writing

2019 Year-End Update

This post is for fellow self-published authors and those interested in the business side of self-publishing. I will try to make an update on my writing progress in January. 

So it’s a little early to do a year-end update, but so far, December seems to be a dude for me. This has been a hectic year. I’ve published three books and generally dedicated a lot of time to writing and self-publishing. Sadly, all of that work hasn’t seen much results.

I’m going to post a couple screenshots of my Sales Spreadsheets so people can get an idea of the numbers I’ve had this year. Even though the numbers are far from impressive, I like to show them so that people can see the lower end of the self-publishing spectrum.

 

Book Sales

2019 Book Sales

Free Downloads

2019 Free Downloads

 

What these numbers tell me is that when Amazon moved Abducted into the Erotica Dungeon, everything started to drop. It’s less evident in the Book Sales picture, but here’s one without the new series included.

 

Book Sales Without New Series

2019 Book Sales without Course for Adventure

The absolute hardest part of self-publishing is discoverability. You can write an entertaining story, pay for a fantastic editor and cover artist, and still not have book sales and downloads. If people can’t find your book, they can’t download it. When Amazon moved Abducted into erotica, they made it harder to find, which had a significant impact on my discoverability.

Abducted was my most visible book. It stayed on Amazons top 100 Free in Sci-Fi Romance for years. It’s been downloaded over 23,000 times. The read-through rate to my second book is 6%, which doesn’t sound like much, but the read-through for free books is pretty low, and from what I’ve read, that’s not a bad number (correct me if I’m wrong please). Of that 6 % that read Abducted and then go on to read Stolen, 80% end up reading Hunted.

My reviews are almost all positive, even on Goodreads, which is a notoriously difficult site to get good reviews. None of my books have less than 4 Stars on Amazon, and my Goodreads average rating is 3.91. Part of those high numbers are my number of reviews, which is relatively small, but I like to think the quality of my work has a part to play as well.

My largest failing with self-publishing has been advertising. I apply for a Bookbub frequently (with the plan of putting it on a credit card if I ever get it lol), I’ve tried to understand and use Facebook and Amazon ads but haven’t put much money into them, and I’ve used a few smaller newsletter ads. My time is limited, and I put most of it into writing. Researching ads has been confusing and frustrating for me. A lot of the seemingly useful advice is behind paywalls that, after editing and covers, I don’t have the money to pay for. I’m going to try to do more research in 2020 and make some headway in this area. Hopefully, I’ll see results.

This year I’ve written over 140,000 words. I don’t know the exact number because I was pretty bad about keeping track. These last couple of months, I’ve done no writing. My family moved for the second time this year, and I haven’t had the time to write. I also haven’t felt a desire to write. I’m not suffering from writer’s block, because the words, ideas, and stories are there. What I’ve been doing is rethinking my writing and self-publishing goals.

I’m not going to lie and say that money doesn’t have an impact on what I write. Even though I’ve never made a significant amount, I still have the dream that I can make as much money writing as I would make working a regular job. As someone without a degree or experience in anything other than customer service, that’s not a lot of money, but so far it has remained far from my grasp.

Seeing Amazon so thoroughly cut my sales with a move I have no control over has caused me to re-think writing in the romance genre. In a perfect world, I would just move away from Amazon, but that’s not an option, so I have to find ways to work in their eco-system. The first thing I ever published was an episodic fantasy story. I really enjoyed writing it, but in the end, I decided that I would enjoy writing Sci-Fi Romance more, so I changed my pen name and started releasing the Twin Moons of Andove books. I think it’s time to move back to Fantasy. Romance will be present, I can’t see myself ever excluding it, but it won’t be my main focus. I’m debating on whether or not I’ll change pen names (thoughts are welcome).

Writing Fantasy will also force me to work on my world-building, a part of my writing that has been lacking recently. Before I ever published, I used to spend hours creating a world, and I never ended up finishing a story. When I started cutting down on that time, I started finally completing projects. Hopefully, with all the experience I’ve gained, I can merge those two together and finish stories with more world-building.

Those are my goals for 2020. World-building, researching ads, and finishing books in the Fantasy genre.

I hope all of this information has been helpful, at the very least, an insight into my experience self-publishing.

Have a Happy New Year!

 

New Release

Love on Strike book two in the Course for Adventure series comes out on Amazon today! I’m so excited. If you haven’t read the first book, First Time Out, then you’ll be happy to know that it is currently FREE! What better time to start the series??

CfA #2

Year, 2419

Lily has been poor her entire adult life. A sudden change of fortune has her convincing her best friends to go on the vacation of a lifetime. Lily can’t wait to spend time with them, but once on board the Galactic Princess they seem to have other plans. Then she meets a scowling cyborg, and Lily has a distraction all her own.

Abel wants nothing more than to be alone. Tortured and experimented on his whole life, he finally has freedom. After seeing the worst the universe has to offer Abel believes solitude is his only chance at peace. When he meets a beautiful Nian woman that is unbearably nice to him, he starts to rethink everything.

After a less than ideal first meeting and a few more rocky encounters the universe continues to throw Lily and Abel together. A friendship blossoms, but can it grow into something more?

AmCom120x28Amaon. ukamaon.caAmazon. Au

 

Little update

I don’t have much to update right now so I hesitated making a blog post, but figured I might as well so y’all don’t forget me.

I’m writing book three in the Course for Adventure series. It’s going well, but it’s early days. I’m not as far along as I wanted, but that’s fine. I’m still set to be ready in time for the deadline I’ve given myself.

Love on Strike, the second book in the Course for Adventure series is all set to go. There’s a pre-order link, and the final version is uploaded on Amazon, so that’s a huge relief. I’m so glad that I got to work with Victory Editing again, I love them over there.

Self-Publishing wise I’m working on some edits for the Fringes of the Universe series. I loved writing that series, but looking back now there are things I keep wanting to tweak. Right now, I’m not making any significant changes, just adding some commas that were left out. The editor I used for those books…well, let’s just say I’m not using them anymore.

Once those edits are made, I’ll be uploading the books onto all platforms, finally. I also plan on creating a boxset.

Personal life-wise, my daughter starts kindergarten this week, and I’m excited for what I hope will be more free time, even though I’ll still have the two-year-old with me; but I’m also sad and scared and nervous. I’ve always got to be nervous or worrying about something. The world would stop turning if I didn’t. She’s going to do great, and my goal is to not cry in front of her. I might have to let my husband take her in on that first day.

So many new books are out right now that I am struggling with picking one to read. Which means I end up playing more Minecraft. I have also started quilting. I came up with a design in Minecraft (huge nerd sitting over here), and I decided I’d give it a try. I’ll try to post updates when I’m done.

 

Release Date Lessons

Untitled design (2)

The last post I mentioned that I wasn’t at home when First Time Out released, but I obsessively checked the internet, and you all made this the best release I’ve ever had. So awesome anniversary present everyone, thank you so much! 🙂

Lessons I’ve learned from this release that will hopefully make the next ones better.

I really, really, need to make a checklist of things to do before a release. I’m fairly certain I remembered everything, but the anxiety and constantly thinking I’d forgotten something was annoying. A list will help that.

As tempting as it is to do, I shouldn’t check my sales and reviews as frequently as I was doing. It was incredibly exciting watching bars and numbers grow, but if they didn’t, I took an emotional hit. Not every release is going to be this good, and I don’t need to put myself through that emotional roller coaster.

Taking a vacation during a release might not be the best way to handle things lol. I don’t know, maybe it was. I was distracted a fair amount of the time, but I had people emailing and texting, and I might not have been as attentive to my family as I should have been. Since my husband was just as excited, he didn’t seem to mind, but it wasn’t fair. Maybe one day I’ll get to a point where release day is no big deal? Probably not lol

Pre-orders are awesome. So much of the usual work was already done by doing things this way, and I really loved that. It made it possible for me to actually leave things be on the day, so release day was not as stressful as it could have been.

I’m so excited to finally be back writing and releasing books. I’m also incredibly happy with the momentum that First Time Out has had, I hope it continues that way, but if it doesn’t I feel like I’ll emotionally be able to handle it. Which is progress!

Anyway, I’m waiting to get the final edited copy of Love on Strike, and I’ve been working on Course for Adventure book 3 in the meantime. I’m starting to wonder if each successive book in the series is going to get longer and longer. We’ll see lol!

For all of my readers not on Amazon, the final book in my Fringes of the Universe series is out of Kindle Unlimited, and I’m working on getting the entire series on other retailers. Before I do that I’m going to get them edited again. I haven’t had any complaints from readers with them, but I’ve never been happy with their level of edits. I don’t believe another pass through will hurt things at the very least and it won’t change the story, just make it a better read. There will be commas.

Update on the erotica dungeon, unfortunately, Amazon did not rule in my favor and Abducted is stuck there. I don’t have any kind of appeal that I can make so there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m watching my other books, and so far there haven’t been any other changes, but if it does happen, I might re-think writing romance. Apart from the release date of First Time Out, there has been a noticeable drop in the downloads of Abducted, which has led to an overall decline in income. It’s already difficult to get your books in front of readers eyes, but then to be put somewhere that lowers your visibility further is very frustrating.

In other news! I’ve started a quilting project. Recently while playing Minecraft and trying to decorate a boring room, I started making a design and then next thing I know I was thinking, “This would make a cool quilt.”

I’ve never quilted, but I’ve wanted to for a few years now. On our vacation, I found myself in a quilting shop, and then there was a fabric called Bedrock that was perfect and then BOOM fabric bought. So I kind of have to make it now. I’ve been able to cut up all the fabric into 5-inch squares, but I get the feeling that was the easy part. I’ve been posting updates on Twitter so if anyone wants to follow that lovely process just follow me over there.

Amazon Erotica Dungeon, Editor Auditions, and the Inevitable Delayed Schedule

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So it’s been a super busy week for me on the writing and self-publishing front. Editing for the second book in my Course for Adventure series has ended up taking almost three weeks longer than I anticipated. I rewrote the first couple of chapters, twice. Something I’ve never done before, but I’m happy I did. The beginning is much better now, and after two more passes, I’m finally satisfied with what I’ve got.

Which means it’s ready to be sent to my editor. The editor I used for the first book in the series is fantastic. She’s got an excellent reputation, I’ve used her before and work well with her, and I just all around love working with her. All of that, though, means that she’s at the very top of my price range. So I thought I’d try and find someone new. Which is what I’m currently working on, I’ve gotten several samples to review, and I’m also waiting to receive an estimate from my preferred editor. Basically, it’s a lot of money, I’ve already spent a lot of money, and I have no way of knowing if this series will even sell.

Helping things immensely (not lol) after I updated the cover for my book Abducted Amazon decided that it was erotica and put it in the erotica dungeon. Which means that it will be harder for people to find my book, which is an already difficult thing for people to do organically. I’ve been lucky enough that Abducted has stayed in the top 100 for Free Sci-Fi Romance for the last few years, but with the switch over to Erotica, it’s been removed from that list. Just after one day, I’ve already seen a drop in downloads. I’ve contacted Amazon, but they’ve told me it’s going to take about five days to review my case.

I’m playing the waiting game right now, and I hate waiting. To distract me I’m finally starting on Course for Adventure #3. I’ve got quite a bit of notes for this book, and it’s the one in the series I’ve really been looking forward to writing. So I’m going to focus on that excitement and try and ignore all the other things going on.

On to the fun stuff! I just finished watching The Boys on Amazon. It was a bit depressing, had a predictable twist, but I liked two of the characters a lot, and I’m always up for more Karl Urban. Still playing Minecraft, always playing Minecraft. I wish I could get into a game that actually had an ending. Reading wise…honestly, I’ve had a bit of an issue getting into books these last couple of weeks. I’ve tried reading two, from authors that I enjoy, and just not getting into them. I’m hoping that changes cause I miss reading.

And we’re back to editing.

 

I feel like I was just here and I guess I was, but here we are another book so more editing.

The common advice I’ve been reading right now, regarding self-publishing, is that you have to put out at least a book a month. I am unable to put out a book a month. It would be lovely and I’m kind of close, but unless something changes and I’m able to do this whole writing/self-publishing thing full time, it’s not going to happen.

If that’s the case, apparently, you’re supposed to hoard up books and then release them really fast. Some people say once a month, some people say once a week until you’re finished. While I can understand their reasoning for such a fast pace release, and I can’t deny the results a lot of people have, I can’t seem to tolerate the idea of putting out an entire series in less than a month. It’s taken me months to write all of them and then I’m just supposed to throw them all up at once or staggered over four weeks? Then go down to once a month. Which I’ve already stated I can’t do.

Taking all of that into consideration, what I’ve decided to do is have the first two books written and ready to go. Release the first, then a month later release the second. While I’m waiting for those release dates I’ll continue writing at my current pace and it will take a few months to get back up to over a month between releases. My hope is that by then my readers will be willing to stick around. Time will tell.

In other news, the last couple of days I’ve been working on the blurb for my next release and so I decided to look at the top 100 books in Sci-Fi Romance on Amazon. Once I weeded out the books that aren’t really romances and show up on the list for algorithm reasons, I discovered that a vast majority of the books in the category are…well, nothing like what I’ve written. Somehow since the last time I looked at this list, which was a few months ago admittedly, an overwhelming trend of books about domination have taken over. I’ve now lowered my expectations for my release and I’m worried that I’ve wasted my time.

It’s a lot of work this self-publishing thing.

Finishing a First Draft and New Book Covers

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This is not related to my book covers at all, but I feel like an image is necessary for Social Media and I haven’t yet figured those out lol

This week my plan is to finish writing the first draft of Book Two in my new series Course for Adventure. It’s taken me a little bit longer to write this than the first book, but I knew that was going to happen. I spent a week visiting my family, so no writing then. My sister and niece came to visit for a few days, so no writing. Then I had a few mental health days that I had to take to recover from everything.

While I scheduled some of that time into the deadline I gave myself, I didn’t schedule all of it, so I’m about a week behind where I wanted to be. However, a week behind is within my acceptable range.

During this time while I wasn’t writing I was still able to get some stuff done book related. I’ve been able to read some advertising articles and I’m hoping that later this year I’ll be able to put that new knowledge to use. I’ve also been working on new book covers for my already published books.

Book covers are incredibly important. This will be the fourth book cover for my first book, and the third revamp of my first series. Covers are hard to make, but they can be super expensive. The most I’ve spent on a cover was $250, it turned out amazing and I loved it, however the series tanked and including the entire series, not just the book with the great cover, I have yet to make my money back. So, for now, I’m sticking to self-made covers.

I am not a professional graphic artist. I’ve taken no classes and have no artistic skills in that area, and I don’t plan on offering many tips on that front. I use a website called Canva.com to make all of my book covers. The options were pretty limited at first, and after several upgrades they’re still limited, but I’ve learned to work with them. However, if I had to do it all over again I wouldn’t have bailed on Gimp so fast.

All that being said, I think at this point the covers I create, while not $250 worthy, are not that bad. The difference in quality between my $2-$5 covers compared to the $250 ones is not big enough for me to find a way to pay that price. Now if my financial situation changes? Hell yeah! For now, I’m going to continue to spend my money on editing.

Anyway, I’ve got updated covers to go for most of my series, though; I’ve got one more left to do. I’ve also got covers created for this new series. I actually think they’re the best I’ve made so far, which makes me happy. My plan is to update the covers and the back matter for all of my books in the coming weeks when I submit my newest book for pre-order. Hopefully, I will be able to make my tentative August 5th release day, if not it will be August 12th but I won’t be putting my book up for pre-order until I know for certain.

In non-book news, I have gotten back into Minecraft. Previously, I played only a couple of hours and got tired of looking up recipes for even the most basic stuff, but after updates, and now with a shared friend server, I’m having fun.

I’ve been watching a few comedy specials when I’m not minecrafting or working or taking care of kids. Nothing I can think of the titles for right now, but most of them were funny, and I only bailed out of two.

Reading wise, I picked up a couple books from the library. One was a cozy mystery from an author I love, but I was really disappointed in it. This is the second book in the series that has left me more annoyed than happy, so I might be dropping it, which makes me sad. I’ve got another book checked out that I really want to read and after one chapter it seems awesome, but it’s due back, and I’m going to have to go back to the bottom of the queue.

Oh well, maybe next time I won’t be as busy, lies I tell myself.

Cut Scene

This is a busy week for me. Not only is it the Fourth of July, but my sister and niece are visiting. So instead of making a blog post, I’m going to post the scene I had to recently cut because I remembered my couple were on opposite sides of the globe. It doesn’t work, but I didn’t think it did a bad job showing at least one of the character’s personality.

This has not been edited and is a first draft, so all the usual disclaimers.

A group of humans was walking toward her now. Three of them taller than any human she’d ever seen in her entire life on Earth. One looked incredibly nervous, his eyes somehow looking everywhere all at once. While another took firm, precise steps at the lead of the foursome. It was a foursome, Lily could just see a small woman standing close enough to be part of the group, though, still slightly to the side. However, the two tall men that had caught her eye weren’t what kept her attention. The third man, standing as tall as the nervous one, but broader, had a jagged scar across his forehead. His eyes were narrowed and his face seemed to be in a perpetual scowl, he oozed menace from every pore in his body.

Watching in rapt attention as they walked by Lily couldn’t take her eyes off the man with the scar. There was something about him, something beneath the danger, that piqued her interest, and wouldn’t let her look away. She watched as he took large forceful steps, his work boots clumping as he went. He was wearing a jumpsuit that barely fit, straining across his broad chest like it might explode off of him at any moment.

Did he work on the ship? That would explain the poorly fitting clothes, the ship probably paid well enough, but clothes for someone that size wouldn’t be cheap and he would have very little luck in the second-hand shops. Leaning over onto the railing wrapped around the platform Lily watched him until he disappeared on the skytrail.

 

Edits Back!

Oh my goodness y’all I got my edits back from Anne Victory!! You have no idea how excited I am to correct all my mistakes lol. Even though the turnaround was surprisingly fast my anxiety had started to attack. I had decided that they were probably going to tell me that it wasn’t ready to be published and needed a ton of work. All of which I have heard happens from editors, though, never to me. Thankfully, that is not what they said, at all.

Cue brief period of relief before diving in to see exactly where I fucked up.

One of the things I love about them is that they include resources where I can get better, so I thought I’d share these here.

Understanding English Grammar, Eighth Edition

http://www.chompchomp.com/handouts/commatip07.pdf

https://www.dailywritingtips.com/the-royal-order-of-adjectives/

I promise, I will try to read them and implement them, but I’ve read a few grammar books at this point and only so much sticks at a time. Maybe one day…

Alright, I’m back to edits and working on the sequel!

Editing

So I’ve done what I can with the book I was writing. It is now in the hands of the amazingly capable and talented crew over at Victory Editing. Until they send it back I’m going to work on the next book. The fun never ends!

Before I do that, though, I thought I’d write a bit about my editing process. It’s been pointed out that I have issues with commas. I either use too many, or not enough, and basically, I’m very aware that with a gun to my head I would not use them correctly. There are typos and I will use the wrong word, even when I know what the right one is, and sometimes I’ll use an incorrect spelling. It’s madness! So I hire editors as well as go through several rounds of drafts and my own personal edits.

A good editor, like Victory Editing, is expensive. They are definitely worth the expense because I can always tell that my words are so much better once they’ve gotten their hands on them. Occasionally, their tips and tricks even penetrate my thick skull and I learn some things.

However, I am not always in a position where I can afford the services of an excellent editor. I have a couple other options that I’ve used, some better than others, some I will never use again. At a minimum, though, I try to at least get a proofread done, as well as all the things that I do myself. In a perfect world, I would do more, and if I ever win the lottery I will be going crazy, but until then I do what I can.

Because of this, though, I often struggle with self-doubt, with whether or not my books are worth reading, worth buying, or worth even finishing. I’ve written several books in the last two years, and it’s because of that self-doubt that I haven’t published anything. I think I’m probably always going to feel like what I’ve put out there is not good enough or that I could have done more. Maybe not, but we’ll have to see.

Alright, enough reflection!

I am currently reading Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente, it’s highly entertaining but not really a fast read for me. Incredibly creative and I end up getting lost marveling at the words.

I finished watching Good Omens (FREAKING AMAZING) and haven’t really picked up anything else. Really need to finish the last season of Supernatural…

I have also been sucked back into The Sims 4. E3 revealed the upcoming expansion and everything was on sale so I thought I’d give it another shot.