The First Million Words

Book Release Plans

Ta-da! Cleaving Souls is almost done. Rough draft. Check! First round of edits and revisions. Check! Second round of edits and revisions. Check!

Now I just need to contact early readers, distribute copies to them, plan the release schedule, makeup release materials, contact book bloggers for a blog blitz or tour, organize with said bloggers, and record and edit the audiobook.

Geesh.

I’m also expanding out and trying my hand at editing some other people’s work. Gotta keep those editing skills sharp (or sharpen them up, as the case may be.) And I’m still plowing into the rough draft for The Glass Heist.

It’ll be interesting to see how my hard-earned experience with publishing Home To Roost affects this next book release. Fingers crossed for good things!

And speaking of good things, I’m looking forward to another blogger’s review of Home To Roost, this time on Southern Today, Gone Tomorrow.

In more personal news, we saw some family for the eclipse, which was great. There was a lot of cloud cover, so we didn’t see the eclipse, which was less-great. But oh well. We’ll just plan more carefully for the 2024 eclipse, I guess.

Countdown Sales Experience

Well, I tried my luck with another marketing thing. Two, actually.

The first was to lower the pricing on Home To Roost from $3.99 to $0.99 for a week, just to see if that would boost the number of sales coming in from advertising on Amazon. Which I suppose it did. They jumped from zero to one. It’s something!

The other thing was to try tweeting about it with the #99c tag. To make a confession here, I have very little idea what I’m doing on Twitter. I’ve had an account for a long time, but used it very little. In fact, my tweet about the sale was the 18th tweet I’d ever made, and probably the first one I’d made with a real hashtag on it. I’ve been meaning for the past two days to look into using Twitter as a more effect platform for connecting with readers and other writers, but have yet to do anything about it.

Anyways, the tweet went out and… I got another sale! Was it related to the tweet? Probably not. But it might have been. But probably not.

So basically, a week of putting Home To Roost at $0.99 has almost passed, and I’ve made two sales. Once Amazon takes their cut, I made a whopping $1.40 or so. Again, it’s something!

But this is all a great learning experience. I’m making very different plans for how and when to release Cleaving Souls. Hopefully I’ll be able to apply this wisdom to miraculous effect!

 

Apps, Chickens, Sheep

I made a decision just now: I will not be using the WordPress mobile app to create blog posts. Here are my reasons:

  1. I don’t think that it syncs well.

That’s pretty much it, actually. Everything else would be fine. But I’d just written up a nice little post, published it, went to check it online and…..nothing! So I checked it on my phone, and it had the design for site a mashup of its current design and its former design. Yikes! I waited for a while, and the post never did show up on my computer, so I’m just ditching the app when it comes to writing posts.

But what I had posted about was this:

We had a nice little book club meeting. My wife is a member in a small book club, and they gave Home To Roost a try. We had the club members over to our place for a luncheon and a tour of the actual locations in the book, given by the author, yours truly!

I wish I’d prepared for the tour better. Maybe come up with some more amusing anecdotes or something. But it was muggy outside, and I was nervous, and it was probably for the best that it didn’t last too long.

I did make a great chicken cake, though! (Don’t worry, it wasn’t a chicken cake. Just a chocolate cake with a picture of a chicken on it.)

Yummy Chicken Cake

In other news:

  • I think I’m going to dedicate some time to learning the ropes of some social media tools that I’ve ignored up until now.
  • I need to start being a little more cautious in how I phrase and share opinions on other people’s blogs. I know I’ve been guilty of leaving too long of comments, and perhaps some other sins as well.
  • I had to put my sheep in time-out today. My three-year-old was jumping on the trampoline, and the sheep decided to attack her from beneath. She ran under the trampoline and was headbutting directly beneath my daughter, which was very alarming for her. Lots of tears. Ba-a-a-ad sheep.

What am I doing here?

Okay peoples of the internet, it’s time for me to decide just exactly what I’m doing here.

Not here on earth. I’m not wanting to launch into some big existential conversation or anything. I just mean here, as in here on this blog.

Originally, I’d hoped to mostly keep it to publishing and writing news. Make it about being an Indie author, and the process of trying to make that work for me. But I suppose it’s high time that I reevaluate what that means.

The truth is, I’m not a very successful author yet. I’m working to change that, but for now, I’m still trying to break into triple digits on sales, and it’s been almost four months now. I haven’t lost hope, but I’m realizing that for me to post regularly on this blog, or even semi-regularly, I might have to include some other things.

Things about myself, outside of writing, perhaps.

And so I’ll probably start doing some of that. At least, I will for the foreseeable future.

At first I’d wanted to avoid doing much of that, because, well, it seemed pointless. Then, as I was looking into different book bloggers’ sites, I found this one, by a wonderful person named Kerrie.  She really opens up to her readers in her “About Me” section (which is where the link will take you), and it was such a nice change. Most of the blogger profile pages I’d come across were very guarded. “I’m so-and-so. I like fish, but I hate fish. LOL!” And that was about it. But because Kerrie was willing to share more about herself, I took greater interest in what she had to say.

Now, writing about myself might not have that same effect, but I still want to do it for two reasons.

  1. I think that the world will be a better place when people open up with one another more. If we’re open with each other, then we might understand one another better. And when we understand one another, we will probably be far less likely to hurt one another. I’m not saying I feel misunderstood or anything, but I do hope that by opening up a bit more, maybe somebody else will feel inspired to do the same, just the same way that I felt inspired to open up after reading Kerrie’s blog. (That’s my altruistic reason.)
  2. I need things to talk about. You’re supposed to post semi-regularly on a blog to keep it rolling. Once a month does not qualify as semi-regularly, I’m pretty sure. So, I guess I’ll just talk about myself and other writerly-related things. (That’s my shallow reason.)

And now I’m off to update my “About Me” section. Then I’ll probably do some editing on Cleaving Souls, and then work on an Amazon Marketing Campaign for Home To Roost.

Peace!

My Free, Passive Marketing Experiment, Day 2

Well, yesterday was day two, as the post’s title suggests, and I’m starting to think that maybe this isn’t the brightest idea I’ve ever had. Granted, I didn’t think it was all that brilliant to begin with–more interesting. I suppose it’s given me something to write about, so it’s not a total loss.

Obviously, it didn’t go too well.

I set the book down at about 10:15 AM. Then I started looking into book sales for Home To Roost. I was going hither and thither on the internet, getting into whatever kind of free book promotions I could find (for those interested, here’s a listing here of places that do free book promos, except, only some are free, and only some are still working).

I got a bit too engrossed in what I was doing, because at some point between 10:30 and 11:00, Home To Roost disappeared. *GASP*

Now, this wouldn’t have been all that big of a deal, since a paperback is less than $12 (just kidding. $12 is a big deal.) But this wasn’t just any ol’ copy. This was the very last, final edit copy. The one where my wife finally found the last few sneaky typos and marked them. The one that I was going to use to make the last corrections on Home To Roost‘s manuscript, because you can do that when you’re using Amazon.

I didn’t exactly panic, per se, but I was concerned.

Turns out, I didn’t need to be. After a few minutes and a couple (rather embarrassing) conversations with librarians, I found the copy. It had been scooped up to be re-shelved, and then dumped with the books that the library was selling. No trip to the lost and found.

Oh well. I guess I should just be thankful it wasn’t the garbage.

I may need some time before I do this again. Maybe a different library. We’ll see.

In other news, deciding to make my book free has been interesting. As I mentioned, I spent almost the entire day yesterday trying to get it involved in promotions. A word of advice to other newbie Indie authors out there: don’t haphazardly give your book away for free. I would have been much wiser to plan this out a bit. Most places let you schedule a month in advance. Many of them require you to schedule at least 3 days in advance. So make a plan, mark it on the calendar, and then start trying to get in on promotional things.

This time around, I’m only doing free options. In the future, I might just bite and try some of the $15 or $30 dollar promotional packages. We’ll see.

But, as for results, yesterday my book climbed from #1,293,234,674,103 (not really, but it was some big number) to #140sh in the Horror genre, and to #8 in the literary mystery and thriller genre on Amazon (of the free books, that is).

I’ll be curious to see just how high I can get it before the promotion period ends at the end of the day Monday. Hopefully, some good will come of this.

My Free, Passive Marketing Experiment, Day 1

It’s a simple plan, really, inspired mostly by my wife and my sister in law.

What happened was this: my sister in law was kind enough to purchase a copy of Home To Roost, even though she’s not an avid reader. That’s fine, of course. She had said copy lying about her home when a friend came over. The friend saw the copy on the coffee table, was drawn in by my brilliant cover design (I’ll let you decide if that’s sarcasm or not), and asked about the book. My sister in law, who hadn’t read it, told her what little bit she knew. Her remarks, combined with the blurb on the back, were enough to get her friend to ask if she could borrow it.

A few days later, that experience had translated into another 5-star review. Hooray!

My wife, after hearing that story, has joked about leaving copies lying around for people to see. And then I thought I’d actually give it a try, in a limited fashion.

See, I work in libraries often. I pick a table, pull up a chair, set up my laptop, and write for hours. So, what I’m going to do is bring a copy of Home To Roost with me to the library, set it out on a table, and just keep an eye on it while I work–see if anybody glances at it, picks it up, etc. Maybe it will be revealing, maybe it won’t.

Today was a won’t-be-revealing kind of day, I decided.

I set up to write in my usual place, and left the paperback a good twenty feet away, on a separate table. I’d only been working for about ten minutes when I got my first interaction between the paperback and a library patron.

Unfortunately, it was also the last.

Some young people–I want to say that they were homeless based on their level of grunge, but it can be hard to tell with millennials–came and sat around the book. One of them, a tired girl in a drab hoodie, glanced at the book. Then set her Mountain Dew next to it.

The group had apparently come to the library for a ten-year-old’s version of a feast, because they proceeded to pull out candy from their backpacks. Red Vines, Peanut Butter Cups, Jelly Beans…it seemed everything was represented. Then they ate candy, drank soda, and watched loud videos on their phones, alternating between ones where people were screaming, and ones where people were laughing.

Eventually the girl fell asleep. The guys took turns going outside for a smoke break, one of them always standing guard over their candy-wrapper horde while the others smoldered their cigarettes away outside. The lot were kind of like a group of dragons. (What is the term for a group of dragons, by the way? I don’t know. I’ll make one up.) The lot were kind of like a fantasy of dragons.

Anyways, one by one, the candy got to them. Just before I left for the day, the last one slipped into a sugar coma on the library’s couch, my book lying between the lot.

I packed up my computer, then sneaked between the sleepers and recovered my paperback, then went home. As soon as I arrived, I adjusted the e-book price of Home To Roost from $2.99 to FREE, but only for the next five days. I suppose, after how things went at the library, I felt like I still needed to do something. This is all experimental, anyways. All in the name of science. Whatever.

Anyways, get it while it’s hot. Or free.

And hopefully, tomorrow’s library experiment will go better.

Not My First Chicken Story

Well, surprise, surprise. The things that a person can forget! I recently discovered that Home to Roost is not my first story featuring chickens. Actually, I suppose it was my mother who made the discovery. She was going through a box of school things, and found two stories I’d written.

Sadly, one of them was 75 percent illegible. I tried working it out, but just couldn’t. Must’ve been from first grade, based on the penmanship. Fun fact: In first grade, I would try to write stories for my teacher to read to the class. Unfortunately, I was too lazy to put spaces between the words, so they were really, really hard to read. My teacher, Ms. B., would try to get me to add the spaces. Instead, I started putting boxes around the words. It didn’t really help–it just cluttered up the page.  But I digress.

The other story was legible (fortunately?). I’m not sure what grade it came from. It was found among my younger brother’s old school stuff, but it was definitely written by me. Why? When? No idea. But here it is. I’ve kept the typos intact.

 

UNTITLED. UNDATED.

By Chauncey Rogers

 

one upon a time there was a cool little boy named Payton. One day he was outside and a giant chicken suddenly picked him up! It was a good thing Theo was outside, jumping on the trampoline. He jumped up and grabed on too.

The chicken flew them all the way to Fiji. “Vwow!” said Theo. They were walking along when all of a sudden Indeans jumped out and tired to chop their heads off. Theo and Payton looked at eachother, then they pulled out their swords and chopped the Indeans to bits. Then they stole the ded Indeans boat and sailed back to America “Where were you?” asked Chauncey. “To the store.” said Payton.

The End

Review Thoughts

Okay. So, I have an idea, and a complaint. The idea, I can do something about. The complaint… well, it may just be the way things are.

But first, the idea.

I think that one of the biggest challenges is getting reviews. It’s this circular scenario where, to get a sale, you need a review. To get a review, you need a sale. Sure, you can twist some people’s arms and get them to read your book ahead of release, and then hopefully get some more reviews after release, but it’s still a tricky thing. I only got reviews from about 25 percent of my early readers, and thankfully have added a few more since then, but there needs to be more for this to work.

But life is busy and tricky, and when I’m asking someone to read my book, I’m competing with busy social, professional, and family lives for my potential reader’s attention. You’d either have to be an egomaniac or an idiot (or both) to expect people to give up that much time. Honestly, it’s totally awesome whenever anybody does it. I mean, if they read your story, they’re choosing that as entertainment over many, many, MANY other options.

So, I’ve had an idea. It seems to me that part of the problem is that people’s time is limited. However, people far cleverer than I have had ideas about how to get rid of that problem–multitasking. And the best way to multitask while “reading” is to not read at all. Nope! Instead, listen to an audiobook!

Now, I tried doing a professional reading of Home to Roost back before I’d even released the print/ebook edition. But I dropped the project. I have the materials available to do it (I think), but I’m not entirely positive that it would be high enough quality for Audible, and right now don’t want to go through the hassle of figuring out if it is or not.

But my epiphany was Hey! Why not do a good-enough audiobook? Not one to sell, necessarily, but one for my early readers? Maybe, just maybe, that would help expand the number of early readers that I have, and hopefully by quite a bit. Then (again, hopefully) I’d be able to get more reviews early on, and have more success with selling to other potential readers.

The nice thing about it is that I already do an out-loud reading as my final read-through before publication. All I need to do is setup a microphone and do some editing afterwards.

Anyways, that’s my plan. We’ll see how it goes.

My complaint is this: I got my first one-star review. It sucks. The reviewer warned all potential readers not to “waste their time” on Home to Roost.

Oh well. I knew that not everybody would love my work. Still stinks, though. She said it was too weird and dark. Of course, based on her Goodreads lists, it was the first time in her life she’d ever picked up a horror book. Unfortunately, my book was the one where she discovered that she didn’t like a genre.

The other thing is that Amazon gives me reports on how far people are reading in my books. It’s not that detailed of a report, but it gives me a solid idea. I know that my one-star-reviewer didn’t finish Home to Roost, and that’s perhaps the most upsetting bit. She read 75 percent of it in 3 days, which is way faster than I read most books–and especially faster than I read books that I don’t even like. But, then she stopped reading and warned others to do the same.

And that’s just lame. It’s like walking away from a joke before the punchline, and then telling people that the joke wasn’t funny. It’s like watching a biography of Ulysses S. Grant, then shutting it off halfway through and saying, “Yeah, that guy was totally lame. He showed promise early on, but then after the Mexican-American War was just a drunk and a failed businessman.”

Bah! And, by the way, she did say that my book showed promise early on.

Okay, complaint over. I’ll try to never do that again on here.

Lions and Tigers and Publishing

It’s almost been two weeks since I published my first novel, Home to Roost. It’s been quite a learning experience. For one thing, even when you’re publishing online, the actual process of publishing can be fairly involved. I don’t know what else I was expecting.

For indie publishing, a lot of people who are publishing on Amazon will use CreateSpace to do a paperback run of their book. It’s really easy to find reviews of CreateSpace’s services. I chose not to use CreateSpace, and instead used Amazon’s KDP Paperback program (it’s still in beta). Since CreateSpace is owned by Amazon anyways, I figured that the services wouldn’t be all that different.

Having never really used CreateSpace, I’m probably not qualified to do a very detailed review. However, I can say this: I’m perfectly happy with KDP Paperback. If you have a handle on formatting, are willing to look up a few terms, and have a couple of hours to fiddle and tinker, then you can get a fine paperback copy of your book printed.

As for royalties, I’ve seen quite a few people confused about how those would work for KDP paperback. I think I can break this part down:

You get 60%, minus production cost.

So, if your book costs $10, and costs $4.50 to print, then you’ll get $1.50 in royalties for every copy sold.
10 x 0.6 = 6 ; 6 – 4.5 = 1.5

It’s pretty simple.

For Home to Roost, I just set my prices so that I’d get roughly the same amount from royalties, whether a reader decided to purchase the paperback or the ebook edition.

Now, I had assumed that there would be much higher numbers of sales for ebooks compared to paperbacks–after all, $3 is quite a bit cheaper than $11.50. But I was wrong. They’re actually pretty even. I think that unless people own an e-reader, ebooks are just too uncomfortable for many people to read.

Anyways, I’ll do some more focused posts on what I’ve learned later. Be awesome til then.

 

Current Word Count: 354, 345

My Current Word Count

Well, I’ve published a few short stories now. They’re not free on Amazon, but hopefully Amazon will price match soon and make them free. They are free on Smashwords, where one of them as received a 4/5 star review. It’s something!

But, like I said, they’re short stories–none more than 5,000 words. So, since my current word count is much higher than that, where has everything else come from? I’ll break it down really quick, for anyone who cares, though only in approximations.

  1. I’ve written lots of little things before, having been writing since the second grade or so (although, I didn’t attempt my first novel until the third grade, naturally). I’ve counted all of that, taken together, as about 15,000.
  2. My first, more serious attempt at writing something of length occurred while in college. It was something of a horror/drama, about a weak man being dragged by his escaped convict and abusive ex-wife to her remote and isolated childhood home, so that they could face her buried demons together before she kills him and herself–or, tries to, at least. I wrote about 15,000 words into that (Project name: Closure), before giving it up when school got heavier and whatnot. It obviously didn’t go too far, but it was rather encouraging. I managed to write quite a bit in not too long, and while the writing wasn’t very good, it still happened, and was, in a way, empowering.
  3. The summer of 2013 saw another abandoned novel project. It was a ‘new’ take on the Peter Pan story, but it got convoluted and out of control rather quickly, and was abandoned after around 70,000 words. I had the story mapped out to the end, but some of the things would have been quite forced, and it was already longer than my target word count of about 60,000 words. The project name for that one was The Last Pan. And, while it too was abandoned, it felt like a really big step forwards.
  4. The third try’s the charm, right? I started writing Home to Roost in April of 2016, and finished the rough draft…sometime later. September? August? I don’t recall. But it came in at 110,000 words, had a beginning, middle, and end, and received positive feedback from early readers. I’ll be publishing it next month.
  5. Angela of the Stars was my next writing project. The rough draft is finished, sitting in my hard drive and waiting for some revising. The setting for the story was rather ambitious, compared with Home to Roost, but hopefully I’ll be able to wrestle everything nicely into place for the final draft and a release this summer. That story came in at 120,000 words.
  6. The last bit of writing that I chose to include in the count was my short stories. Like I said, they’re short, so taken altogether I counted them as about 10,000 words. I mostly do them as a writing exercise, or as something to do when I need a break from the bigger projects, but I publish some, and think they’re pretty fun.

And that’s where my current word count comes from. There’s been big improvement already–enough so that I wouldn’t feel too bad asking somebody to fork over $3 to read my novel. However, there’s still a ways to go.

And, since I’ve talked so much about word counts, let me give you a few examples of word counts from well-known stories:

  • Goosebumps stories: 20,000-25,000 words
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: 77,000 words
  • War and Peace: 587,000 words
  • King James Translation of the Holy Bible: 783,000 words
  • Artamène/Cyrus the Great, which holds the distinction of being the longest novel ever written: 2,100,000 words

 

Current Word Count: 343,105