover, shipped to anywhere in the world. And I’ll add a Christmas card.

The trick? To enter, you need to be on my awesome “Beast” mailing list (self-evident in the window in the right-hand column of this page).

When I finish this book, I will start on the final book in the For Queen And Country series, The Necromancer’s Daughter. In this book we can expect some fireworks as all leaders of the countries come together at Johanna’s invitation, including the magician Kylian.

Coming Home signals a pause in the Ambassador series, where a good number of threads will be resolved, many of which have been kept hanging over the past two books. Book 5 in the Ambassador series will be Blue Diamond Sky.

As Cory takes a well-earned rest and finally submits to proper weapons training, he and a couple of people from his household take a hunting trip in the marshland between Barresh and the turquoise sea. A bad storm has come through recently and on the shore of a tiny uninhabited island, Cory finds something Earthly that doesn’t belong there: a message in a bottle. A piece of plastic with HELP scratched on it with a sharp object. In Isla.

Cory has a list of all humans in Barresh: it’s very short and no one is missing. A few days later, he receives a weird message through official channels, from a woman on Earth whose rich businessman husband went on a trip of a lifetime “in a place where you can surf with plesiosaurs in turquoise waves”.

Cory knows the guy advertising the trip. He’s a shady character. He also knows where the “plesiosaurs” are. They’re not particularly friendly. Not to mention that the area is on the land of a viciously territorial Pengali tribe.

It looks like he’ll be using his new weapons skills sooner than he expected.

What’s coming up, Christmas giveaway and news was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

Ambassador 4: Coming Home cover reveal

Coming home ebook Medium

Ambassador 4: Coming Home

Delegate Cory Wilson has returned to gamra headquarters from deep space with a rather unwelcome guest: Captain Kando Luczon of the mammoth Aghyrian ship that has returned after mysteriously vanishing 50,000 years ago. On board the ship only 400 years have passed, in which they have visited another galaxy. But the captain isn’t willing to share what they found there or why they decided to come back. In fact, the captain does his utmost best to live up to his infamous historical reputation as an utter arsehole, having lived through four hundred years to cultivate his arseholery.

Cory had hoped that by isolating the captain from his ship, mostly still in stasis mode, he could start a conversation, but Kando Luczon isn’t interested in a conversation. He views the modern version of his home world Asto as inferior, its inhabitants the Coldi as nothing but a placeholder race and all other races as savages.

Meanwhile the ship is showing signs of waking up, ancient satellites in orbit in the space junk clouds around Asto and Ceren sputter into life, and Asto’s Chief Coordinator and Cory’s friend Ezhya Palayi makes it clear that if pushed, Asto’s formidable military fleet will take defensive action.

Want to know when it’s out? Register here:

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Ambassador 4: Coming Home cover reveal was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

It’s a marathon, not a sprint

Writers, especially when they don’t see immediate success, often get told “It’s a marathon, not a sprint!” and this statement often leads to a discussion at least as heated as whether quality and speed are mutually exclusive or whether there needs to be one or two spaces after a full stop (Note: it’s ONE space, people!)

Anyway, the marathon vs sprint analogy is quite interesting.

What people often seem to *think* “It’s a marathon, not a sprint” means it that you can do things at a plodding pace and short term failures don’t really matter in the long run, and that it’s all about some nebulous future goal.

Well you know what?

These people couldn’t be more wrong!

For one, have you ever seen a marathon runner PLODDING? Sure it might look like it from the outside, but the runner is going at the maximum speed. When there is a hill, the runner will put in extra effort to keep pace, and at the end, the runner will sprint. In the long term, it matters a lot whether the runner takes the corners wide or makes them tight, or if the runner needs to go for a leak, time spent will be kept to the absolute minimum.

Marathon runners don’t plod. They don’t shuffle. They don’t look at the scenery and they don’t casually chat to other runners. They don’t think “hey, I’m tired now, let’s do the rest of this race tomorrow”.

THAT is the meaning of “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

As a writer, you keep going at a pace that you know you can sustain long-term. You speed up the hills. You go for little sprints, Tour de France-like, because there are little temporary rewards that will make you achieve your goal more quickly. And you don’t slack off and keep going until the job is done.

Note: the comment function on this blog has been fixed!

It’s a marathon, not a sprint was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

My earnings from self-publishing 1 Oct 2014 – 30 Sept 2015

Another year has gone past and it’s time for another income report.

After the previous report, I got a few “Oh, is that all?” reactions. Well, yes, that’s all. I’m reporting the coalface of self-publishing. You know that author who shot to fame with just one book out and retired on a yacht in the Bahamas? The vast majority of us are not that author. There is real hard work being done with real rewards, but it’s not easy and it’s not an automatic gold mine.
As you can see each year so far (links to previous reports below), I’ve almost doubled my income each year. The question is really what would things have looked like if I’d stayed the traditional route? By now, I might have sold a novel or two to a publisher at $3000 a pop. I might have sold a few more stories to magazines at $500 a pop. Publishers have schedules and will take on only a few books a year at most. Suppressed publication is suppressed sales. It really is that simple. Either way, I reckon I’m ahead of the game.

So, the past 12 months:

Things that happened:

  • No major publishing snafus by anyone. Yippie!
  • Amazon pulled the annual rabbit out of the hat with their Kindle Unlimited subscription-based program which rewards authors per page read. I decided to put the Ambassador series and Shifting Reality and Shifting Infinity in it. I chose these books because the sales of these series were already heavily skewed towards Amazon. I’ve been happy with the results and will continue to use this program. I will strenuously resist temptation to put all my books in it, because Kobo is starting to do interesting things, and I want to try listing direct at Apple.
  • In July, someone on the Kindleboards started a website ratebookcover.com. I spent a lazy hour poking about the site for fun, but fun soon turned to a sense of dread when I realised, after viewing hundreds and hundreds of book covers, just how many atrocious covers there are in the world, and how many more sort-of-OK-but-not-great ones, and how some of my own covers were not up to scratch either, and how for some of the nice ones I wanted full print wraps, but the files were not scalable to accommodate for greater resolution. I decided to do a full upgrade of the covers of a number of series with work from the best cover designers. It was time to do this, it was expensive but it was paid for out of previous sales.
    As a result, my sales have climbed in the last few months.
  • Advertising. I tried a lot of different things. I worked hard on my mailing list, which now has 3300 people. Watcher’s Web was featured on Bookbub in April which resulted in 30,000 copies given away, and a few other advertisers also did very well for me, notably with Ambassador 1, which I lowered to 99c for the occasion.
    I’ve learned how to advertise on Facebook, which is a bit of a counter-intuitive skill. I started a promotional account on Twitter which I won’t link to because what I do there is aimed at retweeting bots, but seems to be working quite well.
  • I started running my own promotions. The power of Bookbub is its gigantor mailing list. I have a bunch of author friends who have mailing lists of thousands. I figured if we put specials on one page and we all send that page to our mailing lists and bookish social media contacts, and there are 30+ authors taking part, you have pretty decent coverage. In September, the 99c promo sold over 600 books. So yeah, I’ll be doing stuff like this again. Next week, in fact.

Previous years’ reports:

1 Oct 2012 – 30 Sept 2013
1 Oct 2013 – 30 Sept 2014

So, this year:

Books published:

Changing Fate (Ambassador series)
Fire Wizard (For Queen And Country 4)
Shifting Infinity (sequel to Shifting Reality)
The Sahara Conspiracy (Ambassador 1A)
New Horizons (compilation of previously published short stories)
The Dragon Prince (For Queen And Country 5)

The numbers

6856 books sold (last year 3876)
(this includes 102319 pages read in Kindle Unlimited, equivalent to about 200 books)

US$ 8289
And some smallfry in esoteric currencies

Bleh, currencies. Roughly A$21,700

Spread across venues:
4049 Amazon (of which 2250 US, 1175 UK, 91 AU and most of the rest in Canada)
1075 Kobo
736 B&N
287 Google
253 Apple
53 print sales online, about 100 paperback sales at cons
43 Smashwords.com

Compared to previous years, there has been a great shift to Amazon. I knew this would happen when sales climbed, because of the sheer size of the market. In absolute numbers, I’m selling more on Kobo than I was in my Kobo heydays in 2012/2013, but everything else has caught up big-time. Especially Amazon. Just last month, Kobo has brought in some opportunities to promote on the site (currently in beta and yeah I’m one of the testers). I’m expecting good things. They also seem to be moving into audio and print.
Google Play has not delivered on its promising start. To me, it seems like a giant swan: flapping like mad, but skimming the water because it’s too heavy to fully take off. Maybe that will change.
B&N is mystery to me (but it’s a good mystery). I can’t upload there. I can’t buy there. I put no effort into it, and I sell there. Don’t ask me why.
Apple: I hope to be able to upload direct to them soon. I have heard enough stories of people selling much better direct than through aggregators like Smashwords to want to give this arduous process a try. Note: I don’t have a Mac (I will use a virtual mac). I may buy one because my trusted Vaio has given up the ghost and I’m writing on a 7yo Samsung notebook with no battery and a RAM so tiny that it complains if I open Facebook. This is not entirely a bad thing.

Top selling books:

Ambassador 1: Seeing Red 1225
Dust & Rain 879
Blood & Tears 743
Icefire Trilogy Omnibus 584
Trader’s Honour 547
Soldier’s Duty 372
Ambassador 2: Raising Hell 295
Ambassador 3: Changing Fate 251
Heir’s revenge 221
Shifting Reality 218

I’m especially happy to see the Ambassador series featuring so well. Also my numbers sold of the individual Icefire Trilogy books are the same as last year (when book 1 was featured on Bookbub) but without much effort from my side and no expensive ads. The sales of the omnibus, however, have blown out of the water compared to last year. Most of those sales were at Kobo.
Of special note is the last book in this list. I published Shifting Reality in late 2012 and for more than two years, it barely sold. I did sell a lot of print copies at places like Supanova, though, so it wasn’t necessarily the book. Just that it was a standalone and they are nigh impossible to sell. So I gave it a little sister :P. And Damonza is the best cover designer in the world.

Income from major series to date:

This is another entry I did last year, and it shows you the cumulative power of backlist.

Icefire trilogy $24,625 (6056 books sold)
Aghyrians series $11,561 (2947 books sold)
Ambassador series $3790 (2093 books sold)
For Queen And Country $2240 (799 books sold)

The Icefire Trilogy continues to sell without much help from me. This year, it did very well in the UK, and I have no idea why. If I get a bit of time, I’m committed to writing the next trilogy in this world.
The Aghyrians series continues to do well when I advertise.
Ambassador series: Income is relatively low because so many books were sold at 99c. But WATCH THIS SPACE. Seriously. There will be 2-3 more books next year.
For Queen And Country will be finished soon. I haven’t pushed it much because the books are short and not standalones, but I’m now seeing decent sell-through. All I have to do is advertise the freebie more.

Some more stats:
In no month during the sales period did my income dip below $1000.
In no month did I sell less than 400 books.
I got my first-ever $1000 monthly payout for a single venue. It was Kobo.
The highest number sold per month was 852 in April.

Watch this space.

My earnings from self-publishing 1 Oct 2014 – 30 Sept 2015 was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

Mini-course on self-publishing basics

Self-publishing is easy. You write a book, edit it, put on a cover and upload it. Easy.

However, without help, the vast majority of books sink into oblivion with nary a sale. If it was your aim to get the book out of your system, you’ve succeeded, but what’s the fun if no one is reading it? You might buy a $10 ad, get two sales and the next day the book sinks again. With no reviews, you’re not even eligible to submit to many promotion sites. No sales = no reviews = no promotion. Dog, meet tail.

A sale a day per book, 30 sales a month, makes a huge difference in both your income and your book’s visibility. There are a few simple things that you can do to increase the visibility, but if you google “self-publishing”, you get hit in the face (in the search results and for months afterwards!) with ads for vanity publishers. URGH!

This is why I’ve written a free three-part mini-course on self-publishing tactics for beginners. It covers presentation and a few simple tricks that have been beneficial to many writers.

The course will go out in three emails that will be sent two days apart. Sign up for my mailing list before Saturday 9pm AEST or 4am US west coast time and you will receive the signup link with the newsletter that goes out that day.

Did I mention it’s FREE?

Mini-course on self-publishing basics was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

Showing off all new covers for the Ambassador books





Do I need to add words to this to say how awesome they are? Click on images to learn more about each book, or go to my Amazon page.

All done by Tom Edwards. He will be working on book 4 Coming Home soon. I better hurry up writing The Dragon Prince (for which I also have the cover but will show off a bit later) so I can start on that book.

Showing off all new covers for the Ambassador books was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

Why you are the biggest impediment to selling your books

I’ve reached the goal of having a decent stable of books. Having series with good presentation (cover, blurb, sample) is important. Few people start selling out the gate with just one book, so I wrote some series. This is still ongoing. It was my aim this year to spend more time selling my books and less time writing new books.

But where to start?

You poke around on the Kindleboards a bit, buy a few ads, butt your head against Bookbub, and eventually get accepted by them, a few times even. Each successful ad makes your sales spike, in case of Bookbub for 6 to 12 weeks even. But eventually you slide back, and you feel you haven’t made much progress.

And then you come across a post like this

OK, so you try the Facebook advertising thing. This is a good guide for how not to completely blow your money. Watch those videos. Seriously.

These posts are written by authors who have been insanely successful at what they did. Is their method going to work for you? Maybe. Could you try something a little bit different and make that work for you? Absolutely. You should be doing just that.

Because when you take away the specific advice about where and how they reached their mega sales (like exactly which tools they used) their advice looks like this:

1. Write every day. Publish.
2. Do an promotional activity every day. It better to advertise low-level every day than to run big ads with lots of days of nothing in between.
3. Give away as many books as you can for free to get people to read subsequent books, until you don’t need this tactic anymore. Advertise the hell out of your freebies.
4. Get a mailing list. Use it.

OK, so what’s up with the title? Why is the author the biggest impediment to selling books?

Because authors get hung up on things, often “helped” by an enthusiastic band of author friends.

Despite the two links I gave above, getting sales rolling is not a formulaic process. It will be different for everyone, and therefore you should be willing to change *everything* about your process.

The author likes a cover and therefore isn’t changing it. Friends may be saying “but I like that cover!” and they’re not being friends at all. They’re an impediment to the author trying out another cover (or another blurb, or another category).

The same applies to marketing. Marketing is not, ever, about individual preferences. How often do people tell you “But I hate XYZ marketing technique!” And heck, the author might even hate it themselves. The authors then lets his or her actions be coloured by those opinions.

How often have people told you:

– I fucking hate popups and close down sites that have them (yah, there isn’t going to be much of the internet left for these peeps, but what the hey)
– I never subscribe to mailing lists
– I would only send mailings for one new release per year

And yada yada yada.

So, in trying to be a good friend, you try to be as sanctimoniously least-offensive as you possibly can. Because you can’t annoy your friends, right?


Thing is: you’re not marketing to your friends. They will be your friends regardless of whether or not they buy your books. If they want to, they know where to find your books and they know when they’re out, because you never shut up about writing.

So forget about the things they tell you about whatever they hate in marketing. While you’re at it, toss your own opinions as well. Like, clear the slate. Stand up and say: I’m going to try everything at least once to see if I can get it to work.

So try stuff. Give it a good spin (like a few months). Doesn’t work? Then go back to the drawing board and try something else. Get your suggestions for which things to try from people who are where you want to be, sales-wise. Forget about how *you* would, or wouldn’t, like to be marketed at. IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU! It’s about a percentage of highly consumer-oriented people who may make a difference. You’re very unlikely to be part of that percentage. That’s OK. You are not in your target group. That’s OK. Marketing is not about you.

Why you are the biggest impediment to selling your books was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants