Sunday, August 26, 2012

Half-Time Numbers

January to June 2012

 Above, I'm sharing my sales numbers for the first 6 months of 2012.
I'm really not sure what to say about these numbers. They show a stunning 10k increase over 2011's total of 7990, which blew the doors of 2010's modest 30, thanks to Kindle Select sales/borrows in December of 2011.
 I've got the spreadsheet, broken down by e-book and vendor. I can see the balance of my Amazon sales are from "Let's Do Lunch" (12k) and "Swallow the Moon" (5.6k).
The 'dark horse' in all of this is, of course, "Impressive Bravado" which has done spectacular as a free e-book with 636 sales.
 While I'm no where near the magic 50k that appears to be the benchmark for e-book success. I AM close to half that with a few months to go. 
My income averaged $0.60 per book, because of the number of giveaways (10k in June alone.) Still, this isn't bad for a newbie writer with no 'street cred' with Traditional Publishing.
I had a few good breaks.
"Let's Do Lunch" was picked up by Pixel of Ink during the June giveaway, which resulted in the 10k giveaway in one day.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Elephant in the Room

Looking at the recent dust up with Sue Grafton and taking part in the discussion on "The Passive Voice" I was struck by something Camille LaGuire said that gave me food for thought. (Sorry, couldn't resist.) She is speaking about the difference between Trade Publishing and DIY Publishing cultures - using a very interesting analogy.
I have been in both (traditional publishing and DIY publishing) cultures for quite a while, and I honestly think that there is a major cultural gulf, particularly in the area of shared experience. Because of this, indies take offense at a perceived subtext that isn’t there… or they miss a subtext that IS there that they would otherwise agree with.
It reminds me of this comment a friend made about his experiences in France. He was upper class, from Boston, where, apparently, you don’t talk about food. At most you thank the host or hostess or cook for a lovely meal. He experience great culture shock in France, where he discovered that everybody talks constantly about food. Not just talk about it, they critique it. Before, during and after the meal. They talk about the appearance, the aroma, how well cooked or not, are things sliced evenly.
He was horrified. Not only did he think it was crude, he thought they were being extremely rude to he host or cook. Except… the host or cook was right the in the conversation critiquing the meal too! “Yes, I did leave it in a little long, but I like the way the flavor turned out, even though it’s tough.”
And everybody would agree about the flavor, and discuss ways to get the flavor without risking the toughness.
The two of us who were talking with this guy, both looked at each other in shock at what he was saying. (She was Creole, I’m of French Canadian extraction.) And we both said: “You mean there are places where you DON’T critique the meal as you eat it?”
The idea of not discussing the food in depth as you ate was unimaginable to both of us.
And I feel that kind of difference when I go into places with a heavy Indie presence. People take offense at things which aren’t even insulting. Honestly, it’s not even a matter of being tough or sensitive. It’s just not negative to someone who has been knocking around traditional publishing.
I have to agree with her - we as Indies don't talk about 'QUALITY WRITING' and how to improve the quality of our writing. Instead, we bitch when people point out the amount of crap writing we see out there.
And I think the nature of DIY publishing is partially to blame for the fact that QUALITY has become the 'elephant in the room' of our industry.
Most of us are laboring away, diligently, at the individual work in progress (WIP), struggling to do our best. How often does the writer get feedback?
Usually, not until the writer thinks the work is finished. Then it might get a read-through or two and a trip to the copy editor. That really isn't time for in depth editorial feedback.
I know what I do - I take my WIP to Authonomy and get a few readers. Some will read for pleasure - others will nit-pick plot, others nit-pick sentence structure. I adore people who care enough to nit-pick. I seek them out and request their opinions because I know they are worth their weight in gold. I also have a very good friend who isn't afraid to ask me questions and make notes on my manuscripts.
These are all ways to correct my problems, but they don't address the collective DIY Publishing Industry quality problem!
Now we are looking at the elephant in the room!
So - where does one go to LEARN to write better?
Writer's Bistro has "Mike's School of Writing" which I enjoy very much. In fact, I don't spend enough time there.
Forward Motion has a 'How to Write A Novel' course that is highly recommended. I haven't take it - I keep telling myself I will sign up for the next one. (Procrastination, anyone?)
I know there are other schools out there.
Does anyone have a name and a site to share?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Pain of Sales Charts

The Work of Being a Writer

This has been a very painful experience.

Two days ago I started messing with my sales data for 2011 and 2012. First I was updating Smashwords for 2012, then 2011. Today I attempted Barnes & Noble for 2011 and 2012.

Somewhere in there, I decided that I wasn't JUST interested in how many books I sold, but in how much money I made. Even this year's information was painfully slow to pull from the websites into a spreadsheet

Aww! Chicken Crap! I shouldn't otta done that! This is taking all day just to get 2012 - which is barely half over.

Now I'm going to need to do 2011 income just to see how it compares.

I miss, terribly, horribly MISS my databases. I had SUCH hopes that I could use Quickbooks. But, alas, I'm not at all proficient in Quickbooks. So I'm going to manually tease this data from the websites and into something I can use.

When I get some Quarterly Data, I'll post it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Smashwords and I

The very first Indie book vendor I heard about was The site was very small at that point, and they were still trying to get a foot into the other e-book vendors. Mark was quick to get that going, so by the time I got there there were already Sony, Diesel, Kobo and Barnes & Noble.

I had one book, "Let's Do Lunch" which was easy to track and chart.

Smashwords is a work in progress. Data collection is okay, but it's not the greatest place to do your data mining. For one thing, it can be an entire quarter before you can get updates from all the vendors.

So for those of us who are data-addicts, monthly sales data isn't 'real-time' by any stretch of the imagination.

Just this week I got enough mental energy to download 2011 and start looking at my sales by title. I still have to work them out by vendor by month. And I'm cursing the fact I no longer have a good database software I can dump everything into.

"My Kingdom for Access" is a pun on Shakespeare - but I could work out a trade as long as it didn't involve my old mare.

Anyways - this is what the information looks like. Mind you, these are nearly all freebies, what wasn't free was $.99. Which means that while I ended the year with 845 'sales' I made less than $10 for all of 2011.

Sales By Project 2011
Death of a Family     =   66
Digging Out             =   67
Impressive Bravado = 381
Let's Do Lunch       = 212
Swallow the Moon  =   54
Turned Out             =   65
Totals for 2011:     = 845

What does it all mean?

Well, 'going Indie' wasn't a get rich quick scheme after all. But we knew that, didn't we?

I still have to plow through the rest of the data - but this will be enough to give my readers a good look at what to expect for their second year of sales.

It's not all glitter and rainbows, but I'm happy to see ANY progress from Smashwords at all.

2011 was the first full year, so of course the numbers aren't very high. The 2012 numbers for the first half of the year are comparable to all four quarters of 2011.

Granted, there are people who have numbers much higher than these who are backing off certain genre to concentrate on others that are selling better. I'd do that, but I'm just not interested in writing some genre. You can beat me with a belt, and I'll never write something like '50 Ways to Beat me, Whip me, Teach me Love.'

 So onward to the next installment!

PS - The farm is thriving in all the rain. The geese are HUGE and getting a little scary to deal with. I had one dance a little jig as it came towards me, and I wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad one. Another goose sampled my toes while I gave them water.

It was a taste, not a bite, but I was still glad I had a light length of bamboo to keep them out of striking distance. I use a bamboo cane, about 5 feet tall, to make them give me space, but I've never had to strike them. A little poke to goose the goose is plenty.

I've been gentle with them. They are still very young and impressionable. I'll have to post a couple pictures when I get the chance. I think they're beautiful in a less 'Jurassic Park' way than chickens, but their very size has me wary. I know the power of a bite or wing-swat a Momma Duck can deliver. The geese are twice that size.

Also we had geese when I was a kid - a gander and a flock of 10 females. He was one mean gander, I remember my sister screaming when he attacked her with wings and beak. They have claws, too.

Well, that's all for now!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Book Review - Soulless

Soulless (Parasol Protectorate, #1)Soulless by Gail Carriger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nice, light-hearted steampunk. A good weekend read that isn't boring or stuffy.

The heroine was drawn in the Amelia Peabody tradition - complete with parasol - and her amusing commentary made me smile.

View all my reviews

Friday, August 3, 2012

Writing Again!

It feels so good to be writing again.

In the months after my mother passed - it was nearly impossible to read 'Swallow the Moon' let alone edit the paperback version. I didn't touch "Tempest in a Teapot" - closed my office and slunk back home.

That's not what she wanted me to do. She thought the fact that I'd published my stories, and hers, was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

The last couple of weeks I made myself sit down at the keyboard in my home office for at least an hour a day and write. No surfing, (not much) no email, close the door if I had to - just get started up again.

"Tempest" was at 20k - a jumble of fragments and just 5 chapters. I started by editing what I had - which is always a good way to get familiar with a work again.

A friend from Goodreads offered to take a look at it - and he gave me some good feedback. Really, the story was just in the beginning stages - I think I had 7 chapters to send him.

Then I had a 1k day, after that it was a 1.5k day. Then I found some really good fragments in Scrivener and pulled those into the manuscript. I was now at 25k and building up some steam.

 Today I had a very good day. I cut some junk, and ended up with about 2k fresh words.

"Tempest" is now at 31,690 words. This might be the half-way point because my stories tend to move fast and I hate padding them out. I wrote the end on Index cards - something I had only vaguely worked out previously. I've cut some plot threads - re-worked others - and decided what to do about Leo's dislike of the Doctor running the Warrior's Transition Unit. He really hates her - but I couldn't see myself working the angle out into a major sub-plot. The focus had to stay on Wendy and her problems. I wasn't going to allow her to be upstaged or look stupid.

There are a few issues that need to be included for the full effect - I want readers to feel for my guys. Which means the plot threads I kept have to stay and they have to mean something. So far, so good.

"Tempest" has been a difficult project from the very start - the plot is ambitious - the twist has to stay a secret. The characters have to stay sympathetic and the romance has to develop at the right pace.

I think I'm going to be quite happy to go back to writing Dark Harbor stories.

If you are so inclined - here is a link to the draft of Tempest posted to Authonomy.

You are welcome to read it and comment here or there.