Monday, December 1, 2014

Becoming a crossover author

Back in May, my novella Hawks & Rams was accepted for publication at Dreamspinner Press. Up to now, I've been a self-publisher so naturally I wondered how different the process would be with a publisher.

My novella is coming out December 31st (check it out!)... And here's the story so far:

The process was strikingly similar to going through multiple rounds of beta feedback. To be honest, I was expecting more conversation and some sort of comment on the changes I made, the new bits that I wrote. In general I agree with "no news is good news" but the process did leave me a bit uncertain about the final story. 

I had to explain my story to the blurb department and they wrote based on that. Guess I should have known they weren't going to actually read it? Either way, they sent it to me for feedback and it was pretty good.

I had to explain my story to the cover artist. This, I can understand more why they might not read the book. I gave a couple rounds of feedback and I'm happy with the result. 

Strangest thing
I realized this a couple weeks ago and double-checked my correspondence with Dreamspinner... Aside from some generic compliments they gave me, I have no idea why they wanted to publish Hawks & Rams. I assume somebody enjoyed the story, liked the characters, found the sex steamy or something, but I have no direct evidence of that. 

I suppose I could ask, of course, but that seems odd as well. 

So overall, working with a small press publisher been similar to self publishing but I haven't had to pay anybody. There's the release and promotions yet to come, though. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Real world sales numbers, part 3

It's been six months again, so let's update how self-publishing sales numbers look for people who aren't hugely successful. (May's update here)

Click to enlarge
  • Definitions: "units sold" includes both ebooks and paperbacks, across all sales channels (except Storybundle), for a given month. The graph starts at October 2012, when I released Disciple, Part I. Since Oct. '12, I have sold about 245 books in total. (Damn, it's been two years already!)
  • The spike in sales of Part II and Part III was a result of briefly getting Amazon to give Part I away for free and buying an ad promotion. Part I has been free for several months now, which is why it isn't registering sales anymore.
  • The Half-Omnibus is not free but it hasn't been selling either, which is disappointing. The only overhead that went into it was its ISBN, but it hasn't even paid for that.
  • Yeah, this October I had no sales. Ouch, it's been a while since I got a flat zero. 
As you can see, my graph is getting more and more complicated as I add more volumes. It's turning into a tangle of lines bouncing around, and it's getting hard to see the general trend. So here is a simpler graph: 

This is all my sales, by month, with an added linear regression so that I can see there is, in fact, a mild upward trend. Which is nice.

Am I making a living? Not yet. I have paid for all of the production costs (about $1500 per book) through a combination of Kickstarter campaigns (for two books), sales through regular channels, and my graphic design freelance work. So far, my business income has covered my business expenses. I'm grateful for that because I live on a snug budget, but no, it isn't putting money in my pocket yet.

To ask the same question as last time: am I thrilled? Well... it's still encouraging. I'll admit that I'm starting to feel the wear after six volumes. The Disciple series is almost finished. Then I'll be facing the question of: what to publish next? I've got other books in the hopper -- are they ready? This also hasn't been a productive year for me, so will I run short at some point?

Look for my next sales update in May, when there will be a new factor in play: Dreamspinner Press is publishing a novella of mine in December. What will those sales look like? Will there be any carryover to Disciple? Stay tuned...

Monday, October 20, 2014

What the universe gives you, part 2

I've been to Shangri-la and I need to go back.

Sometimes people ask writers/artists "where do you get your ideas?" In my opinion, if you can't see the constant blizzard of ideas around you then you aren't cut out for art. But some places are more conducive to ideas than others, to be honest. It would be easy to say that Bhutan is an interesting place because it's beautiful. It's more complicated than that, though.

I had no explanation at first as to why I got choked up in the airplane and shed tears as we flew out of Paro. The beds were miserably hard, I went to every meal ravenously hungry, and it was easily the most physically draining vacation of my life. I should've been eager to leave.


Well, for the moment I will just post some photos for their visual inspirational value. Why this trip was important to me has a lot of factors, of course, several of which are more personal that I want to get into on this blog. I'll try to talk a little about the people and the culture in a later post.

Lots of clouds? Yes. The average day in Bhutan is "partly cloudy with scattered afternoon showers and rainbows." Yes, rainbows are pretty much a daily sight in Bhutan; it makes the place even more magical.

Monday, October 13, 2014

What the universe gives you, part 1

I like to say that the universe will give you what you need for your art. By which I mean, look at what the universe has brought you and say: this is what I need for my art. The challenge is to figure out how it fits in.

I went on my trip to Bhutan and Nepal looking for these things. Needless to say, ideas and inspiration came in a blizzard.

Bhutan is so beautiful that it defies reality simply by existing. More on that later.

Kathmandu, Nepal, isn't the idyllic little town it used to be, though. Nepal suffered a long civil war in the 90s/00s, and thousands of refugees piled into the city. It feels a lot like an Indian city now: over-crowded, smelling of rotten trash, beggars on every corner.

I saw some things that I thought might be of interest to my fellow writers, though. Let me be the universe that's giving you what you need, for a moment. Take a look at the cremation platforms on the banks of the Bagmati River.

Hindus cremate their dead, usually within a few hours of death. They believe that this frees the soul to re-enter the reincarnation cycle, so it's important to them.

The body's wrapped in a shroud, carried around the pyre three times clockwise by the bearers, and laid down. River water is poured in the mouth. I'm sure that various prayers are said -- I was across the river, so I couldn't hear.

Our tour guide said that no death certificate is issued, but they do keep track. Suspicious deaths get a full investigation before the body is cremated.

The smell? Mostly charcoal, because it takes a lot of wood to burn a body. There's a slight hint of meat, but it's far less than at your average barbecue.

Only those of the untouchable caste can oversee cremations. Castes are built into the Hindu world-view and touch every aspect of life -- the platforms in these photos were for ordinary people. There were platforms for higher caste folks just upriver.

When the pyre has burned down, the platform is cleared straight into the river. 

Our tour guide said that when he was a boy, this river was crystal clear. It's only since the population explosion that it's become filthy. Dumping cremated remains didn't have much impact on the water quality.

On a different note, I also saw bowls made from teak leaves for sale in a local market. They're held together by little bamboo pins, so they are 100% biodegradable and renewable.

Pretty clever, I think.

Seen anything unusual lately?
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